Ok, so I caved. Firefly never grabbed me the way Joss' other shows did but October is just too long to wait for season 2 of Dollhouse on DVD. Please note I haven't seen the entire series yet so please avoid spoilers for me.
The 'treasure' mislead is very clever indeed as is the mole, we think it's Simon then Book. Love Kaylee's parasol. The Mal/Jayne face off at dinner is powerful as is Mal telling Jayne to shut up on Persephone but then agreeing he's actually right. It's a small gesture but love it when Simon is about to give River an injection and she sticks her tongue out.
The opening battle scenes are too dark, I can barely work out what's going on. They appear to operate on Kaylee yet keep her clothes on (like Buffy at the end of season 6). Passing the Reaver ship is a tense moment but stupid when you think about the physics as Joss admits on the commentary. Shouldn't Jayne bring his own rifle to the gunfight, what if there were no snipers? What if they're rifles were inaccurate/faulty and how does he use a weapon not zeroed for him? The Reavers just letting the Serenity go then arbitarily coming back for it later with no adequate expectation is just stupid and lazy writing or am I trying to find logic in the actions of madmen? (The Reavers, not the writers). Can't they just take the markings off the food? Why does Mal peg the guy in the hat for the best shot when he's got an ancient Colt repeater rifle? How come Mal shoots Dobson in the head yet he doesn't bleed as he and Jayane chuck him out the door?
Mal; "How's business?"
Inarra; "None of yours"
Zoe; "She shot you"
Mal; "Yeah, she did a little bit"
plus a new spin on the old Whedon fallback "Standing right here!"
Packing heat; whilst Buffy was an avowedly anti-gun series Joss seems to have changed his mind from season 4 of Angel onwards. Maybe he got robbed? AI and Dollhouse often use guns (Echo, demonstrating her familiarity with a pistol "4 brothers, none Democrats"). Firefly takes that to a new level and is a show Frank Castle would almost dig;
Mal and Jayne pack Colt revolver style pistols, Zoe uses a cut-off Winchester carbine. They both use H&K G36's in the war and Mal uses a .50cal Chinise anti-aircraft machine gun to down the skiff. Dobson uses an Astra pistol and a couple of different models of Sig, one of which Simon keeps. Anyone tell me the sniper rifle Jayne uses?
Naked Summer Glau, a cause for joy as anyone who ever watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles knows ("Put'em back in the holster"). Mal tells Kaylee he's considering tying her up, gagging her and throwing her into the hold. She then kisses him and says she loves him. Much like Willow maybe there's a lot of kink beneath that sweet and innocent exterior? "Force is ok" Wash likes to watch Zoe bathe, Inarra also does it unabashedly in front of Book, causing him to gawp. Kaylee certainly knows how to eat a strawberry, maybe Inarra taught her how? Zoe says the Reavers will "Rape us to death" if they are boarded.
Notches on the Serenity bedpost;
Inarra;1-a paying customer who wishes to make her his kept woman
Wash; 1-the missus
Zoe; 1-the hubby
Is it just me or does the Dortmunder resemble the World Trade Centre? The might of 'imperialism' cruising for a fall? I always figured all spaceships were sleek to enable them to perform at least some atmospheric flight but maybe the Dortmunder is like a supertanker, so vast that it never sees port. Some nice kinship between Inarra and Kaylee, they seem tight, Inarra describing her as 'very dear'. Kaylee thinks River is a 'real beauty' and calls her 'sweetie'. Some have argued for an incestuous subtext between Simon and River in the same way people saw it between Spike/his mum, Buffy/Dawn/Joyce, Connor/Cordelia. You can almost see why they'd think that, Simon hugging naked River and the little stroking gesture when he holds her hand but as with the other examples I'm not convinced, I just think they're a very devoted brother and sister (they're all each other have in the world).
When Book comments that the Serenity "Doesn't look like much" Kaylee replies that "She'll fool you", are they flirting? Joss comments she's 'Open to everyone'.
Mal thinks he's better than Badger and Badger knows it and resents it. Of course Mal also thinks Simon is a better than him 'rich boy' and he resents that, possibly because Simon epitomises the Alliance.
How'd they get away with that?
'Good dogs', funny but hoooooooo! Also Mal shooting the horse! Mal fooling Simon about Kaylee dying is nasty as hell. Zoe, Jayne and Mal open fire on Patience and her gang first with Zoe also shooting the guy in the back as he tries to flee, Jayne threatening Dobson with knife torture and Mal causually gunning him down when the Reavers arrive.
Total Serenity crew; 7(8?)
Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, Kaylee, Inarra. Mal invites Simon to join and I guess River comes with him? Book not really part of the team yet.
Subverting the Hollywood cliche;
We see Mal go to the bathroom on a spaceship, something only Babylon 5 has shown before. Simon's dramatic, slow motion run to the sick bay (much like Buffy in Becoming) only to find his patitent alive and well. The crew then laugh uproariously at him. The crew doesn't kill the Reavers but are happy enough to simply get away with their lives.
Whedon cliches; (see I spelt it right!);
Devoted siblings, haunted charismatic leading man. Teenage girls with superpowers. Hookers. Arguments where everyone talks over one another. Naked girls in boxes (like Darla in Angel)
The Fed tied up.
Women good/men bad;
Mal's jealous attitude towards Inarra is very nasty, you can see why Joss cast Nathan Fillon as the misogynistic Caleb in the last season of Buffy. Inarra's trick commenting about her speeding up the clock was probably intended as a joke but he instantly realises it was a huge mistake, inadvertently insulting her.
Mal; 7-presuming the skiff is manned Mal kills at least 3 Alliance soldiers, 2 of Patience's thugs, Dobson and Patience's horse. The way Mal and Jayne dump the body is gruesomely callous but when the Reavers are coming I guess you don't hang about.
Zoe; 2-2 off Patience's men, one of whom she shoots in the back.
Jayne; 2-the same
Happy high-class hookers in Space (the title the porn industry wished they'd thought of!);
Prostitution a recurring theme in the Whedonverse, here the nature of ladies (and gentlemen) of the night and their work is explored.
Ironically Inarra the high class hooker is considered the one who makes the honest living in the crew, some planet's not even letting a ship dock unless they have companion onboard. Book comes across less refined hookers plying their trade at Eavesdown spacedocks. Mal seems to take perverse delight in teasing Inarra by describing her as a 'whore'. She teases him back saying she gave Simon '... a free thrust'. Mal thinks River is a sex slave Simon is smuggling to the frontier.
Know the face?
Whedon alumni- Joss likes to reuse the same actors in his series, let's count up their appearances (let me know if I miss any)
Nathan Fillon-3; Firefly, Caleb in S7 of Buffy and Dr Horrible
Gina Torres-2; Firefly and Jasmine in S4 of Angel
Alan Tudyk-2; Firefly and the villainous/heroic(?) Alpha in Dollhouse (haven't seen season 2 so don't spoil it for me)
Adam Baldwin-2; Firefly and Marcus Hamilton in S5 of Angel
Summer Glau-3; Firefly, Dollhouse and the prima ballerina in the LEGENDARY S4 Angel ep 'Waiting in the wings'.
Carlos Jacott-3; The Fed in Firefly, Ken in the 'Anne' ep of Buffy and Richard Straley in 'The Bachelor Party' ep of Angel.
Andy Umberger;3-the captain of the Dortmunder in Firefly, D'Hoffryn in Buffy, the psychic surgeon in the Angel ep 'I fall to pieces'.
Mark Shepherd;2-Badger in Firefly and later turns up as one of Ballard's FBI colleagues in Dollhouse. Also a BSG alumni.
Alliance good or bad?;
It says much for the skill of Joss' writing that he could have made the Serenity crew the out and out good guys and the Alliance all bad. But throughout the series we see that actually the order and civilizing influence of the Alliance is very good news for a great many people. Not everyone supports Mal and his crew of outlaws who like the galaxy wild and untamed, resenting that it's "getting awfully crowded in my sky" (one man's freedom another man's anarchy?). Inarra says it best when she declares that Mal likes being 'lost in the woods' whilst Mal's view is that 'goverments are for getting in a man's way'. At the end when they've escaped Mal declares them 'Out of the woods'.
In many ways they're like the Roundheads vs the Cavaliers in the War of the Three Kingdoms (modern historians shy away from the term 'English civil war' as it also involved Ireland and Scotland and Britain didn't exist yet), the Confedracy vs Union in the US Civil War and the Republicans vs Nationalists in Spain, one side with the romance and glamour and one side with the might and right. As the end of the battle of Serenity shows romance and glamour are no match for unity of purpose and an overwhelming military-industrial complex. Note the Alliance soldiers wear Nazi stormtrooper style coal-scuttle helmets.
Much like Dollhouse or Angel Investigations taking over WR&H in the final season here we have shades of grey. I wonder if Joss ever watched the British sci-fi series Blake's 7 when he lived in the UK? It also has a small band of rebels in a spaceship pursued by an all powerful and authoritarian Terran Federation. Here the Alliance cruiser leaves the Serenity alone in order to rescue the survivors from their fake distress call, a low trick in anyone's book. Badger appears to be dealing in slaves which you would imagine wouldn't happen in Alliance territory (US Civil War again?). The Fed doesn't kill Book or Kaylee even though he has the opportunity and motive too, he even apologises for accidentally shooting her and says he doesn't want to hurt anyone. He seems a good enough guy just doing what he considers a perfectly reasonable job. His argument to Simon about coming back to the Alliance almost seems to persuade him. Even Shepherd is unsure who is right or wrong.
Plenty of stuff showing Zoe and Mal shacking up together during the war before she met Wash
If you're old enough you surely remember the wonderful documentary series 'The American Civil War', the emotive Serenity music strongly resembles it. Mal speaks of the Alliance 'waltzing through serenity valley' much in the same way Sherman went 'marching through Georgia'. Shooting the horse is very Magnificent 7 whilst Zoe's cut down carbine is very Steve McQueen.
Weak tea=not good
Skiff=Alliance attack craft
Companion=high class courtesan
Shot; Zoe shot but her body armour takes the hit
Mal; 2-shot by Patience offscreen and onscreen.
Kaylee;1-shot by Dobson
Simon kicked around by everyone, Book bludgeoned.
Reminds me off;
Do we need to say 'Millenium Falcon', right down to it's gunslinging captain? (does this mean Jayne is Chewie?)
The skiff crashing is very reminiscent of the dropship impacting in Aliens. Speaking of which the whole Firefly idea is very similar to what Joss created in Alien 4 for The Betty, an outdated ship full of outlaws with a glamorous female second in command, River and Jayne strongly resembling Winonna Ryder's and Ron Pearlman's characters. Ripley is a female Mal at the end, having regained her crew, her ship, her little girl and her humanity and finally made it back to Earth (Alien 4 is not a great film but at least rescues the series after the travesty of Alien3, the worst sequal of all time). Interestingly the Firefly set is built upon the one they used for filming Alien 4 and Joss comments that the flightdeck of the ship was modelled on that of the Nostromo from Alien.
Wash is very Xander with his battling dinosaurs whilst Kaylee is very Willow/Fred, Joss even describes her as having the Alysson Hannigan quality. Joss describes Jayne as 'the Cordelia' of the group in that he says out loud what everyone is thinking (sorry Adam, I think Charisma is a LOT prettier)
The crybaby trick is reminiscent of Sheriden's ruse during the battle of the line in Babylon 5. The ship 'Brutus' at the spacedocks remind anyone else of Colonial One from BSG? Simon remind anyone else of Christian Bale? Simon/River very Buffy/Dawn and 'The Gift' is even mentioned. The Zoe/Mal/Wash relationship somewhat similar to Willow, Xander and Oz/Tara, great asexual love between the first 2 causing a little resentment and tension with the third, romantic partner. The Alliance rather resemble the Initiative from season 4 Buffy. The scene where we think Kayleigh has died is reminiscent of Cordy in 'Lovers Walk'. 'Crazy Ivan' is a term used in 'The Hunt for Red October' (when a Soviet sub circles around to check if it's being followed). Simon says to River 'You're a dummy' just as Willow says to Tara at the end of the S5 Buffy ep 'Family'. Badger checking the slave's teeth may have been taken from Spartacus.
Questions and observations;
Note Mal kisses his cross before taking on the skiff. Is that why he shows hostility to Book later over grace, he's lost his faith? Note even Jayne does say grace. Mal seems to resent Simon as a 'rich kid', he's a very working class hero. Simon tells Mal to dope Kaylee which you shouldn't do with a stomach wound but maybe their drugs are more advanced? Who are the underground movement Simon claims helped him free River? Did Jayne free the Fed? The Serenity reminds me not so much of a bug as off a goose. I always thought at the end Wash was giving some sort of weird futuristic thumbs up, hilarious to think he's actually faking steering the ship and in the widescreen we see there's no control there. Mal tries to put his past behind him but still can't give up his resentment against the Alliance, won't beg to work for them. He also resents Inarra, Book and pretty much everyone. In the future they still use platinum for money.
Marks out of 10; 7/10, interesting but not brilliant from the beginning by any means