We’ll be covering every episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly series over the next 7 weeks every Friday. One new episode per week. If you have Netflix, the entire show is available for Instant Queue. Our three authors today are Alex, found at @alexwhale on Twitter, Nicholas, found at @hotdogcanon, and Corissa found at @corissapoley. Enjoy!

 

Alex

In our eighth episode, the three simultaneous timelines unique to Out of Gas combine to create an episode that is particularly full of suspense.  Setting the scene with Mal bleeding through the ship’s grated floor engenders a sense of urgency, and the bits of backstory on display interspersed with the present narrative are illuminating.  We see Serenity’s origin as a forgotten relic of the junkyard, the piecemeal formation of our crew, and perhaps most importantly, Wash with a mustache.  The segments occurring in the show’s present tell of the explosion that immobilized the ship, the unsettling reality of nonfunctioning life support systems, and the extraordinary efforts Mal made to resurrect Serenity.

The split narrative never feels awkward or confusing.  The structure succeeds by serving to inject some additional backstory into the series while concurrently delivering another formidable obstacle for the crew to overcome in representative fashion.  By beginning near the climax of our main story arc and retracing the steps leading to that point (in more ways than one), it keeps the viewer even more strongly invested in the outcome.  It’s almost as if our genuine concern for the wellbeing of the crew wasn’t strong enough already.

Nicholas

Ultimately, the problem with knowing something is deciding what to do about it. One moves through life, continuously absorbing information, passively becoming aware of all the various developments in this realm or that. We perceive what is medically, cosmically, technologically possible, probable or plausible. This leads one to become giddy with anticipation, and crippled with fear. So what does one do? How does one decide to act because of or in spite of or even act at all?

Out of Gas shows Mal at his very finest. Making the snap decision to seal the crew in one room so he could crack the bay doors just enough to let the vacuum of space pull the flames of an unexpected explosion out was just the start. Not letting Wash obsess over his injured wife, and forcibly removing him may have seemed unfair, but after leading him back into his usual resourceful self by coming up with a solution to boost their distress signal was another genius move. Finally, though he could not get his mechanic to stop moping about what seemed impossible, he still managed to get her to fully explain the problem, and what needed to happen in order for it to be solved.

His arrogance and stubbornness make Mal such an entertaining character to watch, but it is his integrity that makes him one of the great leaders in the history of broadcast television. In calmer times he puts himself below his crew, allowing them to believe that he is a boob, but when they start to lose it, they are reminded of who the Captain of Serenity is.

Corissa

This episode seems to stand out from the others in the series because of its grueling and intensely emotional subject matter. It addresses a seemingly disheartening topic that lies at the very heart of humanity: aloneness. “Everybody dies alone.” Says Mal to Inara, clarifying that he’s not trying to discount friendships but that it’s just a fact of life.

We see this reflected in the intense moments of struggle in Kaylee, Mal, and Wash. Kaylee blames herself for Serenity‘s engine failure, Wash feels as if he no longer has his wife, and Mal nobly decides to go down with his ship. Even the two characters that are always connected because of an intimate marriage are separated in unimaginable circumstances. Out of Gas begs the question, “Do we really all die alone?”

Thankfully, the episode happens to answer its own query. Mal finds himself awaken from his struggle alone on the ship to find his crew returned. Despite the lack of a beacon, they came back. In an unusually sweet moment (for Mal, anyway), the captain of the ship insists that his crew remain with him. Whether he says it in delirious slumber or earnest necessity, it’s sincere. Firefly shows us that even in the black void of space, you die alone; but there is a hope that grows from fellowship, a hope that remains even when you believe you’re breathing your last.