Ah, yes, Joss Whedon’s cult classic…well, one of them, the space-Western Firefly. I am going to be a very honest, and bad, Internet reviewer/fangirl and tell you all I never had any interest in this show until this year. That’s right – I had heard of the show, and it’s fans, and how it would never get a second season and it just never caught my interest.
But then a friend of mine strapped me down to a chair and forced me to watch it. Now, I love it, and I’m dying for someone to make a second season of it. But is it really as good as I think? As most of the Internet thinks?
This month on Stay Tuned, let’s take a good look at Firefly.
So let’s just get this out of the way: Joss Whedon is a master. He can strangely do no wrong. The first thing I ever saw that he was involved was Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog which I am going to have to do a Stay Tuned about someday. And since then, anything he has made impressed me: Buffy, Angel, Captain America (yup, he wrote for it!) and of course Cabin in the Woods is the most glorious thing I have ever seen in my life.
So any critiques I make here, it’s not an attack on Whedon – I’m just being honest and treating the material with the seriousness and respect this show deserves. That being said, I also have only one season to work with, that only covers part of what appears to be far more intricate plot lines, not counting the film Serenity. Now that’s out of the way, let’s begin:
THIS IS THE BEST CAST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. Holy shit and a half, you could not imagine any other actors taking on these roles as efficiently and effectively as these nine right here. We all love Nathan Fillion – that man can do no wrong, and he makes a perfect captain for this rag-tag bunch. Gina Torres is the most bad ass woman ever, and Alan Tudyk as her pilot husband is beyond hilarious. I kind of wish Morena Baccarin, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, and Jewel Staite got more screen time over all, but you can’t blame them since there was only one season. WE EVEN HAVE A BALDWIN IN HERE. A BALDWIN FOR GOD’S SAKE!
Ahem…now that the fangirling is over, let’s get to the plot. As you expect from only one season of a show, it feels very episodic and disconnected. The only plot thread tying the season is that one, people need to eat and to eat we need money, and we get money by stealing shit so let’s do some of that, two, the mystery that is River and her special brand of crazy, and three, let’s not get caught by the space police. The crew flies on a ship called Serenity and goes around to several different planets doing legal and illegal sales and barters…and very little else is done. Does that mean that it’s a bad show? Far from it – a show’s first season is typically getting the audience used to the characters and story, and hinting at the many fun little mysteries that will be pulled apart later. The episodes are all charming, well written, and reveal something about at least one character. They have fun twists to them most of the time, and rarely, if ever, preachy or moralistic. They are unique, and well-craft with none feeling extraneous or without purpose, and make the crew feel like real people living their lives, rather than stereotypes or cut-outs. They act like you, and me, and your aunt Judy, and that crazy techie kid who sits in the back of class and talks to himself.
So let’s talk about what I would consider the show’s biggest problem, and why really it would have been tough to avoid. I am a spoiled sci-fi fan; I’m used to the big budgets and kick ass aliens, and amazing expansive universes. On that end of the sci-fi spectrum, Firefly doesn’t deliver in that sense. There are no life forms but humans ever shown, and it’s all human terraforming and colonizing, which is a little bit of a let down to be honest. And a lot of the planets look, and feel, the same, varying only for the high-tier Alliance planets. We have a civil war, a somewhat unexplained government, and various new characters to meet within a not so clearly defined social structure.
But instead, it gives a strange but fascinating hybrid – an old Wild West situation but in space, with a cross-blending of Western and Eastern cultures. You’ll hear characters inserting random Mandarin words into conversation, with a version of the geisha system known as companions, and a mishmosh of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, modern American, and yes, even old Western-Prairie clothing.
But considering the budget, the cinematography is amazing for a TV show, especially one as old as this. It makes use of every lighting trick, every inch of space, every detail of special effects possible to make the ship feel like a real vessel and not just a series of sets on a lot. The “cheap” gritty look is a perfect fit for a space Western, even if it wasn’t intended to be. And trust me, that is not easy on a crappy season one budget. There’s a lot of love being poured into this show, that much is certain.
Is this show as good as everyone says? Yes and no. Yes, it’s a great show, an instant classic and a real genre definer. But at the same time, it’s not perfect and it’s like an unfinished novel – there’s no satisfaction at hitting the end because there is no end, just more questions left unanswered. I know this review was a little on the short side but it’s a readily available series, and it’s quick to get through. You don’t need me to do a plot-by-plot summary cause, well, why would you when everyone knows what its about?
Fans are dying for a second season of this show, and really, can you blame them? This first season opens up a can of worms that is never fully worked through and we, as fans, are told that Fox, which is known for its clear vision and general good taste, cancelled it after airing a good chunk of it out of order. There is a movie that wraps some of the story up called Serenity but I think we’d all prefer a second season, even if it was just one last look at the lives of the crew of that one firefly-class vessel. I know I’d pay good money for that.
Next week, ladies and gentlemen, I will attempt my most daring feat in the history of the Stay Tuned series. I will review a Korean drama, more specifically Boseureul Jikyeora or Protect the Boss. This is going to be awesome.