Firefly: Objects in Space
June 25, 2015 4:27 PM - Season 1, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Serenity encounters Jubal Early, a ruthless professional bounty hunter who will stop at nothing to retrieve River. But River, feeling unwelcome on the ship, takes a novel approach to escaping from the long arm of the Alliance. (wiki)

REVIEW
"By this point in our Firefly saga, I’m not a newbie anymore. Yes, it’s still my first time through; I haven’t seen before what I’m about to watch. But from another perspective, I know too much. I know it’s almost over, and over for good. And that makes me jumpy. Y’all keep talking about a leaf in the wind, and even though I’m skipping over the spoilers, I catch the drift. Something very sad is going to happen. Being a newbie, I don’t know exactly when. But being a viewer after the fact, I know there aren’t many more chances for that something very sad to happen, and I’m bracing myself every single second."

"For some reason I got it into my head that the leaf was going to float on the wind in “Objects In Space,” and I was dreading this hour as a result. Right up to the end, where River drifts back to Serenity, Wash stands ready to assist Zoe with the “fearsome brow mopping” as she takes out Simon’s bullet, Jayne and Book hit the weights, and Kaylee starts a game of jacks—I was waiting for the sucker punch. That wariness probably prevented me from enjoying the episode nearly as much as it deserves. But it also heightened my attention to the many pleasures to be found in this rather audacious little “the call is coming from inside the spaceship!” tale of space invasion, as I savored each one thinking it might be the last."

"And there is so much to savor. The contrast with “Heart Of Gold” couldn’t be more sharp; if you need a case study for your thesis about what Joss Whedon brings to the table as a writer, just consider the ridiculous wealth of ideas and entertainment in “Objects In Space.” There should be a word for it—ideotainment? Epistetheater? Jubal Early, the bounty hunter who sneaks aboard the ship to snatch River, is a character straight out of Sartre, asserting his right to transform the crew from autonomous humans to simple objects he can direct toward his end, gratifyingly flummoxed when those objects turn the tables and trap him in their gaze. River’s plight and power are starkly poignant, as she accepts her friends’ contention that she’s dangerous but also seizes the chance to craft a meaning for her own existence. The dialogue veers from terrifyingly out of control (Early asking Kaylee if she’s ever been raped) to shockingly amusing (Early misunderstanding Kaylee’s “Are you Alliance?” for “Are you a lion?” and musing “Might as well be, though; I’ve got a mighty roar”)." (Donna Bowman, avclub)

SAMPLE QUOTES
Jayne: So like, never?
Book: Well, no.
Jayne: Not ever ever?
Book: Some orders allow shepherds to marry, but I follow a narrower path.
Jayne: But you still got the urge? They don't...cut it off or nothin'?
Book: No, I'm more or less intact. I just...direct my energy elsewhere.
Jayne: You mean like masturbatin'?
Book: I hope you're not thinking of taking orders yourself?
Jayne: Heheh, yeah, that'd be the day.
Jayne (in River's head): I got stupid, the money was too good.
Book (in River's head): I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not. So where does that put you?
(back to reality, Jayne and Book are laughing)
Jayne: Saint Jayne, got a ring to it!
Book: I'm just trying to remember how many miracles you've performed.
Jayne: I once hit a guy in the neck from five hundred yards with a bent scope, don't that count upstairs?
Book: Oh, it'll be taken into consideration.
Jayne: You made that sound kinda ominous.

[River comes out of a vision to find herself holding a gun, which Mal takes from her.]
Mal: Fully loaded, safety off. This here is a recipe for unpleasantness. [to Simon] Does she understand that?
River: She understands. She doesn't comprehend.
Mal: Well, I'm glad we've made that distinction.

Mal: Girl knows things. Things she shouldn't. Things she couldn't.
Jayne: What, are you— are you sayin' she's a witch?
Wash: [sarcastically] Yes, Jayne. She's a witch. She has had congress with the beast.
Jayne: She's in Congress?
Wash: How did your brain even learn human speech? I'm just so curious.
. . .
Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
Zoe: We live in a spaceship, dear.
Wash: So?

Simon: So you're a bounty hunter.
Early: No, that ain't it at all.
Simon: Then what are you?
Early: I'm a bounty hunter.

Early: You ever been shot?
Simon: No.
Early: You oughta be shot. Or stabbed. Lose a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know what kind of pain you're dealing with. They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified, but they don't make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?

Early: Alright, that's all the hide-and-seek I got time for. [shouting] I know you're on this ship, little girl! Here's how this goes: show yourself and finish this exchange, or your brother's brains'll be flyin' every whichaway! [normal tone] You understand, I'm sort of on the clock here, it's frustrating.
River: [over Serenity's intercom] You're wrong, Early.
Early: I'm not wrong, dumpling, I will shoot your brother dead if you don't—
River: Wrong about River. River's not on the ship. They didn't want her here. But she couldn't make herself leave. So she melted. Melted away. They didn't know she could do that. But she did.
Early: Not sure I take your meaning there.
River: I'm not on the ship. I'm in the ship. I am the ship.
Simon: River—
River: River's gone.
Early: Then who exactly are we talking to?
River: Talking to Serenity. And Early? Serenity is very unhappy.

Mal: Ugh. What the hell's goin' on here?
River/Serenity: I need you to do me a favor, captain.
Mal: There was a guy. He was very blurry. You gotta be careful. Ugh. How come there's a guy on board and how come you're all of a sudden the ship?
River/Serenity: I know you have questions.
Mal: That would be why I just asked them.
River/Serenity: But there isn't a lot of time, captain. I need you to trust me.
Mal: Am I dreamin'?
River/Serenity: We all are.
(Mal rolls his eyes)
River/Serenity: Don't make faces.

River: Permission to come aboard?
Mal: You know, you ain't quite right.
River: [smiles] That's the popular theory.
Mal: Go on, get in there. Give your brother a thrashin' for messin' up your plan.
River: [tiredly] He takes so much looking after. (more at wikiquote)

CONTINUITY
• Kaylee tells Mal and the crew about River's talent for gunplay demonstrated in "War Stories".

• As Whedon points out on the episode's DVD commentary, Early, having secretly assessed the crew from their conversations, takes down Shepherd Book the same way he handles ex-soldier Mal — quickly and brutally — providing another hint of the preacher's hidden nature. Early confirms this later when Simon challenges him about "beating up a Shepherd", to which Early replies "That ain't a Shepherd."

TRIVIA
• The inspiration for this episode came from Tim Minear, who gave Whedon the idea by merely mentioning Boba Fett. Whedon expanded upon the suggestion and extrapolated it into the villain of this episode, the "preternaturally cool, nearly psychotic bounty hunter" Jubal Early — who shares a name with Jubal Anderson Early, a Confederate general in the American Civil War. Whedon has said that if he were forced to pick one piece of work to represent his entire body of work, he would pick this episode.

• River's and Early's tactile and spiritual connection with physical objects reflects an existential experience in Whedon's youth and his subsequent study of Jean-Paul Sartre's existential novel Nausea. (wiki)

• This episode began the "Summer Blame Game" among the cast in which any time someone messed up in a scene they would yell the name "Summer" after Nathan Fillion did so following Summer Glau forgetting her line at the end of a long continuously-shot scene.

• It is interesting to note that Nathan Fillion is a descendant of Confederate Lieutant General Jubal Anderson Early, which may be where the name came from.

• At the climax of the plot in this episode, River has a spiel about leaving the ship and going with Early. During her speech, she says that she wants to be something more, and "...not fade away." This quote is the name of the final episode of the Angel series (also cancelled), and "Objects in Space" is the final episode in the Firefly collection. (firefly wikia)
posted by valkane (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just finished watching this episode maybe an hour ago so imagine my surprise to find this here.

My favorite quotes in this episode were Simon's replies to Early, talking about River:

Early: Where'd she go?
Simon: I can't keep track of her when she's not incorporeally possessing a spaceship; don't look at me.

Early: You folks are all insane.
Simon: Well… my sister's a ship. We had a complicated childhood.

It's such a surprise coming from Simon, who's not known for witty reparte like the rest of the crew.
posted by scalefree at 6:34 PM on June 25, 2015


As far as final episodes go, you can't really ask more from this one.

But there was so much potential for a lot more quality storytelling, like Book's backstory. Are there any theories about that?

It's a shame, but at least there's a movie.
posted by porpoise at 7:17 PM on June 25, 2015


Speaking of which, we going to do a rewatch of the movie here next week? It's been years since I've seen it, and I'd love to discuss it after having finally seen the rest of the series.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:54 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


But there was so much potential for a lot more quality storytelling, like Book's backstory. Are there any theories about that?

There was an official comic (The Shepard's Tale) which explained it. It was terrible and the backstory was disappointing. I prefer my personal fan theory (that Book was the Alliance CO at Serenity Valley, who retired from the army and joined the priesthood over the massive losses his side took). Everything fits - it explains why he knows the things he does about the underworld, why he would be able to get urgent medical treatment on an Alliance ship, and even why he would join the crew (because he saw the ship's name as a sign).

But, unfortunately, we were stuck with a boring backstory that actively contradicted a bunch of the stuff we see in the show. Oh well.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:29 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Perhaps the most fun fact about this episode: Richard Brooks, who played Jubal Early, played a character named Lemonade in the classic sports film Teen Wolf.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 6:29 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Brooks is pretty great always, but this turn reminded me of his work on some other part-remembered show he was on - Good vs Evil. Which disappointingly seems not to be available anywhere.
posted by phearlez at 6:56 AM on June 26, 2015


"Well... here I am."
posted by leotrotsky at 7:35 AM on June 26, 2015


Mal: Am I dreamin'?
River/Serenity: We all are.
(Mal rolls his eyes)
River/Serenity: Don't make faces.

I think this is my favourite piece of dialogue in the whole series.
posted by fullerine at 1:15 PM on June 26, 2015


Am I a lion?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


But there was so much potential for a lot more quality storytelling, like Book's backstory.

Given his knowledge of crime and criminals, and his pull with the Alliance (c.f. 'Safe') I'd always assumed he'd once been an Operative, much like the Chiwetel Ejiofor character in the movie.
posted by mojohand at 8:18 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


• It is interesting to note that Nathan Fillion is a descendant of Confederate Lieutant General Jubal Anderson Early, which may be where the name came from.

May? That'd be one hell of a coincidence..
posted by bleep at 9:47 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Given his knowledge of crime and criminals, and his pull with the Alliance (c.f. 'Safe') I'd always assumed he'd once been an Operative, much like the Chiwetel Ejiofor character in the movie.

Also, how much Book knows about how Operatives work in the movie. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Ugh, so much good stuff about this episode:

Whedon's voice comes across incredibly strongly. I always loved that the last episode of the show makes it as explicit as can be that Serenity is just as much a character in the show as Mal, Zoey, Wash et al.

Wash saying "this sounds like something out of science fiction" is a pretty explicit statement from Whedon that Firefly isn't science fiction.

The oboe theme that plays when Early appears and is skulking around the ship is really great and is reminiscent of Peter and the Wolf, in which the wolf is also given an oboe theme.

I can't help but agree with Early after he shoots Simon and says, "See. Now you know how it feels."

(MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD IN THIS PARAGRAPH):
I've always thought that the way River picks up and looks at the ball she and Kaylee are playing marbles with, which has a striking similarity to a habitable planet (swirls of blue and green) is meant to foreshadow River's obsession with the planet Miranda in the movie.

Firefly, you were too beautiful for this world.
posted by dry white toast at 2:15 PM on June 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's always been a toss-up between this and "Out Of Gas" for my favourite episode. On rewatch, maybe that's because both episodes really show the "ship as character" theme. And they both make great use of the group dynamic, everybody doing their bit. I didn't used to care much for Simon but he's great here.
posted by El Brendano at 5:05 PM on June 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tremendous episode. In many ways a perfect one to go out on, if it had to.

Richard L. Brooks was also typically superb in PBS's The Abolitionists.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:24 PM on June 27, 2015


Book (in River's head): I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not. So where does that put you?

To me this is more revealing of Book's backstory than anything else. This isn't just in River's head, this is her reading him, and we should assume it's as accurate about what he isn't willing to show the rest of them as everything else she reads in this act of the episode.

(I get chills when Simon, regaling Kaylee with tales of the good times when he was one of life's elect, looks dead at River and says "I would be there right now.")

Whatever Book was, he had power over others and probably a wide discretion over how to use it. If he wasn't an Operative himself he still very likely moved in their world to some extent.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:50 PM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking of which, we going to do a rewatch of the movie here next week? It's been years since I've seen it, and I'd love to discuss it after having finally seen the rest of the series.

Yeah, I was planning on posting the movie this Thursday. You know, to kinda finish up.
posted by valkane at 6:33 PM on June 28, 2015


I have pretty conflicted feelings about this one. So much of it is fantastic and moody and keeps you off kilter. But then the turd in the punchbowl for me is Early threatening to rape Kaylee.

I get the intention behind the scene. The audience needs to see that Early isn't just a philosopher, that he's also capable of base, horrific violence. But to show him committing violence at that moment would wreck the pacing of the episode — we need the rising tension of a threat, not the release of action. So Early asks Kaylee if she's ever been raped, and tells her "[You] ain't nothing but a body to me," which shocks us, and brings us back to the episode's theme about the multiple meanings we assign to objects.

Even though I can see the justification, I still have a hard time respecting the creative choice to have Early make the threat, because it means having a Black man threaten to rape a timid, virtuous, Southern White woman. My political objection is that it reinforces a longstanding fear that's still used to justify anti-Black oppression and violence. My narrative objection is that it's lazy shorthand. The rest of the episode is complex and nuanced, but that one moment uses one of the cheapest ways to raise tension there is. So I wish that Joss had found another way to establish Early as a threat.
posted by Banknote of the year at 12:17 AM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Interesting, my fiancé said the same thing about Early regarding him being black and the rape threat. I did not see it that way at all, but he has lived in the South for the past 11 years and I have not.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:39 PM on June 29, 2015


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