For what she is, I really really like Farfetch’d! For the most part she’s actually a pretty standard duck (albeit not Water-type), but it’s the the little bits around her that add up. The leek / green onion is pretty much a stock grocery item in Japanese media in the same way that baguettes are in American cartoons – that is, you’ll see one poking out of a shopping bag as shorthand that a character just came from the supermarket. So seeing a duck waving one of those around like a weapon – and with those fantastic, thick, angry eyebrows – gives her the impression of a duck that’s had enough of being picked on as dinner fodder. Leaving her as a normal duck instead of a deformed fantasy duck really makes that connection to back to real-world situations work much better, I think.
Unfortunately for Farfetch’d, she really can’t stand up to that “dinner fighting back” moniker. She’s just not great in any department, even with her unique held item – mediocre stats, a dead-common and exploitable type combination, and her movepool doesn’t really redeem her. She’s always been one of the more lacking Pokémon in the first generation, and one of the few left without any evolutionary relatives – she’d need one to become viable, honestly. As-is, she’s more of a novelty.
She doesn’t even show up that much in promotional material, either. She was the feature of the week once or twice in the anime, and she naturally gets a signal boost from being one of the original 151, but otherwise she’s just kind of… there. Overlooked, even.
That’s probably not helped by her relative rarity. There’s exactly one that you can obtain in the original games, and you have to trade with a random towns-person for it – after that, she’s mostly found in odd places with relatively low spawn rates if at all.
This is tied directly to Farfetch’d being one of the few Pokémon explicitly called out as being an endangered species – specifically, if the show is to be believed, due to being over-hunted for food. And hey, considering that she’s a fairly unassuming-looking duck carrying around one of the ingredients to make herself into a nice dinner, I’d say that claim isn’t too Farfetch’d.
Anyway, this in turn makes her one of the few Pokémon who we know are consumed as food – something that at least the game series tends to lean away from, but fans and onlookers love to speculate about just because it’s such a fun logical juxtaposition against the series’ treatment of the Pokémon themselves as semi-sentient.
Not that we don’t have confirmation of other Pokémon being eaten. Just within the games: Slowpoke can and do have their tails harvested for meat (albeit this is treated as ethically-dubious), a library in Sinnoh notes that humans would fish for Pokémon as food (and then give their bones respectful little sea-burials), and there’s a buffet in Alola that serves “Take Down Steak” (Take Down being notably used by Tauros, who is a bull – it’s not explicit, but not hard to piece together). Then there’s the various Pokédex entries that hint at things like Sharpedo fins and Cherrim’s vestigial fruit making for good eating.
Farfetch’d brings that hypothetical thought out to trot due to being explicit about the concept, though, between in-game mechanical consequences for her being overhunted and her entire leek-driven theming. her name is even a portmanteau of “duck” and a vegetable in most languages. Including French, which nonsensically names her partly after an artichoke. Jeez.
In particular, its whole gimmick is being a visual representation of a Japanese turn of phrase: “a duck comes bearing green onions” – meaning a fortunate surprise, and yet again subtly underlining the idea that this thing exists to be a tasty, tasty meal, the poor thing. Except that this one comes bearing that same green onion to come and beat your teeth in with. Go get ’em, you underpowered avian!
Well, at least there’s mention on it being on the up and up recently, including protected efforts to breed their population back to strength in captivity. And the fact that the Pokémon world has a concept of “endangered” – paired up with things like various regional wildlife reserves – has a bunch of implications about how conscious humans are about their custodianship of creatures that could nonetheless overpower them incredibly easily. Hooray, conservation!
If we want to step back from that a bit, though, Farfetch’d is also one of the few Pokémon that we see equipped with some sort of tool or weapon that isn’t a natural part of their body. And man, does she use that “stick” (one of the insistent terms for its leek or onion) as a multi-tool – as a building tool for nests, as a club or sword for defense, as emergency rations… dangit, it just keeps coming back to food with this critter. She’s also very picky about her stalks, fighting over the best-looking ones and being very protective of it. I just love the idea of her picking her very favorite stalks to build her little bird-house out of, even though the next thought in that chain is that her home is liable to be eaten by other herbivores. Farfetch’d just can’t catch a break.
Oh, yeah, and she does use her stalk as a sword, apparently. Farfetch’d notably learns Cut (you have to wrangle one up to get the Cut HM in the Johto games) and various slash moves, and those attacks probably aren’t gonna happen with that beak or those wings. Maybe with her sharp-looking eyebrows, though?
Farfetch’d isn’t really of any practical use, but with a roster this large, I don’t think all Pokémon necessarily have to be. I’d love to see her kept in Reserve since she’s such a fun idea – she can be a launchpad into topics about the ethics of consuming decidedly self-aware animals, or about animal conservation and its place in the context of supernatural creatures. But the former in particular is something that the series doesn’t seem particularly keen on looking in the proverbial eye, so realistically this may be one of the original generation that’s closest to looking at Retirement despite her uniqueness.
Any and all appreciation for Farfetch’d is welcome in the comments!