Like a flash of light in the darkness, Firefly glowed brilliantly for a brief moment in late 2002 showing the world what television could achieve at its finest. Little respected by its network, it never had a chance to survive for long. Yet, so loved was it by its small core group of followers that simple word of mouth helped surge the ranks of its fans after its inevitable cancellation. The result of this groundswell was the recent release of the movie Serenity.
Shedding the rigid environs of traditional science fiction television, Firefly explores the orders in the process of formation at the edge of civilization. Gone is the shiny sleek chrome of spaceships. The boats sailing this sea of black are covered with grit and rust. The doors don't woosh when they open and close. Mechanical dialogue between ranking officers is replaced with the folksy twang of smugglers and cowboys. Laser guns are expensive and rare, horses are the preferred mode of transportation when in the world, and a cargo of cattle can yield a hefty booty. Assuming, of course, the exchange goes without a hitch, which it never does.
For anyone hoping to escape the reach of the Alliance, the open land between civilization and barren shores is the preferred destination. But freedom on the frontier comes at the price of hardship, and the specter of death hovers permanently over the shoulder. It usually pays to take the road less traveled, if only to ward off the malicious designs of brigands and lawmen. Men shoot straight, women shoot straighter, and a simple failure of a compression coil can mean a cold, oxygen-deprived death at the corner of no and where.
Into the void travel settlers hoping for a better life and gangsters wanting to skirt the law. New worlds tempt businessmen hoping to strike it rich and tickle the egos of petty thieves with delusions of standing. The terra forma provides sanctuary to discontents like Malcolm Reynolds who cannot abide by the prevalent order imposed upon them. The frontier gives hope to the jaded, breaks the hearts and wills of romantics and the rugged, and tames the bluster of hotshots. And that's just before sunset.
Like other Joss Whedon creations, Firefly is a mix of genres blending science fiction, western, horror, and myth. The quiet blackness of space often quickly transitions to a horse chase and dusty shootout. Spaceships that appear functional from afar turn out to be catacombs of the massacred at closer inspection. Damsels in distress leave their deliverers knocking on heaven's door after robbing them blind. At times Firefly plays like a drama, at others, a comedy as scenes elicit laughter one moment, sadness the next. It evokes the gamut of emotions as it examines the themes of love, belonging, redemption, and finding a station in life in a chaotic, often absurd, universe.
Through it all, the characters are what carry the show. They each have their reasons, not always revealed, for winding up on Serenity. Together, they have to learn to live with each other at the edge of society, nine people trying to get by in the unforgiving trappings. In their time together, they laugh, cry, fight, love, and ultimately survive. Like real people with all their quirks and neuroses, they grow and change with the events of their lives. They are people to cheer for, share in their joy, commiserate in their sorrow, and find common bond with their humanity.
Firefly episode reviews and analysis
An Awfully Crowded Sky