In the third episode of Firefly, Whedon and crew tackle the abandoned spaceship trope to crank up the suspense. When Mal discovers what is on the ship (and what did it), we see the captain in fear for the very first time. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Firefly.
Man, this show is getting to be pretty fantastic. I think it’s important to acknowledge that the opening 15 minutes or so of this episode is a trope that pops up in science fiction fairly often. That’s not to say this episode doesn’t do the “abandoned spaceship floating around” trope very well. As Mal and Zoe explore the ship, we’re given glances at children’s toys and a solitary red balloon. Because there are few things creepier than random children’s shit strewn about a vacant space. right.
The silence of the ship is what’s creepiest here though. I think that’s one of the things that can unsettle me most when I’m watching a TV episode or a movie. It adds to the sensation that something is abandoned and open. It makes it all the more scarier.
The episode continues to venture into the creepy as they realize that the entire vessel, which should be holding 14 families, is completely empty. The discovery of some valuable Alliance supplies at least gives them some validation for boarding the ship, but then Riverâ€¦.oh River.
I don’t get her quite yet. She has some mysterious connection to people, their thoughts, and their motivations; she continues to show that she can mutter a non sequitur phrase that means something important later in the episode. What did they do to her brain??? DON’T ANSWER THAT.
Her strange thoughts and comments lead the crew to discover bodies hanging from the ceiling. For real. I literally yelled at the TV, “WHAT THE FUCK.” But what happened next was even worse: the look on Mal’s face.
Mal’s been pretty fearless this entire time. A look of caution might slip on to his face every now and then, but he’s largely a man with few fears. So when he immediately orders everyone to meet in the engine room, his face suddenly turning to fright, it disturbed me more than anything else in the entire 42 minutes.
Reavers. Reavers did it. I still don’t know exactly what Reavers are or what they look like, but this episode continues to adds to their mythology: they are cannibals who faced the nothingness at the “edge of the galaxy” and lost everything that made them human. They’re a faceless enemy at this point, but the threat of their existence scares Mal. And if they scare mall, they absolutely terrify Jayne, who starts sweating again once Mal reveals what he thinks happens aboard the ship. I’m interested to know if there is a backstory to Jayne’s fear or if the Reavers are something that everyone fears.
I appreciated the black humor in the idea that as the crew solved one problem, they continued to be forced to deal with one worse than the one before it. As Book and Simon help deal with the bodies, Kaylee has to deal with a potentially damning booby trap on the ship. And even when that is solved, the actual worst thing arrives: an Alliance cruiser, and one they can’t even escape.
“This soon???” I thought to myself. We’re only into the third episode and River and Simon’s fugitive status is being put to the taste. (This show is wasting no time at all.) Simon’s anger at Mal potentially preparing to hand them over is raw and realistic, but I found myself drawn more to the idea Simon brings up: Did Mal bring them on board to act as a bargaining tool in case the Alliance came on their ship?
The thing is, I still cannot figure out Mal. I said it in the last review, but his own moral compass seems to be entirely arbitrary. When I thought that he was being benevolent in taking the bodies down in the abandoned ship to give them a final ceremony, I was immediately shown that he was actually doing it so that him and Kaylee could be alone to deal with the booby trap.
Mal’s a pragmatic captain, seemingly always looking for a way out or a way in. While he certainly cares for his crew dearly, other people are just obstacles or pawns to him. He doesn’t get attached and he’ll do as he needs to in order to get what he wants. But even strict pragmatism doesn’t seem to describe him faithfully. When Mal realizes the lone survivor they picked up has sliced his tongue in two because he is turning into a Reaver, it would have been more pragmatic to not tell the Alliance sergeant what was happening; surely, when the man attacked the Alliance crew, Mal could attempt to make an escape, no?
Mal, you are a tricky one.
The interrogation scenes were an ingenuous method for us to get a slight bit of background on the characters, but mostly worked so well to see the contrast between Wash and his wife Zoe. Their chemistry is a bit Hermione and Ron, isn’t it?Â It’s a testament to how well they’re written that I don’t question their pairing at all.
I’m pretty much hooked at this point. The show isn’t really wanly, it’s entertaining, and the characters and their dialogue are what set it apart from other science fiction shows. Ugh, too bad there’s only one season of this. I could do with more!
- “We’re all doomed! Who’s flying this thing?” ILU WASH, NEVER CHANGE.
- If I ever go into any place on some sort of exploration mission and there is uneaten food sitting at the table, I will immediately turn around and never come back. I’m sorry, that has never been a good sign in the history of everything forever.
- I laughed at Jayne’s joke on Simon.
- CREEPY DOLLS. REALLY?
- “Not now, dear.” Oh, Zoe, you are so badass that dismissing your husband is hilarious.
- “Besides, if I mess up, it’s not like you’ll be able to yell at me.” Even in the worst situations, Kaylee still has something to say that makes me smile.
- I’m totally into the subversive story for why the ship is named Serenity.
- Well, as it stands, Mal has killed a person at the end of each episode so far. And yes, I will keep track of the body count.