We’ll be covering every episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly series over the next 4 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

War Stories has a little bit of everything, and is an episode overflowing with badass.  We see a return to the frequently-visited theme of loyalty, toward both captain and husband, and the reemergence of Niska, one of the best villains in the series.  After Niska tracks down Mal and Wash, who insisted on taking Zoe’s place in a run, they are subjected to torture that is somewhat graphic, by television standards at least.  Zoe is able to pull together enough money to buy her husband back from Niska, but Mal remains in his custody.

The plot culminates with a daring rescue pulled off by a near entirety of the crew storming Niska’s compound-like space station and freeing a recently-resuscitated Mal.  This segment of the episode features some of my favorite Book moments in the series.  Earlier, Book revealed more of his knowledge of weaponry by identifying sniper wounds at the scene of the abduction.  When volunteering to aid in the retrieval attempt, Zoe asks Book if the Bible doesn’t say “some pretty specific things” about killing.  Book affirms this notion, but counters by saying, “It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.”  During the raid, Book’s apparent firearm expertise is key to the eventual success of the operation.  At great personal risk, the crew pulled together to bring Mal back to Serenity, more or less intact.

Corissa

I have to say, War Stories might be my favorite episode. I’ve never had a favorite before, in the four or so other times I’ve seen the series, but I’m sticking with it. It was just so good. The character interaction was striking in this episode, and I’m not just talking about Wash and Zoe. As Alex mentioned, the way that Mal and Wash stretch their friendship during their adventure is unlike any of the interaction we’ve seen between them thus far. They treated each other as the worst enemies and as the best of friends. I don’t know that I truly realized how intimately Mal knows each member of his crew until this episode. He skillfully manipulated Wash just enough to be able to save his life.

With this focus on Wash, I do feel as if I have to mention Zoe as well. She’s a complete badass. I find it amusing that in this episode, the woman is right all the way through. From her unwavering honesty with Wash about her lack of attraction to Mal to her immediate decision to choose Wash to save she is doing what’s right. There’s something tender in her quick  and quiet reserve as she accepts Niska’s proposal before he finishes offering it. She deeply loves her husband, and though wounded by his actions she acts as if he did nothing wrong. There is a beauty in Wash and Zoe’s marriage that even this argument fails to tarnish. I suppose out in the black, being intimate with that one person, no matter what, makes life a little easier.

Nicholas

Perhaps it speaks to my arrogance, but I do usually like characters that I most closely identify with. Obvious? Probably. Either way, Wash is definitely my favorite crew member on Serenity. Mal is a great leader, Jayne is hilarious, Kaylee is a sweetheart, Zoe is a knockout, Inara is obnoxious, I detest the Tams, and for some reason they picked up a preacher. Wash is great at his job (pilot), always offers levity, and cares more about living happily than anything else; my kind of dude.
He is also overly sensitive. It is his sensitivity that brings him to wrongly perceive that he is viewed to be less of a man because his wife is both emotionally and physically stronger than he. While I would like to think that in time humans will evolve, it seem Whedon and Co. feel that we are going to continue to struggle with inferiority complexes between genders in 2517. Either way, he talks himself into a mission that results in the capture and torture of he and his captain, leaving Zoe behind to run the ship in their absence. I say that everything works out for the best. Had someone strong not been left behind, it would have opened up an opportunity for Jayne (hilarious yet devious and greedy) to take over the ship. Wash’s torture gives him a greater appreciation for the relationship between his wife and the captain, and awakens his dedication for the man that sees to the well being for everyone aboard Serenity. He finds his marbles (see Major League II) then inspires the remaining crew to take a crazy risk in an, “All for one, and one for all!” gesture. He even shows his humility in falling behind Zoe and Jayne during the actual combat to follow orders and let the appropriate leader do her job.
With the exception of Kaylee’s whimpering I feel like this episode shows the most solidarity between the entire crew, and we all walk away feeling better for it. No further snarky remarks.

Character Profile: Hoban “Wash” Washburne

Hoban “Wash” Washburne

Pilot

“Right, less talking.  She’s terse – I can be terse.  Once, in flight school, I was laconic.”

The first thought that comes to mind about “Wash” is that he is often the comic relief portion of the crew.  Always quick to tell a joke, or poke fun at someone, he will often lighten the mood just when it needs it most.  But there is so much more to him, and we get to see that in this episode.  His emotions run strong and deep beneath the quiet calm (most of the time) of his playful exterior façade.

It is very clear there is nothing more important to him than Zoe.  Even though they seem to be the quintessential “opposites attract” couple,” they are more alike than one might think.  Let’s be honest, who was surprised to see him force the issue regarding going on this mission?  Until now, he had lulled us into thinking that he was a bit of a milk-toast, but he proves he can make his point just as strongly as Zoe, Jayne, or Mal.  However, in this situation he may have wished he hadn’t.

We see his jealousy of the bond between Mal and Zoe get the better of him, yet it is this emotion that allows Mal to help “Wash” get through the torture, keeping his mind focused on the goal – getting back to his beloved wife.  Once safe however, he has no qualms about going back into the lion’s den to help save Mal.  Keeping true to his lighten the mood attitude, his comment of “There’s a creed with people like us, ‘Leave no man behind,’” is highlighted by his showing us the smallest gun of the multitude he has available.  Typical “Wash.”

We can’t overlook his abilities as a pilot, in that getting the ship from point A to point B without Alliance interference is an important contribution to the group.  But more important is his ability to act as pilot and guide Zoe along their relationship path.  Here is where he will need all his skills of throwing a dart from thousands of miles away, and hitting it dead on.  Sure would have loved to see where that path took those two.  “Wash” may not be the manly man of the bunch, but realistically, he is more emotionally human than any of the others.