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Characters: Firefly

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The Crew of Serenity

    Mal 

Capt. Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds

"I aim to misbehave."
Played By: Nathan Fillion

"We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty."

Captain Reynolds is a Browncoat—a veteran of the stellar civil war that precedes the events of the series by six years. He fought under the rank of Sergeant for the Independents, the side that lost to the Alliance. He has been left bitter by the Independents' loss; he never quite recovered from seeing his ideals crumble around him. Ever since, he has been eking out a living on the wrong side of the law, at the helm of the Firefly-class ship Serenity, defiantly named after the valley where the Alliance's victory was sealed.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: "We're still flying."
  • Badass: Mal is a competent fighter and a determined man.
    • Badass Longcoat: From his military days in the Browncoats, although a few times it gets him in trouble, as he gets spotted in it and exposed as a Browncoat a few times.
  • Berserk Button: Threatening to harm anyone under his protection.
    • The Alliance in general acts as his, to the point that he'll deck you if you accuse him of being in league with them.
    • He's also a firm believer in honest pay for honest work, or fair trade. He'll do any job up to and including crime without batting an eye, and will trade something for more than it's worth if he needs it enough. But he expects his due. If you screw him over and try to keep everything and kill him he will wreck you. Doubly so if you suggest he'd have done so himself if possible. No, he would not.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Mal is, for the most part, a reasonably kind guy, but if you harm his friends or him, you're going to regret doing so.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Towards Kaylee, their relationship is pretty much summed up in the movie;
      Kaylee: Goin' on a year now, I ain't had nothing twixt my nethers weren't run on batteries!
      Mal: Oh GOD! I can't know that!
    • He also calls Kaylee "Mei Mei" (little sister) in the pilot.
    • On a good day, he has a bit of this towards Simon as well.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Ain't he just?
  • Born Unlucky: He even lampshades it. "It never goes smooth. Why don't it ever go smooth???" In the Serenity Tabletop RPG as well, his character starts with the disadvantage "Things Don't Go Smooth".
  • Broken Bird: As a result of being a Shell-Shocked Veteran.
  • Broken Hero: In addition to his A Father to His Men tendencies, and considering what happened to his homeworld, he was ridiculously, recklessly cheerful during the war. It's hard to tell if he's an adrenaline junkie, genuinely considered it just a big adventure, was all an act, was a coping mechanism, or if he was completely unhinged. Or even all of the above. But despite all the stress, he somehow managed to stay pretty upbeat.
  • The Captain
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Often will get the crew into high risk no reward situations just because he thinks it's the right thing to do. Hell, it's practically his motivation for the second half of the film. He also tends to turn down really amoral jobs, or will give up on them when he finds out the whole story.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Mal has absolutely no problems with shooting first.
    • To quote from "Heart of Gold": "Shoot the rider, not the horse. Dead horse is great cover, live horse is a great pile o' panic."
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Despair Event Horizon: Serenity Valley. Also possibly within the same timeframe, the destruction of his homeworld.
  • Determinator: Enough determination to prop up his crew when they're faltering, too.
  • Death Glare: Serenity doesn't need weapons. It has Mal's eyes!
  • Disappeared Dad: The one time Mal mentions his past ("Our Mrs. Reynolds"), he says that he was raised by his mother and "about forty hands", but makes no mention of his father.
  • Doomed Hometown: His homeworld, Shadow, was orbitally bombarded by the Alliance so heavily that it was rendered completely uninhabitable afterwards.
  • Double Tap: Mal does this to Dobson in the spin-off comic 'Those Left Behind' just to make sure he doesn't come back a second time.
  • Farm Boy: Mal was raised by his mother and "forty hands" on a ranch back on his homeworld, Shadow.
  • A Father to His Men: He may be sardonic, but his crew are his family. Trifle with them and you are in for a world of pain.
  • Field Promotion: Was breveted several times during the Battle of Serenity Valley, to replace his fallen superiors.
  • Fight Magnet: Mal gets into an unnecessary fight at least once every few episodes. Zoe accuses him of doing it deliberately: why does he always manage to find himself looking for a quiet drink in an Alliance-friendly bar come Unification Day?
  • Good Is Not Dumb: People often mistaken him for a fool when he does the (relatively) noble thing but he's definitely not stupid. He shows surprising savviness at times for when things go wrong or about to go wrong, especially with Jayne and his predictable siding with the highest bidder. When he tries to sell the Tams out to the Feds, Mal is the only one who figures out that the Feds got there a little too quick for Jayne's story to stick. People that ask Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? tend to mistaken his pragmatic nature (killing people off is a poor way to do repeat business) for having a soft heart.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He might not kill a downed opponent that tried to kill him a moment before, but don't expect him to pull punches or shoot non-lethally before that. Also don't expect him to be very kind to anyone he sees committing atrocities or hurting innocents.
  • Guile Hero: He likes to try to talk his way out of situations, with varying results.
  • The Gunslinger: Type D. The Quick Draw.
    • He even outdraws The Operative who's already holding a gun in his hand.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • "Yes, I've read a poem. Try not to faint."
    • According to supplemental material, he was the son of a wealthy rancher and his mother insisted on him having a classical education. He did know at least one of the fancy group dances in "Shindig".
  • Homage: The idea of a hero persevering despite the absence of hope is the central thesis in Albert Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus".
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Casually shoots Dobson in the head from ten feet away in the pilot, while Dobson has a Human Shield, without breaking stride.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Ever since Serenity Valley. He's no longer religious and sees the 'verse as a harsh place that needs harshness to deal with it.
  • Jerkass Faade
    Inara: I think she [Kaylee] looks adorable.
    Mal: Yeah. But I didn't say it. [meaningful glance]
  • The Kirk
  • Knight Errant: Occasionally he'll decide to champion people in need of one.
  • Knight In Sour Armour: Despite being a cranky, cynical bastard, he still has a strong moral sense and avoids jobs that are really dirty.
  • The Leader: Displays elements of all four types, at different times.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Displays shades of this, as seen in the episode "The Message" in the flashback to his army days:
    Mal: WHOO-HOO! I'M RIGHT HERE! I'M RIGHT HERE! YOU WANT SOME OF ME?! YEAH YOU DO! COME ON! COME ON!
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Every person on Serenity for Mal.
  • Lovable Rogue: Helped by the fact that he will renege on a deal if he learns that it's going to seriously hurt people, even though he doesn't try to be Just Like Robin Hood.
  • Made of Iron: Even torturing Mal to death isn't enough to keep him down.
    • Or getting shot or stabbed multiple times.
  • Morality Pet: Anti-hero version. See Living Emotional Crutch.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: He's a fan of all seven sins. But right now, he's gonna have to go with wrath.
  • Naytheist: After the Battle of Serenity Valley.
    Mal: You're welcome aboard my ship, Preacher. God ain't.
  • Not So Different: From Simon, which is something he vaguely acknowledges by the end of the series. Despite their different backgrounds, they both ran afoul of the Alliance and chose to resist in their own ways, protecting what was most important to them.
  • Older than They Look: He's supposed to be about fifty, but he certainly doesn't look it.
  • Papa Wolf: Don't mess with Mal's crew, as he takes it very personally. His reaction to putting his crew in danger is consistently decisive; whether or not it's terminal depends on how much immediate threat the enemy represents and how angry he is at the time.
  • Platonic Life Partners: With Zoe. Becomes an issue with Wash in "War Stories".
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Hates God for letting the Browncoats lose the war.
  • Rebel Leader: Or at least the leader of his band of varyingly anti-Alliance misfits. As an Independent Sergeant, he didn't have much rank but still was this.
    • At the Battle of Serenity Valley, he was field-promoted several times as the higher ranking officers were killed, rising from leading a relatively minor unit to over 5000 men at one point, which were whittled down to just 150 by the time of the ceasefire.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Mal is the red to Simon or Zoe's blue.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran
  • Still Wearing The Old Colors: Even the coat!
  • Team Dad: To the younger members of the crew especially.
  • Troll: Tells Simon that Kaylee's dead as a prank.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Best exemplified in this conversation with Simon in "Safe", after the trope-naming Big Damn Heroes moment:
      Simon: Captain, why did you come back for us?
      Mal: You're on my crew.
      Simon: Yeah, but you don't even like me. Why'd you come back?
      Mal: You're on my crew. Why are we still talking about this?
    • Also has a tendency to inspire this. Nowhere shown more clearly than in the movie Serenity, after his crew seems ready to mutiny at the prospect of flying through Reaver space and what he intends to use to disguise Serenity as a Reaver ship.
      Mal: I mean to confound these bungers. Take my shot at getting to Miranda. Maybe find something I can use to get clear of this. So I hear a word out of any of you that ain't helping me out or taking your leave, I will shoot you down. Get to work.
    • And every one of them gets to work.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: With Inara, of the constant-arguing kind.
    • The trope is a subject of "War Stories", when Wash accuses Mal and Zoe of lusting after each other, and at the end of the show we see that they can't even keep a straight face long enough to share a kiss. They really are life partners, but not sexually interested in each other.
  • Warrior Poet: Well, he's read at least one poem (try not to faint). That has to count for something doesn't it? Supplementary materials reveal he was the son of wealthy ranch owner, so it would make sense for him to have an education.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He's given one of these throughout the series by every character except River. In the movie, even Zoe seems ready to mutiny after he states his intention to mount the corpses of their friends from Haven on the hull of Serenity, in order to make it look like a Reaver ship.
    Zoe: Sir, do you really mean to turn our home into an abomination so we can make a suicidal attempt at passing through Reaver space?
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Mal sure has a lot of fun kicking ass in a "pretty floral bonnet" and when he is disguised as a woman to infiltrate the Companion school at one point during the movie.
    Mal: I can be quite graceful when I want to be.
  • Would Hit a Girl: At the end of "Our Mrs Reynolds", and the beginning of "Trash." Hard to feel sorry for the one receiving the fist, though.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: According to the RPG his homeworld was glassed by the Alliance during the Unification War.

    Zoe 

Zoe Alleyne Washburne

Played By: Gina Torres

"I don't give a good gorram about relevant, Wash, or objective. And I ain't so afraid of losing something that I ain't gonna try to have it."

Zoe is also a Browncoat. She was a corporal serving under Mal during the war against the Alliance. She even now accompanies him on Serenity and still calls him "sir", 15 years later. She is married to Wash, the wacky pilot of the ship.
  • Action Girl: She could be The Big Guy herself, honestly—she's a hardened soldier who routinely wears body armor.
  • Action Mom: It's revealed in post-Serenity comics that she's pregnant with Wash's daughter.
  • Berserk Button: Don't badmouth Mal or his leadership abilities in front of her, and do not mess with Wash.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Trope Namer.
  • Brainy Brunette: Zoe is an expert on setting traps, organizing missions, and leading attacks, all of which were skills she picked up while serving in the military.
  • The Comically Serious: Her straight-faced response to everything is part of what makes her hilarious.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Determined Homesteader's Wife: Fits the personality, though her "homestead" is an old transport in this case.
  • Dual Wielding: Briefly during "War Stories", with two pistols.
  • Happily Married: To Wash.
  • Heartbroken Badass: After Wash's death in the film.
  • Just Following Orders: A non-villainous, sometimes questioning, but very pragmatic version. Especially evident in a deleted scene from the pilot. (The "He" being mentioned is Mal).
    Zoe: If you get Kaylee through this, I think he'll do right by you. He won't kill unless he has no other option.
    Simon: What if he tells you to kill me—
    Zoe: —I kill you.
  • The Lancer: Toward Mal. She hauls him back when he gets too wild—the dynamic was even more so during their soldiering days.
  • Mama Bear: For Kaylee.
  • Military Brat: Zoe's backstory is that she was born ship-side to parents who raised her to be Career Military. This definitely explains her habit of calling Mal "Sir."
  • Nerves of Steel: No matter what the situation is, you can count on Zoe staying calm and composed, doing whatever needs to be done and doing it well.
  • Number Two: Again, toward Mal.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The one and only time she ever wears a dress is at her husband's funeral.
    • Also, the only time she loses her cool is in the aftermath of Wash's death.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Once again, with Mal. The series devoted an entire episode to establishing that they do not, and never have, had feelings for each other, but she's still his right-hand woman.
  • The Reliable One
  • The Remnant: According to the tie-in comic "Better Days," Zoe was a member of the "Dust Devils," which were a group of Browncoats who kept fighting after the Independents surrendered.
  • Sarcastic Devotee:
    • And yet again, to Mal.
    • From "The Train Job", upon Mal telling her the presence of a full platoon of Alliance troops on the train "makes it more fun":
      Zoe: Sir, I think you may have a problem with your brain being missing.
    • From the movie, on seeing a couple of stacks of bills in a small safe:
      Zoe: At last. We can retire and give up this life of crime.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She married a very cheerful, good-natured and loyal fellow.
  • Still Wearing The Old Colors: Like Mal, she continues to wear her brown coat.
  • The Stoic: You'll rarely see her get visibly angry, even when her husband and captain are being tortured. You don't see her laugh much either.
  • Straight Man: Usually to Mal and Jayne, although she can straightman any given crewmate.
  • Tranquil Fury: A loyal second-in-command and a tough, deadly fighter, she was rational and calm in dangerous situations.
  • Undying Loyalty: Toward Mal due to their experience together on the battlefield.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Parodied — there is just about no lust and even less romantic chemistry between her and Mal, but her husband fears what their long history might mean for such a relationship. They disprove this notion in an almost-kiss that's so awkward even Jayne is unsettled.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: In "The Message", Tracey takes a shot at Wash when he tries to call Womack. It does not end well for him.

    Wash 

Hoban "Wash" Washburne

"I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar."
Played By: Alan Tudyk

"We gotta go to the crappy town where I'm a hero!"

Wash is the pilot of Serenity. Most of the time he is wacky, playful, excitable, and a bit on the immature side, though when he needs to be, there is no one more focused, calm, and collected on the crew. He's a whiz at the controls of a vehicle, and has saved the lives of the rest of the crew many a time.
  • Ace Pilot: In the first episode he pulls off a very difficult piloting maneuver to escape some Reavers—definitely the kind of guy you want piloting your not-quite-legal ship.
  • Adorkable: The first time we see him, he's playing with plastic dinosaurs.
  • Amazon Chaser: From being interviewed by an Alliance officer in "Bushwhacked":
    Wash: Have you ever been with a warrior woman?
  • Author Avatar
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's a total goofball and a little flighty (no pun intended...) and he definitely earns his keep aboard ship.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • In early episodes, Wash is a calm, masterful pilot, all Nerves of Steel while the other characters are panicking. By "The Message", he's just as excitable as anyone else because Alan Tudyk bought himself an Xbox and discovered he's not the naturally-calm-pilot type, which Tim Minear threw in on grounds of Rule of Funny. And, just to confuse things, Wash shows elements of both performances in the Big Damn Movie.
    • Taken as a whole, his level of panic seems to be inversely proportional to the actual level of danger. When there's Reavers on their tail and they're running for their lives, he's oddly calm, while if it's something more mundane, he gets more excited.
      Zoe: Proximity alert. Must be coming up on something.
      Wash: Oh my god. What can it be? We're all doomed! WHO'S FLYING THIS THING!? [beat] Oh right, that would be me. Back to work!
  • The Conscience: Frequently enough to be noticeable, though others fill this role as well. (Probably one of the things that draws him and Zoe together: they both try to keep things grounded.)
  • Danger Deadpan: From the movie:
    Wash: This landing's gonna get pretty interesting.
    Mal: Define "interesting."
    Wash: [emotionlessly] "Oh God, oh God, we're all gonna die"?
  • A Day in the Limelight: "War Stories".
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Does this in "War Stories" to punctuate a Badass Creed — with the smallest, girliest gun on the table.
  • Happily Married: To Zoe.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: Did Wash just perfectly hit a skyplex docking seal with a powered down Firefly from 6000 miles away? Yes, that's exactly what he just did.
  • Inflationary Dialogue: Inverted in War Stories, when he tries to establish himself as a capable fighter to Mal:
    Wash: Hey, I've been in a firefight before. [Pauses] Well, I was in a fire. [Pauses] Actually, I was fired, from a fry cook opportunity.
  • The McCoy: Sometimes shares this role with Simon.
  • Nerves of Steel: When he's piloting.
  • Non-Action Guy: Though he graduates a bit to "Semi-Action Guy" after "War Stories." He's no heavy hitter like Mal, Jayne, or Zoe, but he's apparently more apt to shoot than Kaylee or Simon after that ordeal.
    • The comic series show Wash to be a surprisingly capable and resourceful fighter, but he's just too damn nice to ever be really effective in a gun battle.
    • Even in the merchandise. Jayne's licensed toy looks like this (Mal's is similar), while Wash's looks like this.
  • Non-Action Snarker
  • One of the Kids: Plays with dinosaur figurines on the job.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: "Everyone knows I'm the funny one."
  • Survival Mantra: "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar." Not that it saves him from getting impaled, subverting this trope.
    • However, his survival mantra did indeed keep him alive in the air. But on the ground...
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: A variant, in that Wash himself seems surprised that a guy like him could manage to marry someone like Zoe.

    Inara 

Inara Serra

"Mal, if you're being a gentleman, I may die of shock."
Played By: Morena Baccarin

"Oh, one further addendum. That's the last time you get to call me "whore"."

Not really a member of the crew, Inara rents a shuttle for her... services. Despite (or maybe because of) her profession, she is well-versed in the ways of the universe (and sex) and continually shows Hidden Depths—who'd expect a space tramp to be good at Sword Fights? Plus, she is a High-Class Call Girl, which adds to Serenity's reputation: a woman who can go out in public on the arm of an aristocrat (and into his bedroom) wouldn't be shipping out with Mal and his crew unless they were at least somewhat respectable. Ironically, her profession is legal, which is more than Mal can say.
  • Ambadassador: Not badass to the degree of the rest of the crew, but she has no qualms with holding people at gunpoint and holds her own in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: In the comics she eventually exchanges her dresses for body armor and trousers.
  • Band of Brothels: She's a member of the Companions Guild.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Mal. It's even a plot point in the movie.
  • Bi the Way: Takes female clients as well as male.
  • Brainy Brunette: Inara may make her living with her body, but her brain is no slouch either. She has a working knowledge of many subjects that a Courtesan would be expected to converse intelligently about. She's well-versed in human psychology and the physical arts, martial arts, swordplay, history, religion, etc.
  • The Chick: She's certainly the most feminine woman on the ship, almost always in a dress, and she does a lot of the emotional legwork.
  • Cool Big Sis: To Kaylee.
  • Cultured Badass: It is suggested that Companion training includes social and physical grace, at least some performing arts, and psychology. Inara appears to be at least somewhat adept at swordplay. In the movie Serenity, it is shown that she also may have been trained somewhat in the martial arts and is skilled with a bow and arrow, apparently preferring them over firearms.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Usually towards Mal.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Inara is shown to be very in demand for both her male and female clientele.
  • The Face: Officially, her role on the ship is to use her social contacts to "open doors that would otherwise be closed" to a group like Captain Mal and the crew. Being that she's the only one with a legal job she's the only one that can show their face to polite company the crew might need help from.
  • High-Class Call Girl: She is a Companion, a high-society courtesan licensed by the Union of Allied Planets (the "Alliance") to entertain the wealthy and powerful. As a registered Companion she brings a certain respectability to the ship that they can use.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Subverted. She does have a heart of gold, but she doesn't really want to be rescued from her career.
  • Ill Girl: Word of God and Morena Baccarin confirmed a subplot involving Inara with a terminal illness, hinted at in "Serenity," "Out Of Gas," and "Heart of Gold."
  • Insistent Terminology: She's a Companion not a whore (those are people who aren't registered with the Guild), as she keeps telling Mal.
  • Lady of War: Good in swordfighting and archery, and able to defend herself in hand-to-hand combat against skilled people such as Saffron or The Operative.
  • Mama Bear: Inara is the only one who will stand up to Mal whenever he threatens to boot Simon and River off the ship.
  • Not so Above It All: She really seems to enjoy participating in capers and double-crossing the villain of the week when she gets the chance.
  • Not So Stoic: When she runs into Mal coming out of Nandi's room in "Heart of Gold", she appears not to care about Mal having slept with Nandi. A couple of scenes later, she's crying about it in her room.
  • Ms. Fanservice: First scene is her naked with a client.
  • The Ojou: Companions aren't actually royalty, but they're sometimes treated like it.
  • Professional Sex Ed: In Jaynestown Inara is hired to bed the Magistrate's son and make him a man. She goes above what is expected of her by establishing a place of union, making it clear that she wanted to come to see him, and teaching him what makes a man.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: She is a companion, licensed to entertain the wealthy and powerful, who compliment her looks of dark curly hair and fair skin.
  • Really Gets Around: It's her job.
  • Riches to Rags: Loses her license and is decommissioned as a companion after the events of the movie. Now just part of the crew.
  • Sex Tourism: Inverted. Inara finds clients in the area they're in. "Trash" shows that it also depends on the jobs Mal takes on, much to her frustration.
  • Silk Hiding Steel
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: Inara's Weapon of Choice is a hunting bow, contrasting with the guns the rest of the crew uses.
  • Team Mom: Especially to Kaylee and River, although she's very nurturing to everyone else as well. Except Mal.
  • Tsundere: Type B. She is unflappably courteous and kind to everyone she meets... except Mal.

    Kaylee 

Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye

"You like ships. You don't seem to be lookin' at the destinations. What you care about is the ships, and mine's the nicest."
Played By: Jewel Staite

"These girls have the most beautiful dresses. And so do I! How 'bout that?"

Kaylee is the ship's mechanic. She's perky and cheerful more often than not, always optimistic, and innocent—though she does enjoy the simpler pleasures in life. She's the most laid-back and friendly person on the ship at any given time (if you insult the ship itself, though...). She's probably the worst in a fight among the crew, but she's extremely adept at keeping the ship in working order, and seemingly has a spiritual link to it.
  • Badass Adorable: Easily the most panicky in a fight and unwilling to actually hurt people, but when the ship is rigged with a booby trap and the slightest mistake can result in either depressurization or getting raped, eaten and sewn into clothing by rabid space zombies, she's the best choice. By the movie Serenity, at least, she's reached a point where she can shoot back, but only when cornered and being attacked by Reavers. And motivated, of course, by Simon finally admitting his feelings for her.
  • Bare Your Midriff
  • Berserk Button:
    • Not much can get Kaylee mad, but make one smart comment about her ship...
    • Also, she is one for the rest of the crew. Hurt Kaylee, and no power in the verse will save you.
  • Brainy Brunette: Behind her cheerful smile is a mechanical genius. She actually describes her understanding of machines as intuitive; in her own words, "Machines just talk to me." Though as numerous conversations show, she is still quite well-versed in technical details.
  • Cool Big Sis: To River.
  • Covert Pervert: Despite her child-like, innocent demeanor, she enjoys having sex in the engine room, and expresses interest in the male prostitutes in "Heart of Gold".
  • Geeky Turn-On: In "Shindig", most of the men at the Ball are completely enthralled with Kaylee due to her friendly and down-to-earth personality, to the point they even shoo away potential suitors asking her to dance, simply because they want to continue discussing the finer aspects of current engine design in spacecraft with her.
    • Kaylee herself demonstrates this, if her previous lover is to be believed, as the entire reason he claims they were having sex in the engine room was because "engines make her hot". Seemingly confirmed in The Movie, when she and Simon decide to consummate their relationship there as well.
  • Good Bad Girl: When Mal first met her, she was screwing the former mechanic in the engine room.
  • The Heart: Everyone on the ship loves her and gets along with her without any trouble because of her open, friendly personality. Probably why she's the one who sits outside to advertise the ship to passengers.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Notably averted, at least in part — the cast is perfectly aware that Kaylee is attractive.
  • Love at First Sight: Well, at least infatuation at first sight.
  • Machine Empathy: "They just talk to me."
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: She has a thing for engine rooms.
  • Morality Pet: To Mal, Zoe, and Jayne. Things get ugly for you if you harm a hair on her head.
  • The Pollyanna
    Mal: I don't believe there is a power in the 'verse that can stop Kaylee from being cheerful.
  • Princess for a Day: In "Shindig", not that she was unattractive before.
  • Short Tank: She is an amazing mechanic who happens to have a love for strawberries and frilly dresses.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Kaylee adores Simon. Simon doesn't know what to do about it.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Well, she has the accent, and she's from the space equivalent of the boonies.
  • Sunny Sunflower Disposition: No one is ever more cheerful than Kaylee. So much so that Mal comments "I don't believe there's a power in the 'verse that can stop Kaylee from being cheerful. Sometimes you just wanna tape her mouth shut and dump her in the hold for a month". To which she responds by kissing Mal's cheek and saying, "I love my Captain."
  • Took a Level in Badass: A small one. During "War Stories" she can't bring herself to shoot a gun even when her life is in danger but by the time of Serenity she thinks that Simon is worth fighting for.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Strawberries. She accepts them as payment for travel, and during a fancy party she hones in on the strawberries at the buffet table like a homing missile.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Especially when she's covered in engine grease. She shares this a bit with River, and it is a deliberate contrast between her and Zoe or Inara.
  • Will They or Won't They?: The good doctor is stiff, awkward, and busy repairing the broken cutie. You have your work cut out for you, Kaylee.

    Simon 

Dr. Simon Tam

"I swear... when it's appropriate."
Played By: Sean Maher

"No matter what you do, or say or plot, no matter how you come down on us I will never, ever harm you. You're on this table, you're safe. 'Cause I'm your medic, and however little we may like or trust each other, we're on the same crew. Got the same troubles, same enemies, and more than enough of both. Now, we could circle each other and growl, sleep with one eye open, but that thought wearies me. I don't care what you've done, I don't know what you're planning on doing, but I'm trusting you. I think you should do the same. 'Cause I don't see this working any other way."

Simon is the doctor aboard Serenity. He's an extremely gifted surgeon and a cunning planner, even though he's socially awkward and not exactly streetsmart. He cares for his sister River more than anyone or anything else in the world, and he is willing to go to extreme lengths for her well-being.
  • Action Survivor: A classic — he prefers being a Non-Action Guy and is only a hero because his Mei-Mei needed him.
  • Adorkable: Mostly when he's around Kaylee, and helped along by his Fish Out of Water status - notable in that it's quite a change from the calm, collected demeanor he assumed when he first came on board Serenity.
  • A-Team Firing: In "War Stories":
    Simon: I don't know [how I feel]. I've never killed anyone before.
    Book: I was there, son. I'm fair sure you haven't killed anyone yet.
  • Badass Bookworm: What he becomes when his Berserk Button is pushed. Jayne learned the hard way that, though Simon may not be the strongest guy around, you do not want to push this button. Ever.
    • Provoking the Big Brother Instinct of someone who is obviously willing to die for it is something to be shy about.
  • Berserk Button: Simon is very protective of River.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
  • Big Brother Instinct: Hugely towards River, given that he's willing to become a death-marked fugitive for her.
  • Break the Cutie: He had to throw away his very comfortable life after the government he hadn't before questioned mutilated his sister and wound up on the lawless fringes of space with a crew of rogues. He doesn't regret it, but it's not easy.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: It's difficult for him to act on his feelings for Kaylee (and ends up butchering any conversation with her at least 50% of the time because of the way he words things).
    • Mind you, by about three episodes into the show, they're both perfectly aware of his feelings towards her, and it is an ongoing discussion topic, he's just too danged shy and proper to do anything about it, even without being distracted by caring for and protecting River.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke
  • The Caretaker: Toward River.
  • Catch Phrase: Frequently calls River his meimei (妹妹), Chinese for "little sister".
  • The Champion: To River, obviously. And he will protect her.
  • City Mouse
  • City Slicker
  • Clueless Chick Magnet
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: To River.
  • Consummate Professional: When dealing in matters relating to medicine.
  • Combat Medic: When pressed.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Over the course of his few fights, he beats up people while handcuffed, crushes a guy's windpipe with his knee just enough to knock him out rather than kill him, jumped off a high railing and gone for the gun rather than a punch.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Frequently, but especially during "Jaynestown".
  • Death Glare: Anyone who threatens Mei-mei withers slowly before his eyes. As do incompetent surgeons. He must have been a terror to work under.
  • Determinator: Will do whatever it takes to protect River.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: To Kaylee sometimes, although she's usually the one pursuing him. Sometimes it looks like they're making progress, only for him to unintentionally offend her and spend the rest of the episode moping after her.

    River 

River Tam

"No power in the 'verse can stop me."
Played By: Summer Glau

River is the aforementioned precious cargo, and Simon's little sister. She's stone cold crazy. With good reason, though, and she gets a bit better. She's also a prodigy par excellence, taking to difficult subjects with ease (considering university-level physics to be a "challenge" when she was fourteen, for example). She's enough of an asset to the crew at critical times that it makes up for being The Load when she's freaking out.
  • Big Brother Worship: It's not hard to see why, given to the lengths that Simon goes for her.
  • Blessed with Suck: She has psychic powers and is unstoppable in combat but it's definitely not worth the really screwed up process she went through and the lingering mental problems/complications she has after rescue.
  • Brain Critical Mass
  • Brainy Brunette: Gifted is the term.
    Simon: She makes me look like an idiot child.
  • Break the Cutie: In a convenient pre-broken package. The R.Tam Sessions show the whole process from start to finish.
  • Ceiling Cling: Leading to the "Ceiling River is watching you" meme.
  • Cheerful Child: Not a child but is the mental age of one.
  • Child Prodigy: Was one of these.
  • Child Soldier: One of the Academy's goals in "developing" her.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Most of what she says is applicable to the situation at hand, but her language is slightly... perpendicular to reality. Judging by her flashbacks and the R.Tam Sessions, she was this way before she was driven insane, too.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Many of her incoherent ramblings turn out to be true, especially the repeated "Two by two, hands of blue..."
  • The Coats Are Off: Just before River tears apart the Maidenhead bar.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: Implied (along with her Waif-Fu) to be the reason she is so successful in fights.
  • Combat Pragmatist: No part of your body is off-limits when she's in assassin-mode.
  • Dark Shepherd: To Jayne, after Simon makes his pledge to let bygones be bygones. Just in case Simon's forgiveness isn't enough to keep Jayne in line, she reminds him that "I can kill you with my brain."
  • Deadpan Snarker: From time to time, especially when in her more lucid moments.
    Jayne: Well, as a rule, I say girlfolk ain't to be trusted.
    River: Jayne is a girl's name.
  • Deconstruction: Of the whole "manufactured super killer soldier/assassin" concept, showing just how mentally screwed-up said manufactured supersoldier would end up being.
  • Deuteragonist: Though Mal is the central character of the series, River and what happened to her at the Academy forms a major part of the conflict over the series, and River is central to a significant number of episodes and her story serves as one of the series' dominant running background plots. Becomes especially apparent in Serenity.
  • Dirty Mind-Reading: Brushes with this in "Objects In Space," and implied in both the movie when she spies on Simon and Kaylee and the comics.
  • Distressed Damsel: For most of the series — and even when she develops her impressive combat abilities, her insanity still renders her extremely vulnerable.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: She's barefoot at least half her screentime. Her feet are even referred to as the show's 11th character.
  • Driven to Suicide: Or at least, driven to begging to be killed by her brother.
    River: [sobbing] Put a bullet to me. Bullet to the brainpan, squish!
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette
  • The Empath: The majority of her psychic abilities center around sensing others' thoughts and intentions.
  • Fetal Position Rebirth: Both her first appearance in the series and her last appearance in The Movie.
  • Genius Bruiser: Smart enough to make Simon look like an idiot savant and powerful enough to take on rooms full of Mooks by herself.
  • Girl in a Box: She currently provides the page image. This is how Simon transported her aboard the ship.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Academy wanted to make River into an assassin and spy. They succeeded, much to the Alliance's eventual regret.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: River does not want her psychic powers, especially because they make her friends and adoptive family terrified of her.
  • Ill Girl: Complete with the older protector in Simon.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Justified, as the experiments that drove her insane were intended to make her a Super Soldier, so violent tendencies are only to be expected.
  • Instant Expert: According to Simon, she's able to grasp just about any subject as naturally as breathing, due to both her savant learning ability and latent psychic powers.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Shoots three guards without even looking in "War Stories", thanks to her Psychic Powers.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Inverted. Do not mess with River's big brother. Pity the poor Reavers.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: "You take care of me, Simon. You've always taken care of me. My turn. *ass-kicking ensues*"
  • Living Lie Detector: Between her psychic abilities and extreme intellect, she can easily tell if someone is lying. She knows Jayne is up to something in "Ariel" right off the bat when she wakes up, she picks out Jubal Early's own self-deceptive lies in "Objects in Space," and one cut scene from "Our Mrs. Reynolds" indicates that she knew Saffron was up to no good the moment she got on the ship.
  • Living Macguffin: The reason why everyone wants to find her so badly is that she's privy to the Alliance's darkest secrets thanks to her telepathy.
  • Living Weapon: Explicitly called such in the movie Serenity.
  • Mama Bear: River develops into this toward a few of the later episodes and of course the movie.
  • Manchurian Agent
  • Meaningful Name: She's named after Ophelia's river.
  • Messy Hair: River apparently does not take good care of her hair immediately after being rescued, due to many more pressing issues like her batshit insanity. It gradually becomes a little bit better over the series; by the events of Serenity it is less messy and more curly.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: She can't control when she hears other people's thoughts and really doesn't like the more unpleasant ones she hears.
  • Mind Rape: What the Academy did to her.
  • Ms. Fanservice: River is a godsend to those who like barefoot girls.
  • Mysterious Waif: Genre Savvy viewers know there's a lot more to her than just being Simon's little sister when she shows up in the box.
  • Mystical Waif
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant:
    • From "Out of Gas":
      River: You think we're going to run out of air. That we're going to die gasping. But we're not... We'll freeze to death first.
    • In "Safe", after she's been yelling loud enough to spook the cattle in the cargo hold:
      River: The human body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds, given adequate vacuuming systems.
      Mal: See, morbid and creepifying I got no problem with, so long as she does it quiet-like.
  • Noble Fugitive
  • The Ophelia: Heavily invoked; "River" is even a reference to the fact that Ophelia drowned in one.
  • One-Man Army: In the movie.
  • Photographic Memory: One glance is all it takes!
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: The most pint-sized and the most powerful on the show.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: The decisions of the crew often have to factor in that there are government and corporate goons after her.
  • Power Incontinence: She can't completely control when she senses things or when she can read other people's thoughts, which she hates.
  • The President's Daughter: The Alliance, Blue Sun, and Bounty Hunters all want to catch River.
  • Protectorate: To Simon especially, to everyone by extension. Eventually inverted, with River protecting them.
  • Psychic Powers: She can kill you with her brain.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: In the film, she's the blue to The Reavers' red.
  • Reluctant Warrior: She may be the most brutal killing machine in the 'Verse, but she sure as hell doesn't want to be.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Notably when rattling off a lot of Techno Babble while editing Shepherd's bible.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: She is more sensitive, physically powerful, and (for obvious reasons) more erratic than her disciplined and calmer big brother.
  • Sixth Ranger
  • Spaceship Girl: "Objects in Space." Subverted in that she's only pretending, to confuse the Bounty Hunter. The setup, despite how it tended to be hard science fiction, sure had Jubal convinced!
    Early: Am I talking to Serenity now?
  • Spock Speak
  • Super Soldier: Apparently what the Academy wanted from her. The precise purpose of her psychic abilities and combat programming is not made clear, as there's equal suggestion that she could have been intended to be an assassin, a sleeper agent, a bodyguard/police agent, or a spy.
  • Talkative Loon
  • Took a Level in Badass: The series had one notable moment where she displays Improbable Aiming Skills ("War Stories"). In The Movie, she's a full-blown Lightning Bruiser.
    Wash: Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a 90-pound girl, 'cause I don't think that's ever getting old!
  • Tranquil Fury: Whenever River picks up a weapon she's so swift and quiet she can injure or kill before the opponent knows what happened.
  • Tyke Bomb
  • Undying Loyalty: To her big brother in particular, but also to the whole crew.
  • Unhappy Medium
  • Unkempt Beauty: Deliberately designed this way: Summer Glau wore minimal makeup and her hair was a constant, tangled mess, to both represent her mental instability as well as create a stark contrast between River and the much more glamorous beauty of characters like Inara or Zoe.
  • Waif-Fu: Especially during the movie.
  • Waif Prophet
  • Weak, but Skilled: In terms of raw physical power, River is on the lacking side. In terms of skill (aided with psychic ability) however, she's the most dangerous person on the ship.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Justified, it's pretty much impossible to turn a girl into a psychic Super Soldier against her will without her ending up severely screwed up.
  • You Shall Not Pass: Against the Reavers in Serenity.

    Book 

Shepherd Derrial Book

"I don't care what you believe in, just believe in it."
Played By: Ron Glass

Mal: Shouldn't you be off bringing religiosity to the fuzzy-wuzzies or some such?
Book: Oh, I've got heathens aplenty right here.

The Verse's equivalent of a Christian priest, Book also wandered onto Serenity in the pilot, just wanting to walk the 'verse a while. Later he wonders if he's on the wrong ship, but then again, he does seem to know a lot of things that one doesn't find in The Bible.
  • Foreshadowing: That Book was more than he seems was hinted as early as the pilot where in the moments after Dobson gets distracted after accidentally shooting Kaylee, Book manages to both disarm Dobson of his gun and knocks him out with a one-two punch.
    • In Objects in Space, Jubal Early notably goes after Book the exact same way he went after Mal, hinting that the two were Not So Different and that Early sensed that Book was far more dangerous than he appeared.
  • Former Teen Rebel: He eventually became a preacher, but he started out as a petty teenage criminal then became a spy during the war.
  • Good Shepherd: The flock of Serenity could use some good news.
  • Heel-Faith Turn
  • Hidden Depths: How does a preacher know so much about Alliance troop movements, anyhow?
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: He's no River, but he can shoot a moving target in the kneecap. From the hip.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: Name a skill, and Book seems to have some experience with it. He's competent enough in the engine room, an excellent shot and close-combat fighter, appears to have some medical knowledge, and can operate heavy weaponry and prepare explosives when need be. Being a Browncoat infiltrator/Alliance special forces officer gives him quite a bit of grounding in esoteric skills.
  • The McCoy
  • Meaningful Name: Shepherd Book. Quite obvious, really.
  • Mysterious Past: Until it was finally revealed in A Shepard's Tale, eight years after the series first aired.
  • Precision F-Strike: Book is usually the most well-mannered of the crew, but during "War Stories," he busts loose with one of the filthiest Chinese swears in the book (which translates to "filthy fornicators of livestock") upon seeing Zoe come back with Mal's severed ear.
  • Retired Badass
  • Reluctant Warrior: But a conspicuously efficient one.
  • Team Chef: As shown in the pilot.
  • Technical Pacifist: Really technically. He's okay with beating up goons as long as it's not lethal.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Though The Bible is somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

    Jayne 

Jayne Cobb

"Let's be bad guys."
Played By: Adam Baldwin

"You think there's someone just gonna drop money on ya?! Money they could use?! Well, there ain't people like that. There's just people like me."

Jayne is a thuggish, misogynistic, crude Jerk with a Heart of Gold. He's not one to leave the back turned near, as he's a bit power-hungry and greedy. What he lacks in delicacy and loyalty, though, he makes up for in strength, cunning, and fighting prowess.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: This is practically his religion.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Invoked with his "chain of command," but ultimately subverted.
  • Audience Surrogate: Subtly. One critic commented that "it's Jayne's job to say what the audience is thinking," particularly when they're thinking Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?.
  • Badass
    • Illustrated in an offhand Badass Boast: "Six men came to kill me once. The best of 'em carried this..." (gesticulates with 'Vera')
    • Badass Baritone: Has a very deep voice.
    • Badass Beard: A goatee.
  • Berserk Button:
    • He may not care for much of the rest of the crew, but touch a hair on Kaylee's head...
    • When Dobson shoots Kaylee, and Book moves to defend his unconscious body from Jayne.
      Jayne: Out of the way, preacher.
      Book: You're not going to kill this man.
      Jayne: Not right away.
  • BFG: Vera, of course, but he has quite a few.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Consistently sends money home to treat his ill brother.
    • Also thinks of Kaylee as something of a little sister and will murderize anyone who hurts her.
  • The Big Guy: His role on the ship is to look very intimidating.
  • Black and Gray Morality: One of his primary beliefs, best exemplified when yelling at the Mudders in "Jaynestown":
    Jayne: All of you! You think someone's just gonna drop money on you? Money they could use? Well, there ain't people like that! There's just people like me.
  • Book Dumb
    Wash: How did your brain even learn speech?!
  • Butt Monkey: A decent portion of the show's humor is at his expense.
  • Catch Phrase: "I'll Be in My Bunk"
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Will switch sides as soon as he's made a better offer.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: He doesn't get to, but he really wanted to. He was gonna get himself an ear, too.
  • The Corruptible: If money's involved.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Gets a lot of focus in "Jaynestown".
  • Dumb Muscle/Street Smart Genius Bruiser: While not refined or educated, Jayne is an impressive judge of character (reading Dobson's lies instantly, for example), a reasonably cunning planner, an expert tracker, and a capable pilot. Basically, so long as what he's doing is a practical skill and doesn't require a lot of Book Smarts, he can crack it.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: And write them letters. And send money to treat their brother Mattie for the damp lung note . And proudly wear their knitted "cunning" hats!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jayne may kill people at the drop of a hat, but even he finds the sheer brutality of the Reavers to be appalling. He also appears to be disgusted when he learns what the Academy did to River to make her so crazy.
  • The Face: His official job title on the ship, when asked by an outsider, is "Public Relations" (although this may have been Mal being Mal), and considering the Serenity's relations with the public, this usually means hurting people.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: A lot of conversations between Mal and Zoe show that they think him to be the most expendable member of the crew.
  • Gender-Blender Name: His mother must have liked this trope, since his brother also has a traditionally female name, Mattie.
    River: Jayne is a girl's name.
    Jayne: Well, Jayne ain't a girl!
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Upon learning that Inara will be servicing a female client on board her shuttle, he has only this to say:
  • Hidden Depths: Jayne Cobb, who is just about the last person on Serenity's crew that you would expect to play guitar or send money to his momma. He's also the first one to join Book in saying grace. Dresses himself up to be presentable to Sex Workers, and brushes her hair.
  • I Call It Vera: The Trope Namer.
  • I'll Be in My Bunk: Also the Trope Namer.
  • It's All About Me: Jayne thinks mostly about himself and is always happy to take the easy way out. Though he does care about his family and the crew, to some extent.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Eventually.
  • Knife Nut: Carries one most of the time. Though he's even fonder of guns.
  • Leader Wannabe: See the note for The Starscream.
  • Living Lie Detector: Not quite to Cal Lightman levels, but in the pilot he can tell instantly that Dobson is bluffing him about what the Alliance knows.
  • Lovable Traitor: At least, he openly discusses betraying people, and even attempts it once, but can't quite bring himself to go through with it.
  • Mook-Face Turn: Mal and Zoe get themselves out of a sticky situation by Jayne to turn against his former employer.
  • Nice Hat: The orange hat his mother knitted for him. It's "Cunning".
    Wash: A man walks down the street in that hat, you know he is not afraid of anything.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Maybe. Notably, he doesn't seem to have reached Vash The Stampede levels of Obfuscating Stupidity, as he appears to overcorrect whenever he does something out of character, such as putting a transparently stupid, vacant grin on his face after saying that he knew the word "Pretentious" or adopting an almost exaggeratedly gruff tone of voice saying he wanted an ear after instantly, and surprisingly intelligently deducing that Dobson was lying.
  • Odd Friendship: He and Book seem to be getting along quite well in later episodes, and spot each other when weightlifting.
  • Only in It for the Money: At least he's honest about it. In the pilot, he is offered a bribe to turn on Mal. When Mal matter of factly asks him why he decided not to, Jayne simply states that he wasn't offered enough money. Of course, Mal hired him off of his previous gang by making him a better offer.
  • Played for Laughs: Jayne is a brutal thug with few interests outside women and money. But he's portrayed humorously (see Butt Monkey), and any time he behaves decently almost always becomes a heartwarming moment.
  • Psycho for Hire: Mal actually hired him off his previous crew, whom he promptly betrayed and shot.
  • Sentimental Drunk: Very much so. Also has a tendency to hug people.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Thanks to his past as an unscrupulous bushwacker before joining the crew. It's the reason Mal hires him in the first place.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: He betrays the Tams for money but he's so horrified at what the Alliance did to River that he tries to get the Tams out of there early. You know if something is screwed up if it makes Jayne turn down a hefty sum of money.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Thinks he could take over as captain if necessary. He's wrong, to say the least.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Shows flashes of intelligence and is savvy enough to know when someone is lying.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Jayne's favorite things are money, scaring people, killing people, women, and... well, no, that's about it. Heroic, ain't he?
  • Sour Supporter: He never thinks much of Mal's plans, but he's always ready to join in.
  • The Starscream: Jayne definitely shows Starscream-like tendencies.
    Mal: You wanna run this ship?!
    Jayne: Yes!
    Mal: [flustered] Well... you can't!
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Mal almost does this to him after he tries to betray Simon and River to the Alliance.
  • Token Evil Teammate: And he's quite aware that he's not a great guy.
  • Trigger Happy
  • Wall of Weapons: Owns one and has by far the most weapons on the crew.
  • The Watson: Sometimes. One way the show gets across information is having others explain it to him.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: "Public relations". Seeing how much of the dirty work he does and how expendable everyone treats him, he's probably something close to "security" or just plain "thug for hire".
  • What You Are in the Dark: After he betrayed Simon and River to the Alliance, Mal locked outside the cargo doors as the ship was exiting atmosphere. Mal was going to let him be sucked into space, but relented when Jayne went from begging for his life to begging him not to tell the others about what he did.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Jayne's default solution to problems is fairly simple. So the crew has to explain to him why, exactly, they don't.
  • Would Hit a Girl: When River slashes his chest with a knife, he backhands her to the floor, although it may very well have been an instinctual self-defense mechanism.

    Serenity 
Zoe: It's a piece of fay-yoo.
Mal: Fay-yoo? Ah... ah... OK, she won't be winning any beauty contests anytime soon, but she is solid. Ship like this, be with you till the day you die.

The ship. Including the bits that fall off.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Serenity's name is written in both English and Chinese on the hull.
  • Big Damn Gunship:
    • Parodied in the Cold Open of "The Train Job", where they con some yokels into backing down by threatening to blow a new crater in their moon. Serenity doesn't actually possess any ship-mounted weaponry.
    • In the film they temporarily mount an anti-aircraft weapon whilst disguising her as a Reaver ship.
  • Cool Starship: She don't look like much, but she'll fool ya.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: There aren't many Fireflies still around, and it's largely considered a relic by other characters.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: The rotating thrusters that made the 'Crazy Ivan' from the pilot possible is a rare mechanical variation.
  • Meaningful Name: After the turning point in Mal's life, the battle of Serenity Valley.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: This is noticeably not in effect.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Averted — you don't say 'the Serenity.' It's like a person's name. Which is a healthy bit of Shown Their Work, since at least in English this is how you're supposed to refer to a ship's name.
  • Thememobile: It's named Serenity pretty much because all the characters are after a bit of serenity, a bit of peace. And of course, the aforementioned Battle of Serenity Valley.
  • Used Future: Literally — Mal buys her at a used ship lot. The salesman tries to steer him towards a more suitable (read: expensive) vessel. Serenity was in such bad nick she couldn't get off the ground, let alone be space-worthy when Mal bought her.
  • What a Piece of Junk: Serenity may not look like much, but according to Kaylee, "she'll fool ya."

The Alliance

    Parliament 

Parliament

Played By: N/A

The ruling body of the Alliance. Presumably democratically elected, but no details are ever given.

    Blue Sun Corporation 

Blue Sun Corporation

Played By: N/A

A contractor for the Alliance, the Blue Sun Corporation is an organization of scientists. They are responsible for Simon and River Tam's plight and the Blue Gloves.
  • Big Bad: For the series. River and Simon being on the run from them drives the plot for the most part.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: They screwed with River's mind a lot.
  • Mind Rape: What they did to River.

    The Blue Gloves 

The Blue Gloves

"Two by two...Hands of Blue."
Played By: Jeff Ricketts & Dennis Cockrum

A pair of mysterious men who wear suits and what appear to be blue gloves. They work for the Blue Sun Corporation and are in pursuit of River and Simon Tam. They will not hesitate to kill anyone who has had contact with River, even Alliance personnel, using a handheld device that induces fatal hemorrhaging to anyone near it (except themselves).
  • Brown Note: The mysterious weapon they use, which appears to be sound-based.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: What generally happens to those said weapon is used on.
  • Cyborg: If the metallic parts in one of them in the comic is anything to go by, which might explain their immunity to their own weapons.
  • Death Ray: Though not so much a ray as a sonic emitter that causes catastrophic internal bleeding. The blue gloves they wear extend to cover their chests under their suits, so they're not affected.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The first people we see them kill? The same Alliance crew members that were going to turn River and Simon back to the Academy, then backstabbed Jayne after he sold them out (though Jayne probably had it coming.
  • Kill It with Fire: Killed when they were incinerated by Serenity's engines.
  • The Quiet Ones: They barely say anything, making their pursuit somewhat more unnerving.

    Lawrence Dobson 

Lawrence Dobson

"That girl is a precious commodity. They'll come after her. Long after you bury me they'll be coming."
Played By: Carlos Jacott

An undercover Alliance agent with an itchy trigger-finger. He was intended to be a recurring character before the show was cancelled. He returned in the spin-off comic 'Those Left Behind'.
  • Double Tap: Mal does this just to make sure Dobson doesn't come back a second time.
  • No One Could Survive That: To be fair, Mal was in a hurry. After getting shot in the eye, Dobson is unceremoniously tossed out the hatch and left for dead.

    Harken 

Harken

"No mandatory registration markings on the bow. Make sure we cite them for that."
Played By: Doug Savant

An Alliance Commander whom the crew encounter in the episode "Bushwacked." He discovered and arrested the Crew after seeing them stealing from a Reaver attacked ship. He falsely believed them to have killed the crew, and correctly believed that they were robbing it.
  • Anti-Villain: Essentially, he represents many of the Alliance's good traits, like keeping the galaxy safe and preserving order.
  • Agent Scully: Somewhat, he doesn't believe in Reavers, but he does come around by episodes end.
  • Blonde Guys Are Evil: Or just antagonistic.
  • By-the-Book Cop: He grills all the members of the crew according to proceedure, reactions range from talkative to completely silent Death Glare (Jayne).
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When he discovers the sole survivor or the vessel tortured to insanity, he's quite shocked.
    Harken: I haven't seen that kind of torture since... well, since the war.
  • I Owe You My Life: After Mal saves him at the end, he releases the crew without any further inquisition, but he does confiscate what they stole, because it was Alliance property.
  • Pet the Dog: When the tortured victim succumbs to the madness and begins killing members of his crew, his first order was to post guards at the nursery note .
  • Punch Clock Villain: He's pretty much just a regular guy doing his job, frustrated by a lack of information from the higher-ups and wanting serve justice.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He just wants to figure out what happened, and has no evident corrupt or fascistic traits. He only really turns on the crew when he believes they brutally tortured the man found on board a vessel they were robbing, and dismisses their claims about Reavers.

    Lt. Womack 

Lt. Womack

"I'm a dangerous-minded man on a ship loaded with hurt."
Played By: Richard Burgi

A corrupt Alliance federal agent who pursued Tracey and the crew of Serenity. Although he claimed to be chasing Tracey because he was a criminal, which was true, he actually wanted to catch him because he was smuggling Womack's goods. He was supposed to be a recurring villain, but due to Fireflys cancellation, he became a one-off villain.
  • Badass
    • Badass Longcoat: As opposed to other uniformed Alliance-types we see, Womack favors a long duster-like coat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Womack is deeply sarcastic and snarky to just about everyone he meets.
  • Dirty Cop: He's an Alliance agent involved in a spot of organ smuggling on the side, and God knows what else.
  • Jerkass: He's not just a crooked cop, he's a repulsive sadist who enjoys taunting others.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Played With. Book does some research on Womack, and learns that he has wandered far from his own legitimate area of authority in pursuit of Tracey. He points out that if Serenity's crew shot him and left his corpse where it landed, nobody would care.
  • Kick the Dog: Womack is the one to tell Jayne that his hat makes him look 'like an idiot'. Sure, perhaps it needed to be said, but c'mon Womack...
  • Kill It with Fire: Threatens to set a poor guy on fire. He got as far as splashing something flammable on him and lighting a match, suggesting it wasn't exactly an empty threat.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name / Putting on the Reich: Sports a leather black trenchcoat and shoulder harness very reminiscent of an SS uniform. The fact that he's part of the Alliance's secret police division and is shown rather cruelly interrogating a Jewish postal worker doesn't do him any favors either.
  • Spiteful Spit: When forced to leave Serenity, he spits in the cargo bay in frustration.

    The Operative 

The Operative

"Do you know what your sin is?"
Played By: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Primary villain in Serenity. A special agent/assassin of Parliament, sent out to keep government secrets and take care of loose ends. While he technically represents their interests, they are never seen, making him The Heavy.
  • Affably Evil: For a man who's possibly the most dangerous assassin the Alliance has, he is impeccably polite, willing to negotiate, and seems genuinely saddened by the measures he's forced to take in capturing River Tam.
  • Anti-Villain: Type III.
  • Badass: Arguably second only to River as the biggest badass in the Firefly universe.
  • Big Bad: The closest that the film gets to one, although he's technically The Heavy with the Alliance as the Bigger Bad.
  • Catch Phrase: "Do you know what your sin is?"
  • Combat Aestheticist: He seems to relish in using exotic weapons and elegant tactics. But make no mistake, he's also a...
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    The Operative: I am, however, wearing full body armor. I am not a moron!
  • Cool Sword: He likes swords way too much for a guy living in a sci-fi world with laser guns. Lampshaded by Mr. Universe.
    Mr. Universe: Guy killed me, Mal. He killed me with a sword. How weird is that?
  • Deadpan Snarker: On occasion: "I am impressed that you came for her yourself, and that you made it this far... in that outfit."
  • Determinator: Practically to a Mal Reynolds degree.
  • Finishing Move: A particularly sweet one where he effectively paralyzes his victim, then places his sword at such an angle that the victim slowly overbalances and is impaled.
  • Enemy Mine: In the post-film comics, he joins with the crew of Serenity on Mal's beckoning in order to help them rescue Zoe and deal a blow against the Alliance.
  • Evil Brit: His actor keeps his normal accent for the film.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Operative is a powerful man, but also very eloquent and clever.
  • Genre Savvy
    Operative: I'm not threatening you, I'm unarmed...
    Mal: Good. [shoot him]
    Operative: I am, however, wearing full body armor. I am not a moron!
  • The Heavy: Of The Movie.
  • Heel-Face Turn: After Mal shows him the recording of what the Alliance did to the planet Miranda.
  • Inspector Javert
  • Katanas Are Just Better: His preferred weapon.
  • Kick the Dog: Kills plenty of people when it's not necessary to his mission, including Mr. Universe.
  • Knight Templar/Well-Intentioned Extremist: He really does believe he's helping to create a better world, even if, in Joss Whedon's words, it "does involve a certain amount of genocide."
  • Necessarily Evil: He is himself disgusted by his own actions.
  • No Name Given: Although in earlier drafts he was given the name 'Jude'.
  • No Place for Me There: Trope Namer.
  • Scary Black Man: Scary, yes, but unfailingly soft-spoken.
  • The Unfettered: The Alliance and utopia require he work his hardest and kill anyone who gets in his way, and he's fine with that.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: His reason for existence; he's apparently OK with the idea he won't exist after he gets his world.
  • Villainous Breakdown: One inflicted on him by Mal in an ironic, thematic defeat; by the end, he himself says that he's a shell waiting to die, bereft of purpose. In short, exactly what Mal took steps not to become after Serenity Valley. Also has a minor one when he sees Serenity being followed by a horde of Reavers.
  • Warrior Poet: Though he misquotes a few poems from time to time, he fits the bill.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: He takes steps to defy this trope as it applies to him by means of a Bulletproof Vest.
  • Worthy Opponent: Seems to think this of Mal.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He slams Inara to the ground during her and Mal's fight against him.
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of the people on Haven is a little kid Kaylee plays with. The kid was killed in the Operative's attack.
    Mal: I don't murder children.
    Operative: I do. If I have to.
  • You Monster!: A variation, in that he believes himself to be a monster. This is the reason why he doesn't think there's a place in the utopia he creates for him.

    Dr. Matthias 

Dr. Matthias

Played By: Michael Hitchcock

The Academy technician in charge of taking care of River. He is noticeable for an odd encounter with a certain spoiled rich kid who had curious questions about his baby sister. Vaguely related to this was an investigation by a government agent who gave him lessons about the customs of "certain older, civilized cultures".
  • Bio-Augmentation: What he was researching.
  • Character Death: The Operative paralyzes him, forcing him to literally fall upon a sword in forced penance.
  • Dirty Coward: He makes a run for it and leaves his guards to die.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: By the Operative, and...gravity.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Paralyzing a government scientist and then leaving him helpless to stop himself from being impaled would normally be a Kick the Dog. When said scientist is a mad scientist who Mind Rapes young girls... well, let's put it this way: was anyone not pleased when The Operative killed him?
  • Organ Theft: Particularly parts of the brain.
  • Playing with Syringes: Directly into the forehead.
  • Pride: His sin.
  • Mad Doctor/Mad Scientist: With Parliament approval!
  • Seppuku: Involuntarily, thanks to the Operative.
  • Torture Technician: He's not a sadist, and isn't out to intentionally cause pain, but he doesn't give a single damn if he does. River is put through outrageous torture at his hands, and he doesn't give a single thought to her as being a human being going through pain.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: His justification, most likely, since all of the Alliance higher-ups seem to believe this.
  • You Have Failed Me: Why the Operative kills him.

    Dr. Caron 

Dr. Caron

Played By: Sarah Paulson

A member of the research and rescue team that investigated the strange happenings on Miranda.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Leaves one behind, which is found by the Serenity crew.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: She tries to shoot herself before the Reavers get to her, but she isn't quick enough.
  • Character Death: Dr. Caron is grabbed by the Reavers, who go on to gang-rape her, torture her, kill her and ultimately eat her, as they like to do.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Subjected to this by the Reavers...although the death part comes after.
  • Mr. Exposition: She provides a straight-forward explanation of Miranda, the Pax and the Reavers.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: She's horrified by the effects of the Pax.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: She meets a horrible fate she certainly didn't deserve and the Pax was designed to make people happier and more relaxed...but she still participated in using a pathogen on a civilian population without their knowledge or consent.
    Caron: We meant it for the best!

    The Interviewer 

The Interviewer

Played By: Joss Whedon

An interviewer for the Academy sent to determine River's mental state.

The Independents (Browncoats)

    Bendis 

Bendis

Played By: Eddie Adams

A fellow Browncoat who fought in the war with Malcolm Reynolds and Zo Alleyne Washburne in the Battle of Serenity Valley.
  • Character Death: Bendis is riddled with Alliance bullets while standing next to Mal.

    Monty 

Monty

Played By: Franc Ross

A long-time colleague of Mal Reynolds who also fought on the side of the Independents in the Unification War. An extremely large (Zoe refers to him as a "sasquatch") and mostly genial man, he is known among his friends for wearing a thick beard and mustache.
  • Badass: Even Zoe thinks so.
    • Badass Beard: He used to have one, but Saffron didn't like it, so it ended up becoming one of her victims.
      Monty: I shaved my beard for you, devil woman!
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: After Saffron and Mal pull their guns on each other.
    Monty: So...you guys have met?
  • Fire-Forged Friends: With Mal. They're old war buddies.
  • Gentle Giant: He's a big guy, but greets Mal with a massive hug.
  • Old Friend: To the entire Serenity crew, but mostly Mal and Zoe.

    Tracey Smith 

Tracey Smith

Played By: Jonathan M Woodward

A war buddy of Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe Alleyne from the war against the Alliance. Mal helped get Tracey through the war, but after the war Tracey became something of a drifter, eventually falling in with organ smugglers.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He spins a sob story about falling in with a bad crowd, but Mal deducts that he was doing plenty of killing by himself. He likely betrayed Womack, not the other way around. He also takes Kaylee hostage to aid his escape and save his own hide.
  • Character Death: Tracey is found as a corpse delivered to Mal and Zoe. He's faking it. He's dead for good later that same episode, though.

Other Criminals

    Badger 

Badger

"Crime and politics, little girl. Situation is always... fluid. "
Played By: Mark Sheppard

Sir Warrick: I know [Badger]. And I think he's a psychotic low-life.
Mal: And I think calling him that is an insult to the psychotic low-life community.

A lowlife 'businessman' on Persephone who frequently does business with Mal.

    Adelai Niska 

Adelai Niska

"When you die, I can't hurt you any more. And I want two days at least, minimum."
Played By: Michael Fairman

A crime lord introduced in the second pilot, "The Train Job." Very concerned about reputations, especially his own. He is the second recurring villain of the show.
  • Ax-Crazy: Lampshaded by Zoe to Mal.
    Zoe: He's a psycho, you know.
  • Back from the Dead: Niska likes to do this to people who die on him during his torture sessions.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Niska's modus operandi in the series. He strongly believes in the principles of Shan Yu.
  • Captain Obvious: One of his quirks is deliberately explaining things that he's already made clear.
  • Dirty Coward: When Mal frees himself, Niska pathetically crawls away in fear.
  • Electric Torture: When Niska gets busy, he likes to start off with this before getting nastier.
  • Evil Old Folks
  • Faux Affably Evil: At first, he comes across as a harmless old grampa with a funny accent and probably some nice stories. Just when you're expecting him to pat his lap and hand you a Werther's Original, he has his henchmen slide open a door to show the hanging, mutilated corpse of his wife's nephew.
    Mal: [barely hiding his disgust] ...I'm sure he was a... very bad person.
    Niska: My wife's nephew. At dinner I'm getting earful. And there is no way out of that.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: He wears a pair of Gepetto-looking glasses.
  • Large Ham
  • The Mafiya: Of sorts.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Mal gave him back the money for the train job, but Niska takes the incident as a personal slight and wants to torture Mal for days before killing him to keep his reputation solid.
  • Sadistic Choice: Niska's attempt to give one to Zoe backfires on him when she immediately chooses Wash.
  • Slave to PR: He's constantly trying to uphold some kind of twisted reputation he has, to the point of killing his own nephew and letting Zo walk away unscathed from an encounter with him.
  • Smug Snake
  • Softspoken Sadist: He can be very soft-spoken in the tone of a kindly old man. The fact that he does this while he's zapping the living daylights out of you, cutting off your ear, or even worse things makes him creepy.
  • Torture Technician: What Niska is generally known for.
  • You Have Failed Me: People who disappoint Niska tend to be tortured to death multiple times.

    'Saffron' 

'Saffron'

"Everybody plays each other. That's all anybody ever does. We play parts."

One of the few recurring villains (they likely intended more, but dying off after one season does mess up plans a bit) of the show, Saffron is a con woman who specializes in seduction. Introduced in (and as) "Our Mrs. Reynolds".
  • Accidental Marriage: How she's introduced.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: The speed in which her demeanour goes from meek to manic depending on who has got the upper hand, leads some characters to suggest she honestly might be mentally ill.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Subverted within the course of a few seconds.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Boy howdy...how do we begin? The crew of Serenity, Monty, Durran and there are allusions to her disposing of previous accomplices.
  • Dark Action Girl: Uses her Vamp and Femme Fatale skills in addition to her ass-kicking ability.
  • Extreme Doormat: But it's an act.
  • Femme Fatale/The Vamp: She uses a combination of innocence and feminine wiles to hit her marks.
    Saffron: But face it, hubby: I'm really hot.
  • For the Evulz: Compulsively. In her first appearance, she implies this is her real motivation for playing an elaborate ruse to send Serenity into a trap, not the money. In her second appearance, it turns out that she was once married to a man who could give her everything she could ever possibly want, but she left him because she still couldn't resist the urge to commit crimes and screw people over.
  • I Have Many Names: Resulting in the awkward but canonical "YoSaffBridge."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After plotting and scamming the crew so much in her reappearance in "Trash", she's outwitted and left in a dumpster by Inara.

    Patience 

Patience

Played By: Bonnie Bartlett

An old ally of Mal's, who apparently shot him once. Owns a moon by the time the series starts.
  • Evil Old Folks: She's elderly, but she's evil enough to take control of a whole world.
  • I Lied: With regards to making a deal with Mal.
  • Wasteland Elder: Patience is running her own planet, although as planets go, it's pretty desolate and barren.

    Sir Warwick Harrow 

Sir Warwick Harrow

Played By: Larry Drake

A nobleman on Persephone who owns some "property" that he needs moved off-planet. After he refuses to deal with Badger, Badger sends Malcolm Reynolds to talk to him.
  • Cool Old Guy: Harrow is a quick-witted, classy fellow who's a good judge of character.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Particularly with regard to Atherton Wing, whom he dislikes immensely.

    Stitch Hessian 

Stitch Hessian

Played By: Kevin Gage

An old crime buddy of Jayne's.

    Nandi 

Nandi

Played By: Melinda Clarke

A former Companion who knew Inara on Sihnon before they both left the planet. Nandi gave up her life as a Companion having concluded that it was too restrictive to become a brothel madam, overseeing common prostitutes on one of the outer planets. When Petaline, one of her girls, becomes pregnant with the son of a local landowner, the richest, most powerful man on the small planet, she calls Inara to see if the crew of Serenity can help against the baby's father, Rance Burgess.
  • Death by Sex: She's killed by Rance Burgess after a night with Mal.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: She even appears in the episode Heart of Gold running a brothel by the same name.
  • Mama Bear: For her girls in her brothel.
  • Miss Kitty: She's a brothel madame who's very protective of her girls.
  • Old Friend: To Inara, with whom she trained to be a Companion. After Nandi left the Guild, the Companion higher-ups forbade Inara from speaking with her. It's an order that Inara simply ignores.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: An expected trait for a former Companion.

    Rance Burgess 
"The rights you got are the ones I give you."
Played By: Fredric Lehne

Mal: Nothing worse than a monster who thinks he's right with God.

A rancher who runs afoul of the crew of Serenity when he decides to wage war against a brothel run by Nandi, a former Companion and friend of Inara Serra. According to Nandi, Burgess was the richest man on the planet, and kept everyone else poor so he could play at being a "cowboy in his own gorram theme park".
  • Boom, Headshot: At the hands of Petaline.
  • Character Death: Petaline shoots him in the head.
  • Determinator: It's hard not to be impressed by the bastard's utter failure to give up, even when he's lost.
  • Family Values Villain: He has very 'traditional' views, clearly seeing men as superior and women as objects to be owned as property or used for breeding or simply making a point.
    Rance: Now, Chari here, she understands a whore's place, don't she? But Nandi, and those others, they spit on our town! They've no respect for the sanctity of fatherhood, or... decency, or family! They have my child held hostage to their decadent ways, and that I will not abide. We will show them what power is! We will show them what their position in this town is! Let us all remember, right here and now, what a woman is to a man!
  • Feudal Overlord: He purposefully keeps the planet poor so that he can rule as the unofficial king.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: He sees Nandi's whores as less than human, and when Mal compliments his wife he right-away assumes he's talking about his gun.
  • Karmic Death: Shot by the mother of his son.
  • Knight Templar: He believes entirely that he is in the right, which is noted by Mal as a dangerous point-of-view for an enemy to have.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: A mysoginist through-and-through.
  • Smug Snake: Rance certainly considers himself a hero and a great man, despite all the murder and intimidation. He's also not as tough or untouchable as he thinks.

    Jubal Early 

Jubal Early

"Does that seem right to you?"
Played By: Richard Brooks

Simon: You're out of your mind.
Early: That's between me and my mind.

Shows up in the final episode, "Objects In Space." When we first meet him, he proves to be more than a match for Mal and company, but it isn't long before his true colors become apparent.
  • Badass: If hijacking Serenity singlehandedly didn't push him here, what does?
  • Bait the Dog: Whedon was defining having some fun manipulating Boba Fett fans.
  • Because I'm Good At It:
    Inara: This is pointless, you know that?
    Early: 200,000 seems pretty pointed to me. That kind of money, I could retire. But I wouldn't. What's life without work?
  • Berserk Button: Trying to psychoanalyze him. River turns this against him by mercilessly deconstructing his stoic, spacy exterior from where he can't get at her.
  • Blatant Lies: For several topics.
    • Honor Before Reason: He claims this, but he changes his plans so much that his so called code of honor is proven to be unimportant.
    • Noble Demon: Claims to not want to kill anyone who he doesn't have to. Again, him changing his plans so much proves otherwise.
  • Bounty Hunter: The evil, sadistic kind.
  • Catch Phrase: "Does that seem right to you?"
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Early and reality are not on one-to-one terms, though it's not clear how much of this is deliberate on his part.
  • Combat Pragmatist: He takes out the crew silently, identifying the biggest threats as Mal and Book before locking everyone else in their cabins to spare himself a cat-and-mouse game.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: "Well. Here I am."
  • Faux Affably Evil: He'd initially appear to be Affably Evil and he does get some killer lines, but he soon reveals how much he'll twist his rules just to hurt people. He's also terrifying when he wants to be.
  • Foil: Jubal is calm, intelligent (though not quite all there), a skilled combatant with a decidedly precise style, and deeply intuitive, able to suss out a person's nature in an eerily quick fashion. Just like River.
  • Insistent Terminology: Subverted, in a surreal way:
    Simon: So you're a bounty hunter?
    Early: No, that ain't it at all.
    Simon: Then what are you?
    Early: I'm a bounty hunter.
    Simon: That's what I said.
    Early: Yeah, but you didn't say it well.
  • Kick the Dog: Literal example (albeit offscreen and in his backstory) in that he murdered his mother's pet dog.
  • Psycho for Hire: River explicitly calls him out for this; the reason he took his job is because it gives him an outlet for his violent urges.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: He's beyond any kind of redemption to the audience the moment he threatens Kaylee with this.
  • The Sociopath: While he claims to be Affably Evil, River taunts him in that she's been in his head and knows exactly what kind of person he really is. So did Jubal's mother. That's why she reacted with fear when she found the dead animals he'd killed.
  • Softspoken Sadist: Early has a deep but soft voice that's borderline hypnotic, but he's also a barely restrained sadist.
  • Villainous Breakdown: He abandons his witty one-liners and calm, smooth demeanour as River starts to run circles around him. Early becomes violent, suspicious, paranoid and even comes to believe that River has possessed the ship.
  • Warrior Poet: In a weird sort of way.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Hits Inara for questioning his motives.
    Early: Don't visit my intentions. Don't ever.

    Mr Universe 

Mr Universe

"You can't stop the signal, Mal. Everything goes somewhere, and I go everywhere."
Played By: David Krumholtz

"You guys always bring me the very best violence."

An isolated and reclusive Techno Wizard who is an ally of the crew.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's a loner who 'marries' his sexdoll/robot, but he's also a genius.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue:
    Mr. Universe: Guy killed me, Mal. Killed me with a sword. How weird is that?
  • Character Death: The Operative stabs him through the stomach after he's fulfilled his purpose. Mr Universe manages to leave a message for Mal, but dies from his injuries.
  • Dead Man Writing: He leaves a message for Mal after being stabbed by the Operative. He dies after the recording.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Snarkily demands his "30 pieces of silver" after he's forced at gunpoint by the Alliance and the Operative to sell Serenity out and lure them to his planet.
  • Knowledge Broker: It's his business.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: His reaction to getting stabbed by the Operative.
    Mr Universe: Guy killed me, Mal. Killed me with a sword. How weird is that?!
  • Mr. Exposition: Mr Universe explains all about the 'Miranda' code that ticked off River.
  • Playful Hacker: He flirts lightly with Zoe, is quick to make jokes and is on good terms with the entire crew.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: He's a reluctant traitor and is coerced by the Operative, who immediately kills him. According to Word of God, this was an impulsive kill that the Operative doesn't really understand and is part of his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Sixth Ranger: Mal and the crew of Serenity seem to like him a lot more than their usual contacts, burying him with Wash and Book.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Although he tries to make up for it.
  • Techno Wizard: He's a bonafide genius, able to uncover just about anything no matter how much code it's buried under.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: He acts like this for the crew, never meeting up in person. He seems to be a recluse.
  • You Have to Have Jews: The second Jewish character to appear in the 'Verse.

    Fanty & Mingo 

Fantastic 'Fanty' & Mingojerry 'Mingo' Rample

Played By: Yan and Rafael Feldman

Twin brothers who act as fences for goods acquired by Mal Reynolds and the crew of Serenity. Although identical twins, Mal is able to tell the two of them apart (he claims "Fanty's prettier"). Their full names are Mingojerry and Fantastic Rample.
  • Evil Brit: Both of them are criminals trying to cheat the Serenity crew out of their fair cut of a dangerous job.
  • London Gangster: Similar to Badger, they have this demeanour.
  • Single-Minded Twins: They're able to finish each other's sentences and act like one person.

Other Characters

    Sheriff Bourne 

Sheriff Bourne

Played By: Gregg Henry

Sheriff of the small town seen in "The Train Job."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He understands Mal and Zoe trying to do the right thing, and lets them go, knowing that times are tough for them as well. He's also seen giving a prisoner a light for his cigarette.
  • The Sheriff: Of the small town Mal and Zoe are robbing.

    Atherton Wing 

Atherton Wing

Played By: Edward Atterton

A young nobleman on Persephone who has hired Inara Serra on multiple occasions. On some of these occasions, he has proposed a more permanent arrangement with her.
  • Badass: Sure, Wing is a dick, but there's no getting past the fact that he's a highly skilled swordsman.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: At first, he comes across as a pleasant and even charming young man. This facade drops soon and it quickly becomes apparent he's a possessive cretin.
  • The Dandy: He's a well-dressed pretty boy who doesn't look like he's even seen dirt before. Harrow even calls him a spoiled dandy.
  • Evil Brit: He speaks with a refined English accent, and is plenty evil.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: When Mal tries to simply talk to Inara, Wing quickly loses his temper.
  • Jerkass: The magnitude of Wing's dickery cannot be underestimated.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: He's a sexist piece of shit who treats women like things to be used or owned.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Atherton's upper-class position in society hasn't stopped him from being a violent frat boy in a grown man's body.

    Magistrate Higgins 

Magistrate Higgins

Played By: Gregory Itzin

Now Jayne saw the Mudders' backs breaking
He saw the Mudders lament
And he saw the magistrate taking
Every dollar and leaving five cents
The Hero of Canton

The final word of law on Higgins' Moon, a small moon that has a primary export of mud. Higgins is a man who looks out only for himself. He treats his workers, known as mudders, harshly, almost as slaves, and metes out strict punishment to any who cross him, as evidenced by the confinement cage in which he imprisons Stitch Hessian after he and Jayne Cobb robbed him.
  • Bad Boss: He pays the mudders next to nothing, keeps them stranded in his little town and plays at being a king.
  • Beard of Evil: A little goatee.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Higgins has made his money out of mud, but is a greedy psychopath who treats the mudders like slaves.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Higgins greets Inara very cordially and is even able to talk Stitch into attacking Jayne instead of himself.
  • Feudal Overlord: Of his moon. The mudders are essentially slaves that he keeps oppressed.
  • I Own This Town: Or rather, he owns the moon. It's 'Higgins' Moon' after all.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Higgins is embarrassed by his more sensitive and goodhearted son.

    Fess Higgins 

Fess Higgins

Played By: Zachary Kranzler

Son of Magistrate Higgins, and Inara's client on the planet. His father hired him a Companion to try and make him into a man.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Against his father, who doesn't consider him a 'man'.
  • Grew a Spine: Fess was pretty brow-beaten by his father, but eventually stands up to him.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Played with. His father hires Inara to bed him so he can become a man, and she does, but that isn't what makes him a man. Inara talks to him and gives him to confidence to stand up to his father, therefore becoming a 'man' through actions instead of merely becoming something else.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: His relationship with his father is very strained. Higgins doesn't consider Fess to be a 'man'. It's unclear how Fess is meant to meet women on a moon inhabited by his father, his father's men, and a society of people who are basically slaves and hate the Higgins family.

    Gabriel and Regan Tam 

Gabriel & Regan Tam

Played By: William Converse-Roberts & Isabella Hofmann

River and Simon's parents. Well-to-do, they take great pride in their social position and Simon's achievement. They support the Alliance and do not believe it could or would do anything to harm their daughter, River, who was in their care in a special school.
  • Abusive Parents: There are some implications that they are aware of what is happening to River; Gabriel barely pays attention to her even as a child, even though she is clearly more intelligent than her genius brother.

    Bester 

Bester

Played By: Dax Griffin

Serenity's original engine mechanic. Mal caught him having sex with a local girl, soon identified as Kaylee Frye, in the engine room. Mal demands to know what is taking Bester so long to fix the engine, and Kaylee then demonstrates that she has more knowledge of ship engine workings than Bester, whom Mal immediately fires in favor of Kaylee.

    Durran Haymer 

Durran Haymer

Played By: Dwier Brown

A wealthy land-owner and collector of rare Earth-That-Was artifacts living on a floating estate on the planet Bellerophon.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: He might love Saffron, but he doesn't believe a word of her lies.
  • Nice Guy: Haymer is a pleasant, accomodating guy.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Pretends to still believe in Saffron's con, when he actually called the feds the second he saw her.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Durran uses these on Saffron, who goes a bit crazy (well, crazier) and can't deal with them.

    Reavers 

Reavers

"If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we're really lucky, they'll do it in that order"

Jayne: Reaver's ain't men.
Book: Of course they are. Too long removed from civilization perhaps, but men. And, I believe there's a power greater than men. A power that heals.
Mal: Reavers might take issue with that philosophy...if they had a philosophy...and they weren't too busy gnawing on your insides. Jayne's right. Reavers ain't men. Or they forgot how to be. Come to just nothin'. They got out to the edge of the galaxy, to that place of nothin', and that's what they became.

The Reavers are spacefaring, cannibalistic raiders that exist on the outermost fringes of the 'Verse. They are said to be folk who were driven insane after reaching the end of the galaxy and seeing the sheer nothingness.
  • Aesoptinum: Their origin.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: They are beyond madness. Every single reaver is driven by evil urges.
  • The Berserker: Played with. When attacking someone face-to-face, the Reavers become mad, frothing, berserk killers. Outside of face-to-face combat, however, Reavers are disturbingly thoughtful and intelligent, laying carefully-prepared traps, operating advanced spacecraft, and deliberately torturing people to break their minds to increase their numbers. They're skilled enough that they can take an entire ship by surprise without leaving any obvious trace of their presence.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: No one wants to be taken alive by the Reavers, and no one who can stop it will allow someone else to be, leading to several Mercy Kills.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: They flay, eat, and rape their victims until death, which is prolonged for many hours, and likely days, in some cases. Reavers are calculated sadists, they prefer their victims conscious - more than violence, they are motivated to inflict agony on people.
  • The Dreaded: Absolutely everyone...Zoe, Jayne, the Operative...is scared to death of them.
  • Dying Race: The movie reveals they fly without any reactor containment, meaning they're likely all suffering some degree of radiation poisoning. They also don't seem to breed and are unable to build any kind of culture, so the only method of creating new Reavers is to drive people insane. The Reavers cannot last more than a generation.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Reavers have a penchant for breaking and torturing people into becoming second-generation Reavers simply by exposing them to what they do to others.
  • The Horde: There are thousands of them, and they attack like a swarm.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: They prefer human flesh. Of live people.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: They favor ballistic blades and edged weaponry, both on their ships and in the field.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Reversed. They're insane because their aggressor instincts were heightened to a truly ridiculous level, driving them to do the things they do.
  • Kill All Humans: Due to being driven to attack anything they see.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: See Take Our Word for It.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Until the movie.
  • Space Madness: Originally believed to be their origin.
  • Take Our Word for It: We never see a "true" Reaver in the series, only their ships, the reactions others have to them, and one man who was broken into becoming one of them. The Movie throws this out the window.
  • The Usual Adversaries: They're a vicious race of antagonists who turn up from time to time. The crew always keep an eye open for them.
Fawlty TowersCharacters/Live-Action TVThe Flash (2014)

alternative title(s): Serenity
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