There were the four of us, we gave our friend D a 'vacation from kids' day, in which we ate lots of junk food, watched a lot of tv and did a good lot of nothing. Then, I pulled out Fiona's tape. It was easy to convince them to give it a try - we all like BtVS (guess what was the large part of the lots of tv we were watching?), and T even heard about "Firefly". The other two knew nothing about it, and I, despite hanging here with you guys, knew very little to nothing. Completely unspoiled about any plot points and finer character details, I knew a bit about the background ("Western in Space", losing side of a war, a small trade space ship, in the future, no aliens), and that was all. However, I was spoiled for the enthusiasm the majority of the posters here have for the show, so I was more than willing to give it a chance.
All it took for me was up until the point with the dinosaurs. All of, what, three scenes? By the time I saw Wash playing with them, I was completely hooked (oh, and I made a little internal jump when Mal said that they were too pretty to let them die - the 'hey, now I know where it's from' jump). It took the other three a little longer (including a somewhat sneering "look, I liked 'Star Trek' as a kid, but not so much anymore' from one of them), but by the time all the characters were on board and the plot started to take off we were all glued to the screen, cheering and catching our breath and laughing and the girls with ringing-cell-phones not answering them. It was wonderful.
[Edit: I'm going to try and write a more detailed post when I can, later today. What a great show.]
Do you think I'm done gushing?
First, the characters: some got more attention than others, but each and every one of them is distinct, with at least a couple of things that separates him/her from the other. And they're quite a few. Even River, who was only frozen and shaking, seems like a person to me, because of her brother's devotion.
Inara seems like more than just a pretty face quite early, from the minute she moves the curtain to show that the decorated place is actually a ship. Book is another that, to me, was more hinted at than being 'properly introduced'. Despite being quite involved in the plot, I still only know what he's not, not what he is/was. But that was enough to keep me curious.
I loved Kaylee - the cheerfulness, the not-annoying kind of it, the joy she has in everything, and radiates it to everybody who is around her, and they like her. It seemed like each and every member of the crew has a special relationship with her. Jayne still doesn't seem more than a 'thug with some good qualities, after all'. Again, I didn't get to know enough about him, but enough to make me curious - why is he so loyal to Mal, for once? Simon was portrayed mainly by his reactions to his sister, but, again, they were enough to make me like him - so out-of-his-water in anywhere but when treating patients, yet not stopping, scared and lost and determined, getting punched by Mal over and over again, and still standing up to talk to him.
Wash, well, his first scene - the dinosaurs, dubbing them so, grr, where is my vocabulary, right, and becoming all professional in an instant the minute it was needed. Everything that came later with him was like the things you put on top of the ice cream, for me. I was sold. My friend B said he's like this show's Oz. And that Kaylee was like this show's Willow.
I also liked Zoe, a lot - she was so serious and loyal and strong, arguing to the last minute with her captain and following his orders in an instant, and eventually just went and did what she (and, well, her husband) wanted to without asking, when she knew it was right. It seems like there is such a great relationship of trust and each-holds-the-other between her and the captain. And I love it that the way it was portrayed, IMO, didn't involve anything sexual, that she has a husband with whom she seems very much in love and drawing her strength from, alongside with this other very meaningful relationship. And despite her obvious strength and determination, her husband isn't the 'yes, ma'am' doormat. Also, she's such a beautiful woman, and has such a lovely deep voice.
Of course, Mal was the one who got a big chunk of the focus, and it was great, because I like his character a lot. He's so straight-forward, knows what's his goal and not bothered by things like killing people or breaking laws in order to get them (the 'don't kill them if you don't have to' line). I liked his determination - the insistence on getting paid, the way he managed to change one hopeless situation after another to his advantage, the times he knew when not to fight, despite his 'shoot first' habit. I especially loved the way he solved the big confrontation with the law-man in the end - he got in from outside, had no idea what exactly was going on, shot the man who threatened the person he intended to abandon a moment ago, after everybody talked so much of how this is a dangerous situation and how they shouldn't kill him and 'can we vote on the murdering people'. And he decided in a blink of an eye what to do, and nobody questioned that. Also, he cares so deeply about his ship and crew, and eventually does do the right thing (well, at least for some) and in a no-fuss sort of way. And, I'm not sure I know how to say this, he's not a nice person, and it seems like he's doing everything he possibly can to make people not like him, but, well, apparently, not enough. Because I do.
OK, just some random thoughts:
I loved the scene that showed the bathroom. Thinking about details like that - how these pieces of equipment fit together in that ship, how people are actually living in these conditions, the simple, daily, detailed part of living, not just the 'big words' of 'being a losing side in a war'. It's what I like best about sets - the way they tell about the characters who are inhabiting them. The simplicity of the design, the efficiency of it, showing it than in what is sure to attract attention from the watchers - and all in a few seconds.
Another thing I liked was the way so many crew members got hurt throughout the episode - this isn't some high-tech 'clean' passage, with everything going beside the characters, not touching or harming them - they are human, weak, get hurt. There was a point when Mal's constant hitting on Simon became something along 'can't he ever see him without hitting him?', but it was never over the top, for me, it fitted Mal's character, the way it was portrayed in other ways.
I loved it that they both played with all sort of conventions and ignored them at the same time - they had Jayne looking like he's targeting Mal right after the Alliance agent offered him money for turning him in, just in order for him to be doing exactly as Mal ordered, they had the 'she's dead' scene in order to fool both poor Simon and the audience at the same time (my friend T was thrilled that Mal tricked Simon that way, laughing out loud with the crew members, the other two were with the 'he deserved it', and I was echoing Wash's 'he's psychotic' and Mal's own 'I'm a bad man', though not in an 'evil man' sort of way, if I'm making any sense). It was just the human thing to do, not the 'hero in a story' thing to do, and I think this is what got me. The characters are a sort of grown up in a 'this is what we need to do' way.
[Edit: to be continued]
Previously on this thread: I was babbling.
And now, the not-that-much-different continuation:
What they managed to do with the Reavers (am I spelling this right?) is amazing, because they didn't do anything with them, just with the characters' reactions to them. That deep a fear, from characters we already knew were strong and resourceful and living-on-the-edge was such a strong response. It also showed, in the end, what a good team-work they had, Wash as a great pilot, Kaylee managing the engine room with other people as her hands, the dynamic between Mal and Wash, Zoe and Wash. When we were watching, we named the Alliance 'the bad guys' and the Reavers 'the really bad guys' (um, in Hebrew) in order to make sure we understand what's going on.
When the actor who was in both "Buffy" and "Angel", and in both of them he was a bad guy, boarded the ship, I immediately thought that he's going to be a 'bad guy' here, too. I mean, by the third show, it's already 'tradition', right? But this time he didn't have any makeup.
You know what? It's a good thing Joss isn't into politics, because he managed to make such a wide-eyed gasping holding-to-every-word little girl out of me in an hour and a half, I don't want to think what he may be able to do if he really wanted to get my attention. And he made me like made-up people, like them enough to want to know what happens to them next, and happened to them in the past. Jon and Fiona deserve more than a toaster, maybe a microwave or an oven.
[Edit: and I'm not promising there isn't more babbling to follow. Only, you know, not today]