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Firefly - Season 1 - Episode 09

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

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 6.02

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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]

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


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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