Much Ado About Nothing (2012 Joss Whedon Version): A Movie Review

much ado

Did you know that after he filmed Avengers, Joss Whedon made a modern adaptation of a Shakespeare play? It’s not surprising when you look into Joss’s personal history with Shakespeare. The cast of Buffy would often talk about how during the summer, they would hang out at Joss’s house and read Shakespeare plays. (Incidentally, I would gladly eat a heart in the marketplace to be a fly in the wall for those summers.)

This adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing has a wonderful cast.  Whedon alumni actors include: Clark Gregg and Ashley Johnson from Avengers (Johnson was the cute blonde waitress that Captain America saved), Nathan Filion and Sean Maher from Firefly, Reed Diamon and Fran Kranz from Dollhouse, Tom Lenk from Buffy, and Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof from Angel. Angel fans, grab your tissues because this will be the only chance to see Fred Burkle and Wesley Wyndham-Pryce get the happy ending they deserve.

There are many interesting things in this adaptation, aside from the fact that it’s set in the modern era. First of all, the film was shot in black and white, giving it the feel of an Old Hollywood movie.  The beginning of the film showes that Benedick and Beatrice were involved, which would explain their coarse behavior towards each other. When Hero and Claudio meet, it’s implied that they knew each other before Claudio went off to war, hence why they rush to get married so quickly.

Speaking of the war, it’s never stated outright what kind of war Benedick and Claudio came from, but it’s implied that it’s a mafia war, as Don John and his cohort are seen being led to Leonato’s house in zip-tie handcuffs. The mafia war implication serves as a reason for why Hero allegedly sleeping with someone else before her wedding was such a big scandal. She was accused of sleeping with the enemy!

The film highlights the main story arc between Claudio and Hero, putting their relationship to the test. When Hero fakes her death, she is seen watching Claudio’s remorse at her funeral from a distance. In spite of the fact that Don John tried to ruin Hero’s reputation and relationship, Claudio was ready to atone for his idiocy. (They even have a joke that involves a black woman glaring at Claudio while he says “I’ll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.”)

In spite of how people may perceive the play, this is actually the best adaptation I’ve seen. Putting my fangirl bias towards all things Whedon aside, there’s this tendency for people to think that Much Ado is essentially a romantic comedy. It isn’t. The implication that Benedick and Beatrice were involved, but never married is there in the text. When Don Pedro asks Beatrice about Benedick, she says:

Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave
him use for it, a double heart for his single one:
marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,
therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.

It also serves as the reason why she can’t marry Don Pedro. It’s a back-in-the-day thing, but since Benedick and Beatrice were involved, he had to marry her in order to make their relationship legit. It’s not a “boy meets girl” romantic comedy. It’s about two relationships that fell apart and need to be set right. Of course, since this is a modern adaptation, it’s also clear that Beatrice and Benedick still have feelings for each other.

Did I mention, by the way, that I love Amy Acker in this movie? She is a wonderful Beatrice and the chemistry she has with Alexis Denisof sizzles. They both have scenes that involve slapstick, the characters hiding or jumping around to eavesdrop on their friends’ conversations. It’s hilarious to watch. They may not have the strength that Kenneth Brannaugh and Emma Thompson put into their performances in the 1993 film adaptation of this play, but you can argue that this adaptation feels more intimate.

Even though not all the actors in this film have the nuance and gravity of classically trained Shakespeare actors (looking at you BriTanicK), the major actors all gave memorable performances. My favorite is Nathan Fillion’s version of Dogberry, who comes off like Richard Castle meets CSI Miami. He says all his lines with perfect seriousness, which makes scenes like this all the more hilarious:

Marry, sir, they have committed false report;
moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily,
they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have
belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust
things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.

Overall, I highly recommend Shakespeare fans and Joss Whedon fans to watch this film. I also recommend to listen to the commentaries on the DVD. There’s with just Joss Whedon, who explains how they filmed the whole thing at his house. He is amazing with commentaries. Then there’s the cast commentary which basically has you laughing from start to finish.

Now, can we have an adaptation of another Shakespeare play with the cast from Buffy? Like say, James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

Firefly Month: The Importance of Communication in Trash

Once again, I am going to do my best to keep my fangirl squee for this episode to a minimum. In fact, I’ll save it for a few particular moments in this episode.

The episode starts with Captain Malcolm Reynolds naked as a baby in the middle of a desert. The episode then goes back to some time ago when our beloved captain meets up with an old friend of his named Monty for a smuggling job. Monty tells Mal that he has recently married a lovely woman named Bridget. Enter the lady formerly known as Saffron. Mal and “Saffron” point guns at each other and in the midst of their scuffle, the devious redhead inadvertently reveals that she knows Mal all too well and Monty ditches them. Unfortunately, Saffron doesn’t have anywhere to go. She begs him for a ride and even offers a deal on a heist with a seriously huge payoff.

The Captain returns to Serenity and gets invited into Inara’s shuttle, a very rare occasion. And by rare, I mean never. Inara laments to Mal that she hasn’t gotten any work in three weeks and thinks that Mal is keeping her from doing her usual job. They fight like a married couple, with Inara pointing out that their last batch of cargo was little geisha bobbleheads. And the audience and I go “OH JUST KISS AND MAKE UP ALREADY!”

It cuts to Mal taking Saffron out of the crate. Saffron explains the heist to the crew: a guy named Durren Haymer who collects a lot of Earth-that-was artifacts, including the MacGuffin of this episode, the Lassiter. The Lassiter is essentially the oldest laser gun in existence. Haymer, a member of the Alliance, currently lives on an estate on a central planet named Bellerophon and Saffron knows how to get inside. Of course, the gun is gonna be hard to get because taking the gun out of the house, it’ll alert security and the feds immediately.

Inara totally sees right through the scheme, smart lady that she is, and decides to stay out of it. Zoe decides to join in after punching Saffron in the face.

Simon and River are staying out of sight. River says “She’s a liar and no good will come of her.” Jayne, of course, doesn’t care so long as there’s payoff. River then points out “Jayne is a girl’s name” and Jayne reminds her that he’s got man parts. Of course, River tells Simon, after Jayne leaves, that Jayne is afraid that the Tam siblings will find out about his betrayal on Ariel. (And now you realize that River was actually talking about Jayne when she said “She’s a liar.”)

Zoe and Inara make small talk on a bridge. Inara is going to do her regular work and reminds Zoe that Saffron will more than likely stab Mal in the back.

As we move into Bellerophon, we realize that the estates are essentially floating islands. Mal and Saffron pose as members of a party prep crew. Kaylee points out that once they get the Lassiter, they’ll have to chuck it out the garbage chute since all the doors of the estate are tagged with security alarms. Kaylee will program the garbage bin to be flown to go to Isis Canyon, where Mal and the crew will get the loot.

While reprogramming the trash bin’s coordinate system, Jayne gets shocked  and knocked out. Saffron hears someone coming. It’s Durren, who recognizes Saffron as his wife on the spot and calls her Yolanda. Durren says that she’s been missing for six years. He thought that she ran off with the security programmer named Heinrich, but his body was found by police a short time after Yolanda disappeared.

Mal points out that Saffron actually cared for Durren and was possibly the first man she married and conned. Saffron has a gun ready to go. Durren comes back in while Mal takes advantage of the moment to put the Lassiter in the trash. It’s at this point that Mal gets a gun out of the flowers he brought in and I start calling the little redhead “YoSaffBridge.” Durren points out that he activated an emergency button on his ring and the police comes right away. Saffron and Mal get out of the estate and YoSaffBridge quickly locks the feds inside as the two escape to the shuttle.

Mal and YoSaffBridge exchange small talk on the shuttle. She admitted that she did love Durren and wanted to run off with Heinrich, but didn’t kill Heinrich. In fact, she forgot the guy’s name. She actually starts crying at this point and Mal lets his guard drop long enough to sit next to her, which opens up the opportunity for her to get Mal’s gun out of his holster. She holds him at gunpoint and tells him to get naked.

Meanwhile, the crew of Serenity realizes that there’s a maneuvering issue. Kaylee quickly checks the engine room and realizes that YoSaffBridge sabotaged the ship again. They can’t make the rendezvous and land.

It cuts to YoSaffBridge in the dumpster looking for the laser gun, only for Inara to show up holding the exact laser gun. Too bad it doesn’t work. Thankfully, she has a backup that works just fine. To the little redhead’s surprise, Inara and the rest of the crew were all putting up an act, going along with the scheme, but creating a backup plan in case YoSaffBridge double-crossed Mal. Inara would act all huffy and storm off only to show up at the dumpster and get the laser gun herself. Inara points out that some of the crew’s performances weren’t as nuanced as she had hoped and was surprised that YoSaffBridge didn’t realize that everyone was acting. (But hey, they don’t have Companion training.) She closes up YoSaffBridge in the dumpster as the little redhead screams my second favorite line in this entire episode: “YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME! I HAVE A CONDITION!” Of course, Inara points out that she is not gonna die, but just be there long enough for the authorities to find her.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, Jayne wakes up paralyzed on Simon’s operating table, drugged with some medicine Simon gave him so that he wouldn’t break his spine when he regained consciousness. Simon takes advantage of Jayne’s paralyzed state to talk about Jayne betraying them on Ariel. River takes this opportunity to show herself. Simon tells Jayne that they are working together and that he will never harm Jayne as long as he’s on the operating table and says that they should trust each other. River, of course, says my actual favorite line in this entire episode: “Also, I can kill you with my brain.” The Tam siblings leave Jayne to rest and wallow in his guilt.

Speaking of wallowing in guilt, we find a very naked Mal out in the desert. The crew of Serenity arrives to pick him up and all is well.

This episode is one that is worth repeat viewings. And not just because it’s the opportunity of a life time to see a naked Nathan Fillion. As stated in a previous blog, the last encounter with YoSaffBridge involved the lady tossing in the apple of discord and taking advantage of the crew’s preconceptions in order to deceive them. This time, she gets the tables turned on her. The crew creates a plan to make sure they get the loot whether or not YoSaffBridge stabbed them in the back. Repeat viewings show the instances where Wash and Kaylee are breaking character, a slight giggle here, an over-the-top line said there.

Inara and Mal continue to have communication issues. It’s implied that Mal was probably keeping them out on the backwater parts of the verse to keep Inara from getting into situations like what happened in Shindig, but Inara was right in the fact that their most profitable ventures happened on central planets. Mal was wrong to call Inara a whore just as much as it was wrong for Inara to call Mal a petty thief. But in the end, they finally decided to compromise. Inara gets to join in on Mal’s latest crime while Mal lets Inara do her work on a central planet. And Inara gets to see Mal naked.

Speaking of that, I’m going to end this post with my fangirl squee.

OMIGOSH HE’S NAKED! And Inara finds him and she’s looking at him naked. How is she not fazed by this?! Heck, how is the rest of the crew unfazed by Mal’s very naked state?! Stop smiling like that, Mal! I’m thinking dirty thoughts!

I’ll be in my bunk. And then I’ll be going to Confession.

Firefly Month: Who You Are In the Dark in War Stories

The episode opens with Book and Simon debating on who the people that experimented on River were in terms of ethics. Book wonders if they wanted to see what kind of person River was by constantly tortuing her while Simon thinks they were being more specific. Meanwhile, on a distant planet, Niska (villain of the week from The Train Job) gets word that Serenity is in the vicinity. He’s torturing someone who neglected a payment. The works of a warrior named Shan Yu get brought up in both scenes.

River and Kaylee chase each other around the ship like two sisters, fighting over an apple. Apparently Jayne bought apples for the rest of the crew. Kaylee notices that Zoe always cuts her apples. And this is where the titular war stories start. Zoe said that the reason she cuts her apples is because of tiny grenades placed inside apples given by Alliance troops. When the Captain comes on deck, Wash brings up the fact that they could’ve made more money by cutting out the middlemen, but Mal brings up the fact that they need to play nice. Wash and Zoe  argue about this later because Zoe lied to her husband about not mentioning Wash’s idea. Wash is naturally jealous of how Zoe accepts Mal’s authority without question and is willing to lie to him. Wash feels like Mal is another husband.

When Zoe gets to a shuttle to deliver the last of the medical supplies, Wash decides to volunteer to help Mal to keep Zoe and Mal apart. Unfortunately, what starts out as a “milk run” turns into an ambush.

Back on the ship, Zoe takes Jayne and Book to check on where Mal and Wash are. Shepherd is able to identify the kinds of shots taken and recognizes that the men who attacked were professionals. They also quickly realize that it wasn’t a robbery…it’s a kidnapping. And Zoe knows who the kidnapper is.

Mal and Wash are taken to Niska’s lair and start arguing, with Wash thinking that Zoe always supports the Captain’s orders without question. Of course, Mal points out that Zoe married Wash in spite of him ordering her not to. (Again, would’ve like to have seen that story.) Niska puts the two men into his electrical torture machine and the two of them are still arguing. (Which is kind of funny in a dark comedy kind of way.) It turns out, though, it’s Mal’s way of making sure that Wash is still alive.

Zoe comes onto Niska’s space station to buy back the Captain and her husband and asks her to choose. Zoe chooses Wash without hesitation. Niska cuts off Mal’s ear (I have to wonder did they really do that to Nathan Fillion in real life) and sends both of them back to Serenity. Realizing that he owes the captain his life, Wash and Zoe decide to get the captain back. Jayne tells the two of them that it’s suicide. The rest of the crew surprise Zoe by volunteering to be armed backup, including Shepherd Book who says that while he isn’t intending on killing the Bible “tends to get fuzzy on the subject of kneecaps.” Zoe’s order as they arrive on the space station is “If it moves, shoot it, unless it’s the captain.”

The assault on Niska’s space station plays out like a really good video game with Zoe, Jayne, and Wash leading the full frontal assault and the rest of the crew holding down the main gate and providing cover. Book holds true to his word and shoots at the kneecaps while River surprises Kaylee by shooting three people down with her eyes closed.

Mal struggles to escape Niska and Viktor as Zoe, Jayne, and Wash make their way in. Zoe thinks that the captain needs to take care of Viktor himself. Mal replies: “NO! NO IT’S NOT!” and the three of them proceed to shoot him down.

All screenshots are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

All screenshots are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

Back on the ship, Simon reattaches Mal’s ear and Zoe makes her husband a bowl of soup. Then Mal attempts to fulfill his word by ordering Zoe to sleep with him and the two of them flirt in the most uncomfortable way possible. Of course, they have about as much unresolved sexual tension as Captain Hook and Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time. By that, I mean they have none at all. Even Jayne thinks it’s unsettling. Wash, of course, has no choice, but to steal Zoe away and declare to the Captain “We’ll be in our bunk.”

The underlying theme of this is “who you are underneath.” The reason that the warrior Shan Yu comes up is that he believed that you don’t really know a man until you torture him. The concept also applies to the rest of the crew of Serenity when they are put into a combat situation. We see that Zoe is cool under pressure, but loves her husband and her captain, albeit in different ways. We see Wash’s jealousy and vulnerability. We see hints of Book’s past by his knowledge of famous torturers and uncomfortably good marksmanship. We can see that Simon isn’t good with a gun, but his sister is. Most of all, we see why Malcolm Reynolds is the captain. He’s able to endure hours of torture and helps his comrades stay in line. His decisions may not be understandable, but they work out in the long run. The way that the crew works together will play a majorly important role next episode.

Firefly Month: Loyalty, Justice, and Mercy in Ariel

The episode starts out with a typical day on the ship. The crew is on their way to a core planet called Ariel, where Inara is going to get a checkup as part of the requirements of her Companion guild. Shepherd Book is absent from this episode, spending time with his monastery. All of a sudden, River grabs a knife slashes at Jayne’s chest. Once again, Blue Sun Corporation is to blame here (Jayne was wearing a Blue Sun t-shirt), but again, nobody knows that yet. Jayne gets major paranoid that River could go after any one of them. Mal, however, insists that Simon and River are part of the crew. He decides to put River on lockdown and reminds Simon to keep his sister in check.

Once the crew of Serenity lands on Ariel, Simon comes up with the idea for a job. Simon informs them of the types of medicines they can steal from the hospital, medicine that can be easily restocked, in exchange for getting access to a diagnostic ward that has a 3D neuro-imager. Simon basically figures he can kill 2 birds with one stone: find out what’s wrong with River and actually contribute to the crew outside of just being a medic.

Simon lays out the plan for smuggling him and his sister into the hospital. Jayne, Zoe, Mal, and Wash disguise themselves as EMTs and rehearse an elaborate emergency situation in which Simon and River pretend to be dead. When Simon explains the plan to River, she’s scared, but Simon reassures her that everything will be okay.

Mal, Zoe, and Jayne make it to the hospital and are able to take River and Simon to the morgue without anyone asking questions. Jayne is in charge of making sure that Simon and River are okay, but Jayne takes advantage of the situation to call the feds to turn Simon and River in. The three of them pass through the recovery ward and Simon takes care of a patient on the brink of death due to a bad medication mix. He calls out the doctor on making a rookie mistake while River smiles at her brother with pride.

Mal and Zoe are able to get to the medical supply room without too much trouble while Jayne, River, and Simon make it to the 3D neuro-imager. Simon takes a look at River’s brain and realizes that the Academy attempted to lobotomize River and cut her amygdala out. For  those who didn’t pay attention in biology class, the amygdala is that part of the brain that suppresses emotions. This means that River feels everything without any self control. Add to the fact that she can read minds and has some slight clairvoyance and you basically have a soup full of crazy and wrong trapped inside of the body of a 17-year-old girl. Even Jayne is horrified, but still plans on turning traitor. So when River gets a panic attack, you realize it’s because she knows what Jayne is gonna do and is fearing the worst. And her premonition turns out to be correct: Jayne leads them out of the hospital to get the reward money only for the federal marshal to turn traitor on Jayne in return.

Mal and Zoe make it back to the refurbished space ambulance with Wash and realize that something is wrong. Kaylee checks the space version of the police scanner and finds out that Jayne, Simon, and River are captured. Jayne and Simon fight off the marshals while Mal and Zoe go looking for them. Unfortunately, reinforcements come in. Remember the two men wearing blue gloves AKA the Hands of Blue from an earlier episodes? They’re back and they’re armed with sonic transmitters that have the power of literally blowing people’s brains out from the inside. Jayne, River, and Simon make a run for it, with River leading the two men to an exit, where Mal and Zoe are on the other side waiting for them.

The team makes it back to Serenity with some minor scratches. Simon thanks Jayne for helping them escape the feds. However, Mal is smart enough to realize that Jayne was the reason that Simon and River got flagged by the feds in the first place and knocks Jayne out, leaving him in the cargo bay airlock in the sci-fi version of what is called “keel hauling.” Jayne confesses to Mal and asks Mal why he’s taking it so personally. Mal reminds Jayne that if anyone turns on the crew, it’s considered a mutiny for him. Jayne begs Mal for mercy and Mal thankfully does so, telling Jayne that the next time he decides to turn traitor to not act as a coward. The episode ends with Simon giving River medicine.

There are 3 major themes in this episode: the concepts of loyalty, justice, and mercy. Simon wants to prove his loyalty to the crew of Serenity by giving them a mission that has a big payoff. Jayne learns how there is no honor among thieves, or in this case within the Alliance. He also learns that loyalty isn’t an individual thing.

That end scene with Jayne getting “keel hauled” by Mal is a perfect example of justice and mercy working together. Some people might think that Jayne got off too easy, staying alive and all. But he has to live with Mal constantly questioning his loyalty and the fact that he betrayed a man who’s trying to figure out what’s wrong with his sister, who is not in full control of her actions. It was right for Mal to warn Jayne not to do what he did again and it was also right not to let Jayne suffocate. It’s also interesting that Shepherd Book wasn’t in the episode because he and Jayne have an odd friendship and if anyone has the right to absolve Jayne of his sins, it’s the good Shepherd.

Justice is rendering to someone what they’re due and mercy, as pointed out by Mal earlier, is the mark of a great man. Mal showed to Jayne why he’s the captain of the ship. Since Shepherd Book is absent, it’s up to Mal to distribute the justice and the mercy that Jayne deserves and needs.

JMJ

Firefly Month: Solid Ground and Synchronicity in Out of Gas

Out of Gas is unique in the sense that it’s told in anachronistic order. I’ll start with what I call “present day”:

The episode starts out with shots of an empty Serenity, which already tells the audience that something is wrong. Just as we start to wonder where everyone was, we see Captain Mal Reynolds collapsing onto the floor of the cargo hold.

The episode then flashes back to the crew of Serenity sharing funny stories around the dinner table and celebrating Simon’s birthday, when all of a sudden there’s an explosion from the engine room. The explosion knocks Zoe out and disables the life support and auxiliary power. To make things worse, they’re flying under the radar which meant that finding help is next to impossible. Kaylee explains that the ship can’t be fixed without a certain part, meaning that they are proverbially “dead in the water.” Mal tells everyone to evacuate the ship while he waits for help.

A while after everyone leaves, another ship arrives, but unfortunately, the people who have that part that Mal wants turn out to be scavengers and not good Samaritans. Mal manages to get them off and get the MacGuffin, but collapses.

And now we’ll move on to the scenes where Mal’s life flashes before his eyes.

Mal bought Serenity with Zoe, back when the ship was in a supposedly dilapidated state. Zoe is wary of it, but clearly she’s never seen home makeover shows. Mal hires Wash to be the pilot and a mechanic named Bester. Zoe does not like Wash, which again makes me wonder how the two got together in the first place. Later on, we find the mechanic Bester in flagrante delicto with Kaylee in the engine room.. Bester said that engines make her hot. Mal points out that the ship needs to get off ground because they’re behind schedule. Kaylee, mechanical genius that she is, points out the problem and gets hired on the spot at Bester’s expense. Some time later, Jayne gets recruited to the team when he and a band of robbers take Serenity at gunpoint and Mal bribes Jayne into turning to their side, offering room and board and more money. Finally, Inara is taken onto the ship, citing that her status as a Companion will create a sense of credibility and status. She asks for 3 things: complete autonomy, that Mal never walks into her shuttle without permission, and that Mal never calls her a whore. Well, 1 out of 3 ain’t bad, right?

Going back to the present day, Mal is able to give himself enough adrenaline to get the MacGuffin into the engine room and get the ship running again, but passes out before he can send a call to the shuttles to return to the ship.

The next thing we see is Mal waking up in the infirmary and I start wondering if we’re watching the end of Inception because Zoe supposedly regained consciousness and ordered both shuttles to return to the ship, thus saving Mal’s life. Too bad we never see that scene and are left guessing whether or not Mal and the rest of the crew died and the rest of everything is just an afterlife thing. I’m not gonna say I hate you, Joss Whedon. Not yet. I’m saving that for later. For now, I’m gonna roll my eyes and roll with the punches.

This was not an easy episode to analyze. This episode runs on backstory, which doesn’t lend much to finding themes or questions about morality. But then this old adage came to me: “God draws straight with crooked lines.” Also known as “everything happens for a reason.”

Synchronicity, as defined by Carl Jung, is “two or more events that are meaningfully related, but not casually related,” a coincidence that actually means something.

 

One can also argue that synchronicity is another way of saying “divine providence.”

 

At the end of the episode, we see that Mal originally looked at a large rocket-type ship before choosing Serenity. We also learn that Wash and Zoe weren’t a case of “love at first sight” and Kaylee only came onto the crew by chance. Jayne joined the crew because there would be more money and better service, Inara joined the crew because they needed her as much as she needs them and the pilot shows that everyone else on the ship started out as passengers.

But eventually, we see what all these moments lead up to: Zoe eventually gains a husband, Jayne gets to act as the crew’s enforcer and muscle, Kaylee gets to do what she loves for a living (working with mechanics, not the other thing; get your mind out of the gutter), Inara has a sense of independence, the Tam siblings find refuge, and Shepherd Book gets a home. What does Mal get out of it? He gets a family.

I think it’s fitting that the first flashback we see in the episode is when everyone’s gathered around the table exchanging stories and celebrating Simon’s birthday. They’ve come a really long way from how things started.

Joseph Susanka of “Summa This, Summa That” says:

He’s “out of gas” at the beginning of the timeline, searching for somewhere to anchor himself. The ship is what he finds. But through the course of the episode, as we see everyone coming together (and eventually, his efforts to protect them all as the ship *seems* like it’s deserving/betraying him), we come to realize that it’s the people on the ship that really anchor him. The real “solid ground.”

So instead of taking the idea that everyone died, I’d like to think that Providence came in to turn things around for Mal. After all, there are bigger things that the crew of the Serenity has to face.

JMJ

Of Firefly and Morality: An Introduction

Whenever I get into one of those moods where I think “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore,” I start watching my favorite sci-fi space drama. But unlike a lot of nerds, my favorite space drama isn’t Star Wars or Star Trek. It’s Firefly.

I got into Firefly long after it got cancelled. I just got done with Doctor Horrible and started watching Firefly since the main character was played by Nathan Fillion. (It’s also why I got into Castle.) Lucky for me, it was streaming online through Hulu and Netflix and is still streaming to this day. I hope to own the series and the film Serenity on DVD someday as well.

The reason I love the show so much is because it’s a show that puts characters first. The characters of Star Trek and Star Wars are definitely memorable, but at times, they feel more like archetypes or mythological beings than actual people. When I watched Firefly, I felt like I could belong and relate to these characters right away. But I also love Firefly because of all the shows created by Joss Whedon, it’s the series that looks into the ideas of morality the most.

But before I can talk about the show, lemme introduce you to the characters. Spoilers and fangirling ahead. You were warned.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds is a man of very strange morals. On the one hand, he doesn’t want anything to do with God. On the other hand, he gets into situations with a lot of risk and very little to no reward because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. He’s protective of his crew and will gladly ask for their help when necessary. The best example of that is in “War Stories,” when the crew comes to rescue him and Wash from Niska (the villain of the episode) and Mal gets into a fight with one of Niska’s henchmen. Zoe says “This is something the captain’s got to do for himself.” Mal disagrees, shouting, “No, it’s not!” cueing Zoe and the others to open fire. It’s hilarious! I also love his determination. He’ll never go down without a fight. Gotta love that in a Captain.

Zoe Washburne is the second-in-command, the cool, calm, and collected one of the team. She keeps Mal and Jayne from going over the edge and is great strategist in a hard situation. She’s loyal and protective, a true Mama Bear to the crew. What stands out about her is that she is a tower of brute strength in contrast to Whedon’s usual line of small girls with super powers. Plus she came up with the line of “Big Damn Heroes,” which is awesome. “War Stories” is also a great episode that showcases her character. But Zoe’s greatest moment in my opinion wasn’t anything from the show, but in Serenity. I dare not spoil the scene. But say the phrase “I am a leaf on the wind” in front of any Browncoat and I will guarantee you, they will start crying and ask “What’s wrong with you?!”

Wash is the pilot, the comic relief, and Joss’s avatar. His establishing scene in the pilot with the dinosaurs is basically him in a nutshell: hilarious and childlike one minute, but ready for business the next. His devotional love to his wife is heartwarming and endearing. I keep thinking of this lovely scene in “Shindig,” when instead of going out to the fancy party that Mal, Kaylee, and Inara are attending, Wash and Zoe are in their bunk doing what married people do and exchange in a bit of pillow talk. I wish I could’ve seen how they got together since in “Out of Gas,” it’s shown that they weren’t exactly a case of love at first sight. Also, Joss? You’re a bastard. But you already knew that.

Inara Serra is not and never was what you would call a “space hooker.” Fellow Browncoats and I compare her to a geisha: a woman who is trained to be intelligent, sociable, and alluring. She’s fanservice but she’s actually not objectified as often as one might expect. In fact, Mal points out in “Shindig” that he respects her as a person, but he does not like her profession. “Shindig” is my personal favorite episode because it shows the gamut of Inara’s job. (Well, really it’s my favorite because I’m a sucker for costumes, especially period-themed costumes. But I digress.) You see Inara belonging amongst the upper class, entertaining her client beyond just being a mistress, and teaching Mal how to fight with a sword. (Did I mention that I also love the episode because I’m also a sucker for swordfighting?) I also recommend watching “Heart of Gold” but I can never watch it alone. Mostly because I cried my heart out.

Jayne Cobb is the muscle of the team with the most ambiguous morals. Okay, in actuality, he probably has no morals. “Jaynestown” is the best example of that. He’s great in situations where he can work with his hands. He is the personification of the Id, moreso than McCoy because, well, his two loves are weapons and women. But in spite of his moral ambiguity, he wants to be a good man. He prefers to be honest and he’s got a lot of heart. Why else would he wear such a ridiculous hat? (Note to self: My brother needs to crochet that thing.)

Kaylee Frye is adorable. She is basically sunshine and rainbows and strawberries all wrapped up in a lovely mechanic-shaped package. Her love for the ship Serenity is best seen in “Bushwhacked” and “Out of Gas.” Going back to “Shindig,” Kaylee gets her share of fun at the party. First of all, she wears this bright pink layer cake of a dress that most Sweet Lolita cosplayers would give their left arm to have. (Myself included.) Secondly, she gets the attention of most of the men who aren’t on the dance floor just by being herself. She talks about her specialty: mechanics and engines, to the point that the men would prefer her conversation than just having a dance with her. I relate to Kaylee the most in spite of my own lack of mechanical expertise because I relate to her personality and her unrequited crush on Simon. We’ve all been there, girlfriend.

Dr. Simon Tam is a character I admire more than I can relate to. But he is also the character who has the most to lose. He sacrificed his privileged life and his job to protect his sister. He’s also the butt of a lot of jokes, especially in his conflicts with Jayne. His best episode is “Ariel,” but I personally love this scene from “Trash” when he has Jayne on an operating table and intimidates him in the calmest but borderline frightening way possible. Heck, put into a different context, you could probably drop the scene down in a horror movie.

River Tam is my second favorite character on the show. She has 2 of the most memorable lines in the series, she can be crazy one moment and mind-blowingly awesome the next. Watch Serenity to see just how awesome she is or the episode “Objects in Space.” All I can say is that Summer Glau needs to find a show to be in. She has the power to read minds, which can really be a deterrent because she can also feel the pain of those she reads. Interesting little trivia: Summer Glau has a background in ballet, so Summer Glau’s fighting style is best described as being a “dance battler.” Watch her dance, btw. She is amazing.

Last, but not least, we have Shepherd Book, the preacher with a mysterious past. Thank you, Joss Whedon, for not making Book the stereotype I hate the most. (I still can’t forgive you for Caleb though.) The origin of Book gets revealed in the comics and I agree with most of it except for the part that Book wasn’t his real name. I always imagined he was like Jayne, a mercenary who joined up with the Alliance with sort of this bloodthirsty manner, but seeing the consequences of the Alliance caused a crisis of faith and so he chose to become a Shepherd.

Morality is a funny thing in Firefly, and in Joss Whedon’s works overall. Out of all the Whedon oeuvre, Firefly is the one that deals with morality the most. Buffy has mostly a very secular black-and-white sense of morality that gets a lot more confusing later on. Angel has gray morals and has a pessimistic, borderline nihilistic tone about it. Dollhouse has the darkest tone when it comes to morals and the questions that get brought up aren’t exactly answered all that well. But Firefly and Serenity constantly ask questions about morality and ethics and try to define what exactly right and wrong mean. How? Well, keep reading the blog and you’ll find out.