I recently finished watching the entire run of Firefly, plus the follow-up movie Serenity, and I’m here to tell you a few reasons you should consider doing the same. Let’s start with how it’s only going to take you 13 hours to do it (15 episodes x 43min + 119min movie).
Perhaps this show was destined for an early grave. It’s science fiction. It’s a western. It’s serialized. It’s got a large cast. It aired on Fox. That was just out of the gate. Then Fox didn’t air the pilot (which introduced characters/explained the world) and aired the episodes out of order. Yet the brief run and DVDs created a small cult devoted to it, enough that the major questions raised in the series were answered in a theatrical movie.
So let’s get to why you should watch it. It is a rollicking good time. I don’t use the word rollicking that often but this show earns it. It is a relaxed bunch of fun from start to finish and featuring more than a few bits of action. It makes me smile to think of it. Most television shows need time to get their bearings and stumble around trying to discover what they are and what they are about. Firefly explodes onto the screen knowing exactly what it is about and the stories it wants to tell.
Years before the story begins, Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds fought against the Alliance, the central government, for independence. They lost and now he pilots a Firefly class ship (named Serenity) taking whatever jobs he can find. Usually this means crime. If there’s a chance to stick his thumb in the Alliance’s eye while he’s at it, all the better. He and his crew have created a firefly-sized place where they get to make the rules and that’s something he’s willing to fight to defend.
The western bit comes in because, well, it’s also a western. Which is what kept me from watching it for a long time. How can I put this... it doesn’t suck! The inner planets, home of civilization and wealth, are the base of the Alliances power. The outer planets, where the show spends more of it’s time, are neglected impoverished places. Recently terraformed most of them, they have the bare minimum and are basically the old west. Farmers, cows, cowboy hats, whore houses, flintlock rifles.
Except, y’know, the odd guy has a laser pistol. At one point they smuggle contraband from one planet to another and the cargo is cows. Also they swear in Chinese. Trust me, somehow, it works. It really does.
I have no idea how Joss Whedon managed to pitch this show to any network because it just shouldn’t work. But it does so brilliantly. Firefly is easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Even more amazing for how much it accomplishes in such a short amount of screen time. Maybe that’s even why. Perhaps episode 16 would’ve been where it all turned to crap. Instead we’re just left with this nearly perfect jewel of television. Just watch the pilot, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Rollercoaster of fun. That’s a good phrase.