Saturday, December 15, 2012

Firefly Rewatch 2012: "Shindig"

"Up until the punching, it was a real nice party."

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: "Shindig." Original air date: November 1, 2002.

I have an admission to make: "Shindig" might be my favourite episode of Firefly. It's my go-to episode whenever I see my DVDs sitting on the shelf and immediately need to go back to the 'verse. I don't think I'll ever tire of watching it. Directed by TV journeyman Vern Gillum (whose name sounds like he should be on the show, no?) and written by the fantastic Jane Espenson. She's worked with Joss Whedon since Buffy and has since lent her talents to top-notch sci-fi series and comedies. She's also a great follow on Twitter. But I think the main reason why I'm singing her praises is because she wrote this episode.

I wrote in my "Out of Gas" post that Fox made a sort-of bold decision in airing such a powerful episode so early in the show's run. Unfortunately, the contrast between "Out of Gas" and "Shindig" is proof that this show was mishandled. Sure, "Shindig" is a much lighter, less emotionally destructive episode, and a welcome change, but there's no continuity. Firefly may not need to rely on heavily serial storytelling, but there are literally no consequences following an episode in which two characters came very close to death. It just doesn't make any sense.

However, on its own, "Shindig" is pure awesome. There are so many things I love about it, mostly because all of the characters have a moment of their own. This episode reminds me why I love all of them.

I love River because of how completely unpredictable she is. In this episode, rather than just being taken over by the fear and paranoia that have ruined her, she verbally lays out the small-time crook that Serenity's crew didn't want to do business with.
I love Book and Simon because they take such good care of River. Such endless patience. It's incredible.
I love Inara because she's smarter and more refined than any of the men rich enough to pay her. Atherton Wing, her client in this episode, is a perfect example of that. He's so stuck-up and spoiled that he has to pay women to attend parties with him. He can't even rely on his fancy British accent to pick up girls, because every time he speaks he sounds like a moron. No wonder Mal spends half the episode wanting to punch him in the face.
I love Jayne because he never fails to make me laugh. Also because he is Jayne Cobb.
I love Wash and Zoe because they have the perfect marriage.
I love Mal because he's loyal to the people he cares about, no matter what. And because of his hilarious suit and tight pants.
And I love Kaylee because she's so honest. No filters. So true to herself. She loves getting dirty and fixing things just as much as she loves fancy buffet tables and fluffy dresses. And no matter whether she's fixing something or walking through a fancy party, she never even pretends to hide her emotions. Also, I love that she calls Mal "Captain Tightpants."

Since it took me so long to crank out this post, I rewatched this episode with the DVD commentary on. I learned that the show's costume designer loved this show maybe even more than fans do. She made sure that every detail was perfect, that every costume told a story. She made sure that all of the designs on Jayne's shirts said something about him. She borrowed a hoop skirt that had been used in The King and I to make Kaylee's pink dress. And she used the skirt from her own wedding dress for Inara's gown. No series before or since has looked quite like it, and it's a shame that it was cancelled so early, because her eye for costumes was incredible.

Mighty fine shindig.

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