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Firefly - Season 1 - Episode 02

Firefly - 1x02 - Serenity, Part 2 - Originally Aired: 2002-12-20

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 4.89

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Synopsis
The naked woman is Simon's sister, River, frozen cryogenically. Simon reveals that River was attending what was supposed to be an Alliance academy, but while she was there they experimented on her brain. Simon spent his fortune breaking her out of Alliance custody and is on the run.

Mal brings the Serenity to the planet Whitefall to try to sell the cargo they stole from a derelict ship. Their buyer double-crosses them, but Mal's prepared, and they get their payment, pausing to shoot Dobson and leave him for dead on the way.

They also encounter Reavers (a savage and dangerous race of cannibalistic humans that travels the edge of colonized space and beyond), and have to escape them with some fancy flying by Wash. Mal invites Simon to stay on board as the ship's medic. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- River entered the government "academy" when she was 14. Simon rescued her at least two years later.
- This episode won an award for "best visual effects in a television series" from Visual Effects Society.
- This episode was nominated for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
- This episode was not aired until after Firefly was canceled because Fox considered it an unsuitable pilot which is what prompted the development of the subsequent episode, The Train Job. In my reviews I ignore Fox' asinine airing order and instead number the episodes by their intended viewing order.

Remarkable Scenes
- Mal accosting Simon for his disgust over Simon's cargo.
- Simon revealing that the girl is his sister.
- Simon discussing his and River's past.
- Simon regarding Mal lying about Kaylee dying: "That man's psychotic."
- Mal and Zoe meeting with Patience.
- The firefight.
- Mal summarily killing Dobson.
- The crazy Ivan.
- Book: "I've been out of the abbey two days. I've beaten a law man senseless, I've fallen in with criminals, I watched the captain shoot the man I swore to protect, and I'm not even sure if I think it was wrong. "
- Mal: "You don't know me son, so let me explain this to you once. If I ever kill you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing me, and you'll be armed." Simon: "Are you always this sentimental?" Mal: "I had a good day."

My Review
In part one, we're given a very open book profile of the main characters and what they're about, what their histories are, and what their intentions are. But in part one, some new characters are introduced into the story that have mysterious backgrounds. Indeed, this episode is simply a story of mysteries. Right from the start, you're plunged into the mystery of just what's going on with Simon; his boxed girl is revealed to be his sister and that he has smuggled her out of a government institution in which she was being abused in some way presumably for the purposes of experimenting with her unusually high intelligence.

The next mystery introduced into the show is the reavers which in my opinion are not sufficiently explored. The basic problem is that the pilot attempts to do too much in only two episodes. The reavers are either painfully oversimplified or there is much more going on with them than the episode gives us. Unfortunately, given all else that was going on, there just wasn't a lot of time to explore the reavers in much depth. For example, why were the reavers not able to catch Serenity? Did the Crazy Ivan damage their engines? Did Serenity disable the reavers long enough to escape their tracking range? Are the reavers going to attack the village on the planet? These things should have been explored in greater detail.

Consequently, perhaps a better pilot would have simply sufficed to introduce the name of the reavers in casual dialog the first half so that the Badger and Patience storylines could have been more fleshed out to take the place of the arguably manufactured danger of the reavers. The scene in which there is a near miss with the reavers could have in fact been left in, so long as the direct confrontation was saved for an episode where they could be better explored and better explained.

As is evident, the conflicted nature and intentions of the various characters is a great strength for the show. Of particular interest is Jayne's seemingly mixed loyalties. He's far more of a mercenary apparently than any of the other characters and he seems to be much greedier than the other characters. This is a character that I doubt has much for the concept of honor in any way whatsoever.

He's, however, completely contrasted by Mal whose code of honor is made abundantly clear in this episode. He didn't kill Patience. He in fact, kept his deal with Patience. And he even directly outlined his code of honor to Simon at the end of the episode by telling him that any man he kills will be awake, facing him, and armed. It's worth noting that Dobson was in fact facing Mal, awake, and armed when Mal killed him.

Overall Serenity parts 1 and 2 are a solid pilot with only minor deficiencies.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From EKH on 2007-06-05 at 8:41am:
    The reason, though not entirely obvious, that the Reavers don't pursue Serenity after the Crazy Ivan, is that "hard burn" - Serenity's "warp drive" - is actually a nuclear reactor. In effect, Wash turned, flew past them, and nuked them. Problem solved.
    Well, that is, if you ignore the radiation.
    This is also the reason why flying without proper shielding, like the Reavers do, is suicide.

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