Firefly: Serenity
March 26, 2015 9:01 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

A group of people who fought on the losing side of a civil war and others who now make a living on the fringe of society, as part of the pioneer culture that exists on the fringes of their star system.(wiki)

Firefly is an American space western science fiction drama television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label. Whedon served as an executive producer, along with Tim Minear. The series is set in the year 2517, after the arrival of humans in a new star system and follows the adventures of the renegade crew of Serenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship. The ensemble cast portrays the nine characters who live on Serenity. Whedon pitched the show as "nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things". (wiki)

Don’t get me wrong: Firefly is a Whedon show, so there’ll be angst a-plenty, and personality conflicts, and eventually death. And that’s not even taking into account crazy River Tam, and all of her issues—which are barely touched on in the show’s original double-length pilot, “Serenity.” But as we go through these episodes in the weeks to come, let’s never lose sight of what Firefly essentially is: a space western, about wisecracking thieves who zip around a distant star-system in a rocketship. Which means that while Firefly is undoubtedly deep—and while we intend to plumb those depths here—the show is also super-fun. As much as I enjoyed writing about Buffy and Angel over the last four years, I’ve really been looking forward to getting to Firefly. This is like my dessert. (AVClub)

The Real Reason Why Joss Whedon Named His Space Western Show Firefly

Firefly's 15 Best Chinese Curses (and How to Say Them)
posted by valkane (44 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Awwww, damn! Another reason to watch Firefly!
(I started episode 1 while folding laundry last week.)
posted by Seamus at 9:06 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


First Watch



nnnnnnnnngh.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:07 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I feel very similarly to tmotat, but I'll give it a go anyway.

I absolutely love Mal's pep talk to the troops in the bunker. "Look at that chiseled jaw. Huh?" Just gets me every time. Another fine speech is Simon's "tale of woe." Honestly, for all the good action in this episode, it's the dialogue that sticks with me.

Still, the part of the episode that makes the biggest statement is when they get back to the ship hoping to escape the Reavers. Mal has been trying to do the right thing for the entire two hours, then he shoots the the lawman right in the face without even breaking stride.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:15 AM on March 27, 2015


This is a great opening episode of a series that is actiony and adventurey and introduces all the characters well.
Imagine starting to watch firefly without having seen this episiode? Imagine that! Crazy.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:02 AM on March 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Real Reason Why Joss Whedon Named His Space Western Show Firefly link above is a really good read.

Whedon says he wanted "a gritty realism that wasn't an 'Alien' ripoff." which is a little ironic given that Alien Resurrection (which he wrote) is practically a firefly/Alien crossover.

Also, this part is great:
"Rather than playing out every little romance in its infancy the way shows usually do, I thought it would be nice to show a happily married couple, who would have their fights and their troubles, but would stay married." But when Fox executives were deciding whether to pick up the series, they saw a stable marriage as dramatically limiting, and they pushed him to break up the couple. "The last thing that Fox said was, 'We will pick up the show, but they can't be married.' And I said, 'Then don't pick up the show, because in my show, these people are married. And it's important to the show.'"
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:18 AM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


[Removed "First Watch" label at poster's request.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:21 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Y'all are going to watch this in its intended order, right? And not the as-broadcast order? Y'gorram had better.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:53 AM on March 27, 2015


Given that the as-broadcast order would start with Train Job, I think the odds are good.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:27 AM on March 27, 2015


okay, got all the way to the end of that article:
In fact, he warned the cast early on that there was a reason why he named the show Firefly, after the spaceship, and not after any central character. Adam Baldwin recalls Joss declaring, "Because I've had experience with that before and I don't want that. You're all expendable. If I choose, you can go at any time."
Major criticism of the show, which I've seen several times: where are all the Chinese people?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:51 AM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Because I've had experience with that before and I don't want that. You're all expendable. If I choose, you can go at any time."

I don't really know much about the behind-the-scenes politics of Buffy or Angel, but I am compelled to wonder if there were any moments where Whedon desperately wanted to write off either title character because the actors were getting too big for their britches or whatnot.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:06 AM on March 27, 2015


With the huge success that Firefly has had post-cancellation, why have there been no attempts to capitalize on the spirit of the show? Are there any other shows in the past 10-15 years that have the same gritty, witty, fun space-western feel to them?

The closest I can come up with is Stargate Universe, another show canceled much too soon, RIP. The writing and characters were never on the same level as Firefly, but what is?

It seems that a show built as the "spiritual successor" to Firefly could be a big hit with the way TV is going today.
posted by 2ht at 6:31 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't really know much about the behind-the-scenes politics of Buffy or Angel, but I am compelled to wonder if there were any moments where Whedon desperately wanted to write off either title character because the actors were getting too big for their britches or whatnot.

Maybe he was talking about Roseanne? :) I seem to recall a lot of coverage about SMG getting tired of Buffy, some of it coming from other cast member comments. But I try to not read too much into that sort of thing. They're just people after all, and people have bad days or get sick of their job after awhile.
posted by 2ht at 6:40 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:07 AM on March 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


With the huge success that Firefly has had post-cancellation, why have there been no attempts to capitalize on the spirit of the show?

Because "At the time the series was cancelled by Fox, it averaged 4.7 million viewers and ranked 98th in Nielsen ratings.[3]" and the movies only grossed 38 million worldwide, after 39 million was spent to make it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:26 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sure, but it's also gained a huge following over the past decade. More importantly, if Syfy network managed to pull half that 4.7 million viewers it would be one of their top shows. Instead we get Helix.
posted by 2ht at 7:50 AM on March 27, 2015


the man of twists and turns: Major criticism of the show, which I've seen several times: where are all the Chinese people?

The ever (in)convenient Chinese Plague? Having a significant Chinese population present (and acting, not just as backdrops) in the show would have been amazing. How many Chinese parts (if not actors) were there in the entire show?
posted by filthy light thief at 7:52 AM on March 27, 2015


"Patience? Didn't she shoot you one time?"
"Everybody's making a fuss..."
posted by El Brendano at 8:13 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Going by surnames, the Tams should have been Chinese; same deal with Atherton Wing. I don't recall any other Chinese-named characters, but I do remember seeing a handful of unnamed Asian extras milling about at various spaceports and colonies.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:40 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

That's pretty much the moment when I decided I loved this show. I have used that phrase in real life.

Also: Wash is totally Wembley from Fraggle Rock
posted by mochapickle at 9:21 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I used to love Firefly pretty intensely, and while I'm still very fond of it, the intensity of my affection has definitely worn off a bit thanks to stuff like "...so, where are all the Chinese people in this supposedly Sino-American far future?" Also, in retrospect, I'm actually happy it only lasted for 13 episodes and a movie.

All that said, whenever I rewatch, I'm struck by how lived-in and homey the show feels. Partly that's just my view of it, since I've been watching and rewatching since I was a teenager, and after so long, your favorite shows start feeling like the TV equivalent of your favorite old sweater. But I think it was also an inherent quality of the show: the rhythms of the dialogue, the way Serenity itself felt like a real, tangible place that people lived in (that kitchen!), the chemistry of the cast. It's become a comfort watch for me.
posted by yasaman at 9:56 AM on March 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I like to think we'd have seen more of the 'verse and its peoples (including the much-talked-about, seldom-seen Chinese culture) if the show had lasted for another couple of seasons.

Are there any other shows in the past 10-15 years that have the same gritty, witty, fun space-western feel to them?

Maybe not, but last year there was a pretty popular movie about a ragtag bunch of mercenary space criminals who end up saving the world.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:07 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Major criticism of the show, which I've seen several times: where are all the Chinese people?

I guess I always just assumed they were enjoying the comfortable life on the central Alliance worlds? You bring up a good point.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 2:40 PM on March 27, 2015


I am pretty ambivalent on Whedon's work overall (even when I've enjoyed it a lot), but Firefly is probably my favorite of his stuff because it feels like its own thing. It's a fully-realized world (although it clearly pulls from cultural references) without falling back on the "look how hip we are with these pop culture references" that Buffy/Angel/etc. did a bit too much of. Firefly just got to be. (I liked ... parts ... of Dollhouse.)

But it's hard to know what it would be had it continued. I don't really need more of it. I'm happy with he 13 episodes and the movie.
posted by darksong at 3:08 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


How many Chinese parts (if not actors) were there in the entire show?

Absolutely. The Tams and Wing should have been ethnically Chinese, or mixed-ethnicity, based on their surname as someone already mention.

Oddly enough, Summer Glau (River Tam) has not a drop of Asian ancestry, but she almost pulls it off.

Jewel Staite is amazing and she was perfect for the role, but I recall reading that the part was initially going to cast someone with an Asian background despite having the Frye surname (which might have been changed after she was cast?).

Strangely, to me, is that despite the co-Sino/American colonization of this region of space (and the prevalence of written Chinese) that the Chinese people almost all looked 100% Chinese and all the non-Chinese people looked almost all 100% non-Chinese. If they were more split between Alliance/Outer Worlds then it might make a tiny bit more sense, but the lack of admixture wasn't believable. Yes, I know, television casting. Like the upcoming Expanse television show, it would be impractical to cast super-tall actors/extra to fill the parts representing the Dusters and OPA.

What percentage of SAG (or their TV equivalent) members have Asian ancestry?
posted by porpoise at 4:24 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I may have fallen for Firefly relatively late, but damn did I fall hard. From the very first episode the 'verse felt like it sprung fully formed from Whedon's mind, like Athena from Zeus's forehead. The characters and dialogue radiated with all the love and care that the writers, cast and crew so obviously poured into them. Its gritty, space outlaw aesthetic gave it a sense of timelessness that allows it to hold up much longer than most TV shows; I believe it would feel just as fresh if it debuted today as it did back in 2002. And Serenity - oh, how I love that ship. So homey, so beautifully designed, so lovingly shot. I could sing the praises of this show for hours! (Literally! My band is writing an entire album inspired by each episode of Firefly. Here's the song inspired by this episode!)
posted by platinum at 4:34 PM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


the lack of admixture wasn't believable

I don't know. Here in the present we don't have much admixture either, and we're stuck together on just one planet.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:48 PM on March 27, 2015


we're stuck together on just one planet.

Well, geography and energy costs of travel.

Contrast to metropolitan cities with a reasonable Chinese population for longer than a couple of generations like London, New York, Chicago, LA, San Diego, Vancouver, Toronto and there are plenty of people of mixed ethnicity. Heck, look at Trinidad and Tobago.
posted by porpoise at 6:43 PM on March 27, 2015


It was fun to be back in the 'verse.

And for all the attention Whedon gets for his female characters and leads, I have to say that I'm always blown away by how well crafted Mal is. Smart, caring, compassionate with the later two hidden under a pile of rocky, bluff exterior.
posted by nubs at 9:20 PM on March 27, 2015


I've always wondered whether the show would have had a bigger immediate following with a different male lead. The actor who plays Mal is competent (and I know has gone on to that other long running series and greater fame, etc.), but while I love the series he never really clicked for me in the role. I sort of wanted a different level of cocky from him. Less perfect hair and more rough-hewn-in-manner-of-Harrison-Ford-in-Star-Wars-or-Indiana-Jones. It was interesting to me that the article reveals the actor went through a bunch of screen tests and Whedon still seemed reluctant; I'm not sure the actor was really the perfect fit for Mal. Not knocking the actor, he is funny and a great male lead generally.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


You might have a point. Nathan Fillion was the one that sold it to me initially, but pretty much for all the reasons you mentioned (except the perfect hair, I never noticed that). I liked that he wasn't rough-hewn and over-sized. There is an understatedness to him that I don't see in Ford. He seems like the reluctant captain, one who would rather not be but knows there needs to be one; whereas a Han-Solo-like captain would all braggadocio and self-assurance. But that has been done. And the reason it's been done is because it sells. And thus, you might be right.
posted by Seamus at 10:05 AM on March 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Imagine starting to watch firefly without having seen this episiode? Imagine that!

So, as someone who didn't start Firefly at the pilot, I actually prefer the slower introduction to the show that's coming over the next few episodes. I think Serenity is darn good, but it feels overstuffed as it races to introduce so many things: The Reavers, for example, get shortchanged here, especially compared to their (re-)introduction later on.
posted by Banknote of the year at 1:21 PM on March 28, 2015


goodnewsfortheinsane: "[Removed "First Watch" label at poster's request.]"

Hmmm. Does this mean series spoilers are okay going ahead? Because I'm that rare weirdo who saw and loved Serenity but never got around to watching the actual show up till now, and was thankful to have this as a prompting to watch and discuss it in real time. I don't know how much can really be given away having seen the movie already, but it would be nice to not have upcoming highlights given away.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:26 PM on March 28, 2015


Personally I wouldn't worry about series spoilers. There aren't that many important surprises. There just isn't that much series to spoil. :(

The real big story arc resolution things didn't happen until the movie, which you've already seen. (There are also a few things resolved in the comic books that were set in between the series and the movie.)
posted by mbrubeck at 5:54 PM on March 28, 2015


I've been meaning to watch Firefly for years and this thread has finally prompted me to start! Although I really hope no one spoils who lives and who dies...
posted by silverstatue at 9:30 AM on March 29, 2015


onlyconnect, I've been binge watching all weekend, and am now constantly distracted by Nathan Fillion's hair. You're right - it's too perfect.
posted by nubs at 9:33 AM on March 29, 2015


You know, Mal and Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who/Torchwood have the same affliction in that they look perhaps too perfect for the part.

Fillion as Mal gets better and better upon rewatch, though, especially after having seen in other things (Waitress, Castle, Dr. Horrible). It's like instead of the actor adapting to the character of Mal, Mal becomes more like the man who plays him. And it's to the benefit of the role: I can't imagine anyone else being Mal, or being Mal so well.

Neil Patrick Harris had auditioned for the role of Simon, which surprised me. NPH would have done a fine job, but I always though Simon should look a little more like River and perhaps have a little more of her spacey, manic genius as well.
posted by mochapickle at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Since the character was based on Joss Whedon, I wish someone a little more like Joss Whedon had played it -- a little more geeky and nerdy, maybe less traditionally handsome, maybe even a little overweight, but still able to pull off the sarcasm and the intelligence and the action stuff he'd have to do. I know this is easy since he was such a success in Guardians of the Galaxy, but I think the Chris Pratt from Parks and Rec era would have been great as Mal. And omg now that I think about it, Adam Pally would have been a really, really amazing Mal, imho. (Here he is guest hosting the late late show.) I wish they would do the whole show over with Adam Pally.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:29 AM on March 29, 2015


Yeah, I mean, my plan is to post a new episode every Thursday, but I didn't mean to make it a no spoiler thingy, and yeah, I was planning on posting them in their intended order.

All the episodes are available on both Netflix and Hulu at this point.

So, I guess, cya Thursdays? Shiny.
posted by valkane at 4:01 PM on March 29, 2015


Is Mal based on Joss Whedon? I thought that general consensus was that Wash was the Whedon stand-in character.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:23 PM on March 29, 2015


Here's where I anger whole swathes of fandom by saying that to me, Fillion was the cast's weakest link. Which isn't to say he's bad, just that he wasn't interesting enough to me, and I had a hard time believing in him as the leader at times, making the already-loose narrative rationale for folks being on board that much less commanding.

And I let shows choose their own reality, so I'm not going to argue over the hard-sf shortcomings of the 'Verse. It is what it is, a bit comic-booky, and maybe that could have been something that worked better if there had been more material to both flesh it out and not explain it, so to speak.

But the whole ragtag-crew aspect really worked for this show, the whole being somehow more than the parts. Good chemistry, fun being had by all, production values consistent with vision. Its biggest problem was highly variable tone, I would say.
posted by dhartung at 6:42 PM on March 29, 2015


I got the "Joss is Mal" theory from the article valkane posted with info about Whedon's book: "Mal is also a character his atheist creator strongly identified with. 'Of course the captain was the me figure,' Joss joked, 'because he's very tall and handsome, but cranky and also slim.' But in actuality, all of the characters, all the archetypes they embodied, are facets of Joss himself. And perhaps that's why he would fall in love the hardest with Firefly—because he poured every bit of himself into these characters, and developed relationships between them that mirrored the relationships and friendships in his own life."
posted by onlyconnect at 7:37 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing I love about Firefly (despite the sad lack of non-white people in the universe, and Whedon's reliance on superpowered waifs) is the writing and characterization. The writers know these people, and their histories and their desires, and they share them with us -- not a single opportunity for characterization is missed.

Compare Firefly's 13-episode run with Agents of SHIELD, which is now what, three times the running length? And yet we still don't know the characters in AOS nearly as well as we knew the crew of Serenity after only half a dozen episodes.

Heck, I got to the end of the five-year run of Stargate: Atlantis without knowing more than the basics about the lead characters on that show.

Firefly has its problems, but man, the characters popped. Right off, they were real people (although I thought Inara was a bit weak, possibly because of the shaky sociological foundation for the Companions as an institution).
posted by suelac at 9:14 PM on March 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty shitty at watching TV but occasionally a show hooks me and I'm pretty sure it has to be political sci fi that, for reasons that are not totally clear to me, give me a hard on. There's just something sexual about how I like this show and I have to admit that's how I feel about Battlestar Galactica and Original Flavor Star Trek too.

This must come from some core, precognitive imprinting that is way beyond my own conscious understanding, but it is what it is.

The minute I started watching I knew it would be my thing. It's some kind of fetish.
posted by latkes at 8:08 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


While I quite like the fanon that all the Chinese people are rich and happy in the inner systems and the whites are the underclass scrabbling away at the borderlands, there's a reason that there are no Asians in the movies.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:09 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


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