Firefly Watch: Episodes 4 and 5

This is my third post in my watch of Joss Whedon’s Firefly.  The home page for every post of the Firefly watch can be found here.

Firefly Episode 4 – Shindig

 

Although Mal is obviously the main character of the show, this episode really does a lot to reinforce aspects of his character that we’ve seen before.  He is very impulsive, constantly acting first and then dealing with the consequences.  He also tends to have a bit of “open mouth, insert foot” syndrome going on, but it leads to some comical bits throughout the show.

Once again I really like Kaylee in this episode, she brings a light-hearted innocence to the show that it really needs.  This episode also does a fantastic job of further reinforcing Mal’s loyalty towards his crew.  He upsets Kaylee by making fun of the dresses she was looking at, and you can immediately see his remorse.  So of course he remedies this by inviting her to join him as he gets an invitation to a ball where she can wear the exact dress she was looking at earlier in the episode.

This episode also does a good job of showing the dynamic between Mal and Inara.  It’s been hinted at in other episodes that Mal and Inara care about each other, but this one really shows just how much they do.  The fact that Mal is willing to engage in a sword duel to defend her honor is fun.  He backs this up by going through with the duel even when Inara offers him a way to get out of it.  Their dynamic is further strengthened when Inara offers to stay on the planet in order to protect Mal.

One thing that I was pleased with was the execution of the swordfight.  Mal is obviously out of his league, and it shows because he is quickly outmatched, further highlighted by the comment that Atherton is playing with him.  But ultimately Mal is able to win because of the impulsivity that got him in this situation in the first place.

Quote time: “Mercy is the mark of a great man,” Mal stabs Atherton, “guess I’m just a good man,” Mal stabs him again, “well I’m alright.”

Firefly Episode 5 – Safe

 

Safe is a slightly different episode from the rest thus far.  For one, this episode is split into two different story parts.  One story starts to answer some of the questions that have been raised throughout the course of the show, and the other part brings up some other strange questions.

I liked the parts of the episode that showed Simon and River’s background.  It was interesting to see the dynamic they had before River was taken away.  I think it went a long way towards showing why Simon went through so much to try and rescue her.  The scenes involving Simon’s parents further helped to explain their family dynamic, because their parents are pompous assholes who care about nothing more than how good they look to the rest of society.

The other part of the episode raised more questions than it answered.  As they’re trying to sell off the cattle they acquired for transport at the end of the fourth episode, Shepherd Book is shot.  Just before he’s shot, Simon is abducted.  Ultimately they decide to take Book to an Alliance ship for medical aid.  The officer of course immediately refuses their request, until Book gives him an ID card, which promptly gets him released.  Immediately you realize that Book has something in his past that he hasn’t told to the rest of the crew, and when Mal asks him about it at the end of the episode, he plays it off and doesn’t tell him, leaving you wondering what happened.

The part of the story with Simon and River had some problems for me.  I can understand that they’re taken to a backwater town in the middle of nowhere, but this is the 26th century, I think the idea of the people threatening to burn River as a witch is a little bit too much of a stretch for me.  I also had a problem with the very end of the episode.  I’m really glad that Mal decided to come back for them, but I thought that it ruined a chance for Simon to shine.  Yes, he’s willing to sacrifice himself for his sister; we already know that because he threw away a promising career.  I think they missed a really good chance to show him growing as a character by having Simon get them away from the villagers before Mal shows up to save them.

Part of my reaction with the ending comes from the knowledge that the show only lasted for 14 episodes.  I’m sure they were planning on the show going on much longer, and they really wanted to hammer Mal’s character in place early on in the show, hence why he gets the heroic moment here.  But it still felt like a missed opportunity.  Overall, this is probably the weakest episode of the show thus far, but it still had some interesting moments.

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