I loved the opening shot, of the station (that's what I'm assuming that it was, anyway). It looked both planned-out and patch-on-patch-y, just like a thing that was taken into space and needs to be sometimes fixed on the spot would look. But most of all, I liked the huge commercials (or that's what I've assumed they were) that covered parts of it, bigger than the ships, so huge that they could be seen clearly on the tiny computer screen I was using. It was the first time I noticed directly, without thinking about it or looking for it or watching for the second time, that the "Blue Sun" was mentioned. And, yeah, I liked it that it was on a can that looked so very much like Coca-Cola, too. At least, the big central commercial, which was the only one I noticed on a first viewing (something tells me there would be more, though).
Oh, and in the spirit of no-sound-in-space (which I continue to love), the way that suddenly there was sound, and we heard the voice of that man declaring the "aliens" from the inside of the station before we saw him, or any other person? I loved that, too. Though I'm not sure I can explain why. And I liked it that it took me a minute of looking around at the people walking by, with their costumes and all, to realize where that voice was coming from.
And the insides of that station (if that's what it was) were great, as well. Just like a big busy central bus station in the present, with the merchants and the lots-of-people and the food and the attractions, with the places to make arrangements and run errands and catch up on all the other people who came to do just that. And I loved that the man announcing the thing-you've-never-seen-before referred to it as an alien (is a show about a space ship, some things are still considered impossible and, well, science fiction, how cool is that?). People are still fascinated by the unknown, only instead of attributing it to witches and demons, it's aliens, the thing that "goes bump in the night" for the people who travel between the stars.
The whole first scenes, in fact, gave such a lovely "family going out for errands and fun" feel to me, with the bazaars and the food and the shopping for things that they need and the post, with packages for more than one of them, and the splitting of the crew to smaller groups and then re-grouping together, familiar faces in the crowds. I loved it.
Both T and I nearly jumped at our seats when we saw the man who gave the crew their mail deliveries. He was wearing a kipa! And not one of simple fabric, too, but one that seemed to have a sample all around the bottom perimeter! It was just like the ones that I make for family/friends who ask me very nicely or have a bar-mitzva/wedding. I think we agreed that the correct verb to describe its creation is "crocheting". I couldn't quite see whether his kipa was, indeed, crocheted, but it looked enough like one for me, like I said, to nearly jump at my seat.
All the time, in movies (even in movies that are being produced and filmed in Israel, I have to say), the only kipot that are seen on people's heads are made of a piece of cloth, which are - again, in Israel, I have no idea how it's being used anywhere else - worn by either very strict practicing Orthodox men, or by very lax ones, in the few times that they do feel they need to wear a kipa, like in a brit or a wedding or a funeral. So it was so surprising to see this one in the "hey, real!" sense, on top of the "hey, a Jewish character!" sense (that is there all the time, I have to confess. It's like meeting someone from your own hometown, even if this hometown has millions of citizens). And, um, it's not even the most fashionable kipa, too - it's just the kind that my father would wear (he has a similar one, even with a similar sample, though with different combination of colors on it), and not like my younger brothers would wear, too.
And then, when Mal called him "Amnon", T and I exchanged the looks of "did you hear what I heard?", and now I'm extremely curious about the roots of that character. Because the kipa wasn't just there as a strange-costumer's-choice, Amnon is a Jewish name, and although the man couldn't pretty much go as is to the streets of Jerusalem, and feel at home there because of his clothes, I can easily imagine him in a synagogue or a shabbat dinner. So I can't help but assume that it's a deliberate choice by either Joss or Tim or both, with all those indications, and I really wonder why. Also, that it's neat that they think that Judaism will continue 500 years on the future, along with pretty much only the USA and China. It was a bit like the first time that I discovered that in "Dune" some of the words that were in the Hebrew translation that I've read were Hebrew-words-in-English-letters in the original English, as well.
The original Amnon, by the way, or the first one that I can remember, was the eldest son of David, the king. He had a crush on his half-sister, Tamar (men used to marry more than one woman, at the time, and David was no exception to that rule. Solomon, his son who later inherited his crown, was born to another woman, neither Amnon's nor Tamar's mother). So, Amnon tried to seduce his sister (he figured, being the eldest son of the king, so pretty much the first in the line of inheritance, he could do whatever he wants). Tamar, being a good Jewish girl, refused to sleep with him. So he tricked her, pretended to be sick and in need of her treatment, asking her to cook for him. When she accepted that request and came to his rooms, he raped her.
Absalom (the one was later rebelled against his father and was murdered), who was Tamar's full brother (same mother as well), managed to kill Amnon, furious at what he had done to his sister. Still, despite the unpleasant connections with the name (a rapist, and of a sister), "Amnon" is a name that's still being used, though it's considered a bit archaic - the only "Amnon"s I know are in their forties or fifties. If I'm trying to think about the meaning of the name (and all Hebrew names, at least at the time, had a meaning), the only other word that I can think of as similar to it is the one for faith or trust. Of course, the original Amnon was anything but that, scheming to abuse his sister (and, come to think about it, neither Absalom ("his father's peace") nor Tamar (Palm tree, but she didn't live to bare any fruits, after what Amnon had done) lived to be anything like their names, and boy, who can say that the bible is not an interesting book?).
Of course, I have absolutely no idea if anybody involved in this episode had any idea about all this, but still - it wasn't just a Jewish name, it was a not-so-common one, and a one with a very good meaning, and of a man who was the complete opposite of that meaning. And the episode's Amnon tried to do his very best to deserve faith and trust, and he only failed in an attempt to save his life, which nobody (real or, well, fictional) can condemn him for. It can be one of these cool "ooooh, we're subconscious smart" things, or one of the cool "yeah, there's a reference that not everybody may get, but we like it anyway" things (which are usually Shakespeare or English lit or most other things that are so completely lost on me).
Ahem. "Firefly", that's what I'm trying to post about, right? OK.
I liked the way we got to see the faces of the crew members from the point-of-view of inside the crate, both when it was first opened (with Jayne's head getting into the picture while we're seeing it this way, in this limited space-of-vision), and later, when they took it to parts to look for what the cops were refering to.
Usually, I can't understand anything in battle scenes. For me, a good battle scene is one in which I manage to figure out who is winning and who is losing without anybody shouting "oy" or "yay" between the noises and the smoke and the mess. Still, in this one, I managed to see that they are actually in the middle of a place that has, in the lack of a better word, personality - there were a couple of statues, half-broken, among all the mess, and I think I even spotted a Buddha (or something like him) sitting with its legs crossed near the place that Tracy sat.
Also, I loved it that Tracy muttered to himself while trying to open his can of beans, even though I had no idea what he was saying. Another thing that I liked was how the can-opener was like the simplest one we have today. I mean, there are more sophisticated ones than a piece of sharp metal, even today, with all sorts of things to spin and attach and what-not, but the one I find the easiest to use (my mom keeps making fun of me for that, whenever I get to help her out in the kitchen) is that simple one. I also think that if anything stays, it's the most economic in design, the easiest to understand-its-use device. And thus, I've managed to say something about a fight scene, without knowing anything at all about any sort of fight. Yay me and my no-way-I-can-say-it-shortly ways.
I loved the various responses to death, among the crew - Simon being all professional, because in his line of work, that's the way you see a body. Jayne taking off his hat (in both times! Both when they first heard the message, and when they brought the crate to the family. Which was such a nice touch, since the attention, at least mine, was on the hat for both the comic present-from-mommy reason already, so his respect was even more emphasized). Wash was wonderful - just turning to do whatever he can for the poor guy he had never met but was a friend of his wife, without even waiting for Mal to ask him to do anything, it was so obvious to him. And Inara putting her business aside (and Mal too full of emotion to even thank with word either of them, saying it all in his face and movements). Jayne bursting with wanting-to-feel-alive, right in the same room as the crate, and Book saying a few silent words of parting, while not even sure which are the ones that the dead man would want to hear. Oh, and River - I loved the way she tried to, I don't know, get in touch, it seemed, some sort of touch, some sort of comprehension, from the crate and the dead man inside it. Just lying on it, fully, and petting it and putting her head on the lid - she's not just unable to block anything, like Simon said in "Ariel", it seemed like she was trying, with all her might, to actually listen to what was there to "say", not in words.
I loved that scene with Kaylee alone in her corner in the engine room (and I love it that there's such a corner that she made for herself there), listening quietly to the message from Tracy, whom she has never met before and still touched her heart so with his concern to his family. And Simon trying to get inside and talk to her, smooth things with her (and she couldn't understand his clinical approach to death, at all, she thought it was wrong when Mal started going through Tracy's crate looking for what the cops were after), and upon hearing that message playing, giving up and walking away. I loved that scene - the characters whose emotions were conveyed in it were the ones that didn't speak at all, and in each way of looking at the doorway, only one of their faces was seen, sort of showing the distance between them.
[Well, the usual, TBC]
Oh, and, of course, the laughter that Mal and Zoe shared (along with Inara). Not instead of being sad (there was a moment there where the story ended and Mal seemed lost a bit), but on top of it. Remembering the good, celebrating what was good in that person that is there no more. And they were the ones who actually knew him, to whom he was more than an anonymous (or minus-one-recorded message anonymous) reminder of mortality, so they were the ones who were most affected by his death.
I loved the chase scenes, with "Serenity" flying around and below and any-closeness-word-she-could-use with all the rocky mountains covered in snow. I loved it that on occasion the ship was not on my screen, and I found myself thinking "where is she? Where did they get to now? What's going on with everybody?". It was even better than watching the trail of the ship all the way through, the way I imagine it would be done, the "cleaner" way to do it, I guess. The seconds in which I couldn't see the ship, when she slipped out of the screen and all that was left on it was the rock-y-snow-y view and the "now what?" sensation because of that made things, I don't know, more realistic, more like being actually there and trying to figure out what is going on, even than actually, well, seeing it, if that makes any sense. I have no idea in which words to use (I'm very ignorant when it comes to that stuff), but the only thing I can think about when it comes to that chase was "oh, pretty".
I loved it that after all of Wash's wonderful maneuvers, the cops simply followed "Serenity" from above, and didn't try to get into all those difficult-to-pass trails in which Wash had to use all his expertise. And we got all those great ship-in-fast-and-changing-move shots, which I liked a lot and thought were very pretty, of course, as well. I mean, in the movies, the chasers always just go straight after the, um, chasees, no matter if there are even other possibilities. And here, they didn't fall for it - they just went along with where they could, no special showing-off tricks, and, well, they did catch up on "Serenity" eventually, so it worked.
I liked the direct continuity from the former episode, "Trash" - Mal and Inara's conversation about selling the stolen goods, the crew thinking they were chased by cops because of that specific theft, not because of the crate they just picked up, Inara quick to blame Saffrom for telling on them. It gives a lovely sort of "their lives together continue between the episodes" feel, I think.
It was nice from Inara to offer her help with selling the "Lassiter", even though probably a little presumptuous, both on her thinking that after taking part in exactly one mission, and doing a great job of it, she knows enough tricks to risk again, and in thinking that she can so easily do what Mal and his crew can't ("I can be just as good at being bad!"). I loved it that she used the Mona Lisa comparison so naturally, not even stopping to think about the cultural connections, and that Mal had no idea what she was talking about. And I like the way it seems that she accepts the way he doesn't accept her career, in a sort of "that's the way things are" manner, not arguing anymore (or, at least, not when that's not the hot topic of discussion).
Also, I liked the way she responded to Mal and Zoe when they sat and told the Tracy "war stories". She was completely inside the story, laughing a lot and urging them to talk more. And when there was a moment of quiet, when she saw that Mal was lost, for an instant, in his thoughts and sorrow, she tried to prod him on to talk with a question. And, well, yeah, there was an explosion right after that which made her attention a little redundant, but still.
I loved it that Kaylee trusted Tracy enough to take him to what seemed to me to be her room, of all places, when they had to stay away from the bridge together, so open and warm and not-making-a-big-deal-of-it of her. And the way she had complete trust in Mal and the crew, and everything seemed to her to be part of a plan to make things OK. Oh, and I loved the way, when Tracy threatened her with a gun and Mal chased him, her question was directed to Mal (her "big brother), and was "what's going on", as if her understanding was the thing that most disturbed her at the moment. And I love her ongoing relationship with Simon - how she keeps expecting him to be able to be fully nice to her, to be with her, to talk to her, and how she keeps getting disappointed (even though he keeps trying), and still, she likes him, she keeps giving him these opportunities (and not cutting him any slack for his mistakes), because she likes him, as a person.
I love the way Wash, in the lack of a better word, plays with his words. He is all business when it comes to flying the ship, but he is all about the sense of humor at any other time. And he even takes the bother to mention that the dead guy is on the bridge, or that the people who chase them had a better plan, and the like. While, of course, being able to make the most complicated of maneuvers. I love the way his expression keeps changing, so vividly, so richly, with anything he responds to.
Zoe is just not fazed by anything at all, is she? She just sat there, when her dead friend turned out to be alive, attacked the doctor, had Mal jump at him and restrain him. And after all that was over, she just, well, looked at him, quietly and calmly, from above. The coolest of them all. I loved it that her hair was different in the past and in the present - I don't remember how it looked in the battle scene from "Serenity", but I think it was similar to the "past" hair, as well.
I loved how Zoe got to interact with Simon at the beginning. As tough and quiet as she seems to be shown, she gets all those little moments that kind of sneak up on you, that show her as much more than just Mal's second-in-command (and, well, of course, Wash's wife). She teased him, but there was kindness in that, in sort of a "well, that always happens, we all know what it's about" way. I loved it that she put her arm around Simon, not just talked to him (was it the first non-professional exchange between them? And still, it worked). Especially while Wash, who is the more people-person among them, more relying on talking to communicate, was too busy in, well, amusing whomever may hear him.
Poor Simon. Poor little Simon, when he finally has it going with Kaylee, saying the right thing out-of-the-sleeve without bothering, he has to go ahead and spoil it to himself. His embarrassment was so, well, natural - it did seem like something one person may think as a compliment, until he hears it through the ears of somebody else, and he really does like Kaylee very much, and he really does not get a lot about her, and he really does manage to shoot himself in the leg each time, through no fault of any bad intentions, just silly mistakes and misunderstandings.
I loved his moment when Tracy was awaken, when he casually, in the middle of patching Tracy up, asked Jayne for a pan. He didn't explain why, just off-handedly asked for it, and Jayne obeyed! Without knowing why (and I'm pretty sure I noticed him in the back, making a sort of a face at the pan before handing it in front of Tracy's face). And then, just along the conversation, just in time, when Tracy did throw up, the pan in Jayne's hands was waiting for him right there (to Jayne's disgusted face, as well). And then, just, well, put it away. Perfectly at his element as a doctor, not blinking an eye.
Book was absolutely wonderful in this episode. From the start, suggesting to take a step back before Jayne opens his package, he was completely alert and aware of what was going on, and what's new - more at ease in showing that (which means, I think he always was, but didn't expose that ability). I loved it that he stepped to help Mal and Zoe carry the crate that contained the body (giving River his problematic food in advance) and immediately stepped off when Zoe made it clear that it's something that they want to do on their own.
And then, when the cops were chasing them and Wash was lost as to how to stall them if he'd have to, and everybody was surprised and stressed and wondering, he so calmly promised Mal that he'd take care of that part of the problem, freeing him and Zoe to try and look for what the cops were talking about. He was there, on the bridge, and just stepped up when he was needed, not bothering anybody beforehand. And he has such a warm confidence-inducing voice, too.
And he knows about cops, about their procedures, about the way they're supposed to function, and even more than that, about the ways that they do things when they're out of their line of duties. It makes me wonder about his past, obviously. Especially when remembering his very high rank to soldiers of the alliance, as was shown in "Safe". Was he a cop? Was he corrupted? Was he the one who could hunt down the corrupt cops? Both? And what made him join a monastery, on top or regardless of what his past had been? He has the ways-of-thinking, the fighting skills, the calmness, and yet, in "Serenity", at the end, he looked so lost, so confused, when talking to Inara.
He was so cool and calm and collected, facing the cops. He knew that he had the upper hand, and in a room full of people holding guns and threatening each other, he stepped right on front of the weapons, without any shield of any sort, all exposed, and without any weapon of his own, other than his brain and his courage and what he gathered with that combination. And it worked.
And then, in front of those cops, his voice suddenly turned completely ice-y and scary, when he threatened that they could kill them without anybody caring. His warm, wonderful, rich voice was scary, with such a little change. So creepy, so full of possibilities regarding his past and what he was telling using it and what were the emotions it gave to people who heard it. So many secrets, not enough hints, and me so curious to know what's behind all that. So many possibilities.
I loved it that Jayne got a package from his mother, of all people! And he was so happy to get it, too. I loved it that he had to concentrate in order to read, and was a bit slow at it, deciphering the words. Also, it seems like Jayne, of all people, thug money-for-morales shoot-instead-of-think Jayne, is sending money home to help his family, how great is that? Both surprising and not, at the same time. And he was so pleased with his hat!
And that sweet (I'm in the Kaylee school of thought, or so it seems) home-made hat, with some of the threads still dangling about, and those ears-covering things, and the happy colors, and the pom-pom! Now I'm really curious as to how Jayne's mother is like, and what is the way that she sees her son, and how does the rest of the family is like and how come he's the one who has to send money to help them, and - did I mention the possibilities already? Sigh. But his clear joy, so complete and full, regardless of how the hat may have looked to his eyes on anybody else, and the way that he carried that wool thing with him all throughout the episode, even when it wasn't on his head it was right next to him, was just lovely.
It's such a nice relationship that is being built between Jayne and Book, I think. It seems like the one person to whom Jayne actually describes what he thinks and feels ends up being Book. And Book doesn't just listen, he responds, as well, talks to Jayne, not just at him.
It seems like, despite the deep differences between the way they lead their lives, the moral code, the order-of-priorities, they have lots in common, they can understand at least some part of each other. Maybe Book more than Jayne, and maybe Jayne taps into some part of that hidden past of Book's, but still. And they're completely accepting each other, not trying to change the other (which, in the case of the Shepard who is facing a man whose easiest response to other people is shooting them, may be even a bit surprising, but definitely refreshing).
Jayne referred to River as "mind reading genius" - I loved this reference to what just happened in "Trash", her guessing that he was the one who turned them in, even though the full discovery of that was in front of Simon, after Jayne has left the room, she still hinted enough in front of him, I think. He just muttered it under his breath, for nobody in particular to hear, though he would have probably needed to do some explanations as to what he means had anybody heard him, but still he couldn't resist making fun of her, even only to himself. I keep repeating how much I love the little continuity bits that aren't forced down the viewer's eyes, that if they're understood they only add to the characters, but if they don't, nothing is lost.
I loved River's response to the explosions - counting in order to see if the storm was coming or going. Such a meaningless thing to do, but with a logic of its own, a thing that children do when it's raining - a natural phenomenon, that nothing can be done about, as opposed to human-made bombs thrown at you - in order to try and make some sort of meaning from what is going on around them. And I loved it that despite having a short exchange with Simon in the middle of it, she didn't lose count (it was 1002 before he called her name, and 1005 after she answered him).
And I'm sorry, and it's a little bit embarrassing, but I don't think I know ways of combining the words in my vocabulary in such a way that will really and truly show how much I like the character of Mal. Yup, no matter how large are the paragraphs that I try to throw at the screen, that little flutter that my silly little heart gave at his expression when Tracy was dying? And when he did die? And when they gave his body to his family? Can't describe it any better than that. Doesn't mean I'm not going to try, but you are warned, for the record.
I loved how in the space station, like an everyday thing, throughout his conversation with Inara, he caught, without even looking, the kid who bumped into him and tried to pickpocket him. Caught him, reached out his hand, and the kid returned the money. And the flow of the conversation wasn't disturbed, not even once. Always sharply alert to what is going on around him (this must be very tiring, I guess).
And the Mal in the flashback scene - so full of enthusiasm, so bursting with life and energy and ability and, well, life. And he was so considerate of the poor shocked lieutenant, feeling sorry for him for his poor condition while in the same time planning ahead, both the fight and the way for it to not damage the lieutenant future (meaning, he was letting himself assume that he would have one, which is, in a way, rather different than the Mal we know of the present).
Like I said before, I love his practicality. As much as Kaylee was annoyed at Simon's offer for an autopsy, he realized that it was a useful idea, and I think he was even thankful to the doctor for offering to do what he can for the dead person. However, when there was a threat to the ship and the crew, he didn't hesitate for a minute to take the body out and tear the crate apart (hey, let Jayne tear it apart!), look through Tracy's clothes (I loved it that Zoe took off his boots), and, eventually, accept Simon's proposal. The living are more important than the dead, forget what's right or honorable - and I like it that he has that attitude.
The conversation between Mal and Tracy (before he shot Tracy) was just wonderful. So powerful, so much truth thrown in the face of each character from the other. Tracy trying to throw responsibility off, and Mal insisting on pointing out that nobody makes anybody do anything, each person should account for their own actions, which is so important to him. And Tracy kept trying to show Mal that they are exactly alike, that they behave the same way (which reminded me that evil-captain in (say it with me) "Out of Gas", who told Mal that Mal would have behaved the same had the roles been reversed, and Mal responded that he could see that it hadn't been the case). Those subtle distinctions that still have to be made (yeah, we kill people, but not those who are helping us, for example), which are both a very-thin-line-that-can-be-crossed-at-any-minute and huge, the core of the most important moral code, at the same time. It's like a thing that you have to be aware of constantly, at any given moment, so that you could check, each step you take, whether you're still in the side of the line that your ethics want you to be, while still keeping your survival, well, alive.
And did I mention already his expression when he shot Tracy? And I nearly typed "had to shoot", but changed my mind, based on what I just wrote in the former paragraph. Because that was the point - nobody made him do it, kill his friend in order to save his "baby sister". It was his choice. And he was heartbroken that he had to take that choice, that this was the path which things followed. But he didn't hesitate, not for a split of a second, and Kaylee was OK (oh, and the first chest wound was not fatal, it seemed, because Tracy was still able to walk around with it and threaten Kaylee, so they thought of that, too). That was the point I realized I have tears in my eyes.
[In the middle of another paragraph]
Mal's expression. The way I believed that he really understood, didn't try to take any blame from himself, while still realizing Tracy's own wrong actions. A grown up.
And I love it that he isn't a nice person. He snapped at Jayne when he complained about having no profit in taking a corpse on board, not even paying attention to that snapping, for example. Oh, and the most obvious thing - he didn't even bother to try and tell Tracy what their idea was. And, yeah, I know, it can be excused with him not having enough time to tell him that, the idea came up in the last minute and there were bombs all over them. And, yeah, I know it was a way-to-tell-the-story-to-get-maximum-tension plot device from Joss and Tim, for us to wonder until the very last second what would Mal do and will he really give in a man from his old crew, his former life, who was risking his current crew and his present life, how will he choose and how will he live with that. But, still, it fit the character exactly (which is, in a way, the best combination of all of those considerations, I guess, now that I think about it).
I mean, he was angry at Tracy for creating a problem and bringing it on his head, no consideration at all in his and Zoe's lives, and whatever may be the people who are connected to them, and usually when he's angry, he wants to let the other side get a taste of that medicine, as well. And here it was the helplessness in the lack of having a choice, that Tracy forced on him. It seemed completely right to me, that he didn't explain things to Tracy, that he wanted him to feel the fear and the anger, and that at the same time he didn't think for a second to not help him, no matter how much he was furious and how much he knew that Tracy's actions towards him were wrong.
And that brings me again to what I thought about in "Safe" - how being good to somebody, trustworthy and, well, his family, has nothing to do with being nice. Just like with Kaylee and Simon, in a way. He didn't say any of the right things, like Tracy, who probably said all the right things, but sometimes with a gun pointed at her, but when she was sad and needed the comfort of a good person beside her, at the last scene, it was Simon she was standing next to, and it was his hand she grabbed with her own. It's not about being nice, it's about being good. And, just like I said in the past, it's such a difficult distinction to make, and, in my eyes, such an important one.
It seemed like Tracy wasn't willing to let go of the past, or at least saw everything as the same. He kept calling Mal "sarge", though his rank was "captain" already and everybody else referred to him as such, he was surprised that Zoe had changed since he had known her. And still, he was the one who kept saying how he couldn't fit in the life that didn't include the war, the past, in it. So, in a way, he kept holding to the world he did know, even by refusing to accept changes in anybody else.
Like, for example, he threatened to shoot Wash if he called the cops, with Zoe in the room. IIRC, it was after Kaylee had told him that Zoe and Wash are married, and he definitely didn't need any more reminders of Zoe's abilities in combat, but still, he didn't even think to look out from Zoe preventing him from shooting her husband, when he threatened Wash.
"When you can't run anymore, you crawl. And when you can't do that, you find someone to carry you" - I couldn't help it, that sentence reminded me of Sam and Frodo. Not from the running or the crawling point of view, but from the "you find someone who carries you" angle. Remember when brave loyal Sam is saying "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!", when he realizes that Frodo can no longer carry the ring anymore, and he can't take the ring from Frodo and ease up his burden, but he can (and does, brave loyal wonderful Sam that he is) carry Frodo himself. I always thought about it as what friendship is really all about.
I mean, you can't, at the bottom line, at the "what do we actually do" level of things, do all that much for anybody else. There are cases where you can, when something technical, in the lack of a better word, that is in your ability and not in your friend's possibilities, is just what they need in order to actually do something, to actually change something in their lives (like, say, the most amazing thing that Allyson did for ita), but mostly, there are no such possibilities, and even when there are, there's nothing one can do in order to make the friend's mind up about taking up that opportunity. I'm not sure if I'm making myself clear, here. It's like what Giles sings about in OMWF, about how much he cares about Buffy and loves her, he can't take her through the emotional path she needs to follow, to make up her decisions for her and take her responsibilities, the only way for her to actually do things is by doing them herself.
And, I think, that's the way it is with people all around us. There's not much I can do for any of my loved ones. Anything they do, they should actually do it, personally take the step, make the resolution in their own heart and mind and take the deep breath and really go for it. I can't "walk them for it", if I'm allowed to abuse the phrase. Each person, if they want to make a decision, has to do it on its own, inside their own private mind and soul. I can say what I think is the right and good path in my opinion, I can advise, I can try and help technically in the implementation of the decision, of the this-is-what-I-ll-do part of things, but I can't give any real, tangible, help, in that process. I can't carry anybody's ring for them, no matter what that burden is.
[Moving the whole embarrassingly none-Firefly paragraph to the next post]
But what a friend can do is exactly what Sam did - he couldn't carry the ring for Frodo, he couldn't live his life for him, he couldn't make his decisions for him, choose his choices. But he could carry him - the one thing that a person can really give to a friend, all the way through, is their love and support. So you can't take anybody's ring from around their necks, but if they can't walk on their own all the way to the fulfillment of whatever it is they need or hope to do, you can carry them. And, well, yeah, not physically, but emotionally. The one thing, eventually, you can give someone, is your friendship, your love, your support, your carrying them on that mountain of fire, to make it easier for them to accomplish whatever it is they need.
I'm not saying that it's 100% the one-and-only thing one person can do for another, but I do think (and for personal reasons that involve other people and therefore I can't specify them here, that's a thing I've thought about a lot lately), that whatever a person decides to do, whatever changes in their lives they're trying to make, the internal resolve, what lies in the heart of the making-a-difference process, is something a person does alone, with themselves only, and nobody else, no matter how much love and friendship and support there is there, nobody else can take that step for them, not even the tiniest part of it. However, there's no value to the amount of importance that those love and friendship and support have in that private process, in my opinion. You can't carry anybody's ring anywhere, but you can carry them. That carrying of the person through - I do think that loving them is the equivalent.
For example, my brother (the one who is now serving in the army) told us about one of the (plenty) running tracks they had to finish as part of their training, in which he thought he simply couldn't make it to the end. One of his commanders (I have no idea how to translate the ranks properly) saw that he was having troubles, ran besides him, and for the last 2 kilometers or so he didn't leave his side, saying "you can do this" and "run along with me" and things like that, at the end even holding his hand. And my brother finished that track. He later said that he couldn't believe that he had it in him, that he could push himself that far, that he had inside him the ability to finish. He would have never tried, had it not been for that commander. Now, he was the one who took the decision to continue running, he was the one who strained his muscles beyond what he thought they were capable of, he was the one who did the deed, and nobody could have ever done it for him, no matter how much they may want to help. But, still, just the same, he wouldn't have been able to do it, according to him, had he hadn't got that help. Does that help making my point a bit clearer?
And, um, this was supposed to be about "Firefly", not about "me talking about my issues with people I can't do really nothing to help and how more off topic than that can you get?", right? So, um. Where is that slippery line-of-thought? Hmm.
Oh, here it is! I thought that a similar idea was in the sentence that kept repeating (or, well, not repeating as much as hinted at and revealed in parts) throughout the episode. And I think that this was what Tracy couldn't do. He wanted Mal and Zoe to take the ring from him and do for him whatever it was that he needed to do, and along with that, he didn't let them carry him - he wouldn't let them try to be there for him, he wouldn't give them enough trust and faith, and in a way, that was exactly what led him to his death.
It was like Mal had said - that somebody's death is already there, somebody else just carries the bullet for a while. The inherent flaw, the genuine problem that Tracy had with adjusting to life outside of the army, was there all along. Even if he did let himself trust Mal and go along with his plan, he'd probably have died in some other scheme-that-turned-out-bad (yeah, fictional character, I still remember that, and all). I mean, it seemed like he couldn't do things any other way, like he couldn't take responsibility for any of his actions, tried to throw them on other people's backs, and wouldn't trust them to be actually able to do the exact thing he came to them for doing. Am I making any sense?
This was the way he conducted himself in the war, too, it seems, from both the flashback scene and from the story Mal and Zoe told Inara later. In both of them, he took an action that wasn't needed, wasn't taking measures to make sure this decision would have an OK result, and was counting on others for things to be OK. I mean, he sat there and started eating, regardless of the noise that it made or the people that may be around with the sole purpose of killing him, and he pretty much trusted Zoe and Mal, who were around, to take care of things. And he didn't do it in the way of the poor lieutenant, completely in shock and unable to respond in any other way, but being in full senses and with all his ability with him.
And, I'm such a spoil-sport goodie-two-shoes, but in the story that Mal and Zoe told, as funny as it was (and as much as it really did resemble "war stories" I heard from friends who did serve in the army, that really took place by real people in the real world in a real army), I couldn't help but thinking that he wasn't fair to the other soldiers while playing his trick on the colonel. I mean, in retrospect it was all funny and made for a great tale, but in real time, I guess what had happened was that a whole group of people was punished (and nothing like than can go unpunished, I think) because of the whimsy of one member of the group, they had no saying in the matter, and he trusted their code of honor, their morality, their taking responsibility, in order to not give him in, until he could show off with his big mustached finish.
Maybe I'm reading too much into it, and all that little story was supposed to be was just that, a little story, but that's how it echoed to me.
And if I try to look at it from a somewhat different point of view ('cause, hey, I didn't have enough diversions from the actual episode until now, right?), I think there's so much truth in Mal's sentence: "Everybody dies. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you", if I take it as a metaphor, not as an actual line from a soldier about bullets. Because, maybe not in all cases, but in so many of them, the thing that makes people fail and fall and lose and, in a sense, even if not in the most direct way, die, is something that's already there, that already exists in the world and waiting for them to meet it, and in more cases than not, it's their own faults and weaknesses. So the very fact that you're alive (- taking part in a war in which bullets are flying around you) and therefore aren't perfect and having faults, that very thing is the opening to your failure (the bullet "meeting" you). Is that too far fetched?
So the trick is, to learn to live with one's weaknesses, to learn to avoid falling in the traps they're laying in front of us in each and every step of the way. Because mostly you can't take that weakness away from yourself, you can't change enough to make it disappear from your personality. But what you can do is learn how deal with it, how to try to conduct yourself in a way that will hurt you and your loved ones the least that's possible. And to make sure it doesn't get a chance to get to you.
And, in a way, that was Tracy's problem. He both couldn't trust the people around him, in one way, and leaned on them too much, in another, if I'm making any sense. He let himself do silly things knowing that other people will cover up for him and that he'd be able to get away with it, and with all his body intact, while in the same time he didn't really trust any of them, not enough to come to them with a problem and really ask for help.
However, in the last scene, when he was dying, when he was figuring out that Mal wouldn't have turned him in (and, yeah, fictional character, but I'm sure that if Book hadn't come up with a plan, they wouldn't have turned Tracy in either, they would have thought of a different solution, it's not like they've never killed officers of the law before), when he realized he would have done better had he really trusted Mal and Zoe, what he did was asking them for the one thing that became important to him at that time, to take his body home (yeah, the thing that he supposedly asked at first, irony of fate). In a way, small and obviously too-late, he did manage to outlast a certain mental bullet, so to speak, the poor silly boy.
List! The scary little scull on the hat of the man announcing the cow-fetus-alien thing (not sure why, though - just that I loved the detail, like Badger's hat or Niska's lovely lamp). Kaylee craning her head upside-down to look at the cow-fetus-alien, actually moving her head to check that it's upside-down. Book apparently taking care of River and getting her that dangling food thingie. Jayne trying not to give Mal the full change from his shopping (right after telling him he got a discount, too), and the face he makes when Mal doesn't fall for that, as if he just remembered the other bill. Kaylee just laying her head on Inara's shoulder for comfort, and Inara so fully and completely offering her that shoulder - very few words, mostly just a light touch, and such a lovely vibe of friendship and understanding. River scolding Simon (though she wasn't there when he hurt Kaylee, so she couldn't know, and it's not like he could know what happened before he joined the group), and with her both dangling foods. Mal sharing his laughter-and-story with Zoe and Inara - the woman with whom he shares enough of a past to make her part of his present, and the woman who is the most surprising part in his present. Mal using what seems like a military tone of authority when trying to calm down the not-dead Tracy. The way we hear clearly the heart-rate when Tracy notices Kaylee. The flaps in Jayne's hat being tied up over his head (in one of the later scenes), like he's really playing with that wooly thing and trying to make it as comfortable as possible, not just walking around with a prop on his head. Tracy not just shouting "no", but "no, thank you" (twice) about the crew turning him in. Tracy saying "I swear to your god" to Book. Womack spitting on the floor of the ship before leaving. Zoe holding Tracy's hand when he died. That swing of an arm that Tracy did, when he was trying to finish up that old saying but was too weak from dying to manage to do it properly - I'm not sure why, I have no way to explain it, but that arm movement just broke my heart (re-broke, Mal broke it first). How it was Kaylee, of all the crew members (not even Zoe or Mal who knew him best) who gave the message to the woman who was probably Tracy's mother, into the heavily-gloved hand, from a bare hand without a glove, despite the snow. That flake of snow, in Mal's hair, in the very last scene (and, again, I'm not sure why, but it did. And I'm not even sure how to phrase what that thing that it did was, silly me).
I remember when Tim talked about the last episode he directed, which was the last episode of the show that they shot, after the crew had known that the show was canceled. It was way before I got to watch any of the episodes, so the names and the characters and the connections and the whole, well, universe, were something I didn't know anything about. And I still remember how much sadness was in his post, describing each actor's last shooting and the last days of wrapping things up.
[Just a little bit longer. No, really]
And I remembered these words again when I watched the episode, in the part where the doors of the ship are open on the home planet of Tracy, and Mal and Zoe are carrying the coffin, now really containing a dead body, towards the family of their friend. Right before the camera goes over the faces of everybody, each one in their turn, when we mostly see their backs and there's a soft sad music that starts to play in the background. Right then. Because in the moment before that, I was all in the story, and in the minute after that, I was all in the story again, but in that instant, I'm not sure why, for a very brief time, I remembered that post.
And in a strange way, it all fit. The characters who tried to save something, a part of their lives, had failed, had to bring him home to be buried, no matter how brave their efforts were, no matter how right and good and trying. Tracy was dead and they were sad about it. And it didn't negate the good things that they managed to do in the past, the world that they built for themselves (I keep returning to Mal from "Out of Gas", I just can't help it. It tells it so directly and fully in such a straight-out way). And that's what I can only imagine is the way the show could be seen by the people who worked so hard on it, did such an amazing job, and saw it treated badly and then canceled right from under them. That the sadness is there, but the accomplishment is there, as well, interwoven together.
[Edit: there, that's it. To my defense, lots of it were bible and my brother and LotR and my issues and the like, which is not much of a defense, now, is it? I still burbled more on "Out of Gas" (and it's still the one that resonated with me the most, I think). Um, not that this is such a good defense, either, I'm afraid. OK, shutting up now.]