Many, if not most of you, have already viewed Joss Whedon’s Firefly series and the follow-up film, Serenity. This article is not intended for you; however, let me say that I’m sorry. I now feel your pain, because some supposed “friends” convinced Bart and I to view the series. I had many reservations about it, and many reasons for those, but I finally made the mistake of giving in. No, I write this article for the uninitiated (if there are any of you still left out there). I want to get the warning out, loud and clear, to prevent further hurt – DO NOT WATCH FIREFLY. What follows is a cautionary tale, read at your own risk.
Joss and I have a mixed history. The first exposure I can remember came from seeing fellow nerd’s DVD collections and noticing a large amount of Buffy and Angel. Granted, I never gave either series much chance due to a large prejudice against what I felt was a silly concept, and WB or UPN or whatever network it was on. I was mystified by the devotion that people had for these series, but I never gave it too much thought.
Now, flash forward to Bartoneus’s dorm room circa 2002, when he started getting into comics. He starts buying X-Men comics, and I start getting curious – sure, I remember the kick-ass theme song from the cartoon. I saw the first movie years ago and enjoyed it – why not give it a shot? These are characters I’m somewhat familiar with, and that was the push that thrust me into the geeky pool. I randomly pick up an issue of Generation X, and pretty much from that moment forward I’ve been stuck on Emma Frost and the X-Men. TheMainEvent was even astute enough to get me her first cover appearance for a wedding gift! I’ve read Morrison’s run on New X-Men a few times now, and I’ve spewed my share of venom on why the third movie was an abomination (Phoenix does NOT just STAND AROUND, people!!!) I was excited going into the new Astonishing X-Men run, mostly for the fact that Emma could finally get some sweet Scott Summers lovins. The fact that Whedon was onboard didn’t really affect me one way or the other at the time.
It didn’t take me very long to gain a great amount of respect for the scribe. For some, comic books are about action, for me they’re about people. The beauty of a comic is that you can spend a huge amount of time with characters, see how they react to different situations, see how they’re changed. There is a possibility for infinite development, even moreso than a good RPG. Though Astonishing didn’t quite keep up the standard that was set in the first 6 issues, I really enjoyed it, as did most of the comic book community. The series has become tied to Whedon’s name.
Another thing that I picked up in those long-ago dorm days was Anime. My husband-to-be really threw down the gauntlet when he showed me Neon Genesis Evangelion, um, maybe the second or third week we were dating? I was really useful for pointing out those pesky biblical references. Lance of Longinus for teh win!
He showed me much of the classic canon – X, Akira, Princess Mononoke. So when we got around to seeing a few episodes of Cowboy Bebop I was thrown for a bit of a loop. Sure, the drawing style was the same, but…the English dub was actually GOOD! The setting was ridiculous! Somehow, they took futuristic space travel and a western and successfully combined them. The characters were fun, it swayed between moments of comedy and drama – great series.
Battlestar Galactica took some convincing for me to start watching. Joshx0rfz pointed out a few years back that there was a hot chick in it , and we didn’t really pay attention. So one random night out a few months after Bart and I got married, the aforementioned genius TheMainEvent gave us the first two seasons on DVD. They sat around the house for a few weeks, but Bart eventually convinced me to sit down with it. We started watching the miniseries after dinner sometime, maybe 8 PM?
Yeah, we were up until 2 in the morning.
For the love of god, it was on the SCI-FI channel, but wow! Great acting, diverse characters, and omg, the hotness that is Lee Adama. The first hour was a little slow, but once we were hooked, it was golden. We got through the first two seasons in less than a month, flying through at least one or two episodes a night. Then, of course, came the looooong wait until season 3. My zeal died down over the months, but even though the reviews of the third season were lukewarm, we went through those DVDs fairly quickly as well, about two months ago. And it was then, coming off of a BSG high, that the Firefly DVDs were thrust into our hands. For the second time.
Yeah, that’s right, the second time. A friend had burned us the discs a year or two ago, but we never got around to them. First of all, the title did not do it for me at all. What on earth is that supposed to evoke, a bug? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love me some summer nights catching fireflies, but it didn’t really tell me anything about the show, especially if it was a SPACE show. LOST? Great title. Oooo, who’s lost? Where are they? And even the promos usually show you an island, which is a double-whammy: Lost - ON AN ISLAND!! Or even the aforementioned BSG – Battle! Stars! Ga..lactica!! Very exciting. And hot robot chicks! We like them!
I remember seeing previews for Serenity when it was released a few years ago, and I really didn’t care. I know we were invited to go see it, but I figured, why see the movie if we never saw the show? I’m sure that people must have told me many times that the theme was a space-western, but I guess it didn’t really click until we actually had the DVDs in hand. My reaction to this was negative – space western?! Been there, done that! No one’s going to do it better than Bebop did, period. It’s such a ridiculous concept to start with; it’s a miracle that it worked as well as it did in the anime.
One night, we pop in the DVDs when we have nothing better to do. The first thing that hits me is the lack of budget, and it hits hard. Here we are mere days away from finishing BSG’s third season, and now you’re trying to show me space war? Oy. And what the hell is this hokey theme song? The costumes looked like they were dollar-store rejects. Oooooo, look, an obviously-bad guy character! The difference here was that I had no prior experience with these characters. This wasn’t Whedon’s interpretation of something I already knew about, this was fresh. This was harder to get into.
OK, the mechanic’s kind of a cute character. She reminds me of Aeris.
WHAT??? They killed the cute mechanic character??? I am SO done with this.
Oh, OK, she’s not really dead. They kind of got me. And the “bad guy” is not what he seems at all. Hmmmmmm.
My reaction at the end of the first episode was tepid. Yeah, it was OK, but I couldn’t get over the budget constraints. We stuck with it, through the second, and then the third episode. And my reaction when the credits rolled turned to, hey, this show’s pretty good! But what is UP with that stupid theme song?
We started watching more and more often, and by the second disc we were lost. At that point I was ecstatic about having a new good show to watch; however, even at this point I was acutely aware that it was a limited thing. You see, unlike our orgy of BSG a few years earlier, we spaced these puppies out. No more than one episode a night.
The characters were varied, colorful, and they elicited strong emotions. Jayne pissed me off, Mal made me swoon, Zöe made me cheer, Wash made me laugh, and bemoan all the strong women who love the silly boys. Inara was not a kind of character you see normally – a contradiction of morals and grace. And alright, a Christian character that doesn’t suck! The play between the values and goals of the 9 main characters provided a dynamic that was fresh and exciting. The characters managed to surprise me time after time, from how Kaylee became the mechanic to why Jayne would make a good hero.
About the middle of the second disc, my end-of-show reaction started to change. At first, it was just a kind of sad feeling, and eventually outright anger. “Damn it!” I would yell, “This show is too good! Why the hell did they cancel it?” And yet the dialogue just kept getting sharper, the relationships deeper. And that stupid song even started to grow on me.
I tried to enjoy every moment that I got to spend with these people and their quirky situations. I was comforted by the knowledge that though I didn’t expect much of a season ending: the movie was there to wrap things up. It was all going to come together.
We really tried to savor the last disc. Really tried. But we ended up watching the last two episodes and the movie in one night; we finally gave in. The last episode was perhaps most bittersweet because it was pretty much just like any other, save for a bit of a cliffhanger involving Mal’s fascinating and witty relationship with Inara. I figured they’d get to that in the film, so I wasn’t too worried.
The problem with Serenity is that it tries to wrap things up. There were parts of the movie I really enjoyed – seeing what a bigger budget could do was interesting, though I admit I kind of missed the feel that a tight checkbook gave the TV series. The opening scene with the Tams was very welcome, elaborating upon the rescue that had only been mentioned before. The villain of the film was particularly engaging – I really enjoyed his arc. But the movie wasn’t really about characters so much. It satisfied a few big questions about the “main” plot, but sacrificed much. There were some losses that ensured the happy-go-lucky crew could not exist as they were anymore. And the questions that were left, though not ones that would effect the entire “verse”, are ones that I longed to find the answers to – who IS Shepherd Book, for instance? The film was epic, to be sure, but I don’t know that I really wanted epic. What I wanted – what I want now – is just to be a fly on the wall and observe these people as they were, and the film ensures that things have changed. Perhaps after a few more seasons it would have been alright (not that there were a lot of options there) but to me it was too quick. Though before I had been comforted by the fact that there was an ending for the show, now part of me feels it really didn’t need one.
True, there are side projects afoot. I hear that Shepherd’s story is going to be told in comic form. I hear there are books out there – I don’t know if they’ll do it for me. The combination of dialogue, actors and what they had to do to make that show with the money they had really was its essence. I don’t know if it can be captured in another form, especially after seeing the film.
And so here I am. I, of course, eventually went to the IMDB boards and read up on what the latest news was, and of course saw quite a few discussions about hopes for another movie, or for another network to pick up the series – hey, Family Guy and Futurama did it! They all start with the letter F! But that’s not for me. Joss may have won me over, but I’m not going to be going out and buying a t-shirt about it, and I don’t have the energy to campaign and hope for something that might not come.
You see, the truth is this really isn’t a flame or hate mail at all – this is a love letter. Hard as I tried to hate it, Firefly won me over, heart and soul. I will guarantee that you will fall in love with this wonderful, sharp, intelligent and whimsical show. And I will guarantee that it will break your heart. And all I have to commisserate with, the only thing that understands how I feel, is “The Ballad of Serenity”, that damned theme song, playing over and over in my head.