Reviews: Firefly

It certainly had potential

So after the fanboys kept going on and on about how Firefly is better than the second coming of Christ if Christ were handing out free Cadbury's creme eggs, I decided to give it a watch; fully expecting to hate it. And it is absolutely....

Alright. Just alright. Not super-duper-fantastic-better-than-a-thousand orgasms good. Not mind-numbingly-that-shotgun-in-the-corner-is-looking-really-enticing bad. Just alright.

I'll start with the things I liked. Most of the characters are well written and likeable (I found myself particually endeared to Zoe) and their realationships to each other are easy enough to grasp yet complex enough to remain interesting. I also liked how this show used the Absent Aliens trope. Not enough sci-fi shows use that (only Firefly and Red Dwarf spring to mind).

Now for the bad stuff. The villians are unbelievably bland. There's the generic "authority is bad kids!" Evil Empire, the Evil Foreigher mobster stereotype and boring MIB guys. I found it odd that there were no Chinese people around despite the fact that everyone speaks Chinese and knows about Chinese culture. Not really a criticism. Just weird. I also thought a certain character was very irritating. I won't name any names but her name begins with R and the other characters never stop talking about her. You have three guesses.

In short: Firefly had a lot of potential and I'm sure that potential would have been realised as the writing team seems competent. Unfortuntely, the fanbase has a nasty habit of grossly overrating and overhyping the show. It's a shame it got cancelled.

P.S. I don't care what anyone says; the theme song is awful.

Literally has it all

Firefly has a bit of everything: Action, Drama, Suspense, Spectacle, Comedy, hell, even Horror. It's an amazing mish-mash of genres that works better than you'd expect. Trademarked by many of Whedon's signature characteristics - a well plotted Myth Arc, great backstory and an inherent silliness to the dialogue lines - it's the characters that make Firefly special. The plot lines have been seen before - The Super Soldier project, the Psychic Powers, the Evil Empire, the experiments gone wrong, the Accidental Hero, the Accidental Marriage, The "Dead In The Water" storyline, etc. Through it all, every bit of the story is completely character-driven, and it's the interaction between these interesting, diverse, deep and powerful characters that will get you hooked and leave you wanting for more.

The "Western in Space" thing is taken to extremes, though, especially in "Heart Of Gold"; its weakest episode IMO. One suspects that this aspect of the series might not age well; let's hope that's not the case, though.

The movie does a fantastic job of wrapping it up. I actually watched it first before the series, and though most of the references and characterization went right over my head at the time it got me interested enough that I gave the show a try. On rewatch, the film became a lot more awesome and was the perfect finale one could've asked for, given the circumstances.

I agree with the IMDB rating (which is something I almost never do) for this: 9.5 out of 10. It's that close to perfection.

What am I not seeing?

I do not like Firefly. I am not a fan of Joss Whedon either, but I didn't let that get in the way when I finally sat through the series. Probably the biggest problem to begin with is the show's fanbase; for years I knew of Firefly but had no idea what is was about. It wasn't until I joined a tabletop RPG set in the same universe and at the advice of my friend that I pulled my thumb out and watched this intriguing show that was "Cowboys in space" as my friend put it.

As I said, the fanbase is mostly to blame, as it has overblown Firefly into some magically crafted idol passed down from the Heavens to us mortals, when in reality it's a very mediocre sci-fi series whose only unique feature is it's setting: cowboys in a space environment, which I did kinda dig. It's just everything else falls apart, in no small help from the show's mastermind Joss Whedon.

Every character is either a fast talking wise-ass or a kooky ditz, no one is exempt from cracking out a corny one-liner that Whedon must have been slapping his thighs as he typed them out. I believe it was Yahtzee Crowshaw who said "Every character is either a ditz, a badass, or someone who flicks arbitrarily inbetween the two", and I cannot agree more. The character River is meant to be a psychic superhuman, but is really just a get-out-of-jail card for whenever they need the cast to escape or get out of a situation by having her suddenly become badass or ultra charismatic or anything the plot requires.

Listening to the characters talk I can feel the strain of trying to make them sound as 'cool' as they can make them, but to me at least it comes across as desperate, trying way too hard to make them seem cool rather than letting it come naturally. For this reason I couldn't attach myself to any of them, I think I only kinda liked Wash because I knew him better as Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball.

One minor quibble to end with: the guns sound like shit. Which is a shame as they look pretty neat, but the pathetic "PEW PEW" takes all the energy and suspense from the gunfights. I was hoping for Indiana Jones style sound effects with mass and power behind every shot, instead they sounded like kids playing spacemen with their cowboy pistols. Kinda sums up the whole series now that I think about it; a very childish space western that's overrated beyond belief.

Bushwacked - 12th Best

The crew investigate a ship that's been attacked by the Reavers and find a survivor- and the Alliance.

I'd just like to emphasise how good Firefly is here, when drawing up this list, Bushwacked was often 6th best, but in a series that produces excellent events that will stick in the public mind, multiple times at every episode, Bushwacked is the quiet hardworking kid who the teachers struggle to remember come parents evening.

There is a lot to love here, it opens with the crew playing sports with each other and really emphasises the comeradery and the idea that Serenity is their home, for good or bad a large amount of their life experiences are had on this ship. And the game like them, is a bit rough and tumble, but even Jayne is there having fun with the rest of them, even giving someone a boost so that they can score. This is actually probably one of the bets moments in the series for understanding, why everyone is willing to go through so much together.

The Reavers are the focus of this episode and they make the excellent decision of not including a Reaver anywhere, we have the still tense moments on the ship, the horrific aftermath and the idea that they are so awful just watching them will drive a man insane, is powerful. There mysterious horrific nature is then used to highlight why the Alliance are what they are and it lends credence to the idea that the writers didn't really think of the Alliance as evil. The old rules don't account for the harsh realities of the border planets and the error is in being too stiff and bureaucratic to adapt. Saying that, there are many points of human decency, sparing supplies, using medical facilities that would seem to be what they do and we're never giving enough insight into why they are averse to that. Here is the closest we get, with the merest suggestion of good feeling from the alliance towards Mal, but it would have been nice if the series had continued the humanisation at a later point.

It would be remiss of me not to highlight the excellence of the interview segment, there can be no argument stronger for the wide strong personified cast than the close human quick pace humour it allows in scenes like this.Finally, a point of Fridge Logic, if the survivor spent all his time in the infirmary and was unconscious when being transferred, why did he think of Serenity as familiar territory?

Out of Gas - The Best

My one wish with Out Of Gas is that they reordered(through Joss Whedon being psychic?) the series to make it the last episode (swapping with Objects In Space). There would have been no finer end to a fantastic series, it even book ends on the broken coil Kaylee mentioned in the pilot and the entire series can be seen as them trying to scrape up the money to find the parts to keep Serenity running. If an end is the resolution of the core theme of the show, then there can be nothing better than seeing where each character came from and the family they became. There was a time on this site when people used to insist there was no way to express the trope Nakama except by knowing what the word meant already and I used to understand it as Firefly. I'd just like you to sit and imagine that last shot of Mal discovering Serenity and looking at it for the first time and imagine that was the last moment of Firefly you ever saw.

The best Firefly episodes are Newtonian, sitting on the shoulders of giants. They use the goodwill and familiarity established in previous episodes to pay us off with character moments and resolutions and draw us in to their little small scale world. And Out of gas shows us just how small and fragile their world is. A part breaks, they're in the middle of space with no-one else anywhere near, just those 9 people on Serenity. Their heat will radiate away and their oxygen will deplete and they will die a forever undiscovered little object in the vastness of space.

The story is told in three beautifully intercut timelines, the first shows Mals all alone on a dead Serenity clutching a bullet wound, slowly forcing himself to get to the engine room, the second a brightly lit Serenity with the crew sharing a moment of happiness before everything goes wrong and it slowly shows us how we got to the first timelines events. And the final shows events filmed with old film footage to help the viewer understand where each place is, of how the crew first came together.

The first timeline is heart-wrenching, the second timeline is intriguing fast paced and emotional and the third time is funny and using everything we've come to know about the crew. Wash had a moustache, Kaylee wasn't the first mechanic, Zoe didn't like Wash, everything Inara said when she met Mal foreshadowed everything to come.

Out of Gas is a perfect piece of television.

From Serenity to Serenity

A review of this show is not entirely possible since at it's core it was unfinished product intended to last for far more than one half (plus) season, but I can't help myself.

I first saw the show when it originally aired (with The Trainjob) and followed it as best I could - with FOX moving it around both on the night and time it aired as well as preempting episodes for sporting events (that they KNEW were going to happen... rage), but I still fell in love.

The first scene that made me fall in love was of them out in space and the distinct lack of sound that was present in the space portions. I did not care at that point who the crew were, why they were doing what they did, or what they were doing. I just wanted to see how science fact this show remained.

Obviously it didn't really stick to science fact, but as I continued to watch, as with previous Joss shows (which I did not know were made by him at the time) I fell in love with the writing.

Not the specific stories, or depth (or lack of depth), but the words themselves. Joss has a knack for writing people that sound both real and "written" at the same time. That perfect amalgam of what sounds like it should with what sounds like we want it to (if we had time to write our own dialogue in real life conversations). The amount of quotable lines and hilarious, touching, dramatic, and horrifying script that comes from each character was that wonderful blend that makes a Joss [Whedon] show so good.

The special effects do not stand the test of time (I just re-watched it recently), even tho for a tv show - at the time - they were pretty good. Some of the western themes get over done and make it enter an uncanny valley of sorts for a genre mish-mash. And the stories seem at some times rushed and at others too slow. But overall, taken as one complete whole, it "had potential".

That is a phrase often used for this show to glorify it as the greatest thing since we broke orbit (to use a space-y euphemism), but I am not saying it was the greatest, just that people that enjoy sci-fi shows should give it a chance.

I do not mean just watch the episodes, but try to take yourself out of the mindset of everyone hyping the show up since it's cancellation and just try to enjoy each episode and the characters in it.

I am not much for review "scores", but I would say see it at least once.

Our Mrs. Reynolds - 10th best

(I'd like to note places 12-6 are incredibly close, Firefly is quality =D) Unsurprisingly, the start of our Mrs. Reynolds is very funny. And not just for Nathan Fillion cross-dressing but for all the bickering that accompanies such an act and demands to be pretty. We've got Jayne and his rainstick, which again displays how it's impossible to think of Jayne as not being good, in a strange twisted way, at heart. He has all this bluff and threatening (and he will go through with it at somepoints) but all the same he's grateful for his stick and it's hard to shake off the idea that if it was just about money, Jayne would have left a long time ago. He's a contradiction and sometimes it can go too far and make his character feel impotent, but the dynamic keeps him from being stale and allows him to be more flexible than can possibly be imagined. All this is brought right into the light, by the again rather funny (surprise!) confrontation with Mal, over his delightful but unwanted new wife Saffron, and negotiations over Vera.

The other two highlights are Book and his special level of hell, which helps establish him as the conscience of the ship and Inara's reaction to Saffron which satisfyingly provokes the tension between the two and both brings the comedy with the kissing incident and allows for a very worthwhile exploration of Inara's feelings for Mal and how she hides them.

Saffron herself is a good character to be produced, complete master of manipulation which gives her a good rivalry with Inara and can really test the bonds of the crew (Wash + Zoe etc) which is perfect for something as character focused as Firefly. Whilst most thuggish villains don't have a place in a Firefly where the Captain is perfectly willing to shoot anyone who may look like becoming a recurring villain, Saffron will never pose enough of a threat to be shot, yet can justifiably come around again and again without getting boring.

However her submissive performance is grating here, it's too soft and bland (which is the point) and a little uncomfortable (again the point) but it means as soon as she starts speaking, we know the essence of what she will say and can't wait to move on back to the reactions of the crew towards her. It's not an intrinsic part of Saffron, as seen in her later showing, but it's enough to hold back this episode just slightly.

Heart of Gold - 2nd worst Firefly episode

The key problem with the Heart of Gold is somewhat confusing sexual politics and a tendency to shy away from the big issues. Ultimately it's not as offensive as The Message but it's also got almost nothing to recommend it either. I rewatched it maybe half an hour ago and I'm already struggling to think of any memorable lines or moments.

So in lieu of good occurrences, lets talk about the trickier ones. Firstly the episode pretty much makes the bold statement that a father doesn't have right in a child but then shies away from the issue completely, it doesn't make a stand on the issue and actively discourages thinking about it by making the father the most evil hypocritical man possible. Family values people can't get behind him because it's implied he made a prostitute give him a blowjob in front of a crowd. Feminists can't get behind him because it's implied he made a prostit... etc. If you don't want to talk about the complicated issue of parenthood between a person and a person he paid to have sex with then don't bring it up in the first place. If it was a male prostitute and a women was using him in the same despicable manner, which one gets to keep the child? I don't know because the show refuses to use it as anything but a cheap villain establisher.

Then it uses the same relationship trope as the Message, back to back. It's more forgivable here because it's clear that Mal's affections weren't transferred, he just also had affections for someone else. But it introduces a complicated situation and again takes the easiest way out that requires the least thought possible.

And then we get into the issue that they were taking sex with the women as payment for their services. Unsurprisingly they chicken out again and establish affection between Jayne and his lady, but when we think of what happened with Mal, how does it change it to keep in my mind that it was something of an obligation on her part?

The whole episode was basically building up to one shoot out, but it was ultimately boring, not for a second did it feel like any of the good guys were in danger and Zoe and Book seemed confusingly exposed. What was Book even doing? In the first episode he was willing to stand in front of a gun to save a villain, but I'd be unsurprised if he was handing Zoe shotguns here. There's an execution he certainly doesn't stop

Jaynestown - 3rd best episode

And only because of that queer societal quirk where drama is rated over comedy. Because Jaynestown is pretty much the funniest 40 minutes of TV I can ever remember seeing. You can't jump straight in, it's important to know who Jayne is first, but when you've done the groundwork... Every line is incredible and at all moments your aware of the concept of what you're watching which is so unbelievably funny by itself. Jaynestown probably represents the genius of the Firefly idea best and even of Joss Whedon writing (not that it was written by him) because by being funny and having strong easy to understand characterisation driving everything, and because everything is simply and unassuming and normal and strangely real feeling, the series allows you to grow attachments to the characters that can allow even the mention of an idea like this to be smile inducing. In Jaynestown, I feel like I'm in the position of the crew, gobsmacked, watching this person I know have this happen to them. I'm not an outsider, I'm insider sharing a joke amongst friends.

Yet unbelievably Jaynestown is not just about the comedy. This is an important character moment for Jayne because it, for a moment, turns him round and introduces him to something more complex and noble than he normally lets past. And it's a lovely step forward for Kaylee and Simon's relationship, they go deeper here

And it's so quotable 'I swear, when it's appropriate' 'Simon, the whole point of swearin' is that it ain't appropriate.'

'We gotta go to the crappy town where I'm a hero.' and even 'I tore these out of your symbol and they turned into paper,'

But that's not all! It's got thematic depth and something to say as well. It even says it interestingly! The idea of the A plot and it's events only make full sense when considered in conjunction with the lessons of the B and C plots as well. It's not about the symbol itself, it's the belief that people have in that symbol and the way it transforms them and allows them to act in a way better than they could ever have done. In the end they did what they did for Jayne not because he was worth it but because their belief was worth it. This brings on the blemish of the episode, a Shepard would probably not quite have said that but it's a small thing.

And it has a song! And did I mention it was funny? Go watch it. Again =D

Trainjob - 11th best

The Trainjob was the second pilot of Firefly and the first that the audience actually got to see. Watching it after already having seen Serenity(film) and Serenity (pilot) it's another standard good Firefly episode about the sort of job the crew might undertake day to day. They're required to heist goods from a train, no questions asked and then the issue becomes more complicated as they're forced to see the consequences of their crime. We see the way the Alliance relates to these worlds, the small town problems and suffering on the border planets and just how hard it is for Mal to be the thief who looks down on thieves in this world. He needs work and he doesn't want to beholden to the Alliance who don't understand or provide for the border worlds but that puts him into the questionable realms of the illegal and every good action brings a heap of consequences and might just mean that his crew starves and the Serenity stops flying. There are some clear highlights too, Miska is a lot of fun as a psycopath but with a wonderful dear elderly gentlemen bent that makes his violence seem unusual and brings it to the forefront from the contradiction, and we have Mals rather neat response to The Dragon 's 'I will hunt you down' speech, which is the sort of moment that defines Firefly as a show.

But I can understand why it killed Firefly. It's a shame, because in some ways the executives were right, this sort of fun day in the life, westerrn thing was the correct way to introduce the show, but it's impossible to process all the complicated relationships and settings in such a short space of time. Whedon hoped to be able to show Serenity first and the execs didn't want to show Serenity at all. Probably the Trainjob would have worked best as a prequel to Serenity, which should have been shown next, if only that had been possible . In particular, the idea that there#s the crew but there's also Simon, River and Book who aren't the crew but are on the ship and won't be getting off and know and care about the others, is very difficult to grasp, and with that all being introduced in episode 2, it might have left the way for the Trainjob as the status quo before Simon and River shake everything up. As it stands, the Trainjob is a solid episode that doesn't have time to do anything but exposit and didn't really succeed at that for a new audience.

Serenity - 9th best

Serenity is the original pilot for the show and was a big two parter, introducing how Simon, River and Book arrived on the ship.

I will be frank, it is impossible for me to have a fair opinion of this episode. The entire first hour revolves around a twist and audience expectations that were spoiled for me by Serenity(the film), the DVD box cover and the title sequence for the episode. I have no idea whether it would have worked and I have no idea if the expectations would have given the energy needed to get through the first half.

The opening scene was changed by Joss, from a quiet scene showing Mal being defeated with a conversation between Book/Simon/Zoe about what Serentiy actually meant to a more action paced opening showing a glimpse of Mal as a man of heroism and faith before it was taken away from him. I disagree with the change. I don't know whether it because of my suppressed British upbringing but I've never really seen Mal as this withdrawn bitter man (and he was supposed to be too withdrawn in this episode for Fox). To me he seems like an uncharacteristicaly brash upbeat and happy-go-lucky outgoing person. If he were in a club in the UK he'd be lording up the place. But the quieter opening and particularly the conversation (which also develops 3 other characters at the same time) gave me a glimpse of that and of just how much of a crushed man he's meant to be. He's the person who took on the duty of war, was then forced to take on the duty of 2000 more lives than he should and then had to watch hundreds of people die as both sides sat above unhelping negotiating over peace. Also the action opening is cheesy and the doesn't fit tone.

In general Serenity did a poor job of establishing the tone, it's hard to get a feel for what Firefly is from this episode and even knowing what Firefly is, it's a little disquieting. But it's brilliant at introducing us to the characters of this world and within this episode, I'm convinced someone would feel like they knew the crew. The second half is much better with tone and pacing and gives us Badger, the battered bowler hat illegal job giver and Westerns and running gags about people shooting Mal and shoot outs and Mal just shooting a guy.

The first half had good points too (Kaylee's parasol!) it just lacked the drive of the second and overall there was a lot to love.

Potential doesn't equal excellence

I'm not going to say Firefly is a bad show, but I'm going to say it's a good show either. It simply wasn't long enough and didn't really finish anything to be really judged as a show. But if you were just going to look at what was there, then it fails to impress. The characters weren't that developed or characterized beyond their two word stereotypes and we've seen them before, the world was unexplained, the action wasn't great and the acting wasn't superb. It was funny, not comedy funny, but very funny for a non-comedy, the dialogue was alright, and there were clever ideas, just unexplored and unexplained.

The biggest blessing and largest annoyance is the cancellation of the show, there were so many interesting ideas and intriguing characters that if explored, I'm sure could be awesome, or Joss would drop the ball and ruin it, you don't know, and most people see the awesome future instead of the just as probable terrible one. I guess people are just hopeful.

The main point of this review isn't really to review the show, it wasn't finished so reviewing it seems pretty stupid, all these words come from what I saw, and it didn't blow me away, the main point is to raise the question, why is this worshiped the way it is? Why did this not so outstanding show get the support it does? What did you see, in the show, that made it so great? What about this show, that isn't that original, make it so fantastic and incredible?

Warstories - 4th best

And now we get to the best stuff. In my head 12-6th are all good and at quite a similar level and then 4-1st are all in the exceptional region.

This is Wash's episode, where the comedy-only least used cast member gets to prove he is nonetheless deep and useful and is a character worthy of Firefly that we could have enjoyed hopefully for years to come if the series ever got rebooted after a successful motion picture.

Wash has become jealous of Zoe's close long standing relationship with Mal. Zoe and Mal have been accompanying each other since the war and in a way, Wash was only picked up by the wayside to assist Zoe and Mal and whilst Zoe and Mal undertake every mission together, Wash is usually left behind in the ship. It's a platonic bond, but deep and Wash allowed himself to succumb to jealousy.

So Wash sabotages a shuttle and insists Mal take him along on a mission instead of Zoe. The tension heightens, Mal never accepts insubordination but he won't accept hassle from his crew either and takes Wash along with bad grace rather than waste time sorting out Wash' issue. But Miska, recurring from the Trainjob hunts down Mal and Was and captures them like he promised in the first episode. It's these touches of continuity that helped Firefly feel grounded and more lived in. Every action followed another and if they make an enemy, then that enemy becomes a problem.

Miska is interested in nothing less than completely breaking the two men, to protect his reputation as a crimelord you don't cross. And his quiet manner is terrifyingly threatening here making the torture much more threatening. Because he's not a thug he's harder to control or understand and his dominance is established more effectively by the way he doesn't need to be ostentatious.

The torture scene is surprisingly brutal, particularly the final device that still makes me cringe, yet somehow it's also hilarious. Mal keeps Wash from breaking by arguing about Zoe and we witness a torture scene where both prisoners are too busy to pay attention to their torturers.

This is also the uniting moment for the Serenity, for the first time, everyone even Book volunteers to help storm the base. Unfortunately Firefly action is always boring, but it's short and concludes with everyone safe but establishing River as more dangerous than people had previously thought. Vital watching

The Message -Sadly the worst Firefly episode

Because it has pretty much one of the funniest charming beginnings of the entire series. There's a touching and delightful awkward scene between Simon(who has now graduated to woolly jumpers) and Kaylee, we have Jayne's hat, River trying to eat an ice planet, Wash and the dead cow, with a nice dead pan by Zoe and a lovely little bit between Kaylee and Inara. Finally a little later on we get to see more of Mal and Zoe in the war (which is also very funny) It's opening showcases whats worthwhile about almost ever character and their interelationships.

And the episode is emotive and has important things to say about the change the war had on Mal and his current relationship with his crew. The guest actor did his job well but the episode is ruined by two issues. Firstly the tension and drama of the climax stems from an occurrence of the Idiot Ball and secondly the episode is a betrayal of Simon and Kaylees relationship.

I would argue the Idiot Ball isn't quite as much of one as generally accepted and in fact says something very important about Mal and ties into the theme of the episode. The war has changed Mal and now he's a man looking straight into the realities of life and it's made him cold. He is redeemed by his desire to protect his crew but as a result when Tracy threatens one of them, Mal is unwilling to just sort the situation out. It's not that it hasn't occurred to him to just talk things out, but he doesn't want things to end so easily. Tracy, by not trusting him, has committed his worst sin and Mal will stare him in the face until he backs down and trusts Mal or not at all. But the episode takes it a step to far, the final events are brought on by an initiation from Jayne and Mal wouldn't have allowed that. He was unwilling to give Tracy anything but the hard way out(which wasn't death=, but he wouldn't have let anyone but Tracy make the first move.

But worse was the use of a bad relationship trope Death Of The Hypotenuse . The episode starts with Simon accidentally implying that his relationship with Kaylee is driven by her being the only person available and the way the episode ends it's hard not to conclude that Kaylees relationship with Simon really is driven by him being the only person available. They use ultimate drama for an easy way out on the relationship and it reflects negatively on everything

Trash - 6th best

Trash is our second appearance of the man manipulating amoral con-artist Saffron from Our Mrs Reynolds and gets off to the best start possible with Mal stranded nude in the wastelands, the rest of the story explains how things got to that point.

The most obvious problem with a second Saffron story, is how can she possibly be effective now the crew all know her trick? The answer is to make the driving motivation of the episode, Mal responding to Inara hurting his pride. It not only solves a problem but it builds relationships and instantly gives a new crew dynamic. Mal becomes unusually skittish and short tempered even less able to accept challenges to authority

I think this is the first time we've seen Inara really sting Mal. Mal has made Inara embarrassed, off-balanced and angry and it's clear the whore comments sometimes get to Inara and frustrate her, but whilst Inara has often cut Mal down with wit and he's been lovesick and insecure, this is the first time we see that he can get cut by Inara's insults too and cares what she thinks about him. Inara obviously seems a little jealous that he turns to Saffron in defence and it's seeming them both made weak and foible by each other that makes the coming together at the end a worthwhile payoff, even though what actually passes between them is rather innocuous.

We also get some necessary development from Saffron. Her introduction was good but her ruthlessness would have been alienating if she continued unchanged and we would have quickly got to the point where it felt like Mal should just deal with her somehow. It's surprising just how quickly they decided to let us into her head a little bit. We get to see her real husband, someone who actually cares about her, and despite leaving him, cheating on him and now finally robbing him, she cares too and those feelings turn into anger because his love for her is so unjustified and out of her control.

And we get to see Simon and Jayne's showdown from Ariel, there's an almost malevolent brilliance in the way Simon promises always to help Jayne and somehow thats clearly much worse to him than Simon having a punchout.

Naturally the episode is also funny 'Also, I can kill you with my brain' and I would like to appreciate the fact that you can see on camera exactly how Saffron gets the pistol. Too many shows would have settled for editing magic

Ariel -2nd best

Ariel is pretty much the climax of the first half of Firefly's season. Simon has been adjusting to the life and society of Serenity's crew until he reaches the point where he's confidence to take the lead in a heist and gain true acceptance from everybody. The aim of the heist is to get access to medical equipment to scan River's brain and it marks the start of hope that River's situation may be improved. It relies completely on the foundations of the excellent episodes before it, but it marks the peak of the Firefly we have.

But the important thing about Ariel, is that it works as an interesting stand alone fast paced heist episode too. All the important character moments would be in danger of feeling isolated and hard to appreciate if the overall connection between them wasn't also utterly compelling to watch. This is also our first view of a core world and it really reveals just how much of a small backwater Mals life takes place in.

Ariel is excellent at concluding something whilst throwing another thing in the air. As well as establishing Simon taking his place amongst the crew, it also throws us back and reminds us what he could have been, we always knew he wanted to have his life as a doctor, but Ariel establishes how natural that setting is for him, he doesn't just want it, but it fits him perfectly and the world is suffering from being denied his talents. His life becomes more settled but for the first time we really see what the dark side of Jayne is, in the most serious and dark moment of the entire series. But importantly, simultaneously, we finally have it confirmed that Jayne does has something more than money and fear. He wants the others, even River and Simon, to think well of him.

Does this save his life? Would Mal have killed him if Jayne hadn't shown that side of him? It's the hardest question we get posed. Mal kills people if he thinks they might endanger his crew without mercy. We've seen just how ruthless he can be right back in the pilot and now we get to see what it looks like when it's applied to someone we know and someone who was part of his crew. In the end, I believe Mal will put up with almost everything from Jayne as long as he is part of the crew, but if Jayne didn't care at all about what the others thought of him, then he wasn't crew, just a passenger and Mal would have exacted on his threat.

Shindig - 7th best

Inara accompanies a client and Mal goes to a ball in search of smuggling. Fun, twiddly dresses, floating chandeliers and sword fights ensue.

Shindig is a tricky one, the overall episode and plot is pretty tame, a little bit rushed and forced and quite cheesy. People talk during the swordfight showdown in a very clunky way 'It's about to end Miss' etc and it was all detail which needed to be told through the fight itself. A TV show can't be Rob Roy but that was what they needed to aspire to, and if necessary mimic, including the conclusion which was weak here and frankly showed Mal as the worse man and made the joke/narrative point at the end weak. Moreover the idea of the swordfight itself was very forced, like Safe, you can't just assume that border societies will start dueling, because people used to duel. There was always a conflict with the worldbuilding aspects of Firefly, there was a subtle continuity from episode to episode, they were normally at or travelling away from the worlds in the last episode in the start of the next and returning to Persephone began to gave the show a feeling of physical space that the Serenity haunted, yet because of the cultural mishmash and the genre/timehopping the occurred planet to planet, it was hard to get a grip on exactly what anything was and how it fitted into the larger picture. I actually think dueling is a likely habit of rich societies in the borderworlds, but the idea needed to be introduced and established more firmly and over a longer period of time.

But I still rank Shindig highly. There are a lot of lovely movement, particularly with Kaylee and the dress, the fantastic ballroom scenes and seeing Badger again was bringing about that sense of continuity. A lot of the interactions, particularly in the ball is lovely and memorable (dressing down the useless ladies, Kaylee entertaining everyone with her ship knowledge), but more importantly Shindig contains a joke and character moment that establishes the identity of Firefly with how Mal behaves at the end of the sword fight, we finally get to see River be lucid and helpful in a moment of awesome and this is the best episode for the Inara/Mal relationship. Ultimately it explains that neither can live in the others world, but neither is fully satisfied in their own either. Mal is a thief who looks down on thieves and that's vital to Firefly

Safe - 8th Best

A cattle deal goes wrong and Shepherd Book is injured, bringing all his mystery to the forefront and raising the stakes on it. In someways the hints seem all too obvious, he was an Alliance operative, and the real secrets of his past aren't even hinted at here. But it shows there's more to know about the character, and above all else this episode cements how he's been accepted by the crew, to the point where they'll do what it takes to save him.

This is also a huge episode for Simon and River, we see the dissatisfaction with his life in another brilliant Simon screws up with Kaylee and we get to see his previous life, his good relationship at home with his sister. I particularly like that his father is established as kind, because it would have been an easy way out to make him uncaring. He just doesn't believe River was in trouble and was doing what he thought was necessary to save Simon and his family. They then use the scenes of the family to contrast with how broken River has become and give us a glimpse of what things could be like. There's a strong temptation for Simon here to leave Serenity and regain something of his life again on this world, River seems to be happy and he's given the chance to be a doctor again and help people, despite protestations it's clear that this is what he wanted to do most and River understands that.

As such I find the witchcraft ending a little disappointing. It doesn't make much sense that a community would devolve to that state of mind again, no matter how much they're alone out in the border worlds and although I'm glad that it's established as being corruption that drives them too it, there's still an awful lot of villagers who go along with it. ' it won't be God's will that killed her! It'll be you! Your lunacy, your... ignorance!'. It's not a complete cop-out of the settling on a planet question, because the reason they can't is partly because of River's instability which triggers this, but it's a stretch and I would have liked to see the idea explored less tangentially and maybe even have Simon or River express an urge to return to Serenity because it's home. They were pushed together by circumstance but the episode doesn't ultimately conclude that Simon has got much further than that, even if the others are willing to return to save them.

Also is trope namer for Big Damn Heroes

Objects in Space -Unclassified

A philosophical bounty hunter on board Firefly. I've been reading the Film Crit Hulk lately and I'm coming to the belief that narrative is a flow of understanding (logical/emotional/thematic) running through points and it's interesting when that understanding is not one we normally think of but makes sense. So we when we complement an acting performance we're really saying that the body gestures and line delivery were what we believe represents an emotion which explains why the character is doing what they do. It can get more complicated The Joker's TDK performance was conveying anarchy but it stands.

Objects in Space is that it's made interesting by having an unusual existential logic connect every scene and purpose every shot but to me the philosophy is a subjective truth. The commentary explained it and I believe I understood but my mind didn't grasp hold of the idea and so for a subset of the audience, it's never going to be possible to fully parse the episode. Nevertheless its intriguing and contains a very important character point for River, with this fascinating, slightly mad, very talkative bad guy and its easier to recognise that this is shooting for something greater than standard fair. If it weren't for one issue I would have ranked this the 5th best episode and in truth, I'd completely forgotten this issue inbetween views. But it exists.

The thing is we spend most of the time with the badguy and the drive is often coming just from the interesting things he's saying, yet this person we're spending company with is also the person who threatened to rape Kaylee. Even typing those words feels wrong, in the Firefly universe Kaylee represents innocence, hope and happiness, people have commented that it's uncomfortable that one episode where she just holds a gun. Due to the weird way empathy works, I don't think there is any idea that can be more horrific and feel worse.

The episode doesn't cheat, it's a valid character choice, the bounty hunter who makes the threat is the type of psychopath whose cheerful but broken with zero empathy, it recognises his ultimate evil, wants us to be disgusted and doesn't justify it. But it happens, and for that this episode will always be an episode floating by itself, an object in space.

Epic show with epic characters a.k.a., Joss Wheden's Miracle

Joss Wheden is considered the best at TV shows, especially when it comes to twists and false hope. The show Firefly is no exception. When you start to hear the theme song, you know it's going to be a boatload of awesomeness (I'm not joking, their theme song is awesome). I've heard people say that it's like science-fiction space cowboys, but that's not true, it's space pirates. Cowboys, implies that they are on the side of the law, but the main characters on this show are criminals. The only reasonable argument I've heard on this matter is that it's a space western, so the main characters could easily be outlaws. I don't like it, but the logic is sound. What makes this show so awesome is the way it's put together. They don't overly use flashbacks like most people would, and they reveal as much as they have to. There's mystery in the right places, and the characters have backstories that don't always need going into. What else is there to say but, Firefly is one of the most epic shows I know. By the way, if you want to know, my favorite character is Shepherd Book. Why? Because he's fun to watch, insightful, and generally shrouded in mystery. (Don't think I wasn't steaming mad when they killed him off in the movie, Serenity). That's what I think about Firefly. Do you think I captured it enough? Have I convinced you to watch it? I hope so!