D’Argo – The Ultimate Frenemy
Warning – Spoilers throughout.
Crichton: (à la Bugs Bunny) Eeehh… what’s up Darr-go?
– Revenging Angel (3.16)
I like D’Argo. How can you not like D’Argo? Which is why it is sad that D’Argo does not like himself.
Ka D’Argo has an internal conflict between two deep felt desires: to be a Luxan warrior and to live the simple life of a non-warrior. This internal conflict has defined his past and haunts his present and future. Time and again in Farscape episodes, D’Argo makes choices that express one of his two sides. And he frequently makes bad choices that express his own self-doubt and self-recrimination. D’Argo’s quest to combine the two aspects of his self is one of the great story lines in Farscape.
We meet D’Argo about twelve minutes into the first episode. He becomes the first alien to speak to Crichton—by threatening him. In the early episodes of Farscape the original series, D’Argo portrays himself as a gruff, unsympathetic, no-nonsense, warrior. Other than briefly dropping his facade during an interchange with Zhaan in “Premiere,” (1.01), D’Argo spends the first 14 episodes blustering about, threatening to hurt or kill someone—most often Crichton. Deeply scarred by the loss of his wife and son, D’Argo endangers his companions by being impatient, quick to anger, quick to judge others, and too eager to fight those he judges negatively—which is nearly everyone.
Underneath “D’Argo the Warrior” is ironically one of Farscape’s most introspective characters. D’Argo is gruff and reckless but also quite thoughtful, though obviously not at the same time. We learn about his past in bits and pieces through the TV episodes, then more fully in the comic book D’Argo’s Trial (2011). Before he was wrongfully imprisoned by the Peacekeepers, D’Argo was a Luxan soldier who distinguished himself with honor and courage. In D’Argo’s Trial, we learn that after D’Argo was captured and tortured by the Scorvians, he begins to question his life choices and his future.
“There is more to life than being a warrior,” he declared, “and I think it is time that I learned what that was… perhaps learn to make things grow. My life has been dedicated to taking life. It might be good to try creating some for a change.”
He says this to Lo’laan Tal, a Sebacean who was nursing him back to health and helped him find his gentle non-warrior side. She helps him become a farmer who grows things and together they create life in Jothee, their son. Their peaceful life was brutally cut short when the Peacekeeper Macton Tal, Lo’laan’s brother, murders her and frames D’Argo. Spurred by anger and the thirst for revenge, D’Argo reverted back to his warrior desires. (I won’t say anything more about the book to avoid a spoiler and encourage people to find and read them. The books tell us about D’Argo’s life before he was imprisoned by the Peacekeepers.)
When our heroes escape the Peacekeepers as Farscape begins, D’Argo has a chance at a new life. However, as he says later, at that time he had nothing left but revenge against Macton. That is not entirely true, as he does still have his Luxan warrior heritage, his precious qualta blade, and the hope to find his missing son. Feeling bereft, D’Argo is eager to uphold the traditions of his Luxan people and keeps to the ethos of being a Luxan warrior. After eight cycles of imprisonment and torture, all he has left are the conflicting desires of being a warrior and finding his son.
But D’Argo has a problem—and remember, I like him, I like him a lot. But I like him enough to be honest with him. D’Argo is not a very good warrior. And I suspect he knows that, and I suspect that though he wants to be a good warrior when he has to be, in his heart he does not want to have to be one. It is when he stops trying to be a stereotypical warrior and starts being a colleague in friendship that he becomes more effective at both.
When D’Argo tries to be the big tough warrior in the early episodes, he often gets captured or otherwise makes things worse. He gets captured in “Premiere,” “I, E.T.,” and “’Til The Blood Runs Clear,” losses his self-composure jeopardizing his companions in “Back and Back and Back to the Future,” “Thank God It’s Friday, Again,” and “They’ve Got a Secret,” willingly participates in the betrayal of Pilot in “DNA Mad Scientist,” and is largely ineffectual in “Exodus from Genesis,” “Throne for a Loss,” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” though his ability to bluster maniacally does save them in “PK Tech Girl.”
Although D’Argo never shies away from a fight and too often sees violence as the solution, he is more than a fighter. He seeks emotional connections with others. Inside, he yearns for what he calls the simple life: having a family and farming fruit to make wine. He had that life once; had it brutally ripped from him; and he still has the desire for a peaceful life.
He is prone to anger, apparently a common Luxan trait, but he wants to learn to control his rage and be peaceful. His desire for connection spurs him to cling needily to those he admires (for example, “Back and Back and Back to the Future,” 1.05 and “Vitas Mortis,” 2.01). Deep down, D’Argo is insecure. We learn part of that reason in “They’ve Got a Secret” (1.10), when we learn about the tragedy of his past and that he was not the murderer he claimed to be in “Premiere.” That lie about why he was imprisoned expressed his own self-hating guilt over the death of his wife.
It is during the events of the 15th to 17th episodes that something shifts within D’Argo. Perhaps it is Chiana’s arrival in the 15th episode, “Durka Returns,” but he has no real interaction with her in that episode. Perhaps it is his experiences on the putative Earth in “A Human Reaction,” but if anything that should make him less trusting and angrier at Crichton’s race if not at everyone.
It is in “Through the Looking Glass,” the 17th episode, that D’Argo’s attitude shifts. I will write more about the importance of that episode elsewhere, but like everyone else on Moya, he learns from the need to reunify Moya from her dimensional schism that the inhabitants of Moya also need to unify as a kind of family. D’Argo begins to open up more to his companions on Moya and much less often threatens to kill Crichton. D’Argo’s attempts to find a peaceful, meaningful life without fighting are repeatedly frustrated (“Thank God It’s Friday, Again,” 1.06, “Sons and Lovers,” 3.02, “What Was Lost, Part 1,” 4.02). Nevertheless, his inner resilience and desire to find meaning in everything allows him to carry on despite setback and loss.
The more D’Argo learns to trust the others on Moya and gains confidence in himself, the more he reflects on his own person and his future. He makes the connection between his own self-hatred and guilt and his hostility toward others. He says to Chiana, “I’ve become so distrustful of people, even when they’re trying to help me. What does that say about what I’ve become?” (“The Ugly Truth,” 2.17) D’Argo does have difficulty trusting others, which, as in most people with such a problem, reflects his own lack of self-trust. He blames himself and does not trust himself to be a good enough warrior to protect those he cares about. His distrust of and anger at Crichton that dominates their relationship for much of the first two seasons, largely is a projection from how much Crichton reminds D’Argo of himself—a man lost, far away from home, fighting reluctantly against the Peacekeepers when he just wants to be left in peace.
D’Argo’s search for his son Jothee is an obsession of his, understandably so. It is here that his internal battles between two desires are strongest. He fulfills his promise to do whatever it takes to find Jothee. Unfortunately, in his urgency, he reverts to old patterns. In “Liars, Guns And Money Part 1,” (2.18) when Stark offers a plan to purchase Jothee’s freedom, D’Argo jumps at it, even though robbing a shadow depository is too crazy a plan even for Crichton. He correctly reminds everyone that he never hesitated to do whatever they asked of him and demands that they help him now. Ever impatient, he takes their hesitation for “no” and runs off to make an utterly foolish attempt to infiltrate the shadow depository alone. He again gets himself captured. His friends rescue him (of course), steal a bunch of money kind of as planned, but, since nothing is easy for them, it all goes to pot.
D’Argo, as usual, blames Crichton for things going wrong. He is fearful of losing Jothee, understandably, but in his fear and self-doubt he throws away all of the trust he has built up over the previous two cycles. As he explained to Chiana:
D’Argo: I was prepared to give Scorpius what he wanted.
D’Argo: On the Command, for a microt, I was ready to take Crichton by force and deliver him to Scorpius. It was all I could do to stop myself.
Chiana: Crichton is your friend.
D’Argo: Jothee is my blood. (He sobs.) My child. All I have left of my wife. Now, why is that not enough?
Why is what not enough? Why is his son not enough of a reason to betray his friend Crichton? Or why is his friendship with Crichton not enough to prevent the temptation to betray that friendship? We never know and perhaps D’Argo doesn’t either. His inner conflict—warrior versus peacemaker—still roils inside him.
Jothee is freed, thanks to Crichton’s selfless act not D’Argo’s hasty anger. Father and son are finally reunited. D’Argo’s mistake after finding his son is to be overprotective, making Jothee feel like he is not respected by his father. Jothee having sex with Chiana is perhaps even more indefensible for him than for her because he has no reason to push D’Argo away as Chiana did (more on that shortly). D’Argo refusing to let Jothee fight alongside the others in “Season of Death” (3.01) is not that unreasonable. At that time Jothee had no military experience and things were crazy with both Scorpius and a Scarran on the loose. Jothee betrayed his father before either had any chance to re-establish a relationship by having sex with Chiana.
Chiana and D’Argo begin a sexual relationship in “Out of Their Minds” (2.09). It is a doomed relationship, however, because despite the great and frequent sex, they want different things. D’Argo wants an exclusive committed relationship and a simple life as a farmer, something the freewheeling and commitment-phobic Chiana cannot contemplate. When she learns that D’Argo plans to ask her to marry him, she sabotages their relationship by seducing his recently recovered long-lost son (aliens have soap operas, too, apparently). D’Argo and Chiana eventually reconcile, but it takes a long time for him to forgive her.
Chiana’s act is indefensible, but D’Argo shares some blame. He is condescending and controlling to both Chiana and Jothee. He takes on the persona of the dominant male with them, being the tough warrior with them rather than seeking mutual understanding. For whatever reason, he interacts with them primarily from his warrior persona, not from his loving persona. As early as “My Three Crichtons” (2.10), patriarchal D’Argo didn’t listen to Chiana and yelled at her simply to “do as I say!” His domineering overprotectivenss drives her away and makes her feel untrusted, unrespected, and inferior, triggering her insecurities. Chiana is afraid of commitment. D’Argo wants commitment, but on his terms.
Despite D’Argo’s many mistakes, no one can fault his best trait—he is loyal, which, more than anything, is the kind of person he wants to be. His overprotectiveness of Jothee is out of loyalty. To a lesser extent, so is his condescension toward Chiana, who, quite frankly, needs some guidance. As Crichton tells Chiana and Jothee after he discovers their betrayal of D’Argo: “Do you know what you did? You betrayed the one person on this ship who would have done anything for you! Both of you!” (“Sons and Lovers,” 3.02) Yes, no question D’Argo would have. D’Argo always did for others without hesitation. He complained a lot, but he was always loyal.
At first, after his escape form Peacekeeper custody, D’Argo was hostile toward and suspicious of everyone. His sincere and intense loyalty gradually extends to each of his companions on Moya, even Rygel. He first comes to respect Zhaan, her kindness and solidity impressing him. He grudgingly comes to respect Aeryn—a fellow soldier. Similarly, as Crichton gradually demonstrates acumen, D’Argo comes to respect him. D’Argo and Crichton eventually become brothers. They become intensely loyal to each other but also constantly bickering, so much so that Pilot once bans them from Moya for 10 days (“Scratch ‘n Sniff,” 3.13). D’Argo never develops a close bond with Rygel, but then only Zhaan does. Still, D’Argo does come to respect Rygel for what Rygel has to offer. In the book, D’Argo’s Lament, we see him form a friendship with Jool, which explains their closeness in “What Was Lost, Part 1” (4.02) Despite his despicable act against Pilot in “DNA Mad Scientist” (1.09), D’Argo does offer a sort of apology to Pilot afterwards. He respects Pilot and loves Moya as his home and is as loyal to them as he is to everyone else.
Perhaps D’Argo’s true love in the Farscape series is another ship: Lo’la. The ship mysteriously falls into his lap in “Sons and Lovers” (3.02) It is no coincidence from a plot perspective that Lo’la comes into his life the same episode that Jothee leaves and Chiana becomes estranged from him. D’Argo took the opportunity to throw himself into Lo’la figuring out what it is and how it works. That Lo’La turns out to be a Luxan ship allows D’Argo to connect with his heritage at a time when he strongly needed to reground himself. Lo’la allowed D’Argo to partially heal and find a way to be a warrior in a positive way—one where he was not blustering and flailing like at the beginning of the series. Lo’la became D’Argo’s home and ground in a way that Moya never could. He bonded with Lo’la. It was becoming an extension of him both mentally and physically when it was destroyed by the Scarrans, heralding his own apparent death at their hands in Peacekeeper Wars.
“Then I suggest you find out before anyone else dies for the love of you.” That was the admonition to Crichton given by the faux Zhaan in “John Quixote” (4.07). It was, perhaps, a prophesy. Because of D’Argo’s loyalty to Crichton, he did not get the chance at the peaceful life he craved. D’Argo fights out of loyalty to his friends on Arnessk more than for any side in the Peacekeeper-Scarren war. It is his love for Crichton that puts him in mortal danger. Our last view of D’Argo in The Peacekeeper’s Wars is D’Argo the warrior shouting the phrase Crichton taught him. It is a fitting (apparent) end, bitterly ironic that the warrior so often captured fights in a desperate attempt to save his friends instead of finding peace.
Postscript: By the way, not to spoil it for anyone, but based on the last comic book, I believe that D’Argo is still alive.