Mal Reynolds -
Shepherd Book -
OTHER JOSS WHEDON SHOWS
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
OTHER SPACE ADVENTURE SHOWS
The Next Generation
Deep Space Nine
Battlestar Galactica (new)
Mal Reynolds fought against the Alliance in the war and the Alliance won. Now he runs his own ship, the Serenity, out on the edge of the system, taking any job that he can to put fuel in the tank and food on the table. In this case, the job is picking up Alliance stores off an abandoned ship in illegal salvage. The job goes fine, but the buyer opts out and so Mal is forced to go looking for a new buyer and the one that he chooses is a woman who shot him the last time that they met. Passengers for the trip include a preacher and a doctor with his ill sister. They also have a special agent who is tracking the doctor and his ill sister. Oh yes, and then there are the reavers, wild men who have lost their humanity and feed on human flesh.
The first show of a new series is never the best. For one thing, there are a whole lot of people to introduce. For the most part, FIREFLY gets around this problem by not bothering. Sure, there is a precredits sequence that introduces Mal and Zoe as veterans of the war, but the rest of the crew are just there. The passengers show up and sign on board and the action begins.
Anyone expecting Buffy in space is in for a disappointment with this opening story for FIREFLY is resolutely its own beast. Yes, there are flashes of Joss Whedon's trademark humour and characters do things against the conventions of the genre (either one as this is a fusion of science fiction and the western), but the tone is more serious and straight.
The characters are a bit of a disappointment too, being pretty much cliches in their own right. There is the noble rogue of the captain, the tart with a heart that he's in love with, the warrior woman first officer, the muscle that might be less than trustworthy and an engineer who just wants to be loved. I mean...puhleese.Joss Whedon's strength, however, is taking stock characters and plots and breathing new life into them. It is to be hoped that he can do that here as well.
Serenity, then, is entertaining and fast moving with a lot of promise, but with a way to go to live up to expectations.Top
THE TRAIN JOB
The team take on a job to steal some Alliance supplies off a fast-moving train for a thoroughly dislikeable partner. The robbery goes pretty straightforward, but Mal and Zoe are captured and discover that the supplies are, in fact, medicines desperately needed to keep the settlers alive. You just know that Mal's going to do the right thing.
After the promise of Serenity's opening, this is a real let down. The plot is, quite frankly, rubbish. The train robbery is easy to the point of absurdity and the events unfolding after that are almost perfunctory. What's going on? Even some of the character interactions are straight reruns of the last episode.
There are some incidental pleasures (how could there not be on a Joss Whedon show?) such as the way that Mal conducts negotiations with the bad guys at the end, but that isn't enough to save the episode. Things can only get better.Top
Serenity encounters an abandoned ship that should have been full of settler families. The crew go aboard to see what they can salvage, but find that the ship was targeted by Reavers and they have left a booby trap set to destroy them should they try to leave. On top of that, there is a survivor who now seems crazier than the Reavers and an Alliance warship is on the way to ask them a few questions about Doctor Simon and his sister River.
Now this is more like it. We have a plot that zips along, full of incident and invention, at times dark and at others full of fun. Jayne's playing with the Doctor's head and the crew are really starting to gel. There isn't anyone aboard who isn't likeable in their own way. And already, you can't help but hate the Alliance stuffed shirts.Top
Whilst the rest of the crew try to scare up a deal, Inara meets with a prestigious client and attends a very formal function. Mal and Kaylee show up, looking for a contact, and Mal ends up challenged to a duel for Inara's honour, a duel to death to be fought with swords.
The relationship between Mal and Inara is the most obvious one in the whole show and this episode does nothing to deepen it or complicate it. As a result, it isn't all that interesting. Kaylee's adventures at the party are fun and Jewel Staite is proving to be more likeable by the show, but the rest is by the numbers plotting, little characterisation and, shock here, dull dialogue.Top
Whilst visiting a backward planet, Simon and River are kidnapped to tend to the local communitee, who haven't seen a doctor in years. The crew of Serenity are forced to abandon them in order to get the injured Shepherd to the nearest medical facilities, which just happen to be an Alliance cruiser. Just when things take a welcome turn for the better on Serenity, the townsfolk decide that River's abilities are those of a which and set out to burn her.
After the misstep of Shindig this is a solid episode that moves along quickly and has plenty of plot, cracking dialogue and characterisation.Top
OUR MRS REYNOLDS
When they successfully rid a planet of a band of outlaws, the crew of Serenity are treated to a party. Most everyone wakes up the next day with a hangover. Mal Reynolds wakes up with a wife. Her name is Saffron and all she wants to do is to make him happy. The rest of the crew take to her in their own idiosyncratic ways, but is she really too good to be true?
Bloody Hell!! Out of nowhere comes the second funniest episode of any science fiction show ever. This is absolutely hilarious. The reactions of the crew to the new Mrs Reynolds, his coming to terms with the situation and all of the complications that arise as a result are fantastic, founded in beautiful comedy writing and played to the hilt by a cast that prove to have superb comic timing.
We laughed until we cried and then laughed some more. Thank you Joss Whedon, thank you FIREFLYTop
Visiting a planet that makes mud (I kid you not), the crew are astonished to find that Jayne is a national folk hero following good deeds carried out in the past. Nobody is more surprised than Jayne, partly because he knows that the deeds he is praised for are the result of a bank robbery gone wrong. When his old partner in crime is released from prison to deal with him, things turn bloody.
After the sheer bliss of Our Mrs Reynolds this was always going to be something of a letdown, but no. Admittedly, it isn't as good as the last show, but that doesn't stop it from being very funny. The reactions all around to Jayne's hero worship are priceless and get even better when it turns out that there's a song. Then the plot segues seamlessly into violence and darkness that is all the more shocking for the lighthearted nature of what has gone before.
This is top notch sci-fi entertainment writing and the cast just keep getting better and better.Top
OUT OF GAS
An explosion rips through Serenity, leaving Zoe badly injured in its wake. Life support is no longer functioning and the part that they need is irreparable. Mal orders the others to leave the ship in the shuttles and run in the hope of being discovered. He remains with his ship and, as events leave him bleeding, gasping for air and out of time, he flashes back to the times when the rest of the crew came aboard for the first time.
This is a lovely episode that is more about the characters than the plot, but has enough of that going on as well. The flashback nature of the show is well controlled so that the time shifts don't confuse or conflict with each other and all of the crew have their characters more sharply defined by the end of the show.
Flashback episodes are usually the bane of any TV show, but this demonstrates how it can be done well and add variety and freshness to a series. Terrific.Top
Serenity touches down on a core world for the first time in the series, Ariel. Simon comes up with a plan that will allow him to run medical tests on River whilst supplying Serenity with as many black market drugs as they could handle. All that they have to do is to kill him and River right at the start of the plan.
After some light and funny episodes, the darkness is back in FIREFLY with a vengeance. This episode deals with, amongst other things, betrayal, vengeance and bursting heads. The Alliance operatives are shown in all their terrible glory for the first time and you just know that you wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of them.
Where before there were laughs, Ariel sees drama, action, tension and blood. This is a cracking adventure story that takes some of the characters to places darker than you would have expected.Top
Niska, the mad psycho from The Train Job is back and he is still annoyed at how that story went. He takes Mal and Wash prisoner and proceeds to torture them. They, for their part, seem more interested in arguing over Zoe's affections. The crew motto, 'leave no man behind', is invoked and the whole crew take up arms in a suicidal rescue mission, one that will have profound changes for how certain members see each other.
The darkness continues. Torture isn't something that you see a lot of in science fiction and realistic torture even less. You see it here and it ain't pretty. Also dark are the places that the crew are taken to psychologically. Shepherd Book seems to know more about guns than a preacher should and River certainly knows how to use one. Even Simon is faced with the prospect of betraying his hippocratic oath and resorting to killing.
The most action-filled episode yet, but one that also has a lot to say about the characters and provides some great dialogue and a truly unique technique for withstanding torture.Top
Dropping off supplies on a moon waystation, Mal comes face to face with Saffron, his sometime wife from Our Mrs Reynolds. Before you know it, she has sucked him into a foolproof scheme to acquire a priceless relic. As the crew go through the difficult scheme, Mal suddenly finds out that Saffron has been playing him all along. Or has she?
Saffron is the most wonderful non-regular character in the series and she doesn't disappoint on her return. The interplay between her and Mal is fantastic and the writers make sure that you never really know who is playing whom and at what game. That leads to some really smart dialogue and a conclusion that leaves Mal stark naked on a rock in the middle of the desert.
If you have a hankering to see Nathan Fillion's butt then this is your chance. For the rest of us, it's just a really great story.Top
A visit to the post office finds Jayne receiving a bad hat from his mother and Mal and Zoe receiving the body of an old war buddy. Honouring his request to deliver his body home for burial, they soon discover that his body is much desired by some very undesirable people and is a tad more animated than they believed.
This is another solid, if uninspired, episode. There is a chase sequence involving Serenity and a chasing Alliance ship and a hostage situation aboard. The plot rattles along at a good rate and it is thoroughly entertaining.Top
HEART OF GOLD
An old acquaintance of Inara's calls her for help when a local bully threatens to steal the child of a prostitute in her brothel. When the girls won't run, Mal and the crew set themselves up to carry out a Magnificent Seven stand him. The battle comes and victory is won, but not at great cost.
This is the most western influenced of all the episodes thus far. There is a stand-off battle, but this plot is really all about the characters, mainly about Mal and Inara. It's well-played and opens out their relationship more. Admittedly, you just want to slap them and get them to tell each other how they feel, but you've been wanting to do that since the pilot episode, so that's nothing new.
It also gives Jayne some brilliant moments.Top
OBJECTS IN SPACE
A bounty hunter comes aboard Serenity and, with alarming ease, immobilises the whole crew. All, that is, except for River, who is his main target. She claims to have used her new powers to meld herself with the ship and is now Serenity herself.
The last of the series and another example of just why this series should have been renewed by the networks. The plot is fairly conventional, but it doesn't play out to conventional ends. The character of the bounty hunter is as idiosyncratic as the rest and the way that the show has been playing out, you do come close to believing that perhaps River has found some way to combine herself with the ship.
If you came this far, then you are no doubt as hooked as us. What a shame that there is only the movie of SERENITY to follow. Perhaps, in the future, someone will find the way to bring Firefly back from the dead. I wouldn't put it past Joss Whedon. He did it with Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We can always hope.Top
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