Firefly: Objects in Space

River: "I'm not on the ship. I'm in the ship. I am the ship."

The opening scenes showed us Serenity from River's point of view. Her feet were bare, symbolic of her extreme vulnerability. Was River really hearing their thoughts, or was it more negative? The dislike of her that she imagined they felt? Simon, care of River's brain, said, "I would be there right now." Simon actually did say this later to Kaylee, so it probably was what he was thinking. Jayne said, "I got stupid. The money was too good." He actually said that to Mal at one point, so yes.

But Shepherd, Inara, and Mal were harder to understand. Shepherd said, in a mean tone of voice, "I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not. So where does that put you?" Inara said, "I'm a big girl. Just tell me." Could be her wishing Mal would tell her how he felt. Hard to tell. Mal said, "None of it means a damn thing." None of what?

I always enjoy the group scenes in the galley, and this one — with the eight of them discussing River, their psychic assassin — was excellent. During this scene, River was perched on railings in the cargo bay. This was again illustrative of the way she relates to her world, which is Serenity: sort of off kilter, different from the others, observing but not included in discussions or decisions, even decisions concerning herself. She was also doing something physical that the rest of the crew couldn't possibly do.

River and Early did have a lot in common: both unpredictable, both unwanted, both killers. Like River, Early said strange things that only he understood. He aimed his gun at Simon without looking in almost exactly the same way that River did to those three men in "War Stories."

But unlike River, Early was a pretentious, psychotic philosopher, pitiless and cold. A jovial sadist, he threatened members of the crew in the most intimate of ways — rape, amputation — with a smile on his face. He deceived himself into thinking that he was forced to hurt others because he was lying to himself about how much he enjoyed it. Gleeful and condescending at the same time, he had a superiority complex; he thought of himself as the center of his own universe as well as everyone else's. He treated human beings like toys. Interesting that he referred to himself as Santa Claus coming down the chimney, when in fact he was more like Black Peter. (Nothing racial intended there; just look him up.)

Early wondered if he'd always been on Serenity. Was he also mildly psychic? Did he know subconsciously that this would be his end?

This was an excellent, thought-provoking episode, but not a satisfactory end to the series. Certainly not Joss Whedon's fault. But it was satisfying in one major sense. In "becoming the ship" and saving them from Early, River finally connected with the rest of the crew. They all accept her now.

Bits and pieces:

-- The shot of the planet at the beginning of the episode resembled the ball River used to play jacks in the end. The symbolism was pretty obvious. World without, world within, macrocosm, microcosm. River said they were all dreaming, which was partially true: this episode was a nightmare that the entire crew shared. (Except Jayne.)

-- They never explained how a loaded gun got onto the floor of the cargo bay.

-- Inara hadn't left yet. She wasn't sure where she was going. Mal almost kissed her at one point. I wish he had.

-- Speaking of which, Simon and Kaylee were very couple-like, with her feet in his lap and him confiding what was probably his only drunken adventure. But she said she didn't know what he looked like naked, so they weren't a couple yet.

-- I've never articulated this before, but it's obvious that Wash's position as the beloved husband of the formidable amazon Zoe gave his character weight that he might not otherwise have had.

-- We learned that Shepherd Book was celibate by choice.

-- Enjoyed watching Simon directing Zoe on how to operate on himself.

-- Early's first name was Jubal. That name made me think of the powerful old man in Stranger in a Strange Land, the only other character named Jubal that I can think of.

-- We didn't actually see Early die. Perhaps Whedon intended to have him rescued and bring him back. But I prefer to think of him as dead. Did Mal keep Early's ship and sell it?

-- This week's planet, or planet reference: New Melbourne, which is famous for fish.

Quotable quotes:

Mal: "You know, the only thing you're gonna find in New Melbourne is fish and fish-related activities. So unless you got the overwhelming urge to gut sturgeon, and who hasn't on occasion...

River: "She understands. She doesn't comprehend."

Mal: "We're deep in space. The corner of No and Where."

Wash: "Little River just gets more colorful by the moment. What'll she do next?"
Zoe: "Either blow us all up or rub soup in our hair. It's a tossup."
Wash: "I hope she does the soup thing. It's always a hoot, and we don't all die from it."

Jayne: "Are you saying she's a witch?"
Wash: "Yes, Jayne. She's a witch. She has had congress with the Beast."
Jayne: "She's in congress?"
Wash: "How did your brain ever learn human speech?"

Wash: "Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction."
Zoe: "We live in a spaceship, dear." (I think this one is my favorite.)

Jayne: "I don't like the idea of someone hearing what I'm thinking."
Inara: "No one likes the idea of hearing what you're thinking."

Simon: "You're out of your mind."
Early: "That's between me and my mind."

Early: "Where'd she go?"
Simon: "I can't keep track of her when she's not incorporeally possessing a spaceship." (This is my second favorite.)

Mal: "There was a guy. He's very blurry."

Wash: "Can I mop your brow? I am at the ready with the fearsome brow mop."

Early: "You know, with the exception of one deadly and unpredictable midget, this girl is the smallest cargo I've ever had to transport. Yet by far the most troublesome. Does that seem right to you?"

Four out of four stars,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

12 comments:

Iago said...

I absolutely loved this episode, I think it might be one of the most adventurous and inventive episodes of TV ever: an exploration of existentialism in a sci-fi western certainly makes a musical episode look conventional.

I think River's mind-reading is accurate, she just gets the tones wrong: Shepherd Book doesn't care if River is innocent or guilty, she a damaged young woman and he'd protect her regardless. Simon would be a brilliant doctor - that's a simple fact - but he doesn't regret his decision to save River, which harks back to Safe.

I found this episode to be hugely satisfying and it was a neat way for Firefly to end: it was experimental, beautifully written with superb acting right to the last. I would have liked to get answers about the Hands of Blue and the Reavers (I wasn't satisfied by their history in Serenity, I don't think that's the way Joss was going to go with them had the series continued) but this ep meant the series went out on a huge high.

Finally, I have to say it, the music was just exceptional. Absolutely beautiful.

Sam said...

Most probably the most underrated show in television, ever! I am constantly amazed by the many people who have not even heard of this show and - while I know it has been said countless times - I wonder how well it would have done if Fox had not messed with the schedule and it had proper promotion.

I have been fortunate enough to meet most the cast - all of them are so passionate about the show and I wish they'd got the kudos they deserved

ChrisB said...

I loved this episode, but didn't love it as the series finale. The story was compelling and I think Richard Brooks was simply amazing. Like a train wreck, difficult to watch yet impossible to turn away. The final shot of everyone in the shp interacting was a lovely coda.

I am sorry that this was the last one. I understand what the situation was, but it would have been nice to have some closure on the many dangling plot threads.

Having said that, I loved this series more than I thought I would. The characters hooked me from the start and the stories were always fun to watch. One never knows what goes through the minds of TPTB, yet it seems to me that this was a series bound for great things -- if they had given it the chance it deserved.

Billie Doux said...

Let me try that again. This may be the end of the series, but it's not the end. I think of the movie Serenity as the end.

Alan Ashwood said...

SHEER BRILLIANCE! MY FAVOURITE EISODE BAR NONE!

Joss Whedon's understanding of the humen psychi comes to for in this, quietly disturbing episode.

While you watch River "reading" the minds of the crew (wrongly), and the 'family' gathering round the table; you become aware that the arrival of Earley's ship is not a good thing.

The dialogue is simply brilliant, firsly between Simon and Earley; then between Early and 'Serenity'.

The scene where River declares she IS the ship, took me aback. I didn't see that coming at all, and her echoing laughter brought a spectral feel to the scene.

If the show hadn't been cancelled, I feel that this would have made an excellent series finale, leaving us all wanting more - which we do.

The last clip, showing Serenity swinging out into space, will rmain one of the most emotive icons of science fiction - ever.

johanne said...

Isn't it amazing how we, ten years later, still watch the show, read the reviews and comment on how much we love it?
This really was a unique show!

I was introduced to the show on dvd 4 years ago (as far as I know, it never aired on TV in Norway), and I've seen it countless times after that. It has to be seen at least once a year, and it's always sad when I get to the final disc, and the final episode, because i don't want it to end..

"Am I a lion? I don't think of myself as a lion.."

QRS said...

Useless trivia: Jubal Early was named after a Confederate General. Except he's been hired against the Confederates of the new 'Verse.

Scott Riggan said...

Final episode of a nearly perfect show. Sweet sorrow, y'all.

Anonymous said...

Probably my favorite episode of Firefly. There are so many wonderful elements. River is finally coherent enough to prove herself to the crew, and her plan is just brilliant. As a series finally, it is kind of lacking, but as a lead in to the movie it works really well. Here River becomes part of the crew and starts to be herself again and in the movie we see that develop even more. It's great.

Also, I feel that one of my favorites quotes should be mentioned:

"My sister's a ship. We had a complicated childhood."

Mandy

Josie Kafka said...

Shepherd said, in a mean tone of voice, "I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not."


That line really stood out to me, too. I want to agree with Iago, who posted above: that's what the shepherd is saying, but he means it differently--he means River and all people are forgiven, regardless. However, it's a troubling moment.


For all you viewers of the future: hello! I hope you've enjoyed all the fish. Also, try to get your hands on the DVD commentary by Joss Whedon for this episode. It's fantastic.

Raya said...

I've wanted to watch Firefly for years, but for some reason it never seemed like the right moment.

I finally watched the whole season and I'm really glad I did. It was funny and smart and exactly the king of show that I like.

And of course, reading your reviews after each episode made the whole experience even better.

I look forward to watching the movie (by the way, there's a spoiler in the previous comment that I wish I hadn't seen), but I'm already feeling sad that it's over. I've quickly grown attached to all these characters, and I would have loved to learn more about each one of them.

Anyway, thanks for the good work Billie, as always.

Billie Doux said...

Raya, you're very welcome!

So sorry about not catching the spoiler in that comment -- we read all comments and we're usually very careful about that. I deleted it.