I was spoiled for the part of Serenity when Wash dies. Then I listened to the commentary, and Joss pointing out that he wanted to make it absolutely clear to the audience that the heroes might die. It's consistent with the highly cynical universe. Not only was it subverting Contractual Immortality, but it was also subverting a Crowning Moment of Awesome.—Jonn
I didn't actually get all of the signifigance of the final scene between Mal and River at the end of the movie until a few years after seeing it. Specifically, as Mal is telling River about love, she is curling up in the copilot's chair, wrapping her arms around her knees, in a Fetal Position Rebirth - exactly like she had been shown in the very first scene she appeared in in the pilot, except in this case, she's awake, clothed, sitting up, and calmly smiling, while in the pilot she'd been u exactly unconscious, naked, lying down, and awoke screaming. The contrast and the symbolism - that River's struggles in the series and movie have led her to take a hand in her own destiny instead of being a helpless, gibbering wreck, was beautiful and so very subtle. -Unknown Troper
Whoa. That's brilliant. You just blew my mind.
And, for another commentary-inflicted moment: why does River "want to hear" Mal say his piece? Because hearing is what normal people do, instead of reading minds; plus, she's overjoyed to be able to understand without her crazy getting in the way. -Jamaican Castle
For a long time, I didn't quite get why River learning of what happend on Miranda sent her crazy. After reading a post Serenity drwho/firefly crossover where River is pretty much sane however, I finally understood: River didn't just learn of what happend, she felt what happen to every person and it shows how strong River really is that it didn't kill her.
River would have only been seven when Miranda happened, and while she might have had some kind of power even before she went to the Academy, I doubt she'd have felt it strong enough to kill her, if she felt it at all.
I'm pretty sure the above troper is talking about when she feels the echoes of the disaster after they land, not when it actually happened. ~JET73L
It may actually be both. Remember that in the series, Simon's exam establishes that River has no emotional filters. Essentially, her problem is the exact opposite of a sociopath's: she has *too much* empathy. If she were to unwittingly pluck the Miranda secret from a high ranking official's mind — not just hear about it on the news, but be exposed to it, unwillingly, in its totality — it's not hard to imagine that it could overwhelm her mentally and emotionally, especially when you consider the torturous situation she lived in at the time.
On my third viewing of Serenity, I realized that not only does the Alliance avert the typical SciFi Card Carrying Villainy, but they're actually a much greater threat because of it. Anyone with half a brain can see that people like Emperor Palpatine or Grand Moff Tarkin are incredible assholes and should be resisted. And even if they do manage to cow the populace into staying in line, the populace will be exactly that, cowed into staying in line and not deviating from their predefined role when really, in order for a society to prosper, people need to be free to change and evolve. But with a set up like The Alliance, people won't really realize what's going on until after they are affected by it; who cares if some little girl gets her brain cut up as long as its for "The Greater Good" (provided, of course, that it's not their sister getting her brain cut up — but by the time that happens, it'll be too late). — Taelor
This! For the whole series, the incentive is to say "Yes, the Alliance was mean to River, and their officers are a little humorless, but their goal is for everyone to live in a shiny democratic utopia free from want, and the Mal's goal is effectively for everyone to live on mudballs ruled by petty dictators and thugs. Then the Big Damn Movie happens, and Miranda strikes everyone as completely in character for the Alliance, and puts things in perspective.
In the end, it's not so much about Good vs Evil as it Law vs Chaos.
An in-production version, as well: Joss and Gina Torres are talking about Zoe's talk with Mal during the ending scenes, and one of them mentions how Zoe's summation of Serenity's status applies to her as well. Nathan overhears this and wonders audibly how he managed to miss that one...
A solo River taking down an entire army of Reavers (who don't even have the disadvantage of fear, or of hesitance at attacking a little girl) seemed a little unrealistic (if awesome) even for her. Then the Alliance arrives direct through the wall and makes the backdrop even more campy. It took me a few viewings to realize the connection: River won partially because the Reavers who hadn't gotten in the room yet were suddenly attacked from behind by the approaching Alliance troops, splitting their attention.
Bear in mind that River was probably designed for such a purpose.
The Reavers are a result of an Alliance experiment to create a perfect world gone horribly wrong; River is the result of an Alliance experiment to create a perfect soldier to fight the Reavers gone horribly wrong. The Alliance just will not learn their lesson, will they? — Taelor
Aren't both of these examples of their projects Gone Horribly Right? They wanted a world perfectly at peace? They got one. They wanted a psychic commando? They got one of those, too. Even the Reavers can be seen as 'without sin'. There are no criminals among them, no coercion, even. Every last one of them is a perfect manifestation of their inherent nature, as innocent as a scorpion. They are not evil, which was exactly what the Alliance was hoping for. The twist is that they are _also_ simply too dangerous to be allowed to exist.
All of this ultimately validates Mal's warning: "...sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again." The experiments on River as well as Miranda are proof that they will continue to try to make people better. They will not stop.
Yes, yes, YES! And to that, let me add this other beautiful piece: the climax rolls around and the Operative confronts Mal. This exchange follows:
The Operative: "A lot of innocent people are being killed in the air right now."
Mal: "You have no idea how true that is."
In other words, the Reavers themselves are innocents, victims of the Alliance's experiments who can't help what they became. If that line is any indication, Mal is not placing any blame on them for what they're doing even though Wash was killed barely half-an-hour ago, if that. The only people to blame for the events of the movie - events which include a chain that seems to be leading to their inevitable destruction are the Alliance themselves. - Caellach Tiger Eye
First viewing: Wait - Simon knew all along that River was designed to be a mind-reading assassin? But he played dumb during the series, even when the crew's life might depend on it. What an outrageous retcon! Also, it's completely out of character for Mal to abandon Simon and River. Second viewing: Oh, so that's what was eating Mal about the Tams....
In fact, this is an important bone of contention later on after River rips apart the bar. Mal gets pissed at Simon because he wasn't telling them everything he knew about River's conditioning, and it really comes out when he confronts Simon after the brawl.
The series itself takes on a very interesting new light if you go through it with the mindset that Simon was fully aware that River was a psychic but that he was trying to hide it from the others. Everytime he talks about River and her "awareness" he seems confused and hesitant and uncertain - not because he doesn't know what happened to her, but that he is aware of what happened and that he's trying to keep a lid on it and not sure how to do so.
This is most obvious in Safe, where it's clear he's not surprised River knows things about the mute girl she can't, but rather he's trying to find an explanation other than "my sister is psychic."
At the end, River is shown both doing some electrical repairs on the ship and taking over Wash's role as pilot, skills she didn't show prior in the movie. Except that A) she's a genius who takes to difficult subjects like anyone else does to breathing, B) she's living on a ship with a genius mechanic and a genius pilot, and C) she's psychic! It would be ridiculous if she didn't pick up some skills from Wash and Kaylee!
I was about to come here and say this too, but you beat me to it! During the whole series, she's been surrounded by Kaylee and Wash, and probably hearing their thoughts constantly while she does maintenance and while he did the piloting, she was learning everything on the way. She was probably also likely picking up little hints and pointers that she didn't already know about gunfighting from Jayne (what she didn't already know from the academy that is) and probably even some leadership skills from Mal, and also some medical knowledge from her brother. The girl is a freaking Jill-of-All-Trades!
Determinator. She picked up being a Determinator from Mal. See River go from a gibbering wreck at the end of the movie when the reavers attack, to, well... One Waif Army. Pudding, proof, enjoy.
And from Simon. The entire crew's made up of determinators but the only one as big at is as Mal, is Simon.
Another one here. Remember after River was triggered by his programming and created a brawl before stopping, and then Mal and Zoe are trying to decide what to do with her after that, knowing she's dangerous? Well, right after that, River has a conversation with Simon (sort of) where she says "They're afraid of me. Well, I'll show them. Oh, God." Newsflash - she is not referring to the crew of Serenity alone - she's also referring to the Alliance, who are becoming desperate to capture of eliminate her before she reveals their secrets. Talk about powerful dialogue with multiple meanings. I mean, damn, Joss - just, damn! - Caellach Tiger Eye
I've come to the theory that the entire war between the Alliance and the Browncoats wasn't about simply becoming a 'monopoly' in the 'Verse. (After all, with better medicines alone, the Alliance could have launched a 'hearts and minds' offensive with their better technology). What, then? Miranda had become a launching point for an entire fleet of Reavers. From at least one instance, there's reason to suspect that it might "catch" (ie, the Stockholm Syndrome making that one guy 'join'). If they left the Independent worlds be, they'd stay free but also disorganized- and either die piecemeal or actually provide 'reinforcements' for their push on to the Core Worlds. Someone in command simply found a pretext to take action. (Probably not out of loving concern for the outer worlds, but out of a sense of self-preservation). -El Dandy.
This is even more plausible when you consider their motive to suppress the information. If the outer worlds are free, then it seems likely that sooner or later someone is going to try to find out the source of the reavers, and hunt down why they just popped up out of the blue, possibly starting with the planet that mysteriously died off just before they showed up. If they're in control of the outer planets, even nominal control, they can prevent that from happening. AND, the war likely served as a major distraction from any public attention to, or investigation of, Miranda. In peacetime, a terraforming failure might be notable enough to attract attention; with a war on, it would almost certainly be ignored.
You would think that after all The Operative has done to Mal and his crew, he would have earned himself the mother of all gruesome deaths, like being fed feet-first to the Reavers or something. At first, I had merely thought of Mal sparing The Operative's life as just another of Whedon's many subverted tropes, namely in this how case the good guy always has to kill the bad guy. Okay, Mal showed him the truth about the Alliance, but was that really worse than killing him, really? And then it hit me: a complete loss of faith really was the worst thing Mal could think to inflict on someone. Because he would know, he suffered the exact same thing at Serenity Valley! Bravo, Mister Whedon. Bravo.
There's a deleted scene that makes this more explicit, where the Operative asks Mal how he was able to keep going after Serenity.
When the Operative asks Mal what his sin is, Mal replies "Hell, I'm a fan of all seven. But right now, I'm gonna have to go with wrath." This seems like a snarky Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner -Which is probably what Mal intended it to be- but if you think about it, wrath really is Mal's sin. Most of his actions in the movie were motivated by anger, first at Book's death and then at the knowledge that the Alliance had wiped out an entire planet and created the Reavers attempting to make people "better". Even in the series, while Mal has mostly resigned himself to the Browncoat's defeat, he still hates the Alliance (and depending on your interpretation of his faith, God) for the war. Had Mal not cut him off, "wrath" is what the Operative would have told him. — LordSothe
It's a little thing, but watch the Operative's reaction when Mr Universe's fembot says "Mal?" The first thing he does is to look around him, because he doesn't know it's a recording, but thinks she's actually addressing Mal.
When the tape is broadcast at the end, it goes to every single receiver in the galaxy. Think how many young kids must've been innocently watching tv and suddenly they see a woman being horribly raped to death instead.
Think of all the terrorists, criminals and militants that just saw the broadcast and figured out an awesome new way to spike a planet's drinking water.
Fortunately, without absurd amounts of funding and a nigh impossible secrecy status (pretty much the sort of thing that only a planetary government or far greater could institute), it's impossible to use the Pax in such a way that it could get past the point of no return by the time it was discovered and stopped. ~JET73L
Some subtle references: not for nothing is the name Miranda used. Some of the bulkheads on the Alliance ship are more explicit: C-57D. And what are the reavers, but monsters from the id? O brave new world, that hath such people in it... - cjlr
Word ofGina Torres says that Zoe was pregnant during Serenity. And then come the questions: Did Zoe know? If she did, did she get around to telling Wash? Did Wash die knowing that he would never see his child, or did he die without the knowledge that said child even existed? You're welcome.
The Operative goes on about the fact that Mal is “not the plucky hero, the Alliance is not an evil empire, etc.” He promptly gets royally pwned because he forgot that Inara is not the damsel in distress. -Leahweird
I missed the point of her praying at the time. It lets her hide what she's really doing, which is bracing herself for when the flashbang goes off.
As for why she would just happen to have a disguised flashbang? As Atherton Wing taught us, not all men who can hire a Companion are strictly civilized, so Companions must have discrete tools that they can use to protect themselves. Which ties in with Inara's earlier complaints (possibly from a deleted scene) about how the girls in the training house are not ready for the dangers of the 'verse that their line of work can bring them, thinking that being a Companion is all wealthy men and romance. Even odds if this makes her The Last DJ as she seems to worry about, or merely a Veteran Instructor that the Guild is hoping will help prepare their students.
Here's some possible Fridge Horror: Along with Haven, the Operative also ordered everywhere that had sheltered Serenity or had a connection to the ship destroyed. Depending on how extensive that order was (and, let's face it, The Operative was going all out with his mission so it was probably far-reaching), it may have included killing off all or most of the crew's allies from back in the series. Friendly old Warwick Harrow? That loveable 'Space Jew' from "The Message"? The whorehouse with the baby from "Heart of Gold", bearing in mind that The Operative freely admits he sometimes murders children? No reason to think they may not all be somewhere on the video feed...
Right in the theme song of Firefly it describes the Operative's plan and how the Crew deals with it. "Burn the land and boil the sea you can't take the sky from me" When the Operative leaves them no ground the crew fly out into the depths of space where the Operative can't get to them.
The Operative says he's leaving them "no ground to go to" and Zoe tells Wash to alert anyone who's sheltered them after a heist. It's much more likely the Operative simply wiped out the people who're known to have given Serenity shelter until the heat's off; none of the three you mentioned did that. Plus, bit of a difference between him attacking known hives of scum and villainy and attacking ranking, high class members of the aristocracy and a public institution like the post office.
Of course, he has full Alliance backing, and, therefore, a severe case of "diplomatic" immunity. He could walk down a city street and shoot everybody in his path, if he thought it would help bring in the Tams, and never do a minute of jail time.
Public opinion still matters. An unnamed person slaughtering, again, high class, ranking members of the aristocracy on a core world, especially with Alliance equipment is going to be extremely counterproductive to keeping things on the downlow.
He'd probably be assassinated himself if he did anything to draw public attention to his activities. He did point out to the scientist at the start of the film that his concern was with keeping secrets not the secrets themselves. That means part of why he was chosen for the job would likely be because he can assassinate discretely. Not that the end of the film was particularly discrete in terms of the tactics being used in the local area, but it would have been acceptable given the location - the back of beyond with no local populations to witness what was happening (except the Reavers, who weren't officially acknowledged by the government in the first place).
Fridge Horror: As Serenity makes its way through Reaver territory, Mal tells Wash to turn off the intercom to spare the crew from hearing the agonized screams of the Reaver victims. One crewmember, however, cannot only still hear the screaming, but can feel the reasons they're screaming.
Spoilers for the movie. A few items of fridge with the Pax and the reavers.
First, why would a drug designed to make people peaceful instead turn them into the reavers? For the same reason addicts have to be careful when they quit. Alcohol, for example, is a depressant that stops the brain from functioning. The brain of an alcoholic has to spend its time in overdrive just to stay functional. Remove the alcohol and it takes some time before the brain steps down to normal; the result is hallucinations, delirium, fevers, seizures, convulsions, sometimes deathnote Not necessarily all at the same time. A percentage of the population of Miranda developed a tolerance to the Paxnote and probably experienced an Apocalyptic nightmare as, for no reason, everyone around them started laying down and dying., then went into insane overdrive only after the Pax was removed.
Every brain reacts differently. For example I get wide awake from sleeping pills and tranquilizers induce an aggressive panic.
The official name for this is "paradoxical reaction," and it's a very much real-world medical concern. It's also why some anti-depressants can make people feel suicidal.
Pursuant from the first; what if the reavers are treatable? What if you flooded a ship with the Pax. Would they revert to normality so long as they're receiving treatment?
Also pursuant to the first; how do the reavers make new reavers? Mal spouted some psychological bullshit, but what if they're carrying stores of Pax?
It's much more likely that they simply had a bad reaction. Not all drugs affect people the same way. For example, Ritalin is, in fact, a stimulant, and it only helps kids with ADHD because their brain chemistry is such that the same chemical that would make any other kid hyper, makes them calm.
And even that isn't true all the time. This troper has ADHD and was given Ritalin at first since it was the most popular/well known drug at the time. The results were... less than positive. Drugs work differently in each individual brain because exact science isn't an exact science. Certain basic types are most likely to be affected by the chemistry of a drug in the intended fashion and those outside that type have totally different reactions than intended, but even within the basic group there can be minor differences between individuals that throw off the intended effect. This is why not all drugs work for everyone, hence different doses and different brands with unique formulations... and much much trial and error finding out which is the correct permutation for the specific individual being given the medication, a process which can take a year or more in the case of psycho-effective drugs (which the Pax likely was considering how it seemed to function). The fact that the Alliance didn't take this most basic of pharmaceutical principles into account when deploying the Pax (apparently without sufficient testing, otherwise the .01% anomaly should have been found) means someone decided to keep the Idiot Ballas a pet when they put the project in motion.
Who says they make new Reavers? It's been, like, 10 years since Miranda. The Reavers we see could just be the Reavers still alive from when the Reavers were initially created. There's no reason to believe they have any method of creating new Reavers, because there hasn't been enough time passed to assume that when these Reavers die out, the Reavers won't simply be gone.
Not all of their victims become new Reavers. Only some of them do, and the rest they just eat or rape or make trophies out of.
I have a theory about the creating new Reavers issue. Back in Bushwacked, it was established reavers sometimes left someone alive and made them watch. In the movie, the scientist said the Pax was put in the air conversion units.I reckon that after a time, either the Reavers were changed biologically enough that they began to exhale Pax, or it was also present in their ships' air conversion units.So the people who were forced to watch? They were either the 90% that gave up and lay down and died; or the 10% that became Reavers too. Because they were exposed to the gas as well.
Or, scary version, they did know about the .01% chance of inducing Chronic Ax Crazy Disorder... and decided to use the Pax anyway, knowing full well what could happen. After all, it's a classic tactic to win followers by creating an outside danger and then "protecting" people from it. The Alliance wants those in the Outer Rim to come and live under them in the Core... notice how the Reavers tend to stick to the Rim?
Kinda of an icky bit of Fridge Logic came to me regarding the reavers during the fight in the sky over Mr. Universe's world. I recall hearing someone comparing the Reavers coming out of the clouds to an indian party riding around the hillside. Which got me thinking...if you remove any sense of political correctness or sensitivity, Reavers do make a dark metaphor for the indian as portrayed in Western cinema- the omnipresent savage force hidden on the edge of the frontier that might raid a small settlement and kill/rape/abduct whoever they found there.
In a deleted scene at the end of the movie, the Operative makes the parallels between him and Mal obvious by asking Mal how he was able to keep living after the battle of Serenity Valley. Mal's response is "If you're still standing there when that engine starts, you never will figure it out." This sounds like a simple threat, but it's actually the answer to his question - the only way to go on is to "keep flying," not to let yourself get stuck.
The last line during the death scene of Shepherd Book. I just realized that I misheard this one every time I've watched the movie, and have frequently seen it misquoted. I heard something on this time through that I'd never heard before. The subtitles don't include the word 'her' but are otherwise word for word reproduced here.
Book River! (Who isn't there)
Mal (To Doc) C'mon! (To Book) Hey!
Book (Continuing)I don't care what you believe, just believe in... her.. Whatever sh...
I'd always heard it (and seen it quoted elsewhere) as "I don't care what you believe in, just believe it" and missed the fact that this changes the meaning of the entire quote. Possibly because there was a lot of dust in every single room that I've watched the movie in before.
A small one: after the bar beatdown, River is very upset at the idea that Simon might put her to sleep again. Now remember the scientist at the beginnning saying that most of her mental conditioning was done in her sleep, and that the Alliance would probably want that to happen when it was convenient for them rather than her, and the reason for the "safeword" might not be what Simon thought.
A couple small ones from dialogue. After they fled the Reaver attack in town, Zoe told Mal that they never would have left a man stranded in a time of war. Mal replies that maybe that's why they lost. Later on, after River attacks the bar, they all flee on board the ship. Jayne asks why they didn't leave Simon and River behind. Zoe and gives the Captain a significant glance. Another one happens between Mal and Inara. Soon after the first fight with the Operative, Inara is arguing with Mal, telling him this fight isn't the war and that she's too many versions of him to know who she's dealing with. Mal tells her that if he starts fighting a war, he guarantees she'll see something new. After the Operative kills Book's colony, Mal goes to war and Inara is shocked (along with everyone else) when he starts ordering the bodies strapped to the ship.
You know that little spin at the end of the film? It's a pirouette. River made Serenity dance.
The end of the heist at the beginning, after they take off in the hovercraft. Leaving a man behind because there would be too much weight on the craft, and a speedy getaway was needed? And they picked throwing him off as opposed to dumping the cargo? It's rather reminiscent of the events prior to "Jaynestown", isn't it?
Always wondered who opened the blast doors after River killed all the Reavers on Miranda, when she was standing in the middle of the bodies, holding two weapons? Mal had just come up from the lift and the doors opened about 20 seconds later, roughly the time someone would walk between the top of the lift and the doors. They were still on automatic (from the inside).
Something minor that confused me at the end, when they're rebuilding Serenity at the very end, why do they remove the cannon? It could be useful in the future, and it doesn't cost anything to keep. Mal is a practical man, why wouldn't he make the practical decision?
1) It's not very practically located. Manning it requires actually suiting up and leaving the ship to reach it, so it's not like the can run to the gun if they're caught by surprise.
2) Throughout the series, Serenity was shown avoiding a lot of Alliance trouble mainly because of how ubiquitous the Firefly-class transports are, making it far easier for her to blend in. The Alliance can't practically stop and search every Firefly they come across. A big gun mounted topside is just a beacon saying "Hey, I'm different!"
3) It's unclear if the Firefly 'verse has any of the same sort of maritime laws as currently exist in Real Life, but there's legal reasons why civilian freighters are not armed in the 21st century, as has been highlighted recently with the Somalia piracy issue (Forward used this as the explanation for why the gun was removed: Arming a ship requires adhering to regulations that made it just not worth the effort).