Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Firefly Rewatch 2012: "Safe"

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 week: "Safe." Original air date: November 8, 2002.

I should probably preface this by saying that this was a great episode for people who love staring at Sean Maher's face. It appears that I am one of those people. I will try very hard not to make this entire post about how much I enjoyed looking at Sean Maher's face.

But I will say this: If social networking had existed in 2002 the way it does now, things would be incredibly different. You'd check your Tumblr dash on a Saturday morning and find photosets from the previous night's episode. People would live-tweet their favourite bons mots. Sean Maher's face would probably be a hashtag (#SeanMahersFace) and have its own page on Facebook. Or, it would have, after this episode aired.

It was great to finally get a little bit more backstory on River and Simon. Eventually, the few minutes per episode where you notice just how badly off River is, and why that might have happened, and someone says a bit of heart-wrenching dialogue, just aren't enough anymore. They and Shepherd Book had spent enough time in B-plots, so I'm glad that they finally got their due.

In this episode, the cargo from last week's adventure (a herd of cattle) are to be dropped off and sold on a planet called Jiangyin. So, at least there's SOME continuity there. The fact that Simon is not at all the same as he was in "Jaynestown" doesn't really make any sense, but Fox wasn't thinking of that, probably. Anyway, it doesn't take long for the crew to get into trouble soon after they land. (It seems like they always get in more trouble outdoors than in, which might be why every outdoor scene in this show seems so off-putting.) Simon angers Kaylee, loses sight of River, and gets kidnapped. Mal and Jayne get caught up haggling with some undesirable types, who promptly get arrested. A shootout breaks out, and the Shepherd is caught in the crossfire.

What to do when your onboard medic is missing and one of your crew has been shot? Other than have Zoe take the bullet out of him, of course? You listen to Inara and take him to the Alliance, because you have no other choice. Doing so made the crew realize that the Shepherd might be keeping secrets from them - who is he, that the Alliance immediately took him to emergency care after saying that they wouldn't? And why wasn't Inara there when they showed up? (Because this is an extremely necessary plot point? Oh, okay.)

As for Simon and River, they were left abandoned on Jiangyin, which is apparently a world in need of a doctor. So, naturally, after River's few minutes of dancing and happiness, after she immediately stops the exact moment that Book gets shot, some of the townsfolk (is that the correct term here? Worldsfolk? Spacefolk?) abduct Simon. Of course.

His medical assistant, a local teacher, seems to think that Simon has found a new home. She was probably just trying to convince him to stay, but during this episode we realize that Simon is a misfit, just like the rest of Serenity's crew. He doesn't fit in with a crew of bandits, but he isn't exactly the kind of haughty bourgeois robot his parents so wanted him to be. He doesn't really know where he fits in, and he's been too busy taking care of his sister to really think about it. And then, as cheesy as this sounds, he realizes that where he belongs is wherever River needs him to be.

He bravely threatens to go up in flames with the sister who's about to be burned at the stake as a witch - which, yes, is a plot point in this episode. I'm not sure how I feel about the show taking an unexpected paranormal turn, but it's handled really well. I most certainly wouldn't expect River to be called a witch, but the people of Jiangyin suddenly turned into an angry mob and River needed saving. So Simon did what needed to be done. And the Serenity showed up right on time, because they're big damn heroes. (Ain't they just?)

I didn't remember this episode as well as I thought I did - which is a pleasant surprise, because it was almost like watching it for the first time. Plus, I got to make it through the whole episode without realizing that young Simon was played by Zac Efron, which meant I got to save my inappropriate guffaws for the end credits!
I think it was the hair that distracted me.

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