The episode, when it originally aired, functioned as the pilot. So, like before, most of the episode is spent establishing the verse and the characters who live in it. The plot starts out as an old-fashioned train robbery, without Mal or the crew asking questions as to what their client of the week, Niska, wants them to steal. It’s not until the robbery goes awry that Mal and Zoe, who are stranded on a planet called Paradisio, find out that they’ve just stolen much-needed medicine from a train filled with sick refugees.
Jayne gets mighty impatient, wanting to take off right away. Thankfully, Simon sedated the brute in time for everyone to create a backup plan. Inara takes advantage of her status as a Companion to get Mal and Zoe out of town, pretending that they’re her indentured servants. Once they’re back on the ship, Mal gets ready to bring the cargo back to the refugees, only to be confronted by Niska’s strongman Crow. This leads to a brawl in a cargo bay that ends with Jayne shooting Crow’s weapon out of his hand. “I was aiming for his head,” he claims under sedation.
Mal and Zoe return the medicine to Paradisio and the Sheriff decides to let them go without pressing any charges. Mal tells Crow that they’re done doing business with Niska. Crow makes an epic, threatening speech. Mal replies by kicking Crow into Serenity’s turbines and telling the same thing to another of Niska’s henchmen. I don’t think it was the right thing for Mal to do in that situation, but I’ve gotta admit that it was a hilarious scene. If it were up to me, Crow would’ve been left to starve and have gotten that same degenerative disease the other refugees had, but Mal was in a hurry to get out and Crow was more than likely to have been a man of his word.
We won’t be seeing the last of Niska, but another antagonist gets introduced at the end of the episode: The Hands of Blue, 2 men who are on the lookout for River. To say that these guys creep me out is an understatement.