Saturday, April 24, 2010

Firefly (2002-2005)

Creator: Joss Whedon
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass.

Well, I have to admit, this series is just amazing, and why didn't I check it out before? I don't know. It must have been some kind of error in logic on my part. Whatever it was, this series is fucking awesome, and that's really the first thing you need to know about it. I'm really going to keep this short, because...well, what else is there to say? The story's engaging, the characters are masterfully written, the acting is great, the direction is gritty and stylish as hell...it's just a great show all around.

It's about, well, space pirates. Space pirates who travel in a spaceship (called Serenity) but do business and battle in suspiciously Old Western-style settings a lot of the time. The theme of the show is basically that Earth's nations liquidized down into just America and China as world powers, and those cultures inter-mingled and expanded across an entire galaxy of moons, planets and other manner of foreign, far away places. The main story revolves around a grizzled, sarcastic war veteran named Mal, and his crew, composed of first mate Zoe, her husband Wash the pilot, cute, spunky mechanic Kaylee, big, dumb and tough Jayne and the seductive "companion" Inara. They pick up a preacher named Book, and are further joined by fugitive doctor Simon Tam and his government-addled sister River, who isn't quite all there like most people are.

So there's your crew. They're all played by very, very good actors, and the character writing is just wonderful - subtle enough to not become too shallow, but they don't throw anything in your face, either. The dialogue is good, quirky and realistic and it really lets you relate to these people. Joss Whedon said that he wanted a show that offered sci-fi action in a more humane context, to where the viewers could really get involved with the characters and the fact that they, like us, are just regular people, with the same problems we have. There are romantic tensions and old friendships, and everyone has their own motivations.

But that isn't the only thing this show does well, as the other main draw is just the huge amount of kick-ass action and suspense the show gives us with every new adventure. You can pack a lot of stuff into 45 minutes, and the show makes full use of that. Every episode is packed with two or three subplots as well as a main one running through the larger whole, and it's all really interesting and cool to watch. I could go on about all of the episodes here, but really that would take too long, so I'll just sum up a few of my favorites. I think the point where I really fell in love with the show was the fourth episode "Shindig," in which Mal fights in a sword duel against a guy named Atherton Wing, who not only has the nerve to steal Inara, the woman who he likes but is too prideful to admit, but also to disrespect her. It's heroic and cool, but the rest of the ship has their own motivations - like Kaylee, who wants a dress to go to the party, even though she really doesn't fit in. Everything is given equal weight.

In "Ariel," we get heavy plot dynamics and exciting chase scenes as Jayne turns on the doctor and his sister, selling them out to the Feds. The scene where Mal almost kills him toward the end is just completely chilling, as well done as can be. This is the kind of stuff that movie producers wish they could put out. In "Out of Gas," we see the ship desolate and cold, switching between flashbacks of the crew back when they were first getting together, flashbacks of a more recent time as the ship, well, runs out of gas, and the present, in which a bloodied, out-of-breath Mal gropes in the dark, trying to find a way to stay alive. Haunting and masterful.

In "Objects in Space," which would tragically be the last episode, a new character named Jubal Early is introduced. He acts like a young Samuel L. Jackson and completely steals the show with his witty diatribes and cool, unpredictable actions. The conflicts between him and the crew are spirited and gripping, and what better way is there than this to end a show, if the bitter end is indeed coming? You go out with a party, fighting hard and giving it your all. That's what Firefly does here. Long live Firefly, and may new fans discover it by the hour. What a great show.