On Saturday and Sunday of New York Comic Con, the stakes get higher and the lines get longer as big studios, like Marvel, WB, and 20th Century Fox, bring out their movie and TV stars to sign autographs and appear on panels about their upcoming blockbusters and fall TV hits. You can catch the pilot of Fox’s Lucifer and CBS’ Supergirl based on the DC Comics properties, or decided to kick old school with several reunions of shows and movies, including Clueless, All That, and two masterpieces of nerdy TV that made my list.
How much does it take for a friendship forged in the savagery of war to fritter away into nothing? Or even worse, until it gets to a point of betrayal and double crossing that somebody gets shot for the safety of everyone else? What boundaries have to be crossed before self destruction and selfishness override a fraternal sense of commitment to war buddies who say death and destruction together on a daily basis? And even further, at what point is loyalty nothing more than a nice idea that people hold on to in order to maintain ties to fond memories? “The Message” tries to answer all of this and more when an old war compatriot of Zoë and Mal’s shows up in the mail with a request to ferry him home to his family and loved ones for burial. At times, it falls short of being able to fully explore how the toils of battle mentally affect those that survive the trenches and make it home, but the episode also smartly avoids PTSD as a main story drive and instead focuses on hopes, dreams, failure, and disappointment.
In this case, the strength of an episode like “Trash” lies not in its ingenuity, but in its parallel storytelling structure to that of “Ariel”. Whereas the latter episode dealt with heavy emotions and important character growth in the midst of its central heist, the former is much more comfortable leaving the heaviness of the last two episodes by the wayside and having a bit of fun. The audience has been here before with these characters though, organizing an important heist that carries a fair amount of danger, and as such the writing doesn’t have to put in as much legwork to make it work. Everyone is already familiar with Saffron, for better and for worse, and has experienced the set up and execution of a theft while the organizer recites the steps via voiceover.
No matter how small the fault lines in a relationship, any stress on a friendship or partnership will eventually cause enough pressure to do some serious damage. Even if it’s only temporary issues, it is hard to go through life without one close friendship blowing up because of some unspoken concerns and grudges. This is never more true than in pop culture, where a caustic fight usually manages to become more than that by the end of the episode or season.
For the majority of the first season, Firefly is content to steer clear of the more overtly futuristic qualities of the world it inhabits. The planets Serenity lands on to conduct business are in the outlying areas of the universe and even the more modern locations are still very behind the times due to their rural settings.
Given that at this point it was pretty obvious that Firefly would not last more than one season, and may indeed have already been canceled, it seems the perfect time for the show to try for a truly inventive installment. Written by MVP of the writing staff Tim Minear, “Out of Gas” succeeds in spades and even manages to give some members of the crew something of substance to do that hadn’t had the opportunity to this point.
By far the most important thing about “Jaynestown”, the episode that finally gives Jayne the spotlight and a sheds light on at least one piece of his past, is that it doesn’t betray who Jayne is as a character. At this point each crew member aboard Serenity, with the possible exception of Shepherd Book, has been thoroughly fleshed out enough that they are fully realized people with histories, emotions, and opinions.
“Our Mrs. Reynolds” holds up just about as well as any of the episodes Firefly aired during its run no matter how many times it gets run through the rewatch wringer. Even you if you know the twist that occurs about two thirds of the way through the episode, the zingers and character interactions throughout maintain the entertainment factor at the same level as the first time you set your eyes on Mal getting accidentally married in a drunken stupor.