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Date Posted: 06:50:27 10/10/03 Fri
Author: KdS
Subject: Unspoiled Serenity Cruise - "War Stories", "Trash" (UNSEEN EP)

I now have the final five episodes of Firefly from yabyumpan, including the three eps not shown in the US. First, however, we have one of the eps shown in the US, War Stories, which I absolutely loved.

I liked it so much, because it seems like a very conscious critique of the themes of violence as ennobling which sometimes come up even in BtVS and AtS. (Note that this was the first ep to be written by someone with no prior BtVS/AtS history, which may be meaningful). The theme is stated in the very first scene, when Book first alludes to Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Simon questions the lessons to be learnt from a brutal dictator. Throughout the episode, it is the depraved or misguided characters who talk of violence as ennobling and torture as revealing of a man’s true self, while Zoe certainly doesn’t see it as a necessity for Wash to share her experiences. Wash’s disastrous decision to seek to up his machismo is implied to have been unnecessary by the scene of him and Zoe at the end. And my favourite scene in any Firefly ep so far is the brief exchange when Zoe speculates that Mal may need to defeat Niska’s torturer in hand-to-hand combat to reclaim his power, only to be rapidly and panic-strickenly contradicted by the ever practical Mal himself. The unusually graphic violence of the episode is, as I see it, entirely justified as part of the demystification of warrior mythology that is the ep’s reason for being. The character subplots further confirm the scheme – Book’s taking up of the gun again is shown as just a regrettable necessity, while River’s lethal blind shooting is downright eldritch.

Secondary issues: another slightly darker aspect of the Companion concept is suggested by Inarra’s confession that she sees her liaison with the female Governor as a rare occasion when she doesn’t have to be something she isn’t – a male fantasy?

The fact that the Serenity crew are entirely unaware of Niska’s space station orbiting the planet shows again how weak sensor technology in Firefly is compared to most space opera universes.

And finally: is it really a good idea to have two sides enthusiastically blasting projectile weapons at each other in a space station?

Second ep today: Trash (probable title), written by Ben Edlund & Jose Molina. As it wasn’t shown in the US, a brief synopsis.

Mal arrives alone on a desolate moon to do a deal with an old and relatively trusted friend. The friend introduces his new wife, who proves to be none other than “Saffron” from Our Mrs. Raynolds, now calling herself “Bridget”. Mal explains his previous experience with Saffron, and her husband dumps her on the moon with Mal after doing the deal. Mal can’t bring himself to either kill her in cold blood or leave her to die alone, especially when she offers him the chance of a big job, so he smuggles her aboard Serenity in a crate. Back on the ship, Inarra accuses Mal of deliberately avoiding civilised worlds in recent months to prevent her from working, and wounds his pride by alluding to his “petty” recent deals. Mal decides to take Saffron’s plan, and introduces her to the crew who are even more distrustful than he is. Saffron’s plan involves stealing a valuable antique pistol from a man named Hamer, a wealthy art collector and scientist who she claims brutally murdered innocent civilians in germ warfare experiments and for their possessions while fighting for the Alliance in the war.

Meanwhile, Simon and River, left out of the meeting for fear that Saffron will inform on them, have a conversation during which River reveals that Jayne planned to betray them on Ariel.

Saffron’s plan is that she and Mal will infiltrate a party at Hamer’s floating anti-grav compound (using security details which she has) and drop the gun into a rubbish bin. Meanwhile, under the compound, Kaylee will hack into a rubbish disposal binbot, standing on top of the Serenity, and cause it to drop the load at a point chosen by the crew, where the gun can be retrieved.

While Mal and Saffron are stealing the gun, Hamer appears and recognises Saffron as his wife “Yolanda”, who vanished six years before when he suspected that she was having an affair with his security manager, who then turned up dead. Saffron claims to have been abducted by slavers. Hamer offers to give Mal a large sum of money for returning his wife to him, but Mal accuses Saffron of planning to kill him and frame him for the robbery, so that she could continue to live with her wealthy spouse. Hamer then reveals that he called the cops using a secret panic button as soon as he saw Saffron, whereupon Saffron knocks him out. She and Mal drop the gun in the bin and fight their way out of the party.

On Mal’s shuttle, Saffron claims that she tried to be a good wife to Hamer, but couldn’t manage it. Mal accepts that she’s feeling guilty, but reassures her that it won’t last and soon she’ll be the beautiful, treacherous thing she always was, which Saffron confirms by pulling his gun on him. Mal doesn’t believe that the guilt was all acting, but she leaves him naked in the middle of a desert before flying off to retrieve the gun. As the Serenity heads to its rendezvous with the binbot, the engines fail thanks to a spot of delayed action sabotage by Saffron.

Saffron arrives at the bin, elsewhere in the desert, and finds Inarra pointing the antique gun at her. Inarra tells her that Mal guessed what she was planning from the start, and locks her in the bin for the cops to find.

Jayne was knocked out by an electric shock during the hacking of the binbot, and recovers consciousness in the sick bay to find that Simon has paralysed him with a muscle relaxant. Simon explains that while he would have ample opportunity to kill Jayne at any time by abusing his medical position and skills, he thinks that it would be by far the best if he and Jayne agreed mutual trust, so that neither of them had to watch their backs all the time. He admisters the antidote to Jayne and walks away. River, peeping through the doorway, casually tells Jayne she can kill him with her mind.

The Serenity picks up an insouciantly naked Mal and flies away.

In general, this was a much better ep than Saffron’s previous appearance, simply because the general standard of writing was so much better, and the plot slightly less clichéd. It wasn’t one of the deeper and more meaningful episodes, but it made an excellent comic relief to its grim predecessor, as well as clearing up some Ariel baggage in entertaining and mildly disturbing style.

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