Firefly Watch: Episodes 8 and 9

This is my fifth post discussing Joss Whedon’s Firefly.  Links to the rest of the posts can be found here.

Firefly Episode 8 – Out of Gas


Another dark episode, this time Mal nearly dies because of an explosion on the ship that causes Serenity to lose life support systems.  That ends up only being about half of the episode, because the other half is a flashback showing how Mal found the crew for his ship.  This episode is interesting in that it weaves several different stories together at the same time: Mal trying to fix the ship, the events directly leading up to Mal having to fix the ship, and the flashbacks showing how everyone met.

We know from the opening episode that Zoe fought with Mal in the war against the Alliance, and she’s there from the very beginning, once Mal convinces her to stay at least.  They start looking for people to fill out their crew, and one of the first people they find is Wash, who Zoe immediately hates of course.  Again Wash has the sparsest story, he was simply a pilot for hire who was introduced to Mal through a third party.

Jayne’s backstory is a little different.  He was of course working as a mercenary, and the group he was working with had captured Mal and Zoe.  We already know a lot about Jayne’s character, and this scene ended up being another chance to show Mal being creative in manipulating other people, he talks Jayne into coming to work for him in exchange for a pay raise and his own room, and we all know how that ended up working out.

Inara joining the ship worked out well also.  Even in their first meeting she showed that she was able to manipulate Mal a little by using some logic, in this case by simply saying she’d be able to help more than any other person Mal could have rented the shuttle out to because of her status as a companion.  There were also quite a few jokes in there that came from having seen the show before, that she told Mal he could never barge into her shuttle, as well as yelling at him for calling her a whore and saying it will never happen again.

Kaylee’s story was also interesting, and probably did the best job of emphasizing her current character.  Kaylee had an interest in engines, going as far as to sleep with the original mechanic Mal had hired to fix the ship.  When Mal walks in on them, Kaylee quickly fixes the engine and is quickly hired – once she asks her parents of course.  I thought it did a great job of showing off her innocence, while also explaining why she was starting to be so forward with Simon in some of the earlier episodes.

This episode does a great job of telling the primary story out of order (while it’s been split into two segments) as well as giving a ton of backstory for the characters.  It seems like every show has one episode where they talk about everyone’s backgrounds, this one worked out very well.

Firefly Episode 9 – Ariel


So Simon ‘hires’ the crew to do a job for him so that he can get some information about what happened to his sister.  It’s a relatively easy job, sneak into an alliance hospital, steal a lot of medicine while Simon is running a scan on his sister, and then get out and sell the medicine on the outlying planets.  Really easy when Simon can explain exactly how to do everything, the only problem comes when Jayne decides to turn in Simon and River to the Alliance.

This was a very tense episode; they set up a Mission Impossible type of story, and then immediately throw a wrench into it.  I had one problem with it, if you’re going to do something like that, you wouldn’t leave Jayne with Simon and River, you’d leave Zoe.  Hell, bring Wash or Kaylee in; they’d be able to do the job effectively while not endangering the mission at all.  But if you do that you don’t really have the story, so I’ll accept a little bit of idiot plotting for a quality episode.

All that said, we finally find out part of what was done to River.  They severed her Amygdala from the rest of her brain.  The Amygdala is a part of the central brain that controls emotional reactions, and it being separated would cause a reaction similar to what River has been experiencing throughout the show.  I complain a lot when TV shows, movies, or books get the science or psychology wrong, so I’m pleased to see a show where they get it right.

There was also a bit of a recap of something Jayne said in the first episode, that when the money is good enough to betray Mal, it would be an interesting day.  Well, the money was good enough, and he didn’t see it as a betrayal of Mal, just the doctor.  Mal figured out that Jayne turned on them, only to get double-crossed by the Alliance.  Mal had a little discussion with Jayne about what happened, and I don’t see Jayne trying to turn on anyone in the crew again.

I was also really intrigued by the Alliance doctors who were sent to pick up Simon and River.  They had a very unique weapon that killed people in a rather gruesome way – by causing them to bleed out from every orifice in their body; eyes, nose, nail cuticles, it’s a grisly death, and they’re not shy about using their little toy.  The mystery of who they are and why they want River is slowly unfolding, and I’m really curious to see where it goes in the future.

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  1. I either mentioned outright or hinted earlier that Out of Gas is by far one of my favorite episodes of television. I thought they did such a good job of putting the ‘character origin story’ in the middle of the season (middle-ish) rather than trying to tell origins at the beginning of the show. It was perfect. By that time we are attached to the characters and so a show like this ends up touching all the right emotional buttons. For me it is the episode that is a love letter to fans and a love letter to the show itself. It encapsulates everything I love about the show. Everything. By the time it ends and Mal is standing in the shipyard staring across at what will be Serenity, I am in tears. Every time. Such great television.

    • They really did an excellent job with most of this show. There were a couple of things that I had a problem with, but they were very minor. The characters are so strong throughout the entire show, and that’s really what makes it watchable multiple times. There are a lot of shows that get repetitive and boring if you watch them multiple times, I don’t think that’s true of this show. I’m definitely going to have to buy it on DVD or Blu-ray eventually.

      • I agree. I get different small joys out of it each time I watch it, and with such a great ensemble cast I find myself enjoying different characters and different relationships each time. I too want to snag them on blu-ray in the future. They were on sale for a really good price about two weeks before I bought my new tv and blu-ray player and I’m kicking myself now for not getting them.

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