Episodes 8 through 14
See Firefly before you read on, though. It’s nuthin’ but spoilers.
Out of Gas
Very cool, all the real-science-y stuff here, the vortex of fire getting sucked out of the ship into the vacuum, the vulnerability of travelers in the black… Mal’s tense negotiation with the other ship captain, both of them nervous about letting a stranger onto their only means of transport and life support for hundreds of thousands of miles in every direction: that’s a great example of why Firefly, for all its adherence to principles of hard science (physics, astronomy), is great sociological SF. Like with Inara, too, and the idea that a professional courtesan is the most respectable person on Serenity. Brilliant, and challenging to our own prejudices in the here and now.
“Gravboot ain’t your trouble. I seen the trouble plain as day when I was down there on my back before.” –Kaylee
“Mal, you don’t have to die alone.” –Inara / “Everybody dies alone.” –Mal
This episode is a fantastic example of how well Whedon mixes comedy, drama, and tragedy with such aplomb that the tone never feels forced or phony or anything less than perfectly balanced. It’s rare for a fictional entertainment to approximate the way real life can make you wanna laugh and cry and shake your head in disbelief all at the same time. But from Mal, Zoe, and Jayne trying to memorize technical medical jargon to Simon and River “conspiring” to save a stranger’s life to the creepy MIBs with their brainbleed weapon to Mal’s 26th-century keelhauling of Jayne, this is 45 minutes of emotional roller coaster
“If I’d wanted schooling, I’d have gone to school.” –Jayne
“Next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face.” –Mal, to Jayne
You don’t usually see triangles like the one that rears its ugly head here, though of course there’s only one corner of this triangle who sees a triangle at all: Wash’s jealousy of Zoe’s relationship with Mal is completely understandable, springs completely from all the characters involved, and yet it shows itself so suddenly and so naturally that it feels like something that’s been there all along.
That is totally the Star Trek rock where Kirk fought the Gorn…
Also, in this episode: Funniest. Torture scene. Ever. And the most poignant one, too, Mal and Wash’s bickering just a survival mechanism. The writing here is simply brilliant.
“One of you is gonna fall and die and I’m not cleaning it up.” –Mal, to the misbehaving Kaylee and River
“I’m lost, I’m angry, and I’m armed.” –Mal
“Screw you.” –Wash / “Get in line.” –Mal
“Smelling a lot of ‘if’ comin’ off this plan.” –Jayne
Joss Whedon’s version of The Sting, and who better deserves to be stung than “Saffron”? Also: naked Mal. Yum.
“As a rule, I say girlfolk ain’t to be trusted.” –Jayne
“I can kill you with my brain.” –River, to Jayne
Irony: Mal told that kid in the war that somebody out there had a bullet with his name on it, and that somebody turned out to be Mal. Wow.
Jayne has a mother? Who knits hats? Hard to believe.
“What’d y’all order a dead guy for?” –Jayne
Heart of Gold
Can’t have a Western, sci-fi or otherwise, without the bit in the whorehouse.
“Look, they got boy whores. Isn’t that thoughtful?” –Kaylee
“Malcolm, I’ve been waiting for you to kiss me since I showed you my guns.” –the madam
“One of the virtues of not being puritanical about sex is not feeling embarrassed afterwards. You should look into it.” –Inara, to Mal
Objects in Space
Whedon’s willingness to do almost anything, convention be damned, gets a real workout here with the very unsettling bounty hunter Jubal Early (Richard Brooks), in almost every storytelling way imaginable. Sneaking onto a space ship? Who’da thunk it? Early’s terrorizing of Kaylee may push some limits of TV — all he does it talk to her in his quiet voice, but man, what he says is horrifying.
“That ain’t a shepherd.” –Early, about Book
“Well, here I am.” –Early, floating alone in space