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Firefly: The Train Job

Mal: "They tell you never hit a man with a closed fist. But it is, on occasion, hilarious."

Very exciting, frenetic episode, full of action as well as exceptionally clever lines. The opening Unification Day barfight in particular was so much fun that I wanted to quote three-quarters of the dialogue. But this episode was also very much about moral choices, an important concept to establish when your heroes are outlaws.

Mal was so much lighter here than in the pilot, much more quippy -- in the barfight, on the train job, even the Indiana Jones-like scene of kicking Crow into the manifold. Mal and Zoe bounced wonderful lines off each other during the train job scenes. And he and Inara did some interesting semi-hurtful bantering, while still managing to convey that they cared about each other.

But it was Jayne who stole the show. He was utterly hilarious, menacing, and endearing at the same time. Jayne really does think that Mal will eventually turn River in for the money because he can't imagine anyone not doing that. And yet, half-conscious on the stair landing, Jayne still joined in the fight and saved the day. You might say he's a bit of a contradiction.

He's also not that bright, as evidenced by his vocabulary issues. In the bar fight, BadAss said "ass-picious"; Jayne thought he meant "suspicious" instead of "auspicious." He referred to "kosherized" rules, and called Simon "fancible." I particularly loved the scenes where Jayne was drugged, both in the control room and on the stair landing. When he was trying to catch the little angels he saw in the air, I immediately thought of fireflies.

Inara rescued Mal and Zoe from the botched train job, but Simon showed unexpected boldness and intelligence by rescuing everyone else from Jayne. The fact that Simon gave up a great deal to save his sister was emphasized, as well as how hard it was to take care of her because she was "whimsical in the brainpan." We also saw some very nasty Clockwork Orangy flashbacks to River being tortured. She kept saying, "Two by two, hands of blue," and son of a gun, two guys wearing blue gloves showed up at the end. Stay tuned.

There was way too much exposition for a regular episode, repetition of what we learned about the characters in the pilot. Yes, I know the reason for that: this episode originally aired as the quicker and funnier pilot instead of the longer and more serious "Serenity." Doesn't matter about the repetitious exposition, though, because "The Train Job" is still terrific.

Bits and pieces:

-- Serenity is such a friendly ship. Easy to maneuver, like a big honking helicopter. And it doesn't have big guns. River said, "Midbulk transport. Standard radion accelerator core, class-code 03-K64. Firefly." Just so we would know.

-- Loved the holographic bar window.

-- Again, we got the multicultural mix, with the belly dancer and the bar waitresses in kimonos. And the train was a mix, too: wildly modern on the outside, but like a spaghetti western on the inside.

-- It was established that Inara can choose her clients, and that appearance isn't the most important thing to her.

-- Dan noticed that the Alliance soldiers were wearing the same costumes as in Starship Troopers. In the commentary, Joss Whedon mentioned this and confirmed that they were the costumes from Starship Troopers; they had no money to design new costumes.

-- River pointed out that "Mal" means "bad" in Latin. I knew that.

-- Space monkeys?

-- There was more mention of God. Mal told Shepherd: "You're welcome on my boat. God ain't." But Inara told Shepherd to pray for Mal, and implied that she does it herself. "Don't tell him. I never do."

-- One of the blue hand guys was another Buffyverse alumnus.

Quotable quotes, and there were a lot of them in this episode:

Bad Ass: "Six years today, the Alliance sent the browncoats running, pissing their pants. (pause) You know, your coat is kind of a brownish color..."
Mal: "It was on sale."

Mal: "This is why we lost, you know. Superior numbers."
Zoe: "Thanks for the re-enactment, sir."

Mal: "Drunks are so cute."

Inara: "What did I say to you about barging into my shuttle?"
Mal: "That it was manly and impulsive?"

Simon: "So what are we doing?"
Kaylee: "Crime."

Kaylee: "No call to be snappy, Jayne."
Jayne: "Are you about to jump onto a moving train?"

Jayne: "You know what the chain of command is? It's a chain I go get and beat you with 'til you understand who's in ruttin' command here."

Inara: "Zoe, what would your husband say if he knew you were here?"
Zoe: "I... I was weak." It was Gina Torres' expression that made this one work.

Four out of four stars,

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


  1. This is fun! And it never hurts when your heroes have such a strong moral compass -- it even makes it all right for them to throw someone out into space.

    Love all the characters, but I agree with Billie that Jayne is the most interesting to watch. Yes, he's a bit dim and a bit rough, but I get the strong sense that he is the hero in his own mind.

    What Whedon does well is write strong women characters. All the women on this ship are smart and capable, but still women. I can think of more than one show currently on the air that could learn from this.

    And, how do you not love Mal? One minute kicking ass, the next whining about getting stitched up. Smile!!!

  2. Yes, I know the reason for that: this episode originally aired as the quicker and funnier pilot instead of the longer and more serious "Serenity."

    Netflix streaming includes the very weird voiceover saga sell at the beginning of this episode; I'd never heard it before, and I'm not sure it would have lured me in if I were watching this live.

    While I like this episode--I like all the episodes--this might be my least favorite. In places it sells itself too hard, especially compared to the more subtle real pilot. But it's still fun, especially little moments, like no one caring that Simon drugged Jayne.

  3. This episode was mandatory. When trying to get us to root for criminals, you have to establish that they aren’t bad people. At least most of them aren’t (Hi Jayne!).

    What a terrible pilot though. I’m fortunate enough to have watched the show in its intended order not its idiotic run order so now the info dumps just seem a bit strange and out of place instead of vital information as to what the hell was going on. I’m watching on Hulu this time around (too lazy to find the DVDs) and am experiencing the saga sell for the first time. Totally insufficient introduction to the Fireflyverse. I get that this was before streaming and even probably DVR and networks wanted nice, episodic television but jeez. Well, it’s not like Fox is new to being evil.


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