Sunday, April 17, 2011

Off Topic: So Um...Where Do I Sign Up For One Of Those Shiny Browncoats?

2002 saw the debut of a short lived, but long loved SciFi series by Buffy The Vampire Slayer series creator Joss Whedon.  Firefly is not a perfect show, but it wasn't trying to be, and that is why it is great.

I honestly do not remember if I caught any episodes of the series when it originally aired, but I have been waiting for the price to be right to purchase the show on Blu Ray because I figured I would probably like it.  Thanks to sheer laziness and the wonders of modern technology, with Netflix Instant Streaming, I have been able to catch up and watch all 14 episodes of the series this past week.

While most of commentary I have seen regarding the show focuses on the obvious hybridization of science fiction and western motifs.  That is only the setting, the real backbone of the series is the a mixture of the frontier experience and the losing side of a civil war.  Its all about life on the fringes of society, job to job living, and trying to make the best out of bad situations. The use of a western/frontier vernacular and Chinese profanity gave the universe of Firefly some added texture, and is just a fun and folksy way to speak.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Mal) provides the moral backbone of the show.  The scoundrel with a good heart, is hardly a new character.  The obvious comparison for Scifi fans in Han Solo.  Nathan Fillion (currently the star of Castle) absolutely chews up scenery in this show.  Mal's brand of cocksure comedy, mixed intense personally loyalty and a past that haunts him makes for a very compelling lead character.  It is no wonder this show has garner such an intense following. 

I found some of the other characters in the show a bit hit and miss.  Inara and Book I liked, but I think as a function of the series being cancelled we never got to fully explore the mysteries behind these characters.  Zoe served the role as loyal co-pilot well, and as a tough female she was a good character.  But on the whole I found Zoe a little boring.  Perhaps with her own sub-plot or episode we would have explored her more and given her added depth, but there just didn't seem to be as many layers there as with some characters.

River and Simon I thought were both played well by their actors, though River was the better character.  Simon seemed a bit cookie cutter for me, the socially awkward supporting actor that you see in many shows.  River was just so off kilter that it was fun, you never knew were they were going to go with her next.

Wash and Kaylee I both put in the fun character category.  The episode "War Stories" really let Wash shine as a character.  But for the most part he provides some pretty good comic relief and sarcasm through the series.  Kaylee is like the Mary Ann,  she has that girl next door look.  I was taken aback to see how Kaylee joined the crew, that was a fun surprise and makes you think the character is not as innocent as she sometimes acted.  Another point about Kaylee, is that while not a perfect fit, I think that this is in the spirit of how Jaina Solo could be portrayed on the screen. 

Which brings me to my second favorite character on the show.  Jayne Cobb.  Jayne isn't a good person and he is not particularly intelligent, but he is pretty complex and lots of fun.  If the show had continued I think we would have seen evolution of Jayne's character.  I think on the whole he was misguided as opposed to evil.  For whatever reason, he all his instincts were wrong, but there was a little nugget of redeemability in his character that we got glimpses of. 

My favorite episodes occur back to back in the series, episode 6: Our Mrs. Reynolds and episode 7: Jaynestown. Christina Hendricks of Mad Men fame guest stars as Mrs. Reynolds, and the most evilly seductive con-woman in all the Verse. In Jaynestown we see Jayne embrace, reject and try to come to terms with fame and hero worship.  Jaynestown may be one of the most enjoyable single episodes of a TV series I have seen in recent memory. 

It really is to bad that the show was cancelled.  It seems like this was a show that was 5 years to early in the making.  The growth of social networking and the further interconnectedness of geek culture that his has fostered would have provided a much more fertile ground for the show.  I think if the pilot were sold today, with the growth of cable network original series, that Firefly would have found a home and would be a very successful show.

The good news is that I still have the Serenity movie to look forward to watching, the bad news is that after that there is no more new Firefly for this latecomer to the Brownshirt bandwagon. 

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...

1 comment:

  1. One of my all-time favorite televisions shows. I, too, was a late-comer, only discovering the wonders of the 'Verse about 2 years ago. Enjoy watching the final episode, Pete, and make sure you purchase the series, because as long as folks still purchase it, there may be a chance for a return. (Yeah, I'm a hopeless optimist.)