I personally love spending my Fourth of July watching the Science Channel’s Firefly marathon. It makes perfect sense to me, really; everyone’s got their traditions, and I think this is becoming one of mine.
Right now, what I’d like to discuss is one episode in particular, “Out of Gas.” Because all of the episodes are beautiful and lovely, but this one is really very useful for explaining most of the characters’ vulnerabilities and strengths, I think.
Zoe (Gina Torres) probably gets the least amount of screen time in the episode, being as she’s comatose for most of it, but I’d like to make note of the circumstances of her injury. We don’t see a whole lot of Zoe and Kaylee interaction through the series and film, and it’s often in a group context when we do; this is largely because, well, with only fourteen episodes and a movie, there’s only so much time for things. And there Zoe is, immediately pushing Kaylee out of the way of the explosion, because Zoe looks out for hers, and because of loyalty. She tells the shuttles to turn back around because she looks out for hers, and because of loyalty. If this was My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Zoe would for sure be the spirit of loyalty.
The scene between Book (Ron Glass) and River (Summer Glau) is fascinating in exploring these two, both as humans interacting with each other specifically and humans in general. Knowing what we know now about Book, he’s been through a lot of scary stuff, and here he is on the very real brink of death, and he’s finding comfort or seeming to in faith, and he’s legitimately scared anyway. And that’s not weak or bad, it’s perfectly reasonable and okay. River is someone who has also been through a lot of scary stuff, yet on the very real brink of death, she’s just shrugging, finding comfort in the literal. This is an extension of their “Jaynestown” debate; Book on the side of believing, River on the side of knowing, and neither of them are wrong. They’re just coming at it from different perspectives. And it’s lovely.
Also, because I will be discussing everyone’s choice of outerwear when they’re all sitting around talking about what’s going to happen, I will acknowledge Book’s very subtle coat, the kind that is no doubt a holdover from a previous life, and the fact that River just pulls a big blanket around her shoulders. That’s just so her.
Jayne (Adam Baldwin) didn’t even bother with outerwear, because damn, he don’t care. He’s here to do his business. I do think there’s one of those nice occasional moments of Jayne vulnerability when they’re prepping the shuttles, though; he’s talking to Mal and yes, he actually seems genuinely concerned for a moment. I take moments like that from Jayne where I can get them, because there aren’t so very many, and I appreciate them conceptually. And the flashback, the flashback is lovely; it sets up his attitude perfectly.
I’ve basically tl;dr’d about Inara’s (Morena Baccarin) role here; I will mention her outerwear, though, for consistency, because even in the tough times, there’s Inara with her fur-trimmed Persian rug-looking coat and her beaded scarf. And there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just Inara being who she is.
And Simon (Sean Maher). A lot of his role is in regards to the discussion with Inara, yes; both like River and unlike River, he takes comfort in the literal. He starts reducing what will happen to them and what has happened to them in medical terms because that’s what he knows best; he doesn’t even think that it may not be comforting to someone else, though he can try to shut up when asked. Also, his peacoat. So proper and nice.
And Wash (Alan Tudyk). He also has a heavy dose of loyalty in him; this is one of the reasons, I think, that he and Zoe complement each other, because though they are different in many ways, they are both exceptionally loyal people. And goofy is his default, it always has been. It probably took some time for that to grow on Zoe, but clearly it did. But in times of trouble, he’s got a clear set of priorities, and Zoe’s the first. The rest of the crew and getting things fixed up comes second, but close second; he cares so much about this little fake family they have, but he cares the most about Zoe. And nobody’s faulting that. Even Mal, who tells him what he needs to be doing at the beginning, acknowledges that he should be with Zoe after awhile; even with the priority being Zoe, he still thinks to set up a way to reunite them should good fortune strike. Wash is an optimist, or at least he tries to be. He doesn’t like to jump to the worst possible conclusion. Also, I love that his outerwear choice is, like, a cable-knit fisherman sweater under his light jacket.
Speaking of optimists, Kaylee (Jewel Staite). This episode has the perfect dichotomy of Kaylee in the flashback: yes, she is a lady who enjoys sex, and likes sex near engines, but look, she can fix them too! And there is no negative commentary about either of these things! Also, this is the height of vulnerable!Kaylee, yes. I mean, I have been known to use “sometimes a thing gets broke can’t be fixed” in reference to daily life situations also, but this is because it is true. Kaylee is an optimist, and she likes to believe that things can be changed for the better if need be, but this is when even Kaylee has to admit to herself and to the others that not everything is fixable. And it’s heartbreaking to watch her having to do that, but it’s also important to acknowledge.
Finally, Mal (Nathan Fillion). Mal in this episode is enough to break my heart, honestly: he is not an optimist, far from, but he is facing the reality of the life he’s built collapsing around him just as hard. He has to admit that, and he can’t even admit that he’s scared because the others are looking to him to be strong. He tries to stay strong for the others, which is why it’s so beautiful at the end when they’ve all returned and he asks if they’ll be there when he wakes up. It’s him admitting his need for them, or reiterating that; it’s him admitting that he will accept their path. Inara tells him that he doesn’t have to die alone; he tells her that everyone dies alone, but by the end, he’s owning that it’s very possibly better to have others with you. His need to be strong, I think, is also why he doesn’t even wrap up in a blanket until the others are off the ship. He doesn’t want to act like anything’s wrong, but he has to admit it to himself, at least.
–your fangirl heroine.