For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing something I’ve meant to do for 2 or 3 years now: watch all of “Firefly” and its finale film “Serenity.” I started watching the show with my fiance, but we only got a few episodes in before stopping for reasons that I can’t recall. Recently, I found out that a few cast members would be appearing at a convention we’ll be at next month, so I figured now was as good a time as any to buckle down and play catch up. Needless to say, I’m glad I did.
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have the faintest knowledge about “Firefly,” but I’ll go ahead and give you the know-how. “Firefly” is a space western show created by Joss Whedon that ran in 2002 on Fox. Many people know it as the show that was unceremoniously cancelled by Fox after airing 11 of its then 14 episodes out of order. The show followed a crew of smugglers on “Serenity,” a Firefly-class spaceship. Lead by Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, this crew embarks on all sorts of adventures in the aim of making money and staying under the radar of the government, known as the Alliance. There’s plenty of laughs, tears, and drama throughout the show among the crew itself and the people they come across.
In both the show and movie, you can easily tell they’re products of Whedon. The sardonic humor he loves to inject is here in full force, and there are a good bunch of action scenes to balance out the quieter character-focused moments.Even though the show only lasted a short time, I really enjoyed the nuances of each character and was sad to see them go by the end. Mal will forever be my favorite, partially thanks to Nathan Fillion’s performance, but I felt all the characters were great and that includes the various baddies they come across.
I really got invested in this world Whedon created too. It’s set up in a fashion where humanity has made enough advancements to branch out into space and terraform planets, yet still relies on farming and trading to grow and prosper. While the whole idea of western meets sci-fi can be off-putting at first, I really liked how it set itself apart from other space-themed shows with its mix of shiny, futuristic technology and buildings with barren planets and old-school clothing and weapons. A lot of it is thanks to the Alliance’s influence (or sometimes lack thereof), and I thought that that and the idea of the US and China forming the ultimate union made “Firefly” feel fresh to me from the usual futuristic sci-fi fare.
The unfortunate thing about the show is that it deserved better treatment by Fox. Sure, the movie did its best to tie up loose ends and give the show a mostly satisfying conclusion despite the restrictive 2-hour run time, but there was so much potential for the characters and possible plots that never will see the light of day. Thankfully, supplemental materials like comics have tried to fill in the gaps and expand on the universe itself (I hope to read these at some point myself). I’m proud enough to call myself a Browncoat (aka “Firefly” fan) at this point, especially since I’m looking forward to checking out some merchandise when I visit that convention.
However, I’m not sure this is the kind of show that would appeal to anyone. A lot of it could easily be attributed to the lack of a major overarching plot, leaving many episodes having that “slice of life/space adventures” feel to them. I could also see people being thrown off or uninterested in the space western setting as well. Despite that, I will still recommend this show whether you’re a Whedon or sci-fi fan. While it doesn’t top “Buffy” as my favorite work from Whedon, I definitely love it for what it is and appreciate it for trying something outside the box.