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By Shamus
on Tuesday Aug 22, 2006
Filed under:


Following up on my gushing about Firefly the other day, here is my favorite moment from the show. This is where it really hooked me:

In the pilot episode there is a character who poses as a passenger, but who turns out to be a bounty hunter. He causes some trouble, then they catch him and lock him up. Then another, much larger and more immediate problem comes along. During the confusion he gets loose and takes River (a teenage girl) hostage. Now, the audience saw this coming. Everyone did. I got irritated, as I always do. I heaved a big sigh. Would one of you guys just shoot this bastard?

Then the captain strides in and does exactly that. No fuss. No gunplay. No moment of hesitation. No quips or trash talk or moralizing or negotiating. No trickery. No suspense about the bad guy shooting the girl or not. Mal just strides into the room and guns down the bad guy before he’s done issuing his demands. The captain doesn’t break stride, and – more importantly – neither does the plot.

After things settle down there is no angsty Hollywood hand-wringing over killing this guy. None of that “killing him will make us just as bad as he is” nonsense. The series did this sort of thing time and again, setting up what looked like cliché situations and then shocking the audience simply by avoiding the contrived and preachy outcome and having the characters do something reasonable. Firefly is a grim, stark cure for Star Trekian idealism.

Dear Hollywood: More like this one, please.

Comments (13)

  1. BeckoningChasm says:

    The series probably caught me at the end of the episode where they were hired by that old evil guy. The captain offers the lead henchman the return of the money, the lead henchman gets kicked…somewhere. (Trying not to spoil it.) And the captain goes to the next guy, who is much more amenable.

  2. HC says:

    Niska was great. I’m sorry they had to kill him off, but if we lost Adelai Niska, we got War Stories in exchange. And that was a great episode. Not as strong as Ariel, but one of the top episodes of the series.

    I can’t remember when I got hooked, but it probably involved Jayne. ‘Pain is scary.’ ‘Not all of her has to be.’ ‘Money wasn’t good enough.’ And that’s just the pilot!

    Or maybe it was that time Mal played a practical joke on Simon – another one of those situations where they play with cliche expectations.

  3. clc says:

    Another great example from the pilot: a gunfight with the enemy who’s using a horse for cover. Mal assesses the situation and then calmly shoots the horse…

  4. Lynn S says:

    That’s one of my favorite moments too. I have so many favorite moments though… and so many great lines.

  5. Jurrubin says:

    My favorite opening hook was the episode that opens with Mal sitting alone and naked on a rock in a desert. The camera zooms in and he says, “Yeah, that went well.”

    There was _no_way_ I was going to change the channel without finding out what happened! Firefly is truly a masterpiece. Pity the powers that be weren’t smart enough to figure that out.

  6. Katie says:

    I love this show, i hadnt even heard of it til i saw serentity (which doesnt do the show justice), then hadnt even seen an apisode til a coworker insisted i borrow season 1 on dvd. The last episode, i was so depressed that was it. DEPRESSED. And i still feel that way. Too many great lines and scenes to mention. I love all the characters, except River’s whining got very irritating-but obviously, given time they would have helped us out with her. Jayne is awesome. “this is my very favorite gun”…”i call her veira.” but they all are!
    They really messed up letting this one go.

  7. Carl the Bold says:

    Can I tie to things from this blog together? Firefly and the Dream Cast ideas?

    My brother and I were discussing how the casting would go when the Muppets did their version of Serenity.

    Mal would, of course, be played by Kermit, which leaves…
    Inara to be played by Piggy. Think of the beautiful piggish irony.
    Wash would be done by Fozzie, and well, at that. “Oh God, Oh God, we’re all gonna die! Waka waka!”
    We wavered back and forth with some of the others (Gonzo as Niska?), but he had the brilliant idea of having Animal portray River! Quote: “Two by Two. Hands of Blue. TWO BY TWO. HANDS OF BLUE! *TWO BY TWO! HANDS OF BLUE!!!!*”

    Then, after a little poking, we found we were too late…


  8. -Chipper says:

    After reading this post I watched the series & had gotten used to the idea that it did NOT follow all the tired old tropes (as Shamus pointed out). So I wasn’t expecting it when they did, and it was a nice surprise.

    Spoiler alert *********** Aoooghaaa aoooogha Spoiler alert!

    In the episode, “Our Mrs. Reynolds”, a young lady claims to be Mal’s wife because he accepted her gift & danced with her. She is very innocent, very naive, and very sincere. I fell for it as much as the crew did. She was a con artist. With Trek, I start every episode with an assumption that anything that appears harmless, innocent, innoccuous isn’t so I would have suspected her right away and spent half the episode shouting at the characters for being so gullible.

    So on the one hand I liked the episode (and the other episodes for setting it up so well) for being able to surprise me like that. On the other hand, I wanted to see how Mal would resolve such a conundrum for real – being married like that to someone who feels it is her obligation & she is happy to do it.

  9. Gyyrad says:

    A Little thin I noticed in the show, after Mal decks Simon the first time in the pilot episode, Simon asks,”Have you lost your mind?” and Mal answers, “Just about.”
    In the episode Safe, Simon is asked that by his father “Have you lost your mind?” And is answered with, “just about”

  10. The day I turned on the television, expecting to watch “Firefly”, and saw some stupid “reality t.v.” dating show (which bore very little resemblance to reality, let’s be honest here)…I stopped watching television. I haven’t seen a single episode of “Lost”, I never had cable so I never fell for the new “Battlestar Galactica”…and I didn’t think “Enterprise” was worth it. Firefly was the last piece of innovative television entertainment, and when they Jack the Ripper’d it off the airwaves, I gave up.

    …Which was probably the best decision of my life, because it gave me that much more time to concentrate on my writing, which eventually led to my getting published. (Pardon me while I pause for a moment and squee. *SQUEEEEEEE!* Coolest Job EVER!! *SQUEEEEEEEE!* …Thank you for your indulgence.)

    But it still sucks that they took such an intelligent, funny, serious, slapstic, INTELLIGENT–did I mention it was intelligent–show, and ripped it off the air in the name of treating television viewers like dumb little sheep just waiting to be sodomized by television executives pretending to be shepherds. (Sorry if that’s a bit graphic, but I don’t put up with being treated badly, and that was a very bad way to treat all of us viewers.)

    …I wish they could revive the show–even though I’m upset about what happened during that one scene in the movie “Serenity” *trying not to spoiler anything, here* that altered the dynamic (a scene that really could’ve been done better, in my opinion)–and put it back on the airwaves as a continuance of the show we all quickly grew to love. That is, those of us with functional braincells and self-respecting dignity.

    My favorite scene where the producer got back at the network execs actually comes from “Crusade”, the “Babylon 5” spin-off, where the captain of the ship is upset in one of the episodes, wherein these large, mindless creatures are believed to be “humping” his ship…meaning the execs are trying to *deleted* with the show. A pity there’s no way to *deleted* back with them, except to stop watching their shows, drop their ratings, and get their *censored* fired…


  11. Katrani Merack says:

    I love Firefly, and Serenity. My dad showed me Serenity first, then I saw the series. I never saw the last four episodes, though. Except for the hands of blue guys, the movie seemed to do a good job of wrapping the series up, with room for more if they did get to film more. The only bad thing they did, I think, was getting FOX to air them. Stupid FOX. Die! *stabs non-lethally, then uses the hands of blue guys’ sonic bleeding-thingy on FOX execs*

    My favorite bit, though, has to be in the episode where Simon and River wind up in that superstitious town and the people think River is a witch. So they’re about to burn her. Then Mal and Zoe show up, and Mal’s like “Looks like we showed up just in time. What does that make us?” And Zoe answeres “Big damn heroes, sir.”

    Runnerup: When River starts ‘correcting’ Book’s Bible, then gets freaked out by his hair. Hah.

  12. Eric Jacobson says:

    I was absolutely appalled when the show was cancelled (and then i was only 13). Now every time i go back to watch it again, i am even more saddened by the stupid and idiotic decision of Fox’s execs.

    Than only recently i saw Serenity, i have no idea how missed it for so long, having re-watched the entire 14 episodes about 9-20 times each. Serenity just didn’t do the show justice and i agree with Ladyofthemask and say that the show should start again, but as a continuance of the show with no reference to the movie at all. I hated that they got rid of the Blue Sun Corporation (they also changed the story of how river escaped, putting Simon in a direct role in her rescue). Shepherd Book had the best masked-past of all of the characters, and instead of reviling it they killed him off, WTF!!

    My favorite line from the show is in the second episode, when Mel and Book are talking about why Mel has taken on Simon and River if Mel is so desperate to stay under alliance radar and they are fugitives and Mel asks Book “Well what about you Shepard, why are you flying about with us Brigands? I mean shouldn’t you be off bringin’ religiosity to the Fuzzy-Wuzzies or some-such?” HA HA HA! it made me laugh so hard i had to rewind 15 minutes!!!!

    My Favorite Scene has to be when there sitting in the bar in the mud-packers town, keeping a low profile, and all they hear is “JAYNE!!! The Man They Called JAYNE!!!” ahhhh…. good-times lol!

    BTW The scene mentioned by Shamus in the pilot, when the bounty hunter (I thought he was like some sort of alliance Gestapo officer or somat…) gets shot by Mal did own…

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