Well, here we are. It’s been a long path but a good one. We love Firefly and we’ve had a good time sharing our thoughts with you. We’re glad you’ve been along for the ride, and for those of you that have followed us into this final week, we salute you. We’ve come to love some characters more and hate others in this fresh look at the series.

Let’s get this party started!

 

Episode 11 – “Trash”

Alex

Why does Mal trust Saffron? Perhaps “trust” is a misnomer in this particular instance, yet Mal does go along with her heist plan, and risks himself and his crew in the process. This is the very same woman who tricked Mal into a fake marriage, poisoned him, kicked Wash in the head, and incapacitated most of the ship’s inhabitants before setting Serenity on course to be waylaid. Perhaps on some level he’s influenced by Saffron’s beauty and obvious manipulation skills, but maybe there’s desperation in his decision, too. The crew of Serenity have been scraping by for some time now, and the idea of a fruitful job is always attractive, despite obvious potential for disaster.

Inevitably, Saffron’s true plan unfurls and leaves Mal sitting on a rock, naked  against a barren landscape. If it weren’t for Inara’s role as the failsafe, Saffron would have gotten away with her crime, showcasing once again how indispensable each crew member is. One particularly interesting revelation is that Saffron is apparently not without some traces of human emotion. Her near-breakdown following their escape from the Feds does seem extraordinarily convincing, even for her. While she may be a natural born liar, I think Mal gets it right when he says, “I’ve seen you without your clothes on before – never thought I’d see you naked.”

Nicholas

This felt like an episode that served only to further the story of Mal and Inara, which to me, is a recipe for a major bummer. It is damned near impossible to have an entire season of strong shows, and number eleven is the weak one of this bunch. Trash is just the sort of formulaic time filler that was avoided by ending this otherwise amazing series’ run prematurely.

The gang stumbles on a plot development. Mal follows the money trail. Inara continues to be cold and calculating. The crew gets behind Mal as much as they can. Said plot development proves to be what everyone expected her to be. Inara continues to be smug. Mal learns nothing about risking his crew for their potential financial gain.

As mentioned in earlier articles, and as is known by casual fans of the show, the intended order of the shows was drastically different from the order in which they were broadcasted. Except this one. It seems that both Whedon and Fox agreed that Trash belonged far enough in the back to not damage building the show’s reputation, but not so far back as to leave a lasting impression of what the show could have been in the following seasons.

Corissa

Trash was a fun episode. Although it may not seem to contribute all that much to the plot of the series as a whole, I enjoyed the story. I think what stood out to me during this episode was the “heist” themed elements. It’s throughout the series, to the point where most of the stories revolve around some form of stolen goods. This seems to conflict with the fact that Mal obviously has standards. He leads a crew of good people- yet they do morally reprehensible things.

All of this to say, Saffron doesn’t seem so different in the beginning of this episode. She’s just like them- out for the hefty payoff. We learn that she is something different. We find her ultimately left in a trash dump, looking around for the Lassiter. She has been selfish throughout the series. This is what distinguishes Mal and his crew from other thieves and reprobates. While Saffron is out to serve herself, Mal and the crew look out for one another. With the exception of Jayne, every crew member is busy protecting the others. Even when they may not seem involved, like Inara, it turns out that they are ready to defend each other.

Firefly is all about friendships, and how they are what matters out in “the black.” I can’t help but admire Whedon for making a bunch of bandits some of the most admirable people I’ve seen on television.

 

Episode 12 – “The Message”

Alex

In The Message, Whedon and company use an apparent and unexpected corpse as a vehicle to fill in additional details of Mal and Zoe’s war-time backstory. In addition to these flashbacks, the arrival of the body of their former compatriot elicits an acute awareness of mortality and a need for self-reflection amongst the ship’s crew. Remembrances of the departed lead to tales that induce crippling laughter from those who knew him and those who had yet to meet the man. Never in my life have I told a story of that caliber, nor have I been anywhere near as elated hearing about past misadventures as those shipmates gathered together to share wistful memories with each other.

Corissa

I was saddened in The Message as we watched Simon and Kaylee’s relationship drift apart. It was disappointing to see Simon failing, once again, to express his feelings. Tracy tries to unwittingly play on Kaylee’s loneliness, almost winning her over during their small conversation about Wash and Zoe. Simon becomes more distant as a person, ever more consumed by his sister’s mental illnesses. He can’t help but think of what a different life he might be leading, as he compares Kaylee to the distinct lack of girls in his life. I wonder, would he really have had a lot of time for “girls” if he were a surgeon? I doubt it.

In any case, this is where they become distant, drifting apart on a ship in space. Out in the void and unable to relate. In some ways, I don’t blame Kaylee for being fed up. As she says, “Then you go all stiff.” It’s the beginning of the end for Kaylee, I think. I wish we had seen at least a little romance for her beyond the incompetent engine mechanic. Then again, couples never do too well in the Whedon universe.

Nicholas

What’s not to love about Vets on hard times and Shakespearian plot twists? The whole “temporary death” thing is very flimsy, and my disproportional enjoyment of details over plot has become inescapable. Mama Cobb’s fine knitwear stole my attention with every appearance. Just because he feels that the bounty would be more of a contributor on the ship does not mean he’s a bad guy. I value his efforts in redemption. Jayne Cobb, MVP.

Oh, and thanks for evading capture and getting shot, Wash. Did anyone notice Shepherd contributing, and almost being interesting? Crazy stuff is happening…

 

Episode 13 – “Heart of Gold”

Alex

Heart of Gold is another strong contender for my favorite episode. Mal’s eagerness to come to the aid of the defenseless is further illustrated at this desert whore house. The true appeal of the episode for me, however, skews more towards the masochistic. I can’t help but love the incredible tragedy inherent in the disintegration of Mal and Inara’s relationship. While some emotional connections were hinted at throughout the series, all of the lighthearted flirting can’t weather the reality of the situation. The sadness of Mal’s reluctant submission to Nandi leads to Inara weeping on the floor, and soon the announcement of her imminent departure. Inara’s career and Mal’s livelihood conspire to prevent them from ever being together, and Inara finally decides that the mutual torture derived from their current arrangement is no longer desirable or bearable.

Corissa

 Heart of Gold is extremely tragic. Even with the redemptive elements that Mal incorporates into the film by saving Petaline and her baby, there are many deaths. In some cases these deaths are metaphysical. There is, for example, the death of Mal and Inara. She at last decides that she cannot torture herself any longer by perpetuating her stay on Serenity. Nandi’s death is also very tragic. She seemed satisfied with her life, even with its difficulties. She and Mal were one of a kind, an element that contributed to Mal’s steadfast fight to save the brothel. There was something between them for Nandi’s last hours, but in the end, her fate is still death. Though it may not seem it, the death of the ranch owner Burgess is tragic also. We wish for him to “get his,” of course, because he’s admittedly awful. At the same time, he was trying to take his son.

There are deaths of many kinds in this episode, but one theme prevails: the birth of the baby boy, Jonah. Petaline is in the first scene and in the last scene with the baby. The fact that the birth occurred, despite the brothel, despite the fight, and despite Burgess is amazing. Heart of Gold and Mal Reynolds showed us that life, no matter how small, is worth protecting. Birth among tragedy is a classic theme, and Whedon succeeded in executing it well.

Nicholas

Just think, if Inara wasn’t a part of the show, Mal very well have wound up at The Heart of Gold seeking Nandi’s services without pretext. They would still have had loads in common, they would run Rance Burgess out of town, and have a whole desolate moon to themselves.

I suppose that it is the writer’s job to torture their audience with the foils of major characters, but sometimes it seems as though Whedon and Co. are sadistic with their creations. Each character is constantly tortured by the presence of exactly what they want being close enough to reach out and touch, but are always being pulled away by either their own hang-ups or shitty stow-aways that prevent anybody from makin’ any real money.

Sigh, at least we know that Wash and Zoe will be together forever and ever.

 

Episode 14 – “Objects in Space”

Alex

Finally, we come to Objects in Space, and one of the most fascinating characters in the series (not counting the members of Serenity’s crew, of course), bounty hunter Jubal Early. After he gains access to the ship in search of River, Early quickly dispatches Mal and the rest of the crew before forcing Simon to help track down his sister. Early’s pathological tendencies coupled with his verbosity make him an intriguing and disturbing villain. The bold choice of having him bluntly suggest to Kaylee that he will rape her if she fails to cooperate is chilling. Ultimately, River bests Early in their battle of wits and Mal sends the invader flailing off into the cold, infinite darkness of space absent his ship. River proves herself to the crew after fostering a stream of uncertainties with her erratic and often-irresponsible behavior by rescuing them from the bounty hunter that she brought to their door. After this repeat viewing of the series, I have found myself wishing more than ever that season one was followed by more than just a movie and a series of graphic stories. As strong as most of that content is, Whedon’s universe deserves so much more.

Corissa

Objects in Space is the best episode, if you ask me. It’s an excellent way to end the season, though it seems a bad way to end a show. River’s antics in this episode were particularly meaningful. For once, we receive a rare glimpse into River’s mind. As she passes by crew members, she has the ability to see who they truly are. She feels rejected and shunned by most, and frightened by others. She discovers that Serenity‘s crew is much more concerned with the danger she poses than with her internal conflict. While the crew lies down to “sleep on it” per Mal’s instructions, River silently commandeers Jubal Early’s ship.

River’s existential crises come to a head in this episode, ending on my favorite (you’ll have to pardon me for mentioning it again) theme: friends matter most. River discovers that she is not only accepted by Mal, but that he rescued her and welcomed her aboard. Serenity is about a family of struggling people, all crazy in their own way. River’s not the only “outcast” on the crew. I like to think that as the last episode in the series, it leaves hope for River’s state of mind.

Side Note: I find the interaction between Zoe and Wash absolutely wonderful. I love that everyone on the ship has something awful to say- but not these two. Their interaction is sweet, and wonderful. It is something to savor, and it’s a wonderful representation of love out in the black.

Nicholas

On one hand, Jubal Early is a righteous man. For fans of Zatoichi and Lone Wolf and Cub, Joss Whedon brings you a man who lets everyone know exactly where they stand and what their options are. Without allegiance, except to his code, Early takes nothing for granted. He moves so deliberately that one might think him stiff, but he is in such control that he quickly imposes the might of his will on any in his path. He is a man to be feared, but pleads for respect.

On the other, he snuck up behind Serenity and violated her with his presence. Inflicted violence on her unsuspecting crew, and threatened to rape a mechanic after already breaching her hull. What was most upsetting though, what I found most unforgivable, was letting the Tams get the best of him. Dude comes on the scene, cold as ice, smooth as butter, and he gets bested by a child with holes in her brain while being subjected to a non-stop barrage of Simon’s sniveling. Who was really the victim in the end?

What I will ultimately choose to remember Early for is the last line of the series. After being fatally tricked by his prospective meal ticket, much as the entire cast and crew of this beloved series were by Fox, he floats off into nothing with a sigh of, “Well, here I am.”

 

Post-Script

by Nicholas.

Now that everything is done, I look back on this quick, short-lived series and think,”All the characters that I disliked or was indifferent to were completely disposable.” Mal, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, and Jayne are each great in their own ways. The Tams and Inara served as plot fodder, but only in frustrating or challenging directions. I still have no idea why Shepherd is on the ship.