Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Late to the Party: Firefly

No disrespect to the esteemed crew of Galactica, but this week's post epitomizes the spirit of my "late to the party" blog series.

With fall television just around the corner, you've still got enough time to squeeze in the entire run of perhaps the best one-season show ever to grace the small screen. 

Firefly is a space western, a distinction that makes little sense until you actually watch the show, at which time you realize you couldn't adequately describe it any other way. It's the story of a renegade crew from all walks of intergalactic life, including a smuggler, a holy man, a child prodigy, and a "companion." 

With all due respect to the multitude of quality shows who were cancelled long before their time, Firefly is perhaps the greatest tragedy of all.

Think I'm exaggerating? Just check out this murderers' row of talent.

Reason #23 I don't feel bad about losing my hair: Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon created, wrote, and directed this tragically short-lived series. If his names strikes you as familiar, it's because he recently wrote and directed The Avengers, arguably the greatest superhero movie of all-time and the grand finale of Marvel's spectacular Phase 1

Hiring Whedon to execute The Avengers showed the rest of the entertainment industry that Marvel understands their content and their audience. To those who were less familiar with Whedon's work, the move appeared risky, a $220 million gamble on the guy who was perhaps best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

Those of us who had seen his previous work, especially Firefly, were confident that Marvel made a great decision. If you saw the movie, you know we were right.

The brilliance of The Avengers came from Joss Whedon's ability to capture what's best about interesting characters and how they interact with each other. If he can do that well with characters he didn't design, imagine how great he must be with characters of his own creation. 

That's Firefly

It's not the first time I've expressed my adoration of Whedon's work on this blog, so in the interest of time, let's move on.

To you, this is probably Richard Castle, or maybe even Captain Hammer, but to me he will always be Mal, the owner and captain of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity. It's an interesting character played by an interesting actor, Nathan Fillion. 

Though the series lasted only 14 episodes, if you watch Firefly you will quickly understand why the sci-fi community will forever insist that Mal is Fillion's signature role. He's a tough, fearless leader who can spin a joke as fast as he can a revolver. He's both comical and serious, honorable and sly, an honest man who prefers the freedom of a scoundrel's life.

Fillion brings a unique balance to all of his roles that's difficult to describe but impossible to ignore. After watching him as Mal, you'll never be able see him as a murder-solving novelist again. Still, you'll watch him just the same, appreciating the fact that such a great actor is still on our TV screens.

Then there's Inara ...

It would seem that even in the far distant future (the year 2517, to be exact), the world's oldest profession has not only endured, but flourished into a revered distinction within society. 

Inara Serra is played with an astounding level of maturity by a 23-year-old Morena Baccarin. Inara is a companion, part of a highly-respected guild of escorts, who leases one of Serenity's shuttles. That means she's normally around just long enough to catch Mal's eye before blasting off to visit one of her clients.  

The romantic tension between the two plays beautifully, mostly because each attempts to keep the other at bay in a harsh battle of wit, unleashing verbal onslaughts often cutting so deep that even a Reaver might cringe.

"Ouch! That went a bit too far. Words can hurt too, ya know."

What are Reavers? 

Glad you asked. They're a group of savage, self-mutilating cannibals that roam the outer fringes of space, apparently driven by nothing more than mad bloodlust. Most of the inner worlds in this universe believe them to be a myth, but for a crew trying to avoid the powers-that-be by staying on outer reaches of space, these monsters are a very real and constant threat.

According to Zoe, Mal's second-in-command: "If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order."

I could keep going about this show, but I'll stop there. Many die-hards will likely curse me for not posting a picture of Summer Glau, who plays the child prodigy River Tam. My reasoning is simple. The majority of the nerd community has sworn an oath to fall to their knees at the site of her, and I would rather you all finish reading this blog first.

Final verdict: Firefly is the best reason to have a subscription to Netflix. Once you're done, be sure to watch Serenity, the follow-up movie to the series, which is also on Netflix.

By the end of it, you'll understand why so many fans of the genre have spent years calling for the series to return. 

Instead of focusing on the negative, let's appreciate the positive. We never had to watch Firefly burn out like so many other great programs. The brevity of the run does not diminish the greatness of the story.

14 episodes and 1 movie may not be much, but it's enough.

Okay, nerds. Here's your queen.

Now it's your turn. Have you seen Firefly? Who is your favorite character that I didn't mention?


  1. I do not understand the Summer Glau thing. At all.

    1. She's a great actress, and I liked her on this show as well as Dollhouse and Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. The appeal probably has something to do with her commitment to the genre.

      Still, I'm Team Inara.

  2. I have not seen Firefly, mostly because my husband and I don't have TV and we rarely watch TV shows. However, because we're lacking good movies on Netflix, we've recently replaced some evening movie-watching with the Once Upon a Time TV series. We've really been enjoying it so we may add Firefly to the list when we're done with Once Upon a Time. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Thanks for reading the blog!

      Firefly is definitely worth your time. My wife and I actually haven't watched Once Upon a Time yet, but it's on the list along with Dr. Who, which EVERYBODY seems to be talking about.