Firefly Season 1 Episode 1: Serenity – TV Review

I write my first review for a TV program, the awesome Firefly series opener Serenity, not to be confused with the film of the same name.

“Not often does a pilot of a TV show draw you in like Firefly does. This is a stunning episode and one of the best openers to a TV show that I’ve seen ever.” 

Okay, so I’ve decided to finally take the plunge and write a proper, full-on review for the first episode of popular cult-series Firefly, entitled Serenity, not to be confused with the film of the same name. Nor indeed, the ship of the same name. This is not a review about the ship, no matter how awesome it is. I’m writing my first TV program review and where better to start than Serenity?

First of all, here’s a little backstory of the setting. Firefly is the first in a one-series long space opera/western show directed by the man responsible for The Avengers, Joss Whedon. Whilst the show may not have the best, Avatar-esque graphics, there’s a reason for that – it doesn’t have a high budget, and was aired initially in 2002-03. It’s set, like Avatar, in the future, but is a whole different beast. This is where the Chinese and the Americans formed together to create “The Alliance”, and spread out from Earth, now known as “Earth That Was”, across the sea of stars. Planets were terraformed to find a new home for humanity after Earth became overcrowded, and the ones far away from civilization turned into a rocky, barren landscape ideally suited to the Western element of the show.

Right at the centre of Serenity is Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the ship of the same name, also known as Mal. He fought on the wrong side against the Alliance at Serenity Valley, was part of a member of the browncoats – the rebels, and lost. Six years later, he’s now a Captain of his own ship and leader of his own crew.

Serenity does an excellent job of introducing the lead characters. We get Mal, the veteran, leader played by Nathan Fillion), Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), who is a fellow survivor of the war between the Browncoats (rebels) and the Alliance. Other members of the Serenity are Wash (Alan Tudyk), the pilot, Zoe’s husband, Janye Cobb (Adam Bladwin), the hired gun, Inara (Morena Baccaran) – a companion, and effectively a courtesan, and Kaylee, the ship’s engineer, played by Jewel Staite. The crew itself are a dysfunction team similar to what we recently saw in The Avengers, only obviously – there are no superheroes here. They play the main role in Serenity and the attention is focused on the crew rather than the enemies, which is a great thing as it allows the viewer to become attached to them in a way that other pilots have often failed to do.

Also introduced in Serenity are newcomers to the ship – picked up when the crew need some passengers to cover their stolen cargo, Shepherd Book (Ron Glass), Dr. Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam, (Summer Glau). It is interesting to see how their characters affect the role played by the original line-up and in particular, Simon and River, how they will affect the team in the rest of the show.

The plot itself is pretty interesting, and we’re immediately drawn to the side of the underdogs, the crew of Serenity. I love the way that Whedon has made us care for the characters from the get go, given them quirky little charms (for example, Wash playing with toy dinosaurs whilst watching the crew secure cargo from a nearby wreck), and we’re also given a brief look into two main factions of bad guys, the Alliance, who are after the crew of Serenity mainly because of River Tam (and the fact that they stole some cargo as part of the job that we first see them do), and the Reavers, who I don’t know much about yet but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when/if they meet them in the future.

Whilst Serenity might not be the most action-packed pilot ever, in fact – little action happens at all over the course of the 90 minutes, it still manages to be a strong opener and sets the stage for hopefully more exciting stories to come. The main focus here is on the characters, and whilst they may be at first blatantly obvious archetypes, they’re well put together and a certainly characters that I would love to follow over the course of the first series.

The theme music itself is pretty awesome as well, and although short, it’s very western and very enjoyable. I will be certainly looking forward to watching more Firefly when I can and I will try and review every episode that I watch.

Verdict: 5/5

Firefly Season 1 Episode List: Serenity, The Train Job, Bushwacked, Shindig, Safe, Our Mrs. Reynolds, Jaynestown, Out of Gas, Ariel, War Stories, Trash, The Message, Heart of Gold, Objects in Space

 

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