Monday, April 20, 2009

Firefly, Joss Whedon You're Kind of a Genius

Beware of spoilers for “Firefly” and “Serenity.”

I’ve made my love for all things Whedonesque clear by now. I fell in love with Angel from the moment he stepped out of the dark in his mysterious leather jacket. I think that Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog is a stroke of pure genius. And I have stuck with Dollhouse from the beginning because of my pure faith in Joss to write a damn good hour of television. So obviously when I heard I had missed the critically acclaimed series “Firefly” I knew I had to fix that. “What’s it about?” I asked naively. “It’s a science-fiction-western,” my Dad told me in a matter a fact kind of way.

Excuse me, a what? Continued after the jump.

Yes, I admit it. I was thrown. A science-fiction-western sounded far from my interest. How on earth could space ships mix with horses and tumbleweed? Well, I sincerely apologize for questioning you Joss. Once again, you hit the bulls eye.

After only fifteen episodes I found myself caring for each and every crew member of Serenity just as much as I cared about the scoobies in Sunnyville after seven seasons.

I found myself enamored by Captain Malcom Reynolds’ (Nathan Fillion) sarcastic yet heroic demeanor as leader of the ship he put his whole heart and soul into. This was beautifully shown in “Out of Gas,” where an explosion leaves Serenity crippled and Mal reflects on finding his crew and the piece of metal he calls home. Sure, he’s a thief and a criminal who steals, trespasses, and houses fugitives. But hell, he is a thief and criminal with heart and one that you can’t help rooting for in the end.

Zoe (Gina Torres) is Whedon’s trademark badass girl. She can put up a fight, she knows how to handle her a gun, and she does it with style. Sometimes it may seem like Zoe follows Mal blindly, but in “War Stories” we really learn that this is just her pure respect and trust in the man who helped her survive through the war. Zoe is a role model for women; she is beautiful, knows how to stand up for herself, and doesn’t take shit from anyone. Not even her husband.


Now, I have to say that when Wash (Alan Tudyk) was killed in “Serenity,” after his brilliant effort to land Serenity safely, tears poured down my cheeks. Tudyk’s portrayal of this light-hearted and passionate pilot and husband served as great comic relief throughout the show. The marriage that Tudyk and Torres portrayed was a real, healthy relationship that is too often ruined in television interpretations. Their chemistry was a perfect balance of couples banter, ardent love, and respected co-workers.

If you know me at all, or read this blog at all, then you are aware of my obsession with “Chuck.” That obsession extend to all of it’s characters and the actors that portray those characters. So you can imagine my excitement when I realized Adam Baldwin (Casey on “Chuck”) was featured in a Whedon show. As one of my favorite characters on “Firefly,” Baldwin plays Jayne, the muscle of the ship. He is a true pirate; in the job for the treasure and reward. Jayne is the one who looks for a fight. The one who blatantly states what other won’t. He is simultaneously the core of the comedy and the action throughout the adventures of this crew. Despite his selfish motivations, he still has a good heart, which is apparent in “Serenity.”

Then there’s Kaylee (Jewel Staite). Like the engine of a ship is its heart that keeps it running, Kaylee is the heart of the crew. She is the one who cares about what happens to each person and won’t her crewmates forget it. Her innocent, childlike personality is balanced by her complete brilliance when it comes to all things mechanical.

I am still mad that after 15 episodes, and one beautiful feature film, Inara (Morena Baccarin) and Mal did not get together. Their bickering relationship was one of the details of this show that made it so overwhelmingly loveable. You wanted to see them fight. You wanted to see Mal’s reaction to her next client. And subsequently you wanted to see her reaction to his reaction. Inara in herself is a beautiful, strong woman who cares for the crew of the ship that takes her to her business probably too much.

If Mal is the soul of the ship, Kaylee the heart, and Jayne the muscle, then Sheppard (Ron Glass) is the head. He keeps things in perspective. He reminds everyone what their purpose is and how to act like rational beings in irrational situations. He is also a character that has a past, but a past that audience is not privileged enough to know about. Sure, if there had been a few more seasons, maybe we would have gotten to learn more about this so called “Reverend’s” past. But we were not given that luxury. We will never know why the Alliance so willingly cleared him and listened to him. He clearly had a story to tell and I for one am truly disappointed that we will never get to hear it.

Then we come to the Doctor (Sean Maher) and his sister, River. They hold the true mystery of this show. Their story is interesting and compelling that I really don’t understand how anyone could not be invested in it. Summer Glau exemplifies acting at its best as she portrays a tortured, innocent young girl who has been through too much for someone of her age. Her brother, Simon, is the epitome of the protective older sibling. Every action he takes is in an effort to help his sister. Their brother-sister relationship is one of the best I’ve seen done on television.

Firefly is clearly an example of a show that is far too smart for it’s own good. In this day and age, it depressingly seems that any show with imagination and creativity might as well be thrown out the window from the start. It catches brief flight, and for a moment you think you’re about to witness something amazing, like Superman flying. And then the network works it’s inevitable gravity causing the beautiful work to fall, crashing to the ground.

Whedon tried to do something original. He attempted to create a show that blended cultures and genres. A show with characters that can speak fluent Chinese as if it were an integral part of their lives. A world in which “companionship” (prostitution) is a respected profession. Not to mention the brilliant way that this short lived series was filmed. The camera work was done in a way that made the audience feel as if we were flying alongside the crew. The abrupt movements, zooming of the lenses, and fluidity of tracking shots was a completely different style than anything I’ve ever seen on television. Firefly combined two of the most innovative genres into one beautiful short lived series. Joss Whedon, you truly know how to create a masterpiece, bravo.

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