They still got the better deal, but I didn't have a bad time myself. And now, I subject you to my babble about it.
Is that what it meant by saying 'show, don't tell'? The way this episode had to both introduce all the characters, the connections between them, all the things that "Serenity" pilot episode had twice the time to do, including those plot points that appeared in "Serenity", and in all that hold a story and the characters? Because they mostly talked about what (not all of) was shown in that episode, and that's quite a load on 40-something minutes.
So much of the Westerns references are probably completely lost on me. I notice this with the language most - I know it all sounds "American" to me, not specific to that time and place of the language. I'm still at the 'oh, that's in English and I can follow the conversation' place. I'm so far from knowing enough about this, that I even can't point out what I'm missing. The music, probably, and some sets and attitudes, and probably plot points. Also, the transfers to Chinese and back again are also lost on me, because my default is to assume the characters just said an English word I don't know or in a way I don't understand.
Again with the 'playing with conventions'. I don't know much about westerns, like I just said, but the little I do know definitely has the train-robbery as a time-honored classic, which means mostly that when it seemed like this will be the main event in the story, the expectation was that it's going to take the most of the time in the story, the planning, the overcoming of the difficulties, the danger to the members of the crew. And then it was a whole of about five minutes (and with a lovely use of a very basic law of physics, too!), and the story was all that was around it. I loved that. the 'Train Job' was much more than just the theft, it was the whole story around it.
I kept liking Kaylee and Wash and Zoe even more, and I really like the familiarity and comfort, combined with obedience and respect, in the relationship between Zoe and Mal. They banter like very old friends, she's very devoted to him, but never hesitating to challenge him. I usually like the crazy hiding-a-secret characters, so I'm still intrigued by River, and Simon, despite being just, well, there, for most of the episode (he didn't even get hit! But Holli said he'd be hit repeatedly, so I guess he'll have more to do in the future episodes), was a key factor in the whole saving-the-day process.
And I find Mal to be a wonderful character. He takes a job from an obvious evil-guy without a second thought, right after showing, in his own special way, that he still has some ideals. He risks his life (and Zoe's) to get the goods, he's thrilled by the added layer of danger, and then when he understands what the boxes are for, the minute he can - he returns them, with even greater risk to himself and his crew. He didn't even think about it, didn't stop for a minute's glance-of-regret regarding the payment and the danger from not delivering. It was completely obvious, enough to not only not talk about it aloud, but for Zoe to go along with it without being talked about it. And this is just after "Serenity"'s discussion on the 'voting on murdering people' where everybody had an opinion. Well, Jayne seemed to have another opinion, but it seems like whenever Mal is around, it's 'what's good for the captain' for him. I'm really curious as to the source of this loyalty, which seems so out-of-character for him. Oh, and right after that, in another great 'there are conventions to that genre, ha?' scene, he kicks the guy out of the air lock because he seemd reluctant to give his message to the super bad guy. And then he just continued with the exact same speech to the following guy.
I still have so many questions. For example, if being a Companion is so very respectable and Inara could get the attention of a whole room just by getting inside it, why does she travel in such a small shabby ship? And the character that I got to 'look at' the least is Book. I still have no idea why he left his former life (and what that life was), what he's looking for. I don't know this about most of the characters, and it's interesting regarding them, as well (how did the crew got 'build' the way it is now? How did Wash and Zoe meet? Was it before/during/after the establishing of her strong bond with Mal? If Kaylee is such a great mechanic, is the Firefly ship really the best she could do? And I already stated my curiosity regarding Jayne, and they're probably deliberately building the questions when it comes to River), but with all the other characters, they seem to me to have more to go around with what is shown to us in the present, their actions and reactions and relationships reveal about them much more, at least to my eyes, than Book's do.
[Edit: more long paragraphs of words follow in the next post]
On the former post, I threw big paragraphs on the board. Now, I'll throw some more to go along with them:
From the dynamics between the characters I got the feeling of us being dropped down to the story in a place that is not its beginning, in where is the equivalent to, say, the third season of BtvS. We get to see how some characters are introduced (Faith, Wesley - Simon, River, Book), we have no idea, at least at first, as to what connects some characters to others (Queen C hangs out with the losers of the highschool, the stuffy British librarian sometimes has an edge that he's hiding - all those questions I asked above regarding the already-existing relationships between the crew members). It's not surprising when a show has more than two years of building relationships, but the 'there is a lot of history to the characters, a world of connections and past' feelings that I get from the crew of Serenity is, to me, special for a first episode of a show. Again, I'm much less tv-and-movies-experienced than probably all of you, but what I usually see regarding beginning-of-shows is something much more like the Simon-and-River approach - a big secret and story that moves the plot, rather than just being there, behind it, illuminated in moments. Am I making any sense? I'm not entirely sure. But I like the feeling that the creator(s) of the show have this whole world, not just of the background of the show, but of the relationships between the characters and the complicated way of 'how they got here', all built and constructed in their heads, even if most of it is not yet (or ever?) on screen.
I think the thing I like the most is that the characters are 'grown ups'. I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that myself, but this is the word that jumps into my mind (in Hebrew it *is* only one word, and that's the one that did the jumping, so there).
In most of the shows that I know, main (good) characters are more what children hope they will be when they get older, at least in my eyes - they choose to follow ideals, not paying attention to the cost, being all noble and understanding and strong and learning from their mistakes. And that's OK, I guess, since it does serve to make good drama and interesting stories with things to think about later. But, in what I think is something similar to what seems to be a no-happy-long-term-relationship rule on so many shows (which is another one "Firefly" seems to be gladly ignoring), it's not 'real'. I'm definitely not explaining myself well, here, because I do know that if I wanted to see 'real' stories, I'd just watch the news, not written-by-a-screenplay shows, definitely not ones about the future, but still - it's like it sheds a light only on certain facets of the life that the writer/director/producer/whoever-is-responsible wants to describe. And mostly it seemed to me like it's because it lacks what is needed in order to tell a good story, to create that high drama. And then "Firefly" showed me that it's not like that.
This is what I mean by saying that the characters are 'grown ups' - they don't live that high idealism of 'I'll do what I believe in, you and I can change the world together, if we only want it enough, there will be a happy ending for the good guys'. They're not evil heartless no-morale (cool) bad guys, either. They have to live in rules of a world that are very much against them, they had to give up some beliefs, they have to juggle the need to earn their living with whatever is left from their 'do the right thing'. And they do. And it is even more interesting, to me, than the 'I had an internal struggle because I have weaknesses but I'll do what is right anyway because I'm a good person and no matter what are the consequences and then I'll get a Christmas episode to show me what a wonderful person I really am despite the difficulties'. OK, now I'm sure I'm making not a little bit of leftover sense.
Oh, and it's the second time Kaylee mentioned that something-coil. I'm hoping for continuity to continue - that obtaining that coil or not doing it on time is going to appear in one of the following episodes.