The Ninjabot

Retro Review: Farscape, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Posted on August 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm by Will Wells

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“Won’t Get Fooled Again” is another arc episode in Farscape’s second season. Like most arc episodes, it’s focused squarely on the brain of John Crichton.

One of the interesting things about John is how genre savvy he is. In a later season (which we will cover in a few months), John tells an alien that he “knows how to deal with Klingons” and even speaks Klingon to her. In case his growing competence makes us forget, John Crichton is a nerd – a science geek working for fiction-land’s version of NASA (called IASA). His familiarity with science fiction makes his reaction to genre tropes both believable and relatable. This is not the case with most science fiction characters, even in universes where it would make sense. His self-recognition of genre is one of the things that allows Farscape to deconstruct itself so well, and forms the basis of much of the show’s humor and meta-humor.

Back in season one, a group of aliens called the Ancients created a fictional Earth for John to get home to, only to make mistakes and have gaps in their knowledge, revealing the falseness of the world to John. This time, when John seems to wake up a week after the pilot episode, still on Earth, he’s onto the game. John explores this world he knows to be fake, checking for incongruities, muttering “won’t get fooled again” under his breath as he does so.

This hits a bump when two things occur. First, there are no “little” mistakes – everything is just as it should be. Except for the second issue – his friends from Moya are all here, but as “NPCs” – Aeryn is a doctor, Zhaan is a shrink, D’Argo is a fellow astronaut, and Rigel is his new boss (in an electric wheelchair rather than his float chair).

The guy in the middle is D.K. He's just as forgettable as his name.

Pilot even appears as a drummer, wearing a Jamaican shirt, accompanied by Scorpius in another Hawaiian ensemble. When he comments on these issues – like Zhaan being blue or D’Argo having tentacles, he gets utterly calm replies. “Do you have problems with persons of color?” Zhaan asks him. According to John’s friend D.K., tentacles are a “lifestyle choice.” Plus, while John is acting (for those around him) totally insane, no one ever takes away his IASA job or locks him in a rubber room, even after he attempts to escape the vision by driving head-long into a semi-truck (and survives with nary a scratch on him).

That X-Ray in the background makes me want to hum the theme-song to House MD.

John is convinced, for obvious reasons, that he’s being messed with by some alien again. Topping that list is Scorpius – particularly since there are two Scorpys in his “dream.” One in Hawaiian dress, and one who still talks, acts, and refers to himself as Scorpius. We’ll get back to that second one.

When John can prove it’s a fake, he instead tries breaking the system. He throws his boss (Rigel) off a five story building (Rigel survives), and he attempts the aforementioned suicide by truck. He’s ready to go for round three when the vision pulls out something new – he gets visited by his dead mother. Just to make it extra weird, his father specifically mentioned John’s mom being dead earlier in the episode, and we get some more details on that in a later season.

John was able to laugh in the face of everything else the vision did to him. Not this. He hugs his dead mom. He doesn’t pull away until she starts talking about all the awful things he’s done – on Moya. Even then, she pursues him, changing into a stumbling cancer patient pulling an IV stand with her. John sums it up in three words: “this is cruel.”

John decides he’s had enough. He assaults a police officer (Crais), steals his gun, and attempts to shoot up his workplace. The bullets pass through his intended victims harmlessly and shatter the photos on the wall behind them. John’s dad, Zhaan, Rigel, and Aeryn discuss lunch while he attempts to kill them. Afterwards, he is strapped to a chair while Policeman Crais gives him a ticket for five counts of attempted murder. “That will be $29.40; cash, check, or credit card?”

The dog is even named Toto.

Then Scorpius show up to explain the plot. John is being gas-lighted (a term he himself used earlier in the episode) by a Scarran as a direct result of the events of “Look at the Princess”. How does his vision of Scorpius know all this? Why, because this is Harvey! This is an arc episode because it’s the first official introduction to Harvey and the neurochip implanted in Crichton’s brain.

After Harvey leaves (to avoid being noticed by the Scarran) things get really weird. Like… well, here are some pictures:

Best. Hallucination. EVER.

There is something charming about Rigel's tiny gimp suit.

Crais clearly needs a lesson in practical footwear.

Yeah.

At the end of the insanity, Aeryn appears and claims to have rescued him. Aeryn tells John that Scorpius was behind it using a holo-projector. John, always genre-savvy, doubts her – doubts that his rescue is any more real than the madness that came before, and he’s right.

The Scarran turns up the dial and John appears to die (in the real world) but apparently Harvey pulled a trick with his brain to fool the machine. John sets his pistol on overload and, when the Scarran comes to investigate the noise, John shoves it in his mouth and runs before it explodes, taking the Scarran’s head with it.

Harvey appears again – and erases John’s memory of him and the chip. That will have to wait for another episode.

Rating: B+

Breakdown: “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a great episode for many reasons. It’s exemplar of a particular style that Farscape has to its weirder episodes – fast cuts, strange camera angles, disturbing lighting, and an intense focus on the physical (in this case, John sweating). I’d love to give it an A, but there are so many episodes of Farscape that are better just by being that damn good.

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