Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Big Damn Heroes - Review and Thoughts on "Firefly"

Last night I finished Serenity, the wrap-up movie of Firefly (I know, I know - what took me so long?)  And I have things to say about the series as a whole.  Spoilers shall be discussed and divulged. Read on!

Before I proceed, let me get the requisite bitching at Fox out of the way -


(seriously, Fox - stick to sports coverage and cable news.  You guys are good at those things - I love Fox NFL Sunday.  But your handling of primetime drama sucks.  Actually, I'm surprised 24 snuck eight seasons past your poo-flinging monkeys - I mean, TV execs).

Okay, that's out of my system...

I have to credit Keith of Traveling the Vortex for getting me onto this idea of watching Firefly.  I said in my review of The Avengers that I didn't know much about Joss Whedon's work (not out of purposely avoiding any of his stuff - I just never got around to it).  I'm not much for vampires and urban fantasy (even before the Twilight puke-fest), so Buffy's not really my thing.  But he suggested I give Firefly a shot.  And I'm so very glad that he did.

As a kid, I grew up on John Wayne movies and Star Wars.  When you grow up on a farm, you watch westerns while your take your baby bottle.  And I get my sci-fi streak from my dad, who is a fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars (I only took to the latter, though).  But there was always an arbitrary wall between the two genres.  I suppose a lot of people are that way.  Westerns are about history and sci-fi is about the future - there's no possible way to make the two mesh at all (other than flying your toy Millennium Falcon over your plastic cowboys figures).

Going into Firefly, the only thing I knew was that it took place in space and all the fans were continually pissed at Fox for canceling it.  As I popped Disc 1 into the player and started up the first episode - okay, there was a war, main characters fought and lost, and now...

Holy crap - where did that theme song come from???

Yes, folks - the first thing that got me hooked on Firefly was the country-western-type soundtrack (that's another thing farm kids grow up with).  Then I found out that there were western-style towns, six-shooters, horses, desert landscapes - and a freaking spaceship!!


If I had to peg my enjoyment of Firefly down to one thing it would be that Whedon took the typical sci-fi tropes of a crew on a spaceship and having space battles that most sci-fi-spacey-type shows do, but then he blended it with another genre.  That's one reason Doctor Who works so well for me as well - it's not all about the blasters and military ranks and scientific technobabble and crazy aliens (actually, there are no "crazy aliens" in Firefly), you've got tropes from another genre at work to make it new and fun.  I love the premise of Firefly that humanity is terraforming other planets and then settling Old West-style (honestly, that's probably how it would work in reality).

So, you've got a new twist on established genres - but what do you do for characters? Oh good heaven - the characters make this whole thing work!

But one more thing - I was surprised how many Firefly actors I'd seen in other things before this - Jewel Staite was in Flash Forward on the Disney Channel back in the day (also, Space Cases, which I thoroughly enjoyed as an eleven-year-old), Alan Tudyk I knew from A Knight's Tale (it's weird hearing him without his sort-of-not-really-British accent), Morena Baccarin was in V and Adam Baldwin was in Chuck (for all the sort-of jerks he plays, I hear he's actually quite a nice guy. His Twitter feed's lots of fun).  Funnily enough, I'd never seen anything with Nathan Fillion, which I'm chalking up to a crying shame because Mal Reynolds ended up being my favorite out of all of them (though Kaylee gave him a run for his money).

Let's just start with Mal - Yeah, he falls into all the world-weary-war-veteran-turned-captain-of-a-smuggling-operation-of-dubious-legality tropes we've seen before.  But what I love about Mal is that he also falls quite nicely into the role of captain who cares a lot about his crew/family - almost like a caring father/brother/best friend sort of guy.  And it doesn't matter how long a person's been part of his crew, Mal's going to look out for them (but not in any ostentatious or self-serving way).  It just comes naturally to him.  As evidenced by the end of "Ariel" after Jayne nearly sells Simon and River out to the feds and Mal locks Jayne in the airlock and threatens to throw Jayne out into space for what he did - I actually feared for Jayne the whole time until Mal shut the outside door.

And, damn, does Mal look hot in that brown coat of his (I am a fangirl and I am not ashamed).

Kaylee - Kaylee is just flat-out awesome.  My favorite scene of hers is probably in "Shindig" when she's got her pink frilly dress and she comes to that big fancy party (allow me another fangirl moment when Mal shows up in that nicely tailored suit - mmm... yummy - okay, I'm done) and she ends up talking about ship engines with all those guys around her (after having been snubbed by those really snooty... girls...)  And I also love how she and River become friends.  She's about the most cheerful grease monkey I've ever seen and I love her to pieces.

Jayne - All hail the hero of Canton! (and no, I'm not going to sing it for you).

I liked Jayne.  A lot.  Big tough guy with a somewhat girly name? (and yes, that was a hilarious scene with River)  Whose mom sends him knit hats just because?  With a gun named Vera?  Yeah, he screwed up that one time, but he tried to make up for it by buying the crew apples! (considering how hard it is to get fresh produce in deep space, it looks like the gesture was much appreciated).  If there was something I wish we got to see, it's Jayne's mom.  And, by extension, where it is that Jayne's from.  Only because I'm curious and because it would be super-sweet.

The Siblings Tam - I admit, I wasn't terribly taken with River and Simon at first.  Simon was too pretty and River had the whole "Here's a damaged and very mysterious girl that we're not going to tell you about just yet" thing going and there were more interesting things to enjoy. But they slowly grew on me and I was glad to see them both be accepted by Team Serenity.  Obviously, Whedon had something huge in mind for these two for the second season that never happened (*grumble, grumble* blanking idiots at Fox *grumble, grumble*), but ended up playing out in the movie.  Now - the movie was fine, don't get me wrong.  But the story told in two hours was meant to be revealed over the course of 14 episodes.  I don't think anything was lost, necessarily, but I would have loved it to be the full season.  In the end, however, Simon loosened up and River learned how to deal with her situation and ... well, that sentence is going to end with a wistful What Could Have Been sentiment that's just going to irritate me again and I'm going to leave it there.

(Also, I kept thinking "River Song" whenever anyone said River.  Which is entirely different, but there you go.)

Zoe and Wash - I lump these two together because, well, they're married and I think they're best together.  Certainly, they have great moments apart (Wash and his dinosaurs - Zoe and her general badassness), but their personalities deliberately work together to create something fun.  And I love that there's a happily married couple on board the Serenity and they're just adorable

Inara - She's the conscience of the team (which I think was a deliberate move on Whedon's part, given her occupation).  Inara's the refined mom of the family.  I love how she looks out for Kaylee in "Shindig" and how she goes to her friend's aid in "Heart of Gold" (that was my second favorite episode - only "Out of Gas" beats it for me).  Even though she rubs *ahem* elbows with the upper echelons of Alliance society, she still feels most at home with the ragtag misfits.

Shepherd Book - I know there's a graphic novel out there with Book's backstory and, dammit, I want it!  That's all.

Serenity - Yes, I'm counting the ship as a character (hey, if the TARDIS can be a character...)  At the end of "Out of Gas" (which is my favorite of all these episodes - love me a good flashback), there's the scene showing Mal in the market for a new ship - and there's little ol' Serenity sitting on a hill surrounded by junk.  And she looks so stinking cute!  It made me sad when they had to disguise her as a Reaver ship in the movie.  I want a figurine of Serenity to sit on my desk, she's so cute!

This is getting long, but suffice it to say that I loved Firefly and I wish that I'd watched it when it was airing - maybe if more people had watched, we'd have more of it.  Every time I've heard Firefly talked about, the people who've seen it love it and the people who haven't seen it want to watch it.  I don't know of anything else that gained fans after it got canceled and you'd think somebody would get the idea to revive.  I've often heard talk of someone bringing it back, but I don't know how likely that is.  But you never know.  In the meantime, you can't take the sky from me.

(see what I did there?)


  1. After I was introduced to the verse, I bought EVERYBODY I know a copy of Firefly who didn't already own it. That was Christmas that year. "Oh, you haven't seen this? Merry Christmas." The only remaining holdout from that list is my mother, who has yet to delve into the world. But she loved the Avengers and on the strength of it's writing will give Firefly a chance. Everyone else who has has come away better for it.

    1. I have never heard of anyone not liking Firefly. And I have my Father's Day gifts all planned out :)

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it Chrissy! (one of us!) If you want your anger at Fox heightened, not only did they cancel it, the didn't give it a chance. From what I understand I never had a constant time slot, AND they aired the episodes out of order. The Pilot was actually the last one to air. The idiots!

    Glad to have another Browncoat in the 'verse!

  3. I'm so glad you gave it a chance! I actually discovered Firefly first, and when it was over, I mourned for about six months, some how waiting for the universe to give it more. After that, I decided that if I really wasn't going to get more Firefly, I was going to have to try something else, and that's when I gave Doctor Who a chance.

    But it's like a constant sense of loss. "More firefly now!!!"