Tag: Firefly


Watched Serenity again. Spoilers for a movie from 2005 follow.

I hadn't actually seen it the full way through since the theater in 2005 -- and that was before I'd watched the series.

It's a decent enough movie, but heavily compromised.

Because Firefly is not a show about big adventures or high stakes. It's a show about a family surviving together.

On that score, Serenity fails. Book and Inara are barely in the damn thing, and the rest of the crew not named Malcolm Reynolds don't fare much better. For a movie that revolves so heavily around River, we get precious little of her as a character -- we see her as sleeper agent, killing machine, and damaged person, but barely a shred of who she actually is. Right at the end of the movie, when Simon and Kaylee are going to bed and River's peeking down at them, not creepy but just a little curious -- that is the most fundamentally River Tam moment in the entire movie. And it's barely there. She's unrecognizable as the same River from the show -- indeed, when I started watching it, I spent most of the series wondering when she was going to start showing off her crazy ninja skills. The answer is "for about three seconds in one episode near the end."

And then there's the MacGuffin.

Speaking of things that are significant in the movie and barely even crop up in the series: the Reavers. They're in two episodes. And yet are fundamental to the plot of the movie.

And the movie revolves around a twist that, really, does not much qualify as a twist.

Was anyone in the audience even remotely surprised to learn that the Alliance created the Reavers? Because, having never watched one single episode of the series at the time, I can honestly say I wasn't.

Indeed, the single most implausible thing in this movie about space smugglers, assassins, and cartoons with subliminal messages activating sleeper agents to flip out and kill everybody is this: two Confederate soldiers are surprised by the existence of a government conspiracy.

Now, here's the thing.

Here on Earth-that-Was, there's a vocal contingent of people who believe that 9/11 was an inside job.

There's a vocal contingent of people who believe that our black President is a Secret Kenyan Muslim -- and yeah, those people are mostly from the region of the country that rebelled against the Federal Government. But they're not veterans themselves, they're people still holding a grudge a hundred and fifty years later.

Hell, the guy from Megadeth is convinced that Obama deliberately orchestrated the shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin as a conspiracy to ban guns.

So yeah, the idea that nobody in the 'verse has ever floated the idea that the Alliance created the Reavers? Never mind faster-than-light travel, artificial gravity on a ship that doesn't rotate, or the sheer number of other ships the Serenity constantly bumps into in deep space -- that's the most implausible thing about this entire mythology.

If anything, Mal and co should have been saying, "Holy shit, those crazy assholes on the Future Internet were right!"

I haven't read much of the followups, post-movie. I picked up the first issue of each of the comic miniseries and couldn't get engaged -- I find it incredibly off-putting when an artist slavishly reproduces the likenesses of actors instead of just drawing the characters.

That said, I thought Serenity: Float Out, by Patton Oswalt and Patric Reynolds, did not commit that sin and was an excellent read. And managed to give a good little send-off for Wash and a little hint of where the story goes next.

I never got around to reading Shepherd's Tale -- it's still on my to-do list; doesn't appear that it ever came out in paperback -- but I do quite like Chris Samnee. I'm told it still doesn't answer the fundamental questions about Book, which is probably for the best; one of the best bits in the movie is where Mal tells Book he'll have to tell his story someday and Book responds that no, he won't.

While Whedon's tendency to leave his biggest mysteries dangling instead of resolving them can be vexing, I think it's good storytelling instinct -- how many stories can you name where a big mystery gets resolved and it's just a disappointment? (For a recent example: that other River, on Doctor Who.)

Similarly, I picked up the first issue of the new Dollhouse miniseries because it was focused on Alpha, and -- spoiler for a TV show from 2010 follows -- the only question dangling at the end of the series that I was interested in finding out the answer to was what happened to him, what made him change. The comic, pointedly, picks up his story after he's already changed, with no explanation.

Joss Whedon, you sneaky bastard.

Maybe we really will get a reunion someday, see what happens next, with the (surviving) cast intact. Whedon's certainly got the money and cachet to do it, since Avengers. But obviously I'm not holding my breath.

Meantime, Nathan Fillion is Castle, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

(Still hoping for that Dr. Horrible sequel, though.)

Tick and Jayne

Watched Jaynestown again last night, and gorrammed if'n it ain't still one of my all-time favorite hours of television.

There's something about the way it all comes together -- it takes the most two-dimensional character on the show, the comic relief, and gives him more depth and humanity than we ever see in any other episode. It asks Big Questions -- and manages to approach those same questions, of the relationship between symbol and reality, in two different subplots, without it ever feeling forced. And while the Inara/Fess subplot is pretty standard Inara Being Wise stuff, the Book/River one has some of my favorite lines from the series and does a great job pairing off two characters who don't usually interact with each other.

It's a great episode -- legitimately funny, with a downer of an ending. If that's not vintage Whedon I don't know what is.

But while it's a Whedon show, the writer credit on this episode is Ben Edlund -- perhaps best known as the creator of The Tick.

And I got to thinking -- you know, there are a lot of ways Jayne and the Tick are similar.

They're simple and childlike, we don't really know anything about them other than their basic personality traits, they provide comedy rather than depth of character, and they seek simple solutions to their problems, usually consisting of violent mayhem.

And then, of course, you get to temperament, and they're polar opposites.

The Tick is pure. He wants to do the right thing, the heroic thing, the thing that helps people. Jayne is pure id; he's not actually evil (I'd say more chaotic neutral, though people with more D&D experience can feel free to correct me on that) but he has no motivations beyond his own immediate and selfish gratification. Jayne's speech to the mudders at the end of Jaynestown is like the inverse of an inspirational Tick speech -- full of anger, despair, frustration, cynicism, nihilism, and self-loathing. It's a bitter pill: "Heroes don't exist and no one is going to help you."

Needless to say, this kind of thinking is anathema to everything the Tick stands for.

I think maybe it comes down to something like this: the Tick is an overgrown 8-year-old, and Jayne is an overgrown 14-year-old.

At any rate. Damn good television, and thought-provoking -- and it's not even my favorite episode. (That'd be the one immediately following, Out of Gas.)