Rorschach Presents: Firefly Extravaganza!

So far in my 9 months of blogging I have yet to break my focus on movies.  That isn’t to say that movies are the only form of entertainment I enjoy, only that if I attempted to write about every other form of escapism I indulge in I would have absolutely no time left in the day for that pesky thing known as real life.  In any case, as this is something of a special occasion I’d like to break out of my regular ways for a minute and dedicate at least one post to my second favorite way to pass the time; television.

images (8)What special occasion you ask?  Why, none other than a fully comprehensive Firefly marathon some friends and I partook in a few days ago in celebration of the end of finals for winter quarter.  Admittedly, a marathon for a show which only lasted one season isn’t exactly the most brag-worthy feat, but when you factor in every episode plus Serenity it works out to about 12 full hours of pure awesome.  In this post, I will rank each and every episode of the short-lived series, ranging from the best to the still-pretty-damn-good.

In case you have been living under a rock for the past decade or so, Firefly was a post-Buffy Joss Whedon’s ill-fated sci-fi western.  Between low viewership, high cost and a mind-boggling series of blunders on the network’s part (i.e. not airing the show’s pilot until halfway through the season), it was hardly a surprise when the show got the axe after a mere 14 episodes.  Expected or not, the show’s cancellation remains one of the biggest injustices in the history of Science Fiction, even with the small consolation that came in the form of a big screen finale for the crew of the Serenity three years later.

Without further ado, here is how each of the 14 episodes stacks up in my opinion.  I’ll try to be concise, but no promises

14.  Heart of Gold

IMDb Score: 8.3/10

ranse-burgess-300x248 (1)If I were to compare Firefly to Pixar, Heart of Gold would be the series’ Cars 2.  The premise of “the gang helps defend a whorehouse against an armed posse” can’t help but feel like the most blatantly indulgent route the series takes in its Sci-Fi western ambitions.  Not only that, but it makes about as much sense for Ranse Burgess to go full-on evil villain to claim his bastard child as it does for the occupants of the whorehouse to expend so much effort to essentially kill off their entire client base.

Best Moment:

Jayne: “Don’t know these folks, don’t much care to”

Mal: “They’re Whores”

Jayne: “I’m in”

13. The Message

20090123_jayneorig2IMDb Score: 8.5/10

The fact that this was the last episode to air before the series’ cancellation makes its comparative mediocrity all the more disappointing.  We get a few rare glimpses back to Mal and Zoe’s war days, but other than that the entire story revolving their old comrade in arms just leaves me with a bit of a “so what?” feeling.  Also, anyone that comes between Simon and Kaylee’s awkward nomance™ is no friend of mine.

Best Moment:  Jayne’s Hat!

12.  Serenity

IMDb Score: 8.9/10

images (3)Essentially a double episode, Serenity is the show’s real pilot regardless of what order the episodes were originally aired.  Beginning with a flashback to the eponymous battle of Serenity, the episode takes all of the necessary steps to introduce us to the characters and set the tone for the show.  The amount of time it takes to actually get through those steps is a bit long and the editing department went a bit crazy with the background music for the entire episode, but it at least gets the ball rolling.

Best Moment: “Kaylee’s Dead”

11.  Safe

firefly-safe-our-witchIMDb Score: 8.2/10

Not a bad episode in any respects, but “River’s a witch” subplot feels a bit forced.  The developments with respect to Shepherd Book and his ever-mysterious past are noteworthy at least; yet another slap in the face to all of us who wanted so badly to find out just what the hell he used to be.

Best Moment: Zac Effron before High School Musical

10.  Bushwhacked

jayne2IMDb Score: 8.5/10

This is closest we ever come in the series to a direct encounter with the Reavers.  If anything it’s a bit odd to have had this sort of an episode where we see a Reaver convert before we ever see an actual Reaver, but once again this is more of an issue with the show’s early death than anything else.

Best Moment: The crew’s interviews with The Alliance

9.  Train Heist

IMDb Score: 8.4/10

images (4)On top of introducing us to the series’ most devilishly sinister villain, Train Heist shines the brightest for how well it establishes each member of Serenity’s crew on a moral spectrum.  We know that Mal and his crew are no Robin Hoods of The Verse, but the way they deal with the revelation of the intended victims goes a long way to establish them as (mostly) good guys.  I really liked the way that the local sheriff handled the situation near the end of the episode, one of the best examples the series has of how well Whedon handles even the most marginal of characters.

Best Moment: Crow meets engine

8.  Ariel

IMDb Score: 9.0/10

images (5)An interesting take on the heist format, Ariel gives Simon a rare chance to contribute to the crew’s malfeasants in a non-medical context.  Still, all of that withstanding there’s little doubt that this episode belongs to Jayne, who not-so-unexpectedly gives in to his mercenary roots and sells River and Simon out to The Alliance.  If nothing else it’s a reminder that even though Jayne is a lot of people’s favorite character (myself included), he’s still a bit of a dirtbag.

Best Moment: “We applied the cortical electrodes…”

7.  Shindig

IMDb Score: 8.4/10

firefly-104-1A great Kaylee episode, a great Mal episode, a decent Inara episode, Shindig is a great change of pace for the show in the middle of a smorgasbord of heists and rescues.  I absolutely love the double standard that comes up in Mal’s “Nobody gets to call Inara a whore except for me!” mentality.  In any case, it’s always fun to see Mal keep his cockiness even when he’s clearly out of his element as is the case with the final duel of the episode.

Best Moment:  Kaylee bro-ing out with the noblemen at the shindig

6.  Jaynestown

IMDb Score: 8.8/10

firefly-jaynestown-jayne-with-statue-1024x601You can wear a Brown Coat, curse in Chinese and call things Shiny as much as you want, but you’re not a true superfan of the show until you’ve memorized all of the lyrics to “The hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne”.  While the crew’s dumbfounded reactions to the town’s choice of hero’s is the biggest source of laughs in the episode, the real strength of it lies in the rare glimpse of humanity from Jayne near the end.  I also appreciated Mal’s sentiment of “everyone who’s ever had a statue made out of them has been one sort of sonofabitch or another”.

Best Moment: “You’re pretty smart” “You’re pretty…  pretty”

5.  Trash

IMDb Score: 8.8/10

Trash2While this isn’t the first time we come into contact with Saffron, it’s the first time we see her up front for what she truly is.  The opening scene of Mal stranded, completely naked in a desert is one of the funniest and most effective attention grabbers of the entire series, and once we go back in time and see that Saffron is involved it only gets better.  Sure, the heist framework is familiar ground for the show but the Mal/Saffron relationship is one of my favorite frenemy pairings of all time.  Seeing Inara come through at the end to save Mal’s ass is also immensely satisfying.

Best Moment:

(Saffron flies away in Mal’s shuttle, leaving him naked in the middle of a desert)

Mal: “Yeah, you better run!”

4.  War Stories

IMDb Score: 8.9/10

297997This is a great episode for a lot of reasons, ranging from the exploration of the Wash/Mal/Zoe relationship to the further indicators of Shepherd Book’s secret past.  My favorite part of it though has got to be the entire crew of the Serenity saddling up to save Mal, all the way down to Simon and Kaylee who prove to be about as good at shooting as they are at breaking the ice with each other.  It’s also the first chance we get to see River leave crazy-town for a moment and enter into the terminator mode we’ve come to know and love Summer Glau for.

Best Moment:

Zoe: “Wait, this is something he needs to do for himself”

Mal: “No it isn’t!”

3.  Our Mrs. Reynolds

IMDb Score: 9.0/10

images (6)Maybe I’m alone in this, but when I found out that Saffron (aka Mal’s wife) was played by Christina Hendricks my mind grapes damn near exploded.  Whereas Shindig gave us Mal at his cockiest when he has the least right to be, Mrs. Reynolds gives us Mal at his most uncomfortable when he has the least right to be.  I absolutely loved how much fun the crew has with the situation, especially Shepherd Book and his “Special circle of hell” reminders.  The twist in Saffron’s character that happens halfway through is also delightfully unexpected and provides a great setup for my #3.

Best Moment: Tie between Mal in a Bonnet and “I call her Vera”

2.  Objects in Space

IMDb Score: 9.2/10

EarlyWhile the fact that this amounts to the DVD version’s final episode of the series is a bit disappointing from a “wrapping things up” angle, Opjects in Space is fantastic as a stand-alone episode.  That being said, it wasn’t until my second time through that I really appreciated Richard Brooks’ psychotic bounty hunter Early.  Ranging all the way from playfully silly to shockingly threatening, Early is the kind of batshit crazy that crosses the bridge between the over-the-top norms of the comic book world and the gritty, real world standards of evil.  Aside from Early though, I contend that this stands out as the best River episode of the show.  Watching her screw with Early under the guise of having become one with Serenity is incredibly fun to watch.

Best Moment:

Simon: “Are you Alliance?”

Jubal Early: “Am I a Lion?  I don’t think of myself as a Lion.  You might as well though, I have a mighty roar.”

1.  Out of Gas

IMDb Score: 9.3/10

firefly-out-of-gas_article_story_mainThe first episode of the show written after the creators learned of its impending cancellation, Out of Gas is the quintessential example of what makes Firefly amazing.  Between the smart editing choices of going back and forth in time to the exploration into how each and every crew member came to be on Serenity, it’s incredibly impressive how well head writer Tim Minnear manages to balance the serious tone of this episode with the overall light-hearted tone of the series.  Sure, other episodes may feature more memorable quotes or more interesting supporting characters, but the amount of heart in Out of Gas outweighs all of that by a mile.

Best moment:  Jayne’s change in employment choice.

In case you’re curious, here are how the episodes stack up according to their IMDb scores.

14. Safe

13. Heart of Gold

12. Train Heist

11. Shindig

10. The Message

9. Bushwhacked

8. Jaynestown

7. Trash

6. Serenity

5. War Stories

4. Ariel

3. Our Mrs. Reynolds

2. Objects in Space

1. Out of Gas

As a final note, I’d like to suggest to any of you who have yet to experience anything from the Firefly universe that the best way to start is by watching Serenity, the 2005 movie continuation, then going back and watching the series, then finishing off with another round of Serenity for inevitable different reaction you will have to it after 10 additional hours of falling in love with the characters.

About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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7 Responses to Rorschach Presents: Firefly Extravaganza!

  1. ckckred says:

    Good to see some Firefly love. One of the most underrated TV shows ever made.

  2. The hero of Canton, love it so much laughed my ass off!

    Love the show and have the blu-ray set 😀

  3. filmhipster says:

    This was a great show. I miss it.

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