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Date Posted: 14:06:10 08/02/03 Sat
Subject: Unspoiled Serenity cruise - "Jaynestown", "Out Of Gas", and "Ariel"
After Safe and Our Mrs. Raynolds, both of which I found intensely mediocre, I was having some trouble working up enthusiasm for the rest of Firefly. Fortunately I did, as Jaynestown, Out of Gas and Ariel were all better than anything since the first ep.
Jaynestown was the first really good Firefly ep that struck me as really original, and struck me as having more metaphorical depth than there had been for a while. A lot of people on the board seem to have followed the Book/River scenes and taken it as a religious allegory. I saw it as a more cynical than usual ME take on the nature of heroes. Jaynestown, to me, argued that the memory of heroes is necessary, but don't re-examine the past too carefully unless you're ready for nasty shocks. And that is a nice piece of metanarration on the problems of doing a western series in an age that is particularly ready to look at 19th century America and see largely genocide and capitalist exploitation. And it may also be a nod to those viewers who are disturbed by Firefly's perceived romantic attachment to the Confederacy.
On the human scale, Jayne's development from embarassment to wallowing in hero worship to something unusually close to guilt was intriguing. Edlund showed considerable skill in bringing out both his vestigial sense of honour and the utter evil of which he is capable. "It ain't about you, Jayne, it's about what they need." - any resonances to one or more souled vamps?
Other points of interest:
Kaylee and Simon's developing mutual romantic interest, which makes considerably more sense when the episodes are seen in this order than it probably did in the original US order, finally makes it from UST to explicit mutual expression. I still wonder if Jayne's ocasionally apparent Spike/Dawn-style vibe with Kaylee is going to provoke a triangle.
The moment when Inarra assumes that Mal is the hero of Canton.
The difference between Inarra's ethics as a Companion here and in Shindig, where it seemed that "spiritual compatibility" was a hypocritical euphemism for "credit rating". I wonder if Jane Espenson misunderstood the other writers - "Those guys can't really believe all that crap about sacred prostitution! Oh shit, they actually do..."
Out of Gas. Of course it's Minear. One of the most ambitious structures of any ME ep, with the triple layers of flashback not separated by centuries. And a breakdown story that realises that most viewers aren't really interested in acres of Treknobabble. The rotating engine core looks to me remarkably like some kind of archaic electrical motor or generator (could be either depending on which way you look at it). Nice acknowledgement of ME traditions, with the happy familial dinner and the birthday both interrupted by hideous events. The desperation of the main action of the ep plays very nicely with the mainly comic introduction scenes. And some nice surprises, with Kaylee's very uninnocent introduction and Zoe's initial suspicion of Wash (must have been the horrible moustache). Jayne was less of a shock :-) Also the dreamlike atmosphere of Mal's lone scenes, and the final scene where he wakes up in the sick bay, which was just unreal enough to make you wonder if it was all going to be a hallucination.
Possible references: "Everybody dies alone" - Donny Darko? And was Kaylee's incompetent predecessor and Orgasm Friend named after the author or the B5 villain, or both? Interesting to see a "Bester" on Firefly the ep before Ariel, with its very PsyCorp-esque Blue Men.
And finally Ariel. Firefly really seems to be developing its own style of understated horror with the Reavers and the Blue Men. (I'll delude myself and write in present tense until I've seen it all.) You know that it's an ME story when twice in the ep I was really wondering if they would let things get that dark - first with the question of whether Jayne would really betray the Tams and then when I wondered if Mal was actually going to kill him. (And in the situation given, I wouldn't really have had a great problem if he had.) The only problem is that it was one of those episodes where you feel at the end that questions have been answered and then realise a little later that you don't really know anything new. Annoying. One nice thing about seeing three episodes close together was the irony of what Mal nearly does to Jayne at the end of this ep paralleling what Jayne did to his partner in the backstory of Jaynestown. Can't wait to see what River does when she "wakes up".
And it is fun to see an SF Drugstore Cowboy
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