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Firefly - Season 1

Firefly - 1x01 - Serenity, Part 1 - Originally Aired: 2002-12-20

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 4.52

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# Votes: 59 18 19 8 1 5 7 13 33 22 24

Synopsis
Mal Reynolds, a veteran of the War of Independence, is captaining a Firefly-class boat, the Serenity. He and his crew, Zoe, one of his fellow "browncoats"; Jayne, a mercenary; Wash, an ace pilot and Zoe's husband; and Kaylee, a crack mechanic are salvaging a dead ship when an Alliance vessel detects them. They get away, but the Alliance bulletin about their doings means their cargo is now too hot to sell.

They take on passengers on the planet Persephone, including a doctor named Simon Tam, who is carrying a large piece of cargo; a shepherd who calls himself Book; and a man named Dobson.

En route to find another buyer for their loot, Dobson reveals himself to be an Alliance agent. He's not after Mal and his crew, but Dr. Tam and his cargo. Dobson shoots Kaylee, then Dobson is captured, with surprising help from Book.

Simon agrees to operate on Kaylee only if Mal helps him flee the Alliance. Mal opens Simon's cargo, which turns out to be a naked woman. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- The people in the Firefly universe supposedly speak both English and Chinese, as those two languages are what became dominant deep in the future.
- The entire Serenity was constructed as a single set, so that the camera could follow the crew all over the ship without cuts.
- Inara was born in a place called Xenon.
- Book never married.
- Mal was a sergeant on the side of the Browncoats during the war of independence. The Browncoats lost.
- Simon was a trauma surgeon on Osiris in Capital City.
- 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
- The flashback to the battle.
- Wash playing with his dinosaurs. Wash: "Yes, yes, this is a fertile land and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land and we will call it... this land."
- The sight of the Alliance cruiser "Dortmunder."
- Serenity's escape from the Alliance cruiser.
- Wash: "Sweetie, we're crooks. If everything was all right we'd be in jail."
- Kaylee convincing Book to travel with them.
- Mal: "She's a whore, shepherd." Kaylee: "The term is companion." Mal: "I always get those mixed up."
- Jayne's faux pas at dinner, insulting Kaylee's attraction to Simon.
- Mal's decidedly ironic response to Simon's inquiry regarding what Mal pays Jayne for: "Public relations."
- Dobson shooting Kaylee.
- Book punching out Dobson.
- Mal discovering a naked girl in cold storage in Simon's cargo.

My Review
The first part of the pilot episode, Serenity, introduces us to the Firefly universe in a very broad way. We don't get a lot of details about what's going on and why everything is the way it is, but there are some pretty clear implications from various character dialog and events in the episode. It's pretty clear that there is no Earth any longer and that humanity must have left Earth at some point for whatever reason and that this show takes place deep in the future. The Alliance which governs the remnants of humanity is deeply flawed and as a result, the colonies which they do not have direct control over have degenerated into a sort of frontier land of outlaws similar to that of the ancient American west. Normally the genres of the Western and science fiction are polar opposites, but Joss Whedon's Firefly universe skillfully combines them in a very unique way.

Also, groundbreaking about Firefly is its use of Newtonian physics as well as far more realistic weaponry than most other science fiction shows. Like other sci fi, Firefly depicts the use of advanced energy weapons, but implies that they are only used for certain purposes by certain people and require certain resources that are not always present. So supplementing the lack of energy weapons' ability to be appropriate for every situation, more traditional chemically propelled weapons are used just prevalently if not moreso. In 1990s, Babylon 5 was a groundbreaking show because, among other things, it was the first show to heavily emphasize realistic physics in space. Firefly follows in Babylon 5's lead and not only places heavy emphasis on Newtonian physics, but takes it a step further with its more realistic weaponry, silent space scenes, and documentary style directing.

As for the plot itself, we open with an intense battle of proportions not quite understood, but at the same time, not necessary to understand. What matters is you're with the main characters in humble circumstances. They lose not only the battle, but the war itself in this very moment. The story jumps ahead six years, and you're still with the same characters still being humbled by their circumstances of now making a living as thieves. The circumstances become even more humbling as what seems to be their perhaps only employer cuts them loose for being seen by the Alliance. This changes the implied dynamic of what they've been doing for the past six years.

In addition to this, a new situation begins to brew. As the Serenity begins to search for new opportunities further and further away from the center of the planetary system, and thus further and further away from civilization they take on passengers for what little cash they can get out of it and one of the passengers is discovered to be an Alliance mole who is on an undercover mission to apprehend a fugitive, Simon, who is running from the Alliance for reasons not understood. The cliffhanger depicts Simon transporting a naked girl in cold storage for also reasons not understood. But it's made clear that whoever she is, Simon is willing to kill for her.

Overall, Serenity Part 1 comes off as kind of a jumble, but remains largely coherent despite a rather large set of characters, intentions, and settings. Humor is used effectively throughout without coming off as campy or lame, but the Western tone sometimes bleeds through too heavily, though not necessarily to the point of genre mashup nausea.

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

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 4.77

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# Votes: 39 1 3 1 0 3 0 8 12 20 11

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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Firefly - 1x03 - The Train Job - Originally Aired: 2002-9-20

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 4.62

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Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 49 8 7 9 6 15 6 14 26 21 12

Synopsis
The crew of the Serenity, in economic distress, takes a job from a cruel gent named Adlai Niska to rob a train. Mal doesn't ask the particulars, which Niska appreciates.

However, when Mal and Zoe board the train posing as regular passengers, they discover their first wrinkle: Alliance guards. Mal is thrilled at the notion of stealing something from under the Alliance's nose; Zoe's a bit more worried. Regardless, they successfully pull off the heist.

Before they leave the planet, however, they learn that what they stole are medical supplies that are desperately needed by struggling colonists on this world. After Inara helps liberate Mal and Zoe from custody, all the robbed train's passengers are being held, Mal decides (over Jayne's objections) to give back the supplies to those who need them.

The good deed done, Mal sends Niska's thugs back to him empty-handed. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- It is not clear why Book is still on the ship, given that he boarded with the intent of getting off after the detour to Whitefall. In the pilot, Inara says to him "maybe you're exactly where you ought to be," after he expressed concern over falling in with criminals. This could signal that Book had decided to stay aboard. However unlike Simon who was allowed to stay because of his talents, what Book had to offer the crew was already given in the pilot with his payment for transport. It is possible that Mal let Book stay simply because Book wanted to stay; I'm sure Mal could use the extra help for odd jobs, at least those Book would find ethical, but a scene explicitly explaining why Book was allowed to stay aboard permanently would have been appreciated.

Factoids
- This episode establishes that the Serenity is not equipped with any weapons.
- Firefly class vessels are mid bulk transports equipped with a standard radeon accelerator core. Class code 03-K64.
- Companions choose their own clients according to guild law.
- Inara has been on the ship for eight months.

Remarkable Scenes
- Mal provoking a fight with the pro Alliance people.
- Jayne: "Hey, I didn't fight in no war. Best of luck though."
- River: "Mal. Bad. In Latin."
- Mal: "Kaylee, what the hell was going on in the engine room? Were there monkeys? Some terrifying space monkeys maybe got loose?"
- The sight of the space station.
- The execution of the train job itself.
- Jayne collapsing from having been doped by Simon.
- Mal impaled with Nishka's goon's blade.
- Mal offering one of Nishka's goons his money back, he refuses, so Mal kills him and offers another one of his goons the same deal who very quickly accepts.

My Review
What we have here is a story of conflicted morals. Clearly Mal makes arbitrary decisions about what is and what isn't right which is an interesting character flaw for a leader that already know is deeply flawed in many ways but this episode and its moral dilemma leaves you wondering what you're supposed to take away from the supposed moral lesson presented in this story.

I think Mal contradicts himself pretty hard in this episode. He's trying to play both sides of the honorable thief coin. Some honorable thieves believe that their honor to their clients comes before everything else. Mal is clearly sitting in this zone at the beginning of the episode. And some honorable thieves believe that stealing is only right when those who are stolen from do not significantly suffer as a result. This axiom is evident the story of Robin Hood with the catchy phrase "steal from the rich and give to the poor." Mal clearly swings over to this side by the end of the episode.

In the end there's something unappealing about how Mal accepts the job then breaks his word after discovering the cruel details of the work. Either you respect your client's privacy about what is being stolen and do the job no matter what, or you don't and you ask prior to taking the job. This in between crap is not in my opinion acceptable. Mal says to Nishka's goon "we're not thieves. But we are thieves. The point is we're not taking what's his." This most certainly an ineloquent way of stating his principles which lead me to believe he really doesn't understand himself just what his principles are. And if there's anything to be certainly retained from this episode it's this.

The episode does however have a lot going for it especially spectacle value department. The special effects shots of the space station and the train job itself were extremely well done and the humor in this episode is even more effective than in the pilot. Beyond raw spectacle and amusing humor, however, the episode fails to make a point and comes off as average at best.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Razorback on 2009-07-06 at 3:10pm:
    I always thought it was pretty clear as to why Book was still on board - he's a paying passenger, just like Inara.
  • From Kethinov on 2009-07-06 at 7:54pm:
    That explanation could work but it is a bit of a stretch. In the pilot, Book says he has "a little" money with which to pay his short term fare. Surely that did not cover his entire stay aboard ship?
  • From Eric on 2009-10-26 at 12:45pm:
    One can postulate that Book considers himself "in bed" with the crew of Serenity now that he has aided them in assaulting a lawman and witnessing his murder. He's also more or less in his element given what we can begin to glean from his past at this point.

    Mal's motivation for keeping him on board is a tad fuzzy and is a bit harder to guess at. I like to think that Mal is amused at the idea of having a man of god on the ship if only to antagonize him. He also might think that Book is a voice of reason and provides sound advice as well as input.

    Unfortunately, these are just assumptions on my part and I would have liked a scene devoted to the finalization of their agreement. But yeah it never really occured to me until you brought it up.
  • From Krs321 on 2010-01-19 at 2:47pm:
    Book may be allowed to remain on board b/c it's been shown that he's something of a good cook.
  • From DK on 2013-05-21 at 11:44pm:
    Hi Kethinov,

    I know this is a pet peeve of yours so I thought I would mention it. In the opening credits, when Book introduces the show, he uses the term "solar system". Soon as I heard it I remembered some of your postings. As far as I can remember, I don't remember a show that regularly uses a different term to describe a different star and planet system. And, as far as I remember every show I have ever seen uses the term "solar system". It also occurs to me that words get their meeting from usage. Everybody knows what is meant by "a different solar system" but some people I know might not gather the intended meaning by the term "planetary system" or other some such.

    I get what you are trying to say but at some point don't you have to just give in? You're not going to get that whale Ahab.
  • From Kethinov on 2013-05-22 at 7:33pm:
    My chest is a cannon, and I'll shoot my heart upon that peskily recurring technical inaccuracy! ;)

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Firefly - 1x04 - Bushwhacked - Originally Aired: 2002-9-27

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 4.16

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# Votes: 42 3 1 5 3 4 5 14 10 9 10

Synopsis
A friendly basketball game aboard Serenity is interrupted by an encounter with a colony ship that appears abandoned. When the crew investigates, they find plenty of supplies, meals left half-eaten, the lifeboats all gone, and then, eventually, mutilated bodies, and one half-crazed survivor.

Mal's theory is that Reavers attacked, which doesn't sit well with the crew. Simon and Book give the colonists a proper burial, Jayne loots the ship, and Kaylee removes a Reaver booby-trap. Meanwhile, the survivor lays in the infirmary.

All's well until the Serenity encounters an Alliance ship. While Simon and River hide outside Serenity in EVA suits, the crew is questioned, Serenity is searched, and the survivor is taken aboard the Alliance ship.

Things look grim for the crew, right up until the survivor, who has seen such horrors that he transforms himself into a Reaver in order to cope with the trauma, escapes back to Serenity, leaving a swath of bodies.

Mal convinces the Alliance commander to let him join the search team, and Mal saves the commander's life by killing the crazed survivor. In return, the commander lets the Serenity and its crew go...but he impounds all their cargo. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode is the winner of my "Worst Episode of Firefly" award.

Remarkable Scenes
- Jayne regarding the vacuum of space: "It's impressive what nothing can do to a man."
- Jayne: "He looked bigger when I couldn't see him!"
- Jayne: "I ain't goin' over there with them bodies. No ruttin' way. Not if reavers messed with'em." Zoe: "Jayne, you'll scare the women."
- Mal using his respect for the dead speech as a decoy to distract the rest of the crew from the fact that there is a reaver booby trap attached to the ship.
- Serenity being intercepted by an Alliance ship.
- The interviews.
- Simon and River hiding outside the ship in space suits.
- The Alliance commander: "Seems odd you would name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of." Mal: "May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."
- Mal saving the Alliance commander.
- The Alliance ship destroying the derelict.

My Review
Here we have another episode featuring the reavers plot thread, but only an unfortunately shallow exploration of what the reavers are all about. The only survivor of a ship ravaged by reavers was forced to witness terrible horrors so as a consequence he... becomes one of them? A completely ridiculous plot and Mal's explanation for as well as his intuition regarding why this would occur is equally ridiculous.

The second major gaffe this episode makes is to give us the first real filler of the season. The previous three episodes all advance major plot arcs in significant ways. In fact the previous episode leaves us with a rather interesting cliffhanger concerning River which isn't followed up on at all here. It makes sense that there are longer term plot arcs at work here which won't necessarily see action in every episode, but the fact remains, this episode contributes nothing to any of the larger arcs. You could probably skip watching it entirely and still miss nothing important.

Otherwise this episode moves at a rather slow pace, but oddly that is something of a compliment here as the best scenes are those which have nothing to do with the main plot. The various irrelevant character moments make this episode actually quite enjoyable to watch and once again the humor in the episode remains most effective. But these details aren't enough to save this rather pointless filler episode.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Eric on 2009-10-28 at 8:12pm:
    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and after rewatching it I noticed Mal states in his explanation as to why someone becomes a Reaver that it was supposition. The interrogation scenes were priceless and Jayne's prank on Simon, classic.

    Bushwacked does a good job of fleshing out the reavers. Also, this episode further illustrates that it is "getting awfully crowded" in Mal's sky and it further conveys that reavers are a serious threat. Rapist cannibalistic murderers? Yeah, I'm scared.
  • From JD on 2016-11-14 at 3:42pm:
    I've just started watching Firefly, not seen any of it before. If this episode is the worst of it then it should be a really impressive series.

    Mals explanation of the bloke going mental and becoming a Reaver himself is a weak point, not a bad episode though.

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Firefly - 1x05 - Shindig - Originally Aired: 2002-11-1

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 5.04

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Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 48 15 4 7 2 8 7 8 34 30 18

Synopsis
Serenity returns to Persephone for a dual purpose: Inara has a client and the crew has a job.

Badger, who had previously refused to fence the Serenity crew's goods, now comes to Mal hoping he will broker a deal to move some cattle offworld to Jiangyin. Sir Warwick Harrow refuses to deal with so low-born a gent, but Badger thinks that Mal is respectable enough for Sir Warwick to speak to.

Badger gets Mal an invite to a party, which he attends, with a lushly dressed Kaylee as his date. Inara is also present with her client, Atherton Wing, who tries to convince her to be exclusive to him. While Kaylee is shunned by the women at the ball, but bonds with the men-folk over engineering minutiae, Mal objects to the attention that Wing lavishes on Inara, which leads to violence. Violence leads to a duel with swords, an instrument Mal is ill-equipped to handle.

While Badger holds Serenity's crew hostage to prevent a rescue, Inara tries to give Mal a crash course in swordfighting, which almost works. Somehow, Mal manages to win the duel, Inara blacklists Wing with the Companion Guild, and Sir Warwick agrees to hire Mal and his crew for the job. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- The planet terraforming process is highly labor intensive, and slave labor is often employed.

Remarkable Scenes
- Inara screening clients.
- Mal making fun of Kaylee's fixation with the ruffly dress.
- Kaylee showing up at Inara's party with the big ruffly dress that she wanted.
- Mal dancing with Inara, interrupting her date.
- Kaylee mingling with the guys about mechanic topics.
- Mal punching Atherton, accidentally challenging him to a duel.
- Mal's reaction to the duel being fought with swords: "Use of a s-what?"
- Mal: "I never back down from a fight." Inara: "Yes you do, you do all the time." Mal: "Well yeah, but I'm not backing down from this one!"
- Jayne: "I say Zoe gets naked." Wash: "No." Jayne: "I could get naked." Everybody: "No!"
- River mimicking Badger's accent and then dressing him down with apparent knowledge of his person.
- Inara: "It takes less than a pound of pressure to cut skin." Mal: "You know that? They teach you that in whore academy?" Inara: "You have a strange sense of nobility, captain. You'll lay a man out for implying I'm a whore, but you keep calling me one to my face."
- The duel.

My Review
An episode which is the complete antithesis of the mistakes of the last one, Shindig is a mighty fine outing. With the exception of the annoyingly irrelevant bar brawl teaser, this episode jumps off with marvelous continuity right from the start using the Badger character to set up the crew with some new smuggling work.

The resulting events give us a fascinating and highly entertaining look at Mal's, Inara's, and even Kaylee's characters as they attend the fancy party. Fascinating as well is the detailed depiction of Persephone's high society which, true to the Firefly universe, is delightfully anachronistic. A charming mix of the old American west and a technologically advanced society induced by scarce resources and scarce Alliance presence.

Mal's posturing for Inara makes much more explicit the previous implied romantic tensions between them. She wants him and he wants her but there is something stopping either of them from declaring it outright, perhaps their philosophical differences about what a proper career is. Mal sees himself as an honorable thief but Inara's career as dishonorable, despite being legal. Such unrequited love stories can be irritating but in this episode it's just as charming as the depiction of Persephone's high society.

All of this character exploration is cleverly wrapped up into the primary goal of Mal and crew securing new smuggling work and the respect of both a new client as well as an old client. Overall, Shindig is a great story and a lot of fun.

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Firefly - 1x06 - Safe - Originally Aired: 2002-11-8

My Rating - 4

Fan Rating Average - 3.98

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Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 51 9 4 1 5 6 9 8 10 19 9

Synopsis
In the past: When Simon and River were children, the Tam family was happy. River, a genius, got along famously with her older brother, and they didn't want for anything. But when River went to the academy, things went sour, something only Simon could see, because their parents refused to believe that anything was wrong, even though River's letters were begging for Simon's help via an esoteric code known only to the two of them.

In the present: On the Serenity, River's outbursts are growing worse and disturbing the many cattle in the hold. The cattle are offloaded safely on Jiangyin, and Simon and River go into town. However, Mal and the crew run into trouble with the locals; Book is shot, and Simon and River go missing.

The doctor and his sister have been kidnapped by hill folk, who want Simon to treat them. With no choice, he does as they ask.

Meanwhile, Serenity makes a hasty takeoff to find a medical facility to treat Book. To everyone's surprise, Book's ID gets him VIP treatment at an Alliance facility, no questions asked.

To Simon's surprise, River shows enough evidence of psychic powers that the God-fearing people of Jiangyin decide to burn her as a witch. Only the timely return of the Serenity spares the Tams from a fiery death and convinces Simon that, for better or worse, he really is part of Serenity's crew. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- Simon believes that River's condition is paranoid schizophrenia.

Remarkable Scenes
- The flashback to River and Simon's childhood.
- Kaylee and Simon not exactly hitting it off in town.
- River dancing, intercut with the firefight.
- Book gravely wounded.
- The flashback to Simon knowing something went wrong with River at the academy.
- Serenity taking off, leaving Simon and River on the planet.
- Serenity intentionally seeking out an Alliance cruiser to help Book.
- Simon decided to help out his captors.
- River reading Ruby's mind and the teacher accusing River of being a witch.
- Simon's flashback to being bailed out of jail by his father for trying to rescue River.
- River reading the patron's mind.
- Serenity rescuing Simon and River.
- Mal: "Cut her down!" Patron: "The girl is a witch!" Mal: "Yeah, but she's our witch. So cut her the hell down!"

My Review
Safe is a sort of jumble of different stories. The focus on River is quite prominent here; this episode finally gives us some insight on what the government was doing to her as she has displayed some evidence of psychic abilities. This is something that has been building for quite a while actually. In previous episodes, River seems to have been having parallel emotional responses to things going on elsewhere that she could not have possibly been aware of any other way. This happens again in this episode as well. Also, in Shindig, River seemed to have a lot of knowledge of Badger she shouldn't have. That scene was somewhat ambiguous as to the reason, but events of this episode seem to make it pretty clear that she reads minds.

Unfortunately, aside from some interesting exposition concerning the long term plot arc regarding River, this episode's jumble of plot ranges from fairly interesting in some places to downright annoying in other places. The other most interesting plot thread is the revelation that Book has some sort of high profile connection to the Alliance which entitles him to first class medical care. While this makes his character a lot more interesting, the fact that he is not inclined to explain the reasons for this is rather irritating. That and Serenity's rather routine contact with Alliance ships is also becoming something of a cliche at this point. Though they sure are pretty to look at.

The most irritating aspect of this episode was the run down town that wanted to torch River because they thought she was a witch. In particular, the patron's reaction to his secret of his murdering the previous patron made the town look even more like a bunch of idiots as he said in response that River is "a witch that reads minds and spins falsehoods." Strictly speaking, if River outing his secret convinced him and thus the rest of the town that she could read minds, then the rest of the town should not have been so easily swayed that what River said was false. The town was given direct evidence that their patron murdered his predecessor, but as soon as he denies it, everyone buys it without giving it a second thought. Indeed a town of idiots.

Aside from those blemishes though the rather fast pace of the episode is enjoyable and while the flashbacks to Simon's and River's childhoods are questionably relevant, they are fun and fascinating to watch. Finally, Mal's affirmation of loyalty for his crew is true to his character and nice to see in that warm and fuzzy kind of way.

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Firefly - 1x07 - Our Mrs. Reynolds - Originally Aired: 2002-10-4

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 4.63

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# Votes: 43 4 0 2 3 3 5 6 9 16 18

Synopsis
Mal, Jayne, and Zoe drive away some bandits from a settlement on Triumph, leading to a raucous celebration. The next morning, the Serenity crew takes off, only to find themselves with an additional passenger: Saffron, who claims she is Mal Reynolds' wife, part of Triumph's payment for services rendered, apparently. Book verifies that a portion of their drunken revelry was a marriage ceremony.

Mal finds himself in a quandary: He is saddled with a wife he doesn't remember marrying and who is devastated by his rejection, and a crew that is alternately teasing and excoriating him. He tries to free her, but her insistence on being a proper wife wears Mal down to the point where he kisses her.

That's when things get really bad: Mal falls unconscious after their kiss. Saffron is a con artist who wants to sell the Serenity for scrap, and she comes dangerously close to doing so... [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- Mal discovering that he was given a wife.
- Everyone's reaction to Mal's new wife.
- Mal making his new wife cry.
- Book explaining how Mal got married.
- Saffron: "Are you gonna kill me?" Mal: "What? What kind of crappy planet is that?"
- Mal: "Don't you ever stand for that sort of thing. Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill them right back."
- Saffron being extremely domestic.
- Jayne offering his favorite gun in exchange for Saffron.
- Saffron naked in Mal's room.
- Saffron knocking out Mal.
- Saffron coming on to Wash.
- Saffron unable to quite fool Inara.
- Book: "They're not looking to deal with survivors." Jayne: "One day you're gonna tell us all how a preacher knows so damned much about crime."
- Jayne shooting at the net and killing the operators.

My Review
A fun but fairly shallow episode. No long term plots get serviced here; instead the point of the story is to laugh at the absurdity of Saffron's character. Both at her extreme domesticity and then later at the extreme measures she takes to be a successful con artist.

Interestingly, the penultimate scene of the episode seems to imply that she does the con artistry not necessarily for the reward, but for the fun of it, which makes her motives actually something that might have been interesting to explore in more depth. However, by the time we get to that scene the episode is essentially over.

Particular kudos should be given to the way the crew solved their electric death net problem which was grounded in very real science and portrayed very realistically. Other than that, the episode has little else to offer except some petty Inara / Mal failed romance scenes and some immature humor rooted in sexual tensions.

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Firefly - 1x08 - Jaynestown - Originally Aired: 2002-10-18

My Rating - 6

Fan Rating Average - 5.1

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# Votes: 19 13 18 9 9 10 4 10 13 21 19

Synopsis
A job on Canton, where the local mud is harvested as construction material, has Jayne rather nervous, because on his last trip to this moon he stole the magistrate's money, only to be forced to dump the cargo in order to break free of the atmosphere.

However, to everyone's surprise, and everyone save Jayne's amusement, there's a statue of Jayne in the town square. Later, the crew is regaled with an immensely popular local song, "The Ballad of Jayne," which praises him as the hero of Canton. His loot was dropped right on the "mudders," the common folk of Canton, who assume Jayne did it on purpose, Robin Hood-like.

Mal uses Jayne's newfound status as a distraction to allow them to complete the new job. Unfortunately, the magistrate that Jayne robbed is less amused, and he frees Jayne's partner from captivity in order to get revenge, leading to a brutal and tragic confrontation in the town square. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- Simon's nice clothing getting all muddy.
- The mudder boss: "We have over two thousand workers. Mostly indentured. We pay them next to nothing. That way we can pass the savings directly onto you, the customer!"
- Jayne's statue.
- River: "Bible's broken. Contradictions. False logistics. Doesn't make sense."
- River: "Noah's Ark is a problem." Book: "Really." River: "We'll have to call it 'early quantum state phenomenon.' Only way to fit five thousand species of mammal on the same boat!"
- Simon referencing ancient Egypt with regards to the mudders' milk.
- The Jayne song.
- Jayne explaining why the song misinterpreted the events into making him a hero.
- Book's hair.
- A crowd forming around Jayne.
- Inara kicking Mr. Higgins out of her shuttle.
- Drunk Simon and Kaylee.
- Zoe: "River, honey, he's putting the hair away now." River: "It doesn't matter. It'll still be there. Waiting."
- Simon making another faux pas with Kaylee.
- Inara assuming the story Mr. Higgins' son told her was about Mal rather than Jayne.
- Jayne's half-assed speech.
- Stitch confronting Jayne.
- A young man taking a bullet for Jayne.
- Jayne killing Stitch.
- Jayne coming clean to the crowd.
- Mr. Higgins' son letting Serenity go.
- Mal: "It's my estimation that every man who ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another."

My Review
Another humor episode which contributes little to the larger arcs (with the exception of the Kaylee / Simon romance), but perhaps the most effective humor episode yet. Jayne's song is irritatingly catchy, to the point where it gets in your head and stays there for uncomfortable periods of time. Or at least it does for me. What strikes me most about this episode though is how effective all the various plot threads weave together to make a strong, central point.

What we have here is a story about faith. Each plot thread reinforces this theme; Inara teaches Mr. Higgins' son to have faith in himself, Book explains to River why his faith in god is important to him, and the mudder town very clearly needs to have faith in their hero Jayne in order to press on in their hard lives. What happens in town and the resultant discussion Mal and Jayne have about it is also quite touching, elevating the episode a bit above simple, fun humor.

Overall, a fine piece of storytelling.

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Firefly - 1x09 - Out of Gas - Originally Aired: 2002-10-25

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 6.53

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# Votes: 8 12 4 6 3 3 15 8 5 24 31

Synopsis
A bleeding, dying Mal Reynolds tries desperately to get to Serenity's engine to install a part. As he struggles, alone, through the abandoned ship, he alternately recalls how he got here, and how his crew was assembled.

Serenity isn't flight-worthy when Mal buys her, a fact that Zoe is quick to point out. Things don't go much more smoothly from there, as Zoe doesn't like the mustachioed pilot named Wash, though Mal raves about him, and their "genius" of a mechanic, Bester, can't seem to fix what ails Serenity.

Things soon start looking up: Bester brings aboard Kaylee, who promptly diagnoses what ails the boat, prompting Mal to give her Bester's job while Zoe gives Bester the boot; Wash, currying favor with Zoe, shaves his mustache. Later, the crew recruits a mercenary named Jayne, who gets the drop on Serenity while he is in the employ of a gent named Marco. Mal and Zoe convince him to switch sides by offering him better pay and accommodations.

A fire aboard Serenity cripples her engine, injures Zoe, and uses up a sizable chunk of the remaining air. Kaylee needs a part she doesn't have. Everyone save Mal abandons ship in the two shuttles, while Mal hopes for a rescue, which, surprisingly, comes and, unsurprisingly, becomes a double-cross that Mal escapes only after being shot in the gut. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- An external shot of the crippled Serenity showed an erroneously cropped star map.

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- The flashback to Mal purchasing Serenity.
- The explosion aboard Serenity.
- Mal venting the fire.
- The flashback to Wash meeting Zoe. She didn't like him. ;)
- The adrenaline injections.
- River: "You're afraid we're going to run out of air, that we'll die gasping." Book: "Yes." River: "But we won't. That's not going to happen. We're going to freeze to death first."
- The flashback to Kaylee's first scene, unashamedly having sex with Bester in the engine room.
- Kaylee regarding her mid-sex engine diagnosis: "I seen the trouble plain as day when I was down there on my back before!"
- The flashback to Inara and Mal's first meeting.
- The two shuttles departing.
- Mal's distress call being answered by thugs who want to loot the ship. I like the rush of fresh air when the other ship docks.
- The flashback to Mal recruiting Jayne while under duress.
- The looters shooting Mal rather than trading for the part and Mal kicking them off his ship.
- Mal restoring the engine.
- Mal failing to make it to the bridge to call back everyone.

My Review
Normally I dislike the format of flashback storytelling because it can often be disjointed and confusing and indeed, at times, it is in this episode. However, the flaws are few and the story is touching despite the format. This episode establishes explicitly the fact that was previously implied that Mal purchased Serenity because he wanted to live on the frontier to be as far away from the Alliance as possible. As this episode demonstrates quite well, living on the frontier is not without its risks, but they are well worth it for Mal who clearly values his freedom far more than his safety.

More than that though, Mal seems to be valuing his crew more and more. They're becoming ever closer to him, like family. The way he handles the crisis aboard ship shows Mal to be both commanding as well as caring and the flashbacks to how they all met added a nice personal touch to their relationship as well as a morbid sense of finality to the events of the episode as it was clear that Mal was recalling the events which brought him to this point.

Speaking of events which bring us to this point, the faulty compression coil is something Kaylee had been warning Mal about since the pilot for anyone who's been paying close attention up to this point. Interestingly, despite this, Kaylee still takes the blame for Serenity's malfunction, chiding herself for not taking better care of the ship. I find it somewhat annoying that Mal didn't acknowledge that he should have listened to her originally, but I'll take what continuity I can get.

Overall, Out of Gas is one of the better episodes so far for the first meeting flashbacks alone, much less the riveting story of Serenity's breakdown.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Pemmer Harge on 2010-07-25 at 2:47pm:
    Easily the best episode so far. Several previous episodes have rather suffered from slow pacing and weak plots, but this one finds a good story and actually puts the slow pace to good use. The structure may not be original, but it's very well executed and the flashbacks are interesting. Overall it just has a more mature feel than earlier outings and makes better use of the characters. Very nice music too.

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Firefly - 1x10 - Ariel - Originally Aired: 2002-11-15

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 6.87

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# Votes: 9 3 7 5 2 1 3 2 15 18 28

Synopsis
The Serenity's latest job comes from an unlikely source: Dr. Simon Tam. He needs to break into a hospital on Ariel so he can scan the ever-deteriorating brain of his sister, River, and try to figure out what the Alliance did to her.

For Mal and his crew, the rewards will be a stash of incredibly valuable, central-planet medical supplies that are hard to acquire on the rim, and which can be resold for a hefty profit.

However, Jayne has his eye on an even greater reward: A bounty from the Alliance, which still wants River back. Jayne turns over River and Simon only to find himself a prisoner, as well, with no hope of collecting his reward and every expectation of a very long and miserable incarceration.

Jayne contrives a narrow escape for himself and the Tam siblings, and the crew is reunited on Serenity. Mal, however, has figured out why the job went bad, and he makes clear to Jayne what happens to those who betray him or his crew... [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode establishes that River's amygdala in her brain was tampered with, preventing it from working properly. She can't push feelings into the back of her mind. She experiences everything at full intensity.

Remarkable Scenes
- River slashing Jayne with a knife for no reason and Jayne smacking her halfway across the room.
- River: "He looks better in red."
- Simon's proposal for a job.
- Wash's description of the job: "stealing from the rich, selling to the poor."
- Mal, Zoe and Jayne practicing their paramedic lingo.
- Mal, Zoe and Jayne all ready to say their paramedic lingo on the job, but only given the chance to utter a line and a half of it.
- Jayne double-crossing Simon and River.
- Simon's saving a life ad hoc.
- Mal and Zoe looting while Simon uses the holoimager to examine River.
- Jayne being double-crossed by the police officers when he helped them capture River and Simon.
- The blue gloved guys killing the police officers because they spoke to the prisoners.
- Jayne: "This has got to be our best take ever." Mal: "Doc had a good notion. Boy's got a decent criminal mind."
- Mal confronting Jayne about his betrayal.
- Mal: "The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face."

My Review
Continuity comes together in quite a nice way in this episode which puts the River arc and Jayne's fragile loyalties at the forefront of the story. We finally learn something concrete about what was done to River now that Simon has done a proper diagnostic of her and this episode creates hope that he will one day cure her of her issues. Aside from that it's always nice to see the Alliance; the stark contrast between how they live and how the border planets live is quite striking.

Also striking is the lengths to which the Alliance will go to get River back. Those blue-gloved guys are creepy to the extreme and that little bleed-someone-to-death device is certainly a chilling piece of technology. It makes you wonder if they had that kind of technology at their disposal, what could they possibly find so interesting about River?

But the most interesting part of this episode for me is the character development for Jayne. Throughout the episode he's easily the most annoying character. Impeding the progress of our heroes for his own selfish gain. But the last scenes of this episode not only redeem Jayne's character in my eyes, they grow him beyond the simpleton we knew him to be previously. Now we know that Jayne values what the rest of the crew thinks of him, despite his cavalier attitude. This makes him far more likable.

All in all, Ariel is a fine episode.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Pemmer Harge on 2010-08-01 at 5:36pm:
    Hey, another really good episode. Based on early episodes, I felt this series was severely overrated. However, with Out of Gas and now Ariel, it looks like the show may be "growing the beard". Watching the earlier episodes, I felt that the series was trying to get by on quirkiness and witty banter, which really wasn't enough. Now, however, we have good plots and character work and it's turned into a show I really want to watch.
  • From Nick on 2010-08-31 at 11:34pm:
    This is the episode this show was made for, basically.

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Firefly - 1x11 - War Stories - Originally Aired: 2002-12-6

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 6

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# Votes: 10 7 9 8 10 13 14 16 14 24 18

Synopsis
Wash grows increasingly frustrated with hearing stories of the "good old days" when Mal and Zoe served together, and generally with the fact that his wife seems to have a stronger bond with her captain than with him.

Wash forces himself to accompany Mal in Zoe's stead on a job which then goes sour, when Mal and Wash are captured by Niska, who still holds a grudge over Mal not delivering on the train job.

Niska tortures Mal and Wash. Zoe arrives to negotiate for their release, the crew having pooled their earnings from the job on Ariel to ransom their shipmates. Niska, however, feels the sum offered is enough for only one of them, and she must choose who to save. Without hesitating, Zoe chooses Wash. Niska reconsiders and says it's enough for part of one other, so he also gives her Mal's freshly cut-off ear.

The financial option having crapped out, the crew mounts a rescue, including the surprise participation of Book; and later, the deadly participation of River, who saves Kaylee's life by shooting three snipers with her eyes closed. Meanwhile, though Niska gets away, Mal is saved, and Simon is able to reattach the captain's ear. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode further confirms, along with Jaynestown's reference to ancient Egypt, that detailed records of "Earth that was" survived.

Remarkable Scenes
- Book: "Did you ever read the works of Shan Yu?" Simon: "Shan Yu the psychotic dictator?" Book: "Yep. Fancied himself quite the warrior poet. Wrote volumes on war, torture, the limits of human endurance..." Simon: "That's nice." Book: "He said, 'live with a man forty years, share his house, his meals, speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano's edge and on that day you will finally meet the man.'"
- Book and Simon analyzing River's condition.
- Jayne, after seeing that Inara's client was female: "I'll be in my bunk."
- Wash forcing himself onto the mission in the place of Zoe.
- Wash, as he and Mal were being captured: "Now I'm learning about scary."
- Mal and Wash arguing with each other while Niska tortures them.
- Niska making Zoe choose between Mal and Wash to rescue, and Zoe choosing Wash without hesitation.
- Niska cutting off a piece of Mal's ear and giving it to Zoe as she leaves with Wash.
- Niska after reviving Mal, displeased that he had died: "When you die I can't hurt you anymore."
- Zoe referring to Wash's maneuver to dock Serenity with Niska's station as throwing a dart and hitting a bullseye 6,000 miles away.
- The Serenity crew assaulting Niska's station.
- Mal rising up and assaulting his torturers.
- Kaylee choking up during the battle and running away, then River saving her with some surprising precision sharp shooting. Downright inhuman.
- Zoe: "Jayne, this is something the captain has to do for himself." Mal: "No it's not!"
- Mal: "So, I hear you all took up arms in that little piece of action back there. How are you faring with that, doctor?" Simon: "I don't know. I never shot anyone before." Book: "I was there, son. I'm fair sure you haven't shot anyone yet."

My Review
Another fine piece of storytelling hinging on continuity. Many arcs in fact get served here, some better than others. Some nice stuff: Jayne is being awfully generous to the rest of the crew to make up for what he did in the last episode, Book displays creepily deep knowledge of crime as well as some damn fine marksmanship in this episode, and River, well, that was just crazy. And awesome.

Finally, Wash's previously very subtly hinted at jealousy surrounding Mal's and Zoe's old war buddy status comes out in full force in this episode, perhaps overly so. Here Wash is jealous of Zoe's experience with Mal during the war to such an extent that he even trivializes her reminiscing about the war. That scene and many more like it make me thoroughly unsympathetic toward Wash's character.

They turn him more or less into a petty douchebag and I only started to like him again while he and Mal were being tortured, and only because the scene was just so damn charming. What really redeemed his character for me though was his desire to join with his wife and lead the charge to rescue Mal. I suspect Wash got over his pettiness quickly after this episode, though I wish it had been done in a less immature manner. I felt that this sort of stuff was overdone.

The continuity with Niska was also appreciated, though he seemed less nuanced in this episode than in The Train Job because he appeared as little more than a mustache twirler here despite the attempt to add layers to him by having him cite the works of Shan Yu in parallel with Book. All we really see of him here is an extended version of what we saw in The Train Job when he tortured somebody briefly to demonstrate his resolve to Mal. I was hoping for more depth.

In total, however, once again, Firefly delivers another terrific episode.

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Firefly - 1x12 - Trash - Originally Aired: 2003-6-28

My Rating - 3

Fan Rating Average - 5.67

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# Votes: 11 9 11 6 6 11 10 13 12 13 20

Synopsis
While exchanging contraband with fellow rogue Monty, another former "browncoat," Mal meets Monty's new wife. To Mal's shock, it's Saffron, now calling herself Bridgit. Monty is not thrilled to find out that his wife also married Mal once, so he leaves her behind on the moon with Mal while the latter waits for the Serenity to return.

Frustrated with Inara's complaints about Mal not flying to worlds where she can entertain clients, Mal brings Saffron aboard with a job she insists will provide them all with tremendous wealth: stealing a "Lassiter", a rare old laser weapon, from a collector on Bellerophon.

Kaylee comes up with a method of getting the Lassiter out of the estate without the sensors detecting its departure: by throwing it out with the garbage, then having Serenity intercept the trash carrier. Mal and Saffron infiltrate the estate and start to make the theft, when Durran, the owner, walks in and recognizes Saffron as his wife, Yolanda.

Mal, not entirely surprised to meet yet another husband of Saffron's, quickly pretends to have "rescued" Yolanda, who went "missing" some years before. The tables are soon turned, and Mal and "Yo-Saff-Bridg" depart with the Lassiter, tossing it in the disposal.

Saffron then double-crosses Mal, taking his sidearm and leaving him naked in the desert. When Saffron arrives at the trash can, though, she finds nothing, even after digging through all the filth. Then Inara arrives with the Lassiter, which she claimed before Saffron arrived, as Mal planned from the start, the Serenity crew has conned the con artist. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- There is a Windows XP "Add New Hardware Wizard" screen clearly visible on the computer screen while Jayne is messing with the dumpster, though this may be an intentional joke.

Factoids
- This episode won the 2006 SyFy Genre Awards for Best Special Guest in Television for Christina Hendricks as Saffron and Best Episode of Television.
- This episode was never aired in the original 2002 Fox run and was not seen until after the series was canceled.

Remarkable Scenes
- Naked Mal.
- Saffron's appearance as "Bridget."
- Mal accusing Inara of using her feminine wiles on him, something which he's "had just about enough of today."
- Mal and Inara's argument.
- River: "Jayne is a girl's name."
- Going over and executing the plan.
- "Yolanda" being reunited with her husband.
- Kaylee reprogramming the trash unit just in time.
- Saffron digging through the trash, only to discover she was double-crossed by Inara.
- Simon confronting Jayne about having sold him and River out.
- Mal shouting orders naked.

My Review
Trash is the first lackluster episode of Firefly in quite a while. Picking up the Saffron character again is a worthwhile idea and we get some of the depth here in this episode that was unfortunately missing from that one. However, there isn't much more depth to have. Her performance is largely a repeat of her previous one with little else to distinguish it.

The most annoying aspect of the plot is how it relies so heavily on misdirecting the audience. At the beginning of the episode it is implied that everything went terribly and that teaming up with Saffron in the first place was an ill-conceived notion resulting from Mal and Inara arguing with each other.

However, in the end it turns out the crew was playing Saffron from the start, as well as the audience. This kind of storytelling significantly reduces the impact of the drama since it hinges so much on audience surprise. However, there are quite a few scenes which make this episode well worth watching.

Particularly interesting is the fact that River could tell, perhaps telepathically, that Jayne had betrayed her and Simon. She then proceeded to tell Simon about it. I enjoyed Simon's response to this which was to let Jayne know that he knew, but do nothing else. It's both true to his character and true to his Hippocratic Oath.

The most interesting detail however is River's line to Jayne that she could kill him with her brain. This line was spoken in jest, but given how often Firefly likes to misdirect the audience, and particularly in this episode, it would not surprise me if this were actually true. Otherwise, however, this episode significantly fails to measure up to the quality of most of what's come before.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Eric on 2009-10-26 at 5:26am:
    I think the misdirection was a lovely touch and a "necssary evil" in this episode because it helped drive the point, by contrast, that despite the fact that Mal and his crew looked as if they were up a creek, they actually had the upper hand the entire time. The opening and closing scene where Mal congratulates himself is a rare sight because we hardly ever see a caper of his go off without a hitch i.e. "Safe" where he says "It never goes smoothly," while ducking beneath a hail of gunfire and again in "Ariel" when he states "Just once I'd like for things to go according to plan," as he and Zoe turn back around to retrieve Simon, River, and Jayne.

    Also, I think it's fair to say that whenever the audience is in on the plan, a snag in that plan is almost always inevitable. Had we known from the get-go that Saffron was being played, the episode itself would have been rather boring. Plus, I enjoyed the revelation myself.

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Firefly - 1x13 - The Message - Originally Aired: 2003-7-15

My Rating - 2

Fan Rating Average - 5.88

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Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 7 8 3 17 8 3 13 8 12 18 16

Synopsis
At a space station, the crew shops, pokes around, and picks up mail. Jayne gets a letter and a knit cap from his mother, and Mal and Zoe get a corpse.

The corpse's name is Tracey, and Mal and Zoe served with him during the war. He had left a recording, requesting that his remains be brought home to St. Albans. However, a Fed named Lt. Womack also wants Tracey's corpse, and he's willing to shoot down the Serenity to get it.

Reluctantly, Mal orders an autopsy while Wash evades Womack. The most shocking discovery of the autopsy is that Tracey's alive. He was in a suspended state that simulated death, and now he says he wants to get home, but he's carrying transplantable organs that need to incubate in a person. He decided to take a better offer on the black market, but the new buyer was caught, so Tracey "killed" himself and had himself shipped to Mal and Zoe.

Womack, having grown tired of Mal's stalling, resumes shooting at Serenity. Eventually, the crew realizes that Womack won't stop until they're dead, but Book also notices that Womack hasn't checked in with the local Fed base.

Tracey doesn't like the crew's plan, and shoots Wash to keep him from contacting Womack, which results in Zoe shooting Tracey. Wounded, Tracey runs and takes Kaylee hostage, but Mal is able to gun him down, leaving Womack empty-handed, and a threat from Book to alert the Fed base to Womack's extracurricular activities leads the Fed to depart Serenity in peace.

The crew returns Tracey's body to St. Albans for proper burial. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- The postman called Jayne "Kyle" which he responded to... were they operating under assumed names or something or was this a mistake?

Factoids
- This episode was never aired in the original 2002 Fox run and was not seen until after the series was canceled.
- This was the last episode of Firefly filmed. Thus, the funeral scenes were especially potent for the cast and crew, as they were mourning the loss of the show.
- The creator of the series, Joss Whedon, appears in the background during the funeral.
- This episode was nominated for the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Remarkable Scenes
- Simon committing another faux pas with Kaylee.
- River: "My food is problematic."
- Jayne's hat.
- Mal and Zoe being mailed a dead guy.
- The flashback to the battle of Du-Khang.
- The crooked police officer.
- The mustache story.
- The corpse waking up and screaming when Simon started cutting on him.
- Mal: "Okay, you wanna explain to me exactly why you got yourself all corpsified and mailed to me?"
- Tracey's heart beating faster when he saw Kaylee.
- Wash's reaction to seeing Tracey alive and walking around.
- Serenity evading the police ship.

My Review
Another lackluster offering, The Message repeats the common cliche of a romance strained by pure pettiness this time between Kaylee and Simon, as we must endure Kaylee's fleeting fancy for Tracey just because Simon is clumsy around women. More importantly though, Tracey himself just failed to be a very compelling character, and he drags the episode down quite a bit as a result.

Much of the fault for this lies instead on the plot though rather than the character. The unforgivable sin committed by the plot in this episode is the fact that nobody bothered to let Tracey know that when they were planning to let the cops board the ship, it wasn't with the intention to give Tracey up, but rather to call the cops' bluff by letting the cops know that Serenity's crew is well aware that the cops were operating well out of their jurisdiction.

Given that info, it's doubtful Tracey ever would have pulled a weapon on Mal and his crew and they all had plenty of time to clue him in on the plan. Not doing so forced Tracey's hand. Instead of feeling stupid just before he died, he should have felt betrayed, due to this unnecessary misdirection. It is unfortunate that the crew must now begin acting stupid in order to satisfy Firefly's fetish for misdirecting the audience.

Aside from this, it's a bit irritating that we hear the message itself replayed no less than three times in the episode. Really, once would have been enough. Overall, aside from a few amusing moments of comedy, this episode is quite a disappointment.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From john on 2010-11-18 at 12:23am:
    hearing the message three times was really annoying. Twice might have been forgiven. Still, this was better than some of the other episodes with at least a bit of lively elements.

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Firefly - 1x14 - Heart of Gold - Originally Aired: 2003-8-19

My Rating - 3

Fan Rating Average - 5.33

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Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 16 9 7 6 11 2 7 12 7 16 16

Synopsis
Inara gets a call from an old friend, Nandi, who has left the Companion Guild and opened a whorehouse. Nandi's place is being threatened by Ranse Burgess, who impregnated Petaline, one of Nandi's whores, and is claiming the child. Nandi offers to pay the Serenity crew to help protect them.

Mal's instinct, after meeting Burgess, is to skip out and avoid this mess, but Nandi refuses to give in. So the Serenity crew helps fortify the whorehouse, save for Simon, who is busy delivering Petaline's baby.

Nandi and Mal share a night together; in the morning Burgess attacks. Nandi is killed in the melee, but the Serenity crew and the whores emerge victorious. Petaline kills Burgess herself, right in front of his newborn child. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode was never aired in the original 2002 Fox run and was not seen until after the series was canceled.
- This episode was nominated for the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Remarkable Scenes
- Inara: "They're not companions, they're whores."
- Jayne enthusiastically volunteering once he learned the clients were whores.
- Kaylee: "Wash, tell me I'm pretty." Wash: "Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion." Kaylee: "'Cause I'm pretty?" Wash: "'Cause you're pretty."
- Mal meeting with Ranse Burgess and his wife.
- Mal: "There's nothin' worse than a monster that thinks that he's right with god."
- Nandi, after kissing Mal: "You okay with this?" Mal: "I'm just waitin' to see if I pass out. Long story."
- Ranse: "Let us all remember, right here and now, what a woman is to a man." He then turns to the traitor whore and says: "Get on your knees."
- Mal: "Remember, shoot the man, not the horse. A dead horse is cover; a live horse: great pile of panic."
- The battle beginning.
- Burgess lasering Nandi.
- Burgess running out of battery on his laser gun.
- Pedaline killing Burgess while holding the baby.
- Inara announcing that she's leaving Serenity.

My Review
Heart of Gold is an episode with lots of wasted potential. Once again failed romance is the central theme which by this point is a tired plot. So tired in fact that the ultimate result of yet another failure is the departure of a great character from both the ship and the show, all because the two romantic combatants can't speak plainly about their desires for each other.

Also once again paralleling Mal and Inara's troubles is Kaylee and Simon, who still haven't gotten over Simon's most recent faux pas in The Message. A second parallel is also present with Zoe and Wash quibbling over whether or not to have a child, though I must admit that I find that particular dilemma far more compelling than any of the other romantic failures present in this episode.

Aside from this, another missed opportunity was not seeing Serenity strut her stuff during the battle, something which I wonder may have been done for budgetary reasons. The graphics on the laser weapon were also somewhat cheesy compared to similar, better looking renditions on Star Trek, but it was nice to finally see one in action here up close.

In all, aside from serving as a plot device to write Inara out of the show and delivering a less than moving rendition of Amazing Grace, this episode has little to offer. Bonus points for some great humor scenes though, as usual.

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Firefly - 1x15 - Objects in Space - Originally Aired: 2002-12-13

My Rating - 10

Fan Rating Average - 6.27

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 12 10 8 10 6 2 3 5 24 16 33

Synopsis
River wanders the corridors of Serenity. She observes the members of the crew and in some cases eavesdrops on their thoughts, or, in the case of Wash and Zoe, their passions.

She then, somehow, gets her hands on one of Jayne's guns. Mal disarms her, but this display leads Kaylee to tell everyone what River did during their rescue of Mal from Niska. Mal is convinced River's telepathic, and, despite their skepticism, the others tend to agree. Everyone goes to bed while Mal thinks on the matter.

His mental perambulations are interrupted by a bounty hunter named Jubal Early, who boards the ship. He takes down Mal, and locks him in his quarters, and also locks Jayne, Wash and Zoe in theirs. Kaylee is in the engine room, and Early terrorizes her and ties her up, then neutralizes Book. Finally he escorts Simon at gunpoint around Serenity to find River, who isn't in her bunk. She isn't in Inara's shuttle, but Early confines Inara, as well.

Finally, River "shows" herself, as a disembodied voice, telling Early that she has blended her consciousness with the ship. She has become Serenity.

It's a bluff, however, she's on Early's ship, stalling him while she wakes up the crew and gets them to take care of the bounty hunter. Eventually, Early is left tumbling through space, while River is welcomed back by the crew. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode is the winner of my "Best Episode of Firefly" award.
- Early's character was inspired by Boba Fett from Star Wars.
- Jubal Early was named after Confederate general Jubal Anderson Early, who fought in the American civil war on the side of the south. It is a perhaps deliberate historical irony that an African American actor played a character named after Confederate general.

Remarkable Scenes
- River walking through the ship, hearing the thoughts of the crew.
- River stepping on a twig in the cargo bay, then, in a cut, the entire cargo bay being filled with leaves and twigs.
- River holding the twig which is revealed in a cut to actually be a gun that she is perceiving to be a twig.
- Mal: "If I want a lot of medical jargon, I'll talk to a doctor." Simon: "You are talking to a doctor." Mal: "Yeah. Okay. My point is coulda been you she might have shot just then. The doctor, as you just made note of."
- The crew discussing their issues with River. I liked the various tidbits of continuity in here. Mal makes a reference to Jayne's betrayal (Ariel), Jayne makes a reference to her coming at him with a butcher knife (Ariel), and Kaylee makes a reference to River saving her during the assault on Niska (War Stories).
- The bounty hunter boarding Serenity.
- Kaylee telling her story about River saving her while River listens in, psychically.
- Mal: "I find River pleasant enough myself, but she does have an oddness to her. And I ain't just talking about her proficiency with firearms."
- Wash: "Psychic though? That sounds like something out of science fiction." Zoe: "We live in a space ship, dear."
- The bounty hunter taking down Mal.
- The bounty hunter surprising Kaylee. Kaylee: "How did you get on..?" The bounty hunter: "Strays the mind a bit, don't it?"
- Early forcing Simon to help him find River by threatening Kaylee.
- Early: "They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified, but they don't make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?"
- Early: "It's not your moment, doctor."
- Early: "Man is stronger by far than woman, yet only woman can create a child. Does that seem right to you?"
- River talking to Early, claiming to have "melted" and become the ship.
- Early: "Where'd she go?" Simon: "I can't keep track of her when she's not incorporeally possessing a space ship. Don't look at me!" Early: "That's some nonsensical crap. Ain't nobody can do that."
- The revelation that River got aboard Early's ship.
- Mal spinning Early off into space to float away and die.
- Simon direcing his own surgery.

My Review
Easily the best episode, Objects in Space finishes off Firefly in style. Unfortunately, due to Firefly's cancellation, it was not possible to quite wrap up all the ongoing long term plot threads. In fact, this episode further complicates them with regards to Book and River to some extent while leaving others hanging such as Mal and Inara. However, were the series allowed to continue I'm sure these issues would have been dealt with.

Instead, I choose to grade this episode solely on its own merits and it has merits aplenty. Firstly, this episode finally gives us a much fuller profile of just who River is and what was done to her. It has been fairly obvious for some time that she has some sort of psychic ability and this episode further confirms it as she's seen directly reading the minds of the crew. In doing so, she comes across one interesting piece of new information when Book thinks to himself: "I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not. So where does that put you?"

The meaning of that statement is ambiguous but it lends weight to the pre established idea that Book has a rather colorful and less than honorable past. The line from Early "that ain't a shepherd" also speaks to this idea. Speaking of Early, he is easily the most compelling antagonist depicted on the show. Between his quirky dialog and the well crafted music underscoring his actions, he comes across as a combination of fascinating, menacing, and hilarious all in one. His role in the story and what it does for River's character easily earn this episode its perfect score.

Overall, it is sad that this amazing show was canceled, especially so early in its production. Personally, I believe Firefly had the potential to be one of the greatest science fiction shows in history if its first fifteen episodes were any indication. It had a few duds, but the overall quality of the storytelling easily rivaled some of the best of Star Trek. Nevertheless, we can all continue to enjoy what episodes were completed and hope some day that the series is reborn in some fashion. No television series deserves to be brought back to life more than Firefly.

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