December 21, 2010
Firefly - You can't take the sky from me [review by starlight]
Embarking on an unfinished 14 episode stint in a sci-fi television show may be unattractive to both regular nerdling viewers and the main stream, but whether you regularly sink your teeth into 20 year spaceship journeys or prefer to keep your feet firmly on Earth, Firefly is definitely worth your attention for a mere half-season at the least. You can put aside your Battlestar or your Gossip Girl for a week or two and find out why the premature end of this cult favourite is bewailed by watchers everywhere.
What makes this show different from other space operas, and more welcoming to non-sci-fi viewers, is the Western feel to it. Firefly is the story of a renegade spaceship called Serenity that has turned to crime in the aftermath of a civil war. Captain Malcolm Reynolds was on the losing side of that war, so why should he follow the rules of his conquerors? Mal plays by his own rules, but he's honourable when he can be. He's not the typical cowboy in the black hat, but he likes to piss off the sheriff.
Another aspect that will attract viewers of all kinds is the characterization. This show is definitely soft steam-punk - it doesn't focus on the technology, and the plot and characters are forefront. The plot that developed slowly over the 14 episodes clearly had potential that Whedon was revving up slowly while he presented characters with unrevealed histories and unpredictable futures.
Captain Mal is backed up by his sexy and dangerous second-in-command, Zoe, and while her personality is well-drawn, all we know about her past is that her connection to Mal from the war days is a thorn in the paw of her husband, Wash. Wash is Serenity's pilot, and Whedon's typical one-liner man, who delivers a ridiculous line no matter how severe the situation. Another amusing character, albeit one to watch for a knife in the back, is Jayne Cobb, the show's hired muscle. He's here while the pay is good, and is definitely not the brains of the operation. Everyone loves Kaylee, the adorable female mechanic who often surprises you with her lack of innocence, but my favourite character is Inara, the ship's principled and stubborn "Companion" - a prostitute who ironically serves as the conscience of the crew. The mystery in the show hangs around the characters of River Tam and Dr. Simon Tam. Simon rescues his sister River from government experimentation, and is left trying to trace what they did to her and fix it. River's brilliant mind has been broken, which makes her highly amusing. What has been revealed about her, and what is still left a mystery, is one of the most upsetting problems of the show's cancellation. Another such problem is that of Shepperd, the holy man with mysterious ties to Mal's enemies, the Alliance - but more than that is never revealed. He is clearly much more than a simple preacher, but we are left to wonder what his secret is.
If the inconclusiveness of the series will just make you tear your hair out, then sure, don't watch it. But if the potential of the story peaks your interest at all, trust me, it is worth it to watch and let your imagination fill in the blanks, just like the millions of viewers who have watched the show since it was cancelled three months into its first season. Great job Fox, you made an instant cult classic.