Yesterday afternoon, the computers here were stuck - refused to respond, not even to let anybody check and see what was the problem (the suspicion now is a virus, but that's not the point). In any case, I despaired and got home early, to the very rare occasion of an empty apartment. So I watched "Out of Gas" on my own (it was my second viewing), and when I arrived here this morning (to an already working network, thankfully), I just couldn't do anything before I simply sit and write some stuff up, there were so many thoughts and emotions running around inside me because of it. The first viewing left me speechless, but this one generated some very large paragraphs, I'm afraid. Also, tangled, but I guess you're already used to that. It was even better on a second viewing, by the way - I had tears in my eyes from nearly the start, and they just stayed there - I didn't cry, but my heart was completely overcome. One of my roommates returned 2 minutes before the ending, and I guess I looked like I felt, because despite wanting to show me her (beautiful and very becoming) new coat, she said "I'll let you finish what you're watching".
I'm afraid this is going to be ridiculously long and detailed (even in the standards of my former burbles). And I still have (even more) entangled thoughts spinning somewhere in the back of my mind, that I didn't get to formalize into words. There were just so many layers, so many subtleties, you know?
Also, very few TV images 'stay with me' in the sense that I can't stop seeing them in my mind's eyes, hours and even days after I actually see them on a screen. Last time it happened to me was, if I remember correctly, Angel closing the cellar doors on the lawyers. I remember myself sitting at a Matlab class and seeing that image instead of the professor. The time before that was, I think, Buffy clutching the sward Angelus thrust at her, realizing she always has herself left, even though everything else is gone (I'm sure there are some non Jossverse moments there too, somewhere, if I look strong enough and back enough, but that's not the point). Anyway, recently I got a new image that wouldn't let go - Mal's face when he's fallen to the grid metal floor, knowing he has to get up but not having enough air in his lungs and strength in his body, and still doing it. I just can't get that image of my mind, it has so much meaning.
In terms of plot, this episode had a very minimal one: the ship is broken, the ship gets fixed. And because it's a TV show, about that ship and its crew, it's pretty much obvious from the get-go that the ship is going to be fixed and that Mal is going to survive (well, he is still the captain and it's still his ship and crew and it's not a show like BtVS or AtS where death can be played with). But that was not the point. It wasn't a story about a clever way to outsmart technical problems, it wasn't a story about fixing the ship or about being smart and resourceful. The only solution Mal could come up with was a little-thread-of-hope one, and he didn't achieve it by being a genius or stronger than anybody or improvising some MacGyver-(sp?)-like clever solution. It was like Kaylee said - sometimes, when something is broken, it simply can't be fixed, and they needed that small part brought to them by somebody from the outside, and if I'm going to say what Mal technically did, he simply took a broken part and put a working one instead, one that he got from somebody.
Most every other similar story that I can think of focused on finding the solution to the problem, of the hero being the hero because he has the resources to find that solution, which makes him/her different than any other character, thus "hero-fying" that character. And that's a good and interesting story to tell, only here it's completely not the one. The way I see it, that's why the problem here is unfixable by Kaylee, and simply needs a nearly silly process, in its simplicity, in order to be solved. The fixing is not the story, it's only the way to start it moving, to get to the point, it's the background (another convention being turned upside its head! I love it when they do that!). The real story, at least the way it felt to me, is exactly the no-solution part, the emotions of the characters and the connections between them. Is that what you mean when you say something it a "character-derived story"? When whatever is going over the characters, their emotions and insights and relationships, are more important than the plot that surfaced those inner aspects? I don't know, but it was such a great story to follow.
I loved it so much that in the course of flashbacks the introduction of the "Serenity" to Mal (and several other characters) was treated as equally important to the introduction of some of the human characters, and in some ways, even more. It's not the first time that the ship was treated like yet another character in the story, with a personality and preferences and likes and dislikes. When Mal talks about not leaving, he doesn't say "the ship", he says her name: "I'm not leaving Serenity", just like one would do to a person they don't want to leave behind. Kaylee treats her the same way - is communicating with her, is disappointed she didn't tell her about the problem earlier (though she did and Kaylee knew that this part needs replacing, she said that in a couple of past episodes). And, after all, Serenity is the physical thing that puts all these people together, that ties all their lives, on top of the emotional and personal relationships they start developing.
[Edit: to be continued]
I loved the closing of the circle - how the first "introduction" is also the last one - between Mal and Serenity - tying so beautifully the beginning and ending of the episode. The first person Mal shows Serenity to is Zoe - it all builds from the beginning, from Mal's connection to his past (Zoe) being introduced to what he chose as his future (the ship) and him trying to convince them to sort of meet each other and get along (well, only Zoe, but it's nearly as if he's trying to convince the both of them to like each other despite their original hostility).
Zoe completely couldn't see a single good thing about "Serenity" when Mal first showed it to her. And still, she not only overcame those objections, she went along with him as his second-in-command, she followed him, no matter what. She definitely has her own opinions, she has no problems in stating them (and with her dry humor as a bonus) and still, eventually, she follows her captain, the man she trusts. I keep saying how much I love the relationship between Mal and Zoe - the respect, the trust, the not-romantic, the affection. Well, I like it even more now. I want to see how they first met, I want to see more about their past together, about how he got to win such a respect and trust from her, about how she became the one person from his past life he wanted to bring along with him to the new life he's trying to build.
Wash says that Zoe is the strongest person he has ever met (no arguments from me there). Now, usually the way a husband (or, if we're talking about "usually" then I should probably say "boyfriend", I guess) of a very strong woman is portrayed is as a "he makes me laugh" weaker person, who clings to her strength or can't deal with it (a certain boyfriend of Buffy, anyone?). But Wash isn't like that, and their relationship doesn't seem to be built on such foundations. He has plenty of character of himself, he's very skilled and good at what he does (came with so many references) and knows his way around people (which I don't think is a skill to look-down upon). He doesn't draw from Zoe's strength and "rides" on it. He loves it. He loves her. And she loves him back - and, again, in that mutual respect and full of friendship way, a connection between equals. Equals with different characteristics and abilities, yes. And she could kill him with her pinky, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have anything to offer her, that they're not equals in that relationship nonetheless. Oh, and did I mention how much I like Wash's actor? His movements seem to have a "spring" to them, I don't know how to out this into words. And I love how much his face conveys (he broke my heart with the concern and love he had all over him when he was next to Zoe when she was wounded), and how his witty dialog seems to be something that the actor could have said himself, on his own, and not just as a character he portrays.
I loved the confrontation between Wash and Mal - well, maybe "loved" isn't the right word, because it was so raw and difficult and full of emotions each conflicting each other. I thought it was so well done - Wash's complete abandon of anything else, just wanting to be with his wounded wife. He didn't even look at Mal when Mal first called his name, and on the second time all he could say, what he considered enough to be said to explain everything, was that Zoe was hurt. Mal didn't have that ability - he had to look at the big picture, he had to force Wash to try and figure out a solution, because nobody else could. It was like when the doors were closed and Simon wasn't allowed to get to his medical supplies, because doing that may mean the destruction of the ship, only worse, because she's his wife. And Mal had enough of a strength to argue with a man in such a state, stand in front of him and I don't know if force him or make him actually see that it's the one thing he has to do. And Wash had enough of a strength to answer back, but to eventually go and try and leave his beloved wife's bed for the sake of the entire group of people.
And the second confrontation between them - with Wash being hopeless and Mal clinging onto everything he can, to the most ridiculous ideas he could think of, not stopping the wheels on his (and his crew's) brains from turning for a second. Until pretty much the friction between them was what made them think of the idea that eventually saved them all. Wash's desperate and angry and helpless "What do you expect me to do?" was so, I don't know, the human way to respond to your life collapsing around you. And Mal's relentless driving him on was the most demanding and harsh and right and grown-up (in the good sense). And only the very fact that he didn't stop trying was what eventually managed to reach to a solution. And it turned out that Mal's stubbornness was the right way to go (yeah, I know it's just a story. But sometimes it's like that in the real life, too. No, really) and that Wash's cynicism was mistaken - but Wash had no way to know that when he went on and did that trick that eventually made them heard by another ship. And he definitely had no idea of that when the last thing he did before leaving Serenity was to make it possible for Mal to call the shuttles back. But he did this nonetheless. And it worked.
I loved that when Wash saw Serenity for the first time, it was all about the fun and his ability - it made such a strong contrast to the horrible situation he was in (emotionally, worse of all of the other characters, save perhaps Mal). Something that started as a good fun job with a ship that has maneuvers abilities has turned out into the most meaningful thing he has and to have the most meaningful person in his life.
Oh, and Zoe isn't the first Jossverse character to dislike her beloved on the first time she has met him - Buffy didn't like Angel when she first met him, too. She said something like "Dark, gorgeous in an annoying sort of way... I *really* didn't like him!". Continuity between shows, not just on the show itself!
Some of the behind-the-current questions regarding the relationships between the characters are being solved, and some get even more mysterious. I mostly mean Jayne (for the first kind) and Inara (for the second). With Jayne, it seems like it's the very first time anybody tried to buy him with anything other than money, or maybe I should have written "more than money", because he doesn't seem like the character to give up on anything. It looks like it's the very first time somebody offered to respect him as a person (regardless of the question whether he has earned that respect or not, without even raising anything like this question, which is in and of itself part of this "treating somebody like a human being"), like he wasn't just a sum-of-money-to-pay, and maybe this is the thing that requires such a high sum in order to make Jayne sell Mal out (and I'm not sure if there exists in the world a sum high enough, by now. Not for Mal).
Maybe for other people? I'm not sure, again. Maybe. Maybe if they stand enough in his way and he thinks he's treated lowly enough, maybe if he thinks he can cover it up from Mal. Maybe. And that's the beauty of it - in every other show, with every other character I can think about, I as a viewer could always be sure the characters would do "the right thing", that they wouldn't sell out in the end, that even if it seemed like they did, it would turn out to be a sting operation or a cover-up for some other beneath-the-surface aim. But not with Jayne - I can always see him go either way (though, again, probably not with Mal himself). Even after all that happened in "Jaynestown", he's still the same person who'd first get rid of his partner and only later of the money. He didn't change by that meeting with Mal and by giving him a different treatment than most other people (at least for most of the time). He still cares for his own skin first, and he is still a "not nice" character. But somewhere in his order-of-priorities he put something over some amount of personal-skin-and-some-money-with-it.
I mean, what other person Jayne has ever interacted with, in the course of his life, was willing to talk to him the way Mal did at the final scene of "Jaynestown"? Most people would simply see this thug, all conflicted and confused, not understanding and a bit lost, and would be "oh, just go and hit somebody, who are you trying to pretend to be, somebody nice, who has deep thoughts?". But Mal tried to help him make sense of things, was there with him and for him. I don't know if what enabled Jayne to open up to him like that ("open up" in this case means saying that things don't make sense, but to that character it seems like a lot, in my eyes) is the fact that Mal treated him like that in the first place, but it seemed like this is what he was offering to him - becoming a member of a crew, rather than just a gun-for-hire, with rights. And, apparently, that means more than (some) money. Mal means enough for him to pretend that he would have come back and tried to save him the way Zoe did - and I don't think there are many things that make Jayne pretend anything.
Now, Inara - she was always presented as a very high-class respected person, and it was always a mystery to me, how come she chose to be on board of such a shabby patch-upon-a-patch ship like "Serenity", where her best interests demand a better ship from pretty much every angle - a ship that will reach the richer planets more often, that will be able to keep her schedule more strictly, that will not involve her, by association, with any criminal activities. I think it was hinted first in "Serenity" - with her boredom from the way she conducted her life - but I think now that pretty much the reason that made her get up and go running around between planets is the same one that made her choose "Serenity" as the way to do it. I mean, choosing a ship like the one I described above will pretty much mean continuing her life the same way as they did before going out, only with a different planet name in the clients' addresses. If she wanted a real change, if she really wanted to go beyond the boundaries of herself, then such a drastic change, of both scene and society, seems like the only way to go.
And it looks like it fits her, too - she still has the skills, the abilities, and the grace and strength in which she carries them and herself. However, and I have no idea if that's standard-companion-training or special for Inara (see what I mean, when I say there are still more questions than answers, for me?), she gets to be an independent master of her shuttle (she always throws Mal out when he walks in without asking for permission first), she flies it with her own two hands, she gets to choose her clients from a wider variety, and to be involved with so many more people, and such a wider variety, than what seems to me as her usual crowd.
Look at her lovely relationship with Kaylee, for example - they seem like two girls who really like each other's company (well, everybody likes Kaylee's company) and they would have never ever get to meet unless Inara were on board "Firefly". It's like a whole part of the world that was hidden from her, that she was eager to get to know as well. The fact that usually in stories, the part that isn't known to most people is the part that seems to be exactly what her life was all about up to and until she took off with "Serenity" is completely irrelevant.
[Edit: I'm nuts. I can't believe it's this long]
I like it that it didn't start as anything romantic between any of the characters (well, except, perhaps, Mal and Serenity - he couldn't keep his eyes away from her, looking at her with such longing, not listening to anything he was told, just like every cliche of a man falling in love-at-first-sight), that whatever connection there is between them seemed to be something that was developed gradually.
I'm afraid that with all this "glad it isn't romantic" stuff I'm writing here I may turn out to be this anti-romance person, which I'm completely not! It's just that in TV everything turns too heavily to romance, neglecting the other possibilities, and in romance itself - neglecting the wonderful story that can be told with love not-at-first-sight, with a relationship that evolves and grows and changes and shapes itself over and over again according to what happens and what can't happen. And I know nothing about writing, but I can still guess that developing a relationship with such subtleties is more difficult and long and demands more skill and attention than the "Boom! Saw that person and am in love and we're destined from birth" kind of description (see also: why I could never understand, until I read the appendices, how come Aragorn insisted on being in-love with the girl who practically didn't talk to him for the entire book and not with the courageous real-person woman who wanted to go to fight under his command. Like I said - until I read the appendices and suddenly there was a story with the Elf as well and it was sad and pretty and it all made emotional sense to me, and I'm so far off topic that I don't think I can bridge it in any sort of way, so maybe I should simply end the paragraph and hope people wouldn't notice. So.).
I think I like Kaylee more and more with every single each scene she gets. I adore her ability to get pleasure from the world, to really enjoy things. It's hard for me to tell what's straight in the writing and what's stemming from the actress (she has such lovely expressions on all of her, it seems, not just her face, but all her body), but her real genius seems to me to be not the way machines talk to her but her sense of fun. On "Serenity" she relished Book's strawberries, and here she was having fun sex (and near a beloved engine, too).
It's not common to show "good" female characters having casual sex (and probably for getting another purpose, of looking at the inside of the engine's ship as well if not top-most) and just treating it as a fly-by thing that has no effect on the character's set-of-values and fate, right? So that's another "convention boo hoo" lovely path taken by this show, right?
I really liked Kaylee's introduction to Mal - first the moaning, then her voice (without her face) announcing that the mechanic's conclusion is wrong, while getting dressed, pointing out matter-of-factly that she saw the problem when she was having sex with Bester, pointing at the real problem - and still being this fresh-faced smiley nice person she is while doing all that. Also in that scene - when she asks Mal for a wrench (or whatever it was), he gives it to her immediately (after she deliberately broke a part of his ship's engine and continues to play with it!) - I loved his immediate trust of her, and her naturalistic acceptance of it. And then how they understood each other with one-word sentences that they didn't even see necessary to finish.
I just love Mal's relationship with Kaylee - he tried to convince her that she can fix the ship, to trust her abilities, he pushed her to her limits, asking over and over again. But once he realized she really doesn't know what to do, he didn't try to push any further (the way he did with Wash, for example), he just accepted that and went on with what they were able to do. I get a very "big brother and little sister" vibe from them (different than Simon's and River's, of course, but still. One of my favorite scenes remains that in which he kisses her forehead in "Our Ms. Reynolds", relieved and proud and trusting).
Oh, also - I loved it that it was Zoe who ran to save another character from the fire, and that this other character was Kaylee - I don't think I can remember any scene of a conversation between them in the episodes I've seen so far.
How much do I love the continuity? The thing that was broken was the same one Kaylee had complained about in both "Serenity" and "The Train Job". They knew they were going to use it all along, and she tried to be nice to her girl, the ship, and prevent her from breaking down, only they didn't afford it at the time, and now - just like she was afraid it would happen, several episodes ago, it caused a real problem. And it was used so off-handedly - if the viewer didn't notice it, there was no harm done and it never disturbed the flow of the story. If they did - a whole layer of "this is an ongoing story of an ongoing voyage" was added. Just how I like my continuity.
Another lovely continuity touch was River talking about Book's bible, after reading it and trying to fix it in "Jaynestown". Again, has a meaning even without the continuity, but another layer of it for the loyal viewers. Also, the mention of the bad food they're usually eating - Mal wanting to get a cook, Kaylee trying to make the cake as chocolate-y as possible, Book's spices in "Serenity".
And with all the introduction of the "older" characters (older in the sense of being with Mal for the longest time other than Zoe - the ship, Wash, Kaylee, Jayne, Inara), it was all taking place on Simon's birthday, which was such a lovely way to put the poor brave boy in some sort of spot-light, as well.
[Edit: both nuts and answering the phone in the middle of realizing it]
And after answering the phone, what do you think I'd do? Post even more!
The biggest mystery now remains Book. I'm sure he has some sort of a past (I mean, with such a lovely voice and such sadness and faith and fear, he just has to have one of those). I only wish the show went on long enough for the viewers to get even hints as to that past, even if only something to speculate on. He seems to be the character that gets the least focus (River does get a lot only through Simon, but still).
The way I see it, both him and River are a "I have a big secret past story" sort of character, but with River this is pretty much what fuels her story and affects her personality and she seems to have no real three-dimensional existence without it. At least, not much yet. However Book does have his place even without the revealing of that past - his being a shepherd is a direct result from it (I'm completely guessing that, of course), but this is a part that has a life of its own, both with and regardless of what brought him there.
Am I making any sense? River seems to be all "I'm a secret and it hurts", at least for now, but Book seems to be the more layered kind of hidden-past-having, because he can go along and have a real journey on "Serenity" without this story ever being told - at least, that's how it looks to me. If it's making amends he's looking for, or going out to the 'real' world from a protected one, or seeing more of what the world has to offer - I have no idea. But like he said at the beginning, that it's not where you're going to that matters, but the journey itself - sometimes, it's not where you're going from that matters, what you try to leave behind, but what you meet on the way. And that's how I can't help but feel about Book (and spectacularly contradict it in the same sentence by being very intrigued about his past, of course, and wonder if Joss or Tim know the answer to this and just didn't get a change to tell it, or are they still discovering the character themselves, backwards, in a way?).
Oh, and how much so I love the character of Mal? I don't think I can throw a paragraph big enough for answering this with the vocabulary I have (which doesn't mean I'm not going to try...). Some of Mal's lines were so heartbreaking - how he refused to leave Serenity, calling her by name, like a person. "Everybody dies alone" - and it's true, eventually, but he didn't die and that was because he wasn't alone, because they came back for him. When the evil captain tells him that he would have done the same, and Mal answers that he could already see that he hadn't? I wanted to cheer him out loud. And when he followed that with "Now get the hell off my ship"? His Inigo-Montoya-like standing up after he was shot ("Hello, my name is Mal Reynolds. I'm going to get Serenity alive again. Now leave my ship") - well, it doesn't scan well at all, I guess, but I got the exact same inner cheering, and considering how much I like "Princess Bride", that's a lot.
But I think that what affected me most was a single silent moment - that smile on his face when he tells Inara he can't leave Serenity - when there's no expression you can have that will express your feelings, because one that manages to do that is one that has your features crumble and break and fall, so all you have left to do is smile, arrange your face in a familiar manner which will hold them together to not break. My heart broke with that smile. I never know how to describe actors' work with words. The only criteria I have is whether I believe them or not, when they're expressing emotions. The actor who portrays Mal - I believed him, all the way, enough for my heart to break for him. It was like all the feelings and thoughts and pretendings and everything he keeps carrying over him, layer after layer, in order to keep on going (keep flying) were peeled, one by one, and all was left was the will that kept him there and going on, despite everything. Bare hope, bare despair. When I saw pictures of him on the net, long before I ever got to watch an episode of the show, he seemed like the conventional-handsome-captain guy, I could have no idea his face can have such a variety of expressions and can communicate so many different layers of emotions. The way he looked at his crew members when he woke up in the infirmary? I already gushed about that lost smile he had when talking to Inara, right? That last look on his face, when he fell in love with Serenity and the life and hope she has for him? Wow.
Another aspect I liked about Mal's character was that he was using everything he could, taking advantage of the smallest things, not letting anything slip by him, trying to maximize what he can get in order to deal with that mess he was in - remembering where the adrenaline shots are (is that really what injecting adrenaline straight to the heart does to a man? I have no idea, and I have to admit it wouldn't spoil the story for me if it doesn't), remembering Kaylee's offhand comment about where the broken part should fit and how, getting back to the bridge to call the others. In the scene that introduced Jayne, he jumped on the opportunity to divert him to his side, and didn't stop until he offered him a job (and a bunk!). I mean, even with Inara's tease in a phrase "a companion doesn't kiss and tell", he tries to grab on to something ("so there's kissing?"). That alertness, that paying attention to everything and all the time - so vital, so purposeful.
[Edit: I should be banned from posting here for a week after I finish this series of posts]
The difference between loving somebody and liking them - I don't know if Mal likes each member of his crew, but it seems like he respects and values each of them. I don't have a better way to describe it as loving somebody versus liking them. Some people can be lots of fun and you can have great talks with them and you can enjoy their company very much, but you can't love them, their character. You can't trust them or work with them or share their wishes and dreams. They can't be your friends. Am I making any sense? I'm not sure Mal likes all the people that were collected around him, but I think that, in different ways, he loves them all. Even Book, who is devoted to a set of values that Mal doesn't hold; even River, despite treating her mostly like a nuisance that gets in the way.
I'm not sure how to say that, but I liked it how he's having the people who share his dream with him, not using them in order to get his goals. They are there with him, and he is the boss, but they're building something together. When he fired the mechanic and hired Kaylee, for example - I don't think he'll ever do anything like that to Kaylee, even if he ever does find a more talented mechanic than she is (if such a person exists). He didn't fire Bester only because he was incompetent, but because he didn't even try to do his work, because he didn't care. And Kaylee did - and Mal could see that from the very first minute. And that's why when she said that she couldn't fix Serenity (in the "present" timeline), his response was so completely different. He both has this "I use everything I can" attitude, and he's not hesitating for a second to put it into use, when it comes to people, too - but only to those he sees as not taking part of what he is building, those who don't want to become a part of his crew, of his ship. It doesn't make him "nice", of course, but I don't think he cares. Grr. This paragraph still doesn't say what I want it to say. Could somebody please read my mind and verbalize it for me?
The fact that Mal was trying to get along on his own, without any of the others, to save what he tried to build for them as well as for himself, the fact that he tried to call them back after managing to fix the ship, and more than all this, his obvious gratitude and relief at their return - was I the only one who was reminded of that scene at the end of "Becoming II" by this? The "--Now that's everything, huh? No weapons... No friends... No hope. Take all that away... and what's left? --Me." scene? Because that's pretty much the world saying these things to Mal, and he is responding with "me" and manages to fix his beloved ship and make it all work again, and doing it alone, but not really alone and indeed with their various ways of help, and by having it worth its meaning by the people around him, the ones he wants to see when he wakes up.
I loved the way the characters said their goodbyes to Mal: Wash, always the witty one who always seems to have what to say, being lost for words and just trying to do one last thing before leaving, the one thing that matters to Mal; Jayne, maybe completely lacking the way to express those feelings, just saying "Well", and then turning to go, again after trying to do whatever he could; Inara trying to argue until the last minute - and she was the only one who did, if I remember correctly. I don't know if it's anything to do with her being a respectable lady and somebody who is used to being able to make people do what she wants then to do (by gracefully convincing them that this is the right way, OK, but still), or because she less understands the way of life Mal leads. I don't think that in any way it means that her feelings towards him are any stronger than some of the other characters' (not all, of course), just that this is her way of expressing them - fighting until the last minute instead of accepting. And, of course, Zoe - who simply returned to get him. And I loved it that it was Zoe and not Inara, too.
I love how things are physical on this show - I'm not sure I'm using the right word here. When a character is in pain, it's not just an "ouch", it's annoying and disturbs and dirty and messy. The scene where Mal injects himself with adrenaline is difficult to watch - he screams, breaths hard and his body twists and his eyes have pain in them. I don't watch a lot of TV/movies - maybe there are many shows who are this, I don't know, brutal, with the things-are-ugly part of showing. However, I find it very 'right' that "Firefly" does this. It fits, in my eyes, with the no-sound-in-space, the shabby look of the ship and the grown-up characteristics of the characters, their dilemmas and plotlines.
My friend T really loved the effects - the fire blowing all over the ship, room after room, wall after wall, roaring and taking up oxygen until going out. Mal shutting that metal door right in its face. I also liked how the ship of the evil captain (I refuse to call him by any other name. Maybe "the one who came from ita moon", though) showed up on the side on Serenity, and the way they clanged the piece of equipment on the window before Mal let them in.
[Edit: I heart you guys too! Thank you!]
The scientific correctness of "no sound in space" manages to create (at least for me) some very strong moments: the fire roaring on board the ship, and then complete silent once it's out. The creaks of the walls, the falling of objects, the running around - and then, the complete silence when the ship is looked at from the outside. I have no idea who is behind that - the editor, the director, the script-writer? But in any case, it had a huge effect, for me. It illuminated how that life-or-death situation in that little ship and that group of people, the thing that meant so much for them, looks small and unmeaningful to the outside world. How the meaning of things is what you give to them from the inside, not what they look (and not-sound) from the outside. It was like the complete opposite of River's gorgeous wondering smile when they were on top of Serenity in "Bushwhacked" (also in complete silence from the outside), but both other-sides-of-coin seem similar to me. I don't think I can dig my way out of this words hole I put myself into - I don't seem to manage to word that part yet. I'll just say for now that I loved the cuts between the inside and the silent outside, and try to explain this later.
So, Tim likes to play with timelines, I guess. In AYNOHYEB there were only two, here there are three, in a way (putting all the how-we-met past lines together in one basket, and two "presents", the one with Mal being alone with his ship and the one with them being with the rest of the crew). It makes me wonder, will there be an episode of "Wonderfalls" with four timelines? And they will all be interwoven beautifully, each one with the others, making each line richer and more meaningful? Because it worked so well with these three.
The movements between the timelines - some of them were as flowing and beautiful as those in "The Storyteller". From the very first one, with the bright light falling on a desperate Mal lying on the floor and he's looking at it with his eyes narrowing from the light. I love these kinds of moves - where a character goes through a corridor into a room and what the audience sees is a different timeline in that room, what memories it holds, what it represents to that character. Because it's a visualization of something I find myself do - physical objects get their meaning from the memories connected to them and the people who are in/around them.
The different colors in the different timelines and character-oriented-scenes were such a great touch. The cold metal blue in the "later present", with Mal being all alone and with only the dead mechanical body of his ship around him, no other human left there. The yellow of the salesman yard, of the introduction of the ship to Zoe, of Wash's first encounter with the bridge, of Jayne's changing sides - bright and cheerful. The dark peaceful green of Inara's first encounter with the ship. The combination of a similar green (and yellows) with Kaylee's first visit on board. And above all, the usual "palette" of colors on the "former present", of the crew trying to solve the problem and save themselves and their lives, going darker and darker as the story went on. And then, at the final scene on board, right before the last flashback, going back to normal, returning to the way it's meant to be.
I loved that scene of all of them together, comfortable and laughing and just being together. I think the only time we saw them like that was in the ball game in "Bushwhacked" (another Tim episode, right?), and even then it didn't include all the characters. IIRC, Simon was talking to Inara upstairs, and River was hiding. This one had all of them - even Wash, who was late and arrived in the middle of Book's joke (and I love it that it was Book who made them all laugh so heartily. Also, I like the actor's laughter), was both comfortable enough to ask to be let in on the joke, to complain about the food, and to be greeted by Zoe (I can't mention enough how much I love it that these two characters are in a committed relationship, not just a boyfriend-girlfriend typical TV-couple), and to become seamlessly a part of the group. I loved it that everybody (even Jayne!) was happy with Simon's birthday cake. I have no idea if the ease and good spirits that everybody seemed to feel has anything to do with the atmosphere on the set, with the show's crew being content and enthusiastic with their work on the show. Maybe a good enough ensemble of actors can pull off such a scene when they loath each and every other person who sits around the table. I'd like to think they couldn't, and that the relationship among the creators of the show was somewhat reflected in that scene and added it an extra layer of fun.
The double meanings of so many of the sentences - River saying "fire" when it's both the candles and the danger, Kaylee's "She isn't moving", Wash saying "it's all very do-able" when it's the one thing we want to hear but it's in a flashback, the identity of the "genius mechanic", Simon saying that "Serenity" always had a funeral sound to it, when it does have a connected meaning for Mal (without Simon knowing it), River's "that wouldn't happen" when what she describes as going to happen is even worse and not comforting, Jayne asking Mal and Wash if they can stop fighting - not because it's difficult times but because it uses up oxygen, Mal saying that Serenity isn't going anywhere - both not "going down" and that she isn't moving at all, and above all the horrible possible meaning of "she'll be with you till the day you die" (Hmm - so does that mean that he wouldn't have died alone? Because he died with his ship, both of them together giving up?).
[Edit: this next one has to be the last.]
And to my beloved "little things which aren't little at all" list, and I'm so very glad that things like that jump to me in each and every episode (OK, deep breath): Mal quoting the salesman to Zoe when first introducing her to Serenity; Wash being anxious to be let in on the joke that everybody else is laughing about; Zoe tucking in a napkin in Wash's collar once he sits to eat with them; Jayne cutting Simon's story in a very Jayne-like manner; River being sorry for not getting Simon anything for his birthday; Wash looking the most different when he was first introduced to Serenity (being the one who didn't only become a crew member, but also finding a wife); Inara turning away when Simon injects Zoe with the adrenaline; the shot of Mal's hand when the needle with which he injected himself falls (I'm not sure why it had such an effect on me); Inara gently putting her hand on Simon's arm as the only comfort she could offer him; the understanding dawning on Wash that they have an idea that may have a chance of working - and his continued frustrated shouting when he announces he's going to try and do it (that whole scene was amazing); the ship's alert being in Chinese as well as English; Kaylee's braided hair when she was first on board the ship; Kaylee running to ask her parents if she can leave on board Serenity; Mal instructing Inara for her shuttle voyage, including her rent time; Inara's list of requirements, when we know that Mal breaks each and every one of them at least once an episode (well, other than one about servicing the crew - and she doesn't break the lease over those breaches); Mal petting some part of Serenity when he tells Inara he's not going to leave it (her); Mal standing alone at the big empty cargo bay after everybody left; Mal's physical breath of fresh air and fresh hope as the evil captain and his men board Serenity with the new part; Zoe playing along with everything Mal throws at her in the scene that introduced Jayne, not blinking an eye; Mal repeating the names of the evil captain's people when he reverses his orders to them; Connecting the two "present" timelines with Mal's collapse after the evil captain and his men leave; Mal's hands visibly shaking when he tries to fix the engine; Mal's bloody handprint on the wall, and that they showed it at least twice; How we (well, I) couldn't make out what was the conversation when Mal was waking up, just like he wasn't able to; Mal noticing Wash's arm "having a problem" before realizing he's giving him blood; Kaylee's faces to Mal when she applauds him for fixing the ship; Mal raising his hand when he tries to make sure his crew is going to be next to him when he wakes up, when he's pretty much unable to move even that; Book being the one who reassures him that they will; Mal choosing Serenity, when the salesman talks about a completely different ship.
When I showed my friend T, the one I'm watching "Firefly" with, Tim's post here about how he sometimes sees "Serenity" in this episode as Israel (and also, yeah, I showed her when he said that I described something (and I quote!) gorgeously, because I'm a big show off and it's not every day that a man who makes a living from his words and whose ways of putting words together I adore compliments my burble in a foreign language about my poor little country, and I'm going to far on that road and I'll try to stop now but I'm not sure I'll manage). Anyway, we started to talk about it, and T said that the solution destroyed the comparison for her, since it was a single broken thing that needed fixing and once it was achieved, as difficult and painful as it was, things were restored to their well-being again. She said that the reality is much more complicated than a one-solution-brings-us-back approach. But to me it still fits - because it's not about the solution itself, it's about the emotions and what happens to the people when they're looking for that solution (or several).
The first image was of Serenity, all alone in the black sky. The last image was of Serenity, all alone in yellow light. The first one was desolation and despair, the last was hope for a new life. How can two still pictures of CGI effects have so much meaning? How can forty-something minutes of images and sounds do that to me?
In some SF anthology there is an introduction to "Flowers for Algernon", where a part from Fredrick Pohl's autobiography is mentioned, where he says that the story was rejected by the first magazine it was offered to, and the writer wonders what on earth that was submitted to that editor on that month could be better than that story. This is just how I felt after finishing watching that episode: what on earth could have been better on TV that week? I don't know which episodes of any other show were shown then (even BtVS and AtS), but I can't imagine anything that would hook me more. I mean, I was staring at the TV with my mouth open wide, laughing and gasping and wide-eyed and couldn't believe when it ended.
[Edit: OK, one last thing]
Shutting up after this:
As I already said once here, Science Fiction, for me, was always about the people. I mean, I like a good logic-and-science trick just as the next geek, but that's not why I loved the stories. For me, it was all about putting people in situations you couldn't easily or as clearly use in any other form of literature, and working with them from there. And this is exactly what this episode is all about - a person in a difficult situation. And it illustrated in such a straight-forward way something that people face all the time, in less life-or-death situations: fighting for the world you built for yourself, sticking up with what you love, not letting go, not losing hope, not giving up. So, usually in life you don't face the immediate, not-metaphorical, danger of having no more air to breath and freezing to death, but they very definitely have enough equivalents in our daily lives, less murderous and yet still pretty much not life-supporting, that this story just put in clear terms a thing that people need to face all the time. And it was all about the people. Not about the clever technical solution, not about the physical processes and how to slow them, not about the 'what' in any way. Just about the how - which is the thing that resonates with me the most. I can't use enough words to describe how much I loved it and responded to it.