Sunday, November 11, 2012

Firefly Rewatch 2012: "Jaynestown"

"We gotta go to the crappy town where I'm a hero!"

I'm back from my trip and catching up on the nerd initiative to rewatch the brilliant-but-cancelled Firefly, to mark the show's ten-year anniversary. This episode: "Jaynestown." Original air date: October 18, 2002.

So, this episode was written by Ben Edlund, who went on to write and produce for Supernatural. He wrote an episode called "Hollywood Babylon," which was so deliciously Whedonesque that I should have known it was written by someone who's worked with the man himself.
There are so many things I love about "Jaynestown." Edlund involves every character in this episode in one way or another. Except for maybe Zoe. I could have used more Zoe. (And maybe more Wash.)
This may be a Jayne-centric episode but I want to write about River and Shepherd Book first. Their subplot may not have seemed that it important, but it was fun, well-written, and moving. I absolutely love the scene where River is fixing the Shepherd's Bible because it's "broken." In just one sentence, Edlund exhibits both the mania and the incredible brainpower that makes River so interesting, and then leads it into this exchange:

  • Book: River, you don't fix the Bible.
  • River: It's broken. It doesn't make sense.
  • Book: It's not about making sense. It's about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It's about faith. You don't fix faith, River. It fixes you.
And that, kids, (WARNING: possible church-y sounding stuff ahead, deal with it) is one of the most honest statements about faith I have ever seen in the media. I don't really see a lot of mainstream shows and movies that take the time for a scene like this one, that speaks so loudly about the role that faith can have in a person's life, or the way that it can be viewed by others, without rolling its eyes and dismissing everyone as an extremist or a freak of some kind. But the way that Shepherd Book feels about faith? That's how I feel, in the exact words that I would have used to say it, if I had just known to find them. It doesn't happen often that you find a phrase that expresses your exact feelings, and I kind of can't believe that I did. (Interesting bit of knowledge for you: this year is the Year of Faith in the Catholic Church.)

Oh, this post is starting to run long, isn't it? Okay. I'll skip right to the Jayne stuff. After all, this was one of the episodes I chose to watch shortly before my Adam Baldwin encounter at Montreal Comic-con.

The A-plot of this episode was brilliant. Smart, poignant, endlessly quotable. It starts out a little rough, when we see just how difficult things are in Canton, a mud-farming community that's rich in mud but otherwise dirt poor. But as soon as we find out that there's a statue in Canton of folk hero, Jayne Cobb, things get awfully interesting. And they only get better as Jayne receives (quite literally) a hero's welcome. And then when they sing a song about him. Here's the song, performed by Adam Baldwin himself even though he told us at Montreal Comic-con that he'd promised Joss Whedon he wouldn't wear the Jayne hat OR sing the song:

My research hasn't yielded a definite answer about who wrote the song. It may have been Ben Edlund, but like a lot of nerds I suspect it was written by Joss himself. (By the way, according to Whedonverse legend, Joss Whedon had never written music before he sat down to write the musical episode of Buffy. That's talent.)
This episode was a great showcase for everything I love about Jayne: the hard-drinking, the egotism, the womanizing... But then again, basically every episode is a great showcase for Jayne. His reaction upon finding out that he's a local hero is priceless. First he's embarrassed (a sign of the remorse that we don't yet know about), then he soaks up all his fame and the alcohol that comes with it, then he realizes that he might be in trouble when the people of Canton expect him to continue being heroic, and then the whole mess that happens when the illusion is shattered and everyone finds out he isn't a hero after all. And somehow, even Jayne is disappointed in himself.

“You think there’s someone just gonna drop money on ya? Money they could use? Well, there ain’t people like that. There’s just people like me.”

Another episode, another brilliant plot twist. I love you, Firefly.

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