Tor is doing a Firefly rewatch and they have the first episode (“Serenity”) up. Reading the plot synopsis really brought back the sheer density of memorable events – I think the reviewer is right that in many ways, “Serenity” the episode made for a better movie than “Serenity” the movie. Then again, part of what made it work as a pilot was the fast pace. Were it a full hour longer, would it have been as effective? They’d have had to pad some and slow it down some, and that could have hurt.
I like the detailed character analysis, invoking various archetypes:
Mal is wonderfully convincing. The Knight in Sour Armor is pulled off wonderfully with him, especially as it can be questionable with just how much good really is still in him. Yes, he is a man of honor in a den of thieves, but he nonchalantly killed Dobson and dumped the body simply because he did not have time to deal with it. Not the sign of exactly a moral person that has just given up on ideals.
Zoe is actually pretty flat in the pilot. She is the stalwart second in command from her first moment on screen and sticks to it the entire time. You get a little depth on her with her interactions with Wash, but those are really far more building for him than her.
Which brings us to Wash and three words: Witty Comic Relief. When a manâ€™s opening scene is with plastic dinosaurs at a spaceshipâ€™s helm, you might think he is there for pure silly, but he manages to throw in enough snark to be witty instead. I also love his husbandly concern, both in pleading with Zoe to stand up to Mal and when he is talking to Simon. Wash is a person, and that is all there is to it, perhaps the most balanced and â€œnormally relatableâ€ on the ship.
Jayne, on the other hand, is the crass, silly comic relief. Yes he has his dangerous, redneck moments, but, especially in the pilot, he is there to be the dumb, funny, gun-totting hick. He serves as a foil to Mal, and does so faithfully well. I love him later in the series, but here, he is really just a secondary.
Kaylee. Nuff said. OK, not really, but I will give even more full disclosure and say that if I was a fourteen year old boy, there would be a huge poster of Jewel Staite in my bedroom. Now that we are past the creepy, Kaylee is the female counterpart to Wash on the ship. She is centered and relatable, and she serves as the Earth Mother. She is open and honest and sees through to the real side of people (except for Dobson, I guess, but no one is perfect). And sheâ€™s a hot girl whoâ€™s a grease monkey. Thereâ€™s that too.
Inara, I imagine, is who most boys have on their walls, despite their ages. I will admit, she plays the courtesan-geisha amazingly well, with both her role as shipâ€™s counselor (even the preacher goes to her for benediction) and moral compass. I also enjoyed that, on a network television show, we had a main character who was able to show sexuality as something positive and wholesome, and on Fox at that. Her mild romantic tension with Mal is already well established here, and I am sure the shippers rejoice at something to ship over. I, for one, enjoy the dynamic it adds to both of them.
Book is very quickly made into a mystery for us. He goes from slightly awkward preacher to ninja in point-three-five seconds flat, and then back to a somewhat unsuspecting preacher. I know that, with the movie, some have speculated that he was once an Operative, but thus far, nothing is solidly canon, so we can only guess. His moral conundrum was delivered quite well, though.
Simonâ€™s mislead as the villain was actually really good, â€™cause it got me the first time I watched this, and I had seen the movie (albeit I couldnâ€™t remember anything beyond River killing everything). His stiffness is well played for the rich kid who doesnâ€™t really know how to be a fugitive, and bumbling Dobson had completely thrown me off too. Later, once Simon starts to open up to the crew, he really does an amazing job of being the protective big brother that gladly and willingly gave up everything for his sister. Still, he never completely shrugs off that dangerous aura about him, and we as the view can just tell there is more to him than meets the eye. After all, he did jump off a catwalk to save River.
And then thereâ€™s River. River is really just a Mac Guffin in this episode. Sheâ€™s damaged goods, hysterical, and who knows what sheâ€™s going to amount to. So for now, Hi River, Bye River.
Of course these are from the series pilot. It’s amazing just how much each of these characters were fleshed out over the course of the series, despite it being truncated. Of them all, I think Jayne is the one with the most effective character arc, with Zoe coming in second. All the others, you basically have a good sense for who they are from the pilot alone, which is a mark of good storytelling (especially since despite being true to their core, they were never boxed in, like poor Ensign Kim on Voyager). It’s hard to do an ensemble where everyone is introduced, and then everyone is given a chance to shine. Firefly easily achieves this feat in the first episode.
My favorite scene: the scene of everyone laughing at Simon’s expense. My favorite line: “Well, you’re a dummy.” My favorite visual: the aerial dogfight with the Reaver:
I took some other screenshots from the pilot episode a while back that also really bring back fond memories… what a great show. Sigh.