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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TV Review:Firefly

Premise:A team of space bandits and assorted passengers face enemies ranging from simple crooks to the government.

Cast:Nathan Fillion as Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, Gina Torres as Zoë Washburne, Alan Tudyk as Hoban "Wash" Washburne, Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra, Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb, Jewel Staite as Kaylee Frye, Ron Glass as Shepard Book, Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam, Summer Glau as River Tam, Mark Sheppard as Badger, Michael Fairman as Adelai Niska, Jeff Ricketts and Dennis Cockrum as the Blue Gloves, Christina Hendricks as Saffron

Genres:Sci-fi, western

Notes:Poster taken from IMDB. Updated 12/27/2016 to change some of the wording.

Pros:Good characters. Witty dialogue. Scary villains. Interesting stories.

Cons:Abandoned storylines. A few annoying couples. Some unevenly rendered shots.

Space thieves! Rambling psychics! Government experiments! All can be found in this popular but short Joss Whedon series.

Nathan Fillion is perfect as Captain Malcolm Reynolds (or "Mal" for short). He's always ready with a quip, but at the same time, it's obvious he has some personal issues to deal with. And Jayne, the greedy, crude, tough-guy mercenary, is fun to watch and also well-acted. You also have Inara (a high-class sex worker), Kaylee (the perky mechanic), Zoë (Mal's war buddy and first mate), Wash (the goofy pilot who's married to Zoë), Shepard Book (a preacher with an implicitly checkered past), Simon (a socially awkward doctor on the run), and River (Simon's tortured and insane sister). The majority of them are interesting to watch and it's fun to listen to their dialogue.

But even with all the humor and snarkiness, there's a seriousness to it thanks to several of the villains. For instance, the Reavers are one of the scariest sci-fi villains I know of. The most basic info about them is that they rape, kill, and eat their victims (not necessarily in that order), and every new thing we learn about them only serves to increase the disturbing factor. You've also got Adelai Niska, a crime boss who punishes failure with torture and death, and the subjects of River's rhyme "Two by two, hands of blue".

One of my biggest problems with this show has to do with the fact that several potentially good story-lines never came to fruition. Book's past? It's dealt with in a comic, but not in a really satisfying way. River's issue with Blue Sun? Never fully explored. Any romantic or sexual tension? Unresolved. Had it gone on for just one season more, this might not have been such an issue.

Speaking of romance, the two big teased couples (Mal/Inara and Kaylee/Simon) often have the characters fight and fight, meaning we hardly get to see any sweet or happy moments. This begs the question of how good a couple they'd actually make and is just plain annoying to watch after a few episodes. However, the marriage between Wash and Zoë was the best romance to be seen. It's not unrealistically good, but they have enough real chemistry that it's something you can support.

Overall, it is a great show that should have lasted longer. If you like space sci-fi minus aliens, check it out.

Sex:Passenger Inara is a Companion, which is essentially a high-class sex worker. She's shown with her various (usually male) clients. Other references to sex work are made as well, and the word "wh*re" sees plenty of usage. Characters have some amount of sexual tension going on. A married couple gets quite affectionate and isn't exactly shy about referencing their sex life. Some villains threaten women with rape and make sexist comments. A woman seduces and marries multiple men.
A couple episodes show naked men from the back (with obvious butt nudity). Another shows a naked woman in a fetal position (nothing R-rated, though). Wash at one point gets jealous of the close relationship between Mal and Zoë. Characters are shown in bed together. Jayne enjoys leering at various women and making crude quips. There's some other innuendo. Women show cleavage and midriff. Men go shirtless.

Violence:Plenty of shootouts, resulting in death and injury. There are fist fights and stabbings too. Characters pick up scrapes and other wounds. Bar fights tend to happen. Flashbacks show war violence and imply torture. River overturns various objects and attacks people in her worse moments. People vomit from stress and drugs.
Then there are the Reavers. These creatures are said to rape their victims to death, eat them, and use their skin for clothing (and it's not guaranteed to be in that order). They also like to force some to watch, causing some major psychological breakdowns.
In one episode, characters are tortured (electrocuted mainly, and one loses an ear). A guy is kicked into a engine (no blood). Someone gets slammed in the head with a flashlight. Government lackeys use a device that causes victims to bleed from their orifices as they die in agony. A man mutilates himself (mostly offscreen). A colony tries to burn someone at the stake. An official threatens to light a man on fire.

Language:People often use Chinese words, old-fashioned English, or made-up words to curse ("gorram" seems to be their equivalent of "g*dd*mn). But lots of modern curses (including "G*d", "h*ll", "d**n", "arse", "p*ss", "crap", "bas**rd", "p*cker", and "a**") and innuendos are still used. The words "whore" and variations of it are said fairly often. The word "quim" (an old-fashioned equivalent of "c*nt") is used in one episode.

Drugs/Alcohol:Bars are not uncommon sights. Drugs are used for medical and sedation purposes. People smoke. Medical supplies get stolen.

Spiritual:Before going to war, Mal was religious. After is a different story, which causes a few issues between him and the preacher Book. Most of the other characters don't mind him or his beliefs, even Inara and the indelicate Jayne. And in spite of hints that he has a less-than-squeaky-clean past, he's portrayed with sympathy and respect.
River is said to be psychic and is established as a telepath. She's also a brilliant scientific mind, which at one point inspires her to "fix" Book's Bible because it doesn't make sense to her. In one episode, she's nearly burned as a witch. Inara talks about finding spiritual compatibility with her clients. In one conversation with Book, she implies she prays for Mal and the crew. Religious artifacts and imagery appear from time to time.

So what did you think?

© 2015 by M.R.R.

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