After the strong “Stagecoach” rebound of Episode 6, Episode 7 focuses on Jayne Cobb. Up to now, the dumb muscle has mainly been comic relief. But when Mal and his crew stop by a planet to retrieve some smuggled cargo — under the pretense of ordering a shipment of mud used to make ceramic parts — we learn a little more about the big man’s past.
As the crew exits the Serenity to pick up the goods, they come across a giant mud statue… of Jayne. He has no idea why the statue is there but, come to think of it, he’s been acting nervous throughout the mission. Years ago, we learn, things went south at a job he was working on. His ship was damaged as he tried to escape. In a desperate attempt to evade pursuit, he dropped his cargo, including a large sum of money he’d stolen. The “mudders” on whom all the cash had rained considered him a hero and built the statue in commemoration.
Several subplots are strewn throughout the episode but they are given little screen time and only one has any relevance to the climax. The focus rather is on Jayne, who struggles with his status as a hero when he knows he’s nothing more than a brutal thug. Despite his reservations, Mal concocts a plan to throw a grand celebration for Jayne’s return while he and the rest of the crew fulfil their original mission of retrieving the smuggled cargo hidden in the town.
Just as it looks as though Jayne might have to embrace his “hero” persona, inconvenient truths emerge. During the robbery in which Jayne acquired the cash he had to jettison, he had pushed his partner out of the ship. That man has spent the last four years as a captive of the local nobles. Upon hearing about Jayne’s return, they release him — and give him a shotgun.
They pass out on a bench, and when they wake up, Mal is standing over them, bemused. Simon stands up and begins telling Mal he would never do anything with Kaylee. She takes offense at this and stomps off in a huff. That’s a bit of foreshadowing on the show’s part because anytime Kaylee leaves angry, Simon is about to get horribly mangled. Mal thinks the whole situation hilarious and he leaves as well.
And, surprise, surprise, Jayne’s spurned partner makes an appearance and beats the snot out of the good doctor because he has learned that Simon is a member of the Serenity crew.
During the celebration later that morning, Jayne is pulled to the front of the crowd and asked to give a speech. His speech is simple but effective but then his partner shows up with the bloody and battered Simon. He threatens to finish off the doctor but quickly forgets about him when Jayne begins talking trash. The partner raises the shotgun, but just as he fires the shot, one of the mudders leaps in front of Jayne, taking the blast.
The young mudder dies and Jayne responds by pushing over the mud statue of himself, leaving the mudder workers horribly confused. As the episode ends, he and Mal discuss on the ship how great men seldom live up to their own legends
I won’t say I was happy with the episode’s conclusion but it was solid from a story-telling standpoint. There is only one moment where I wondered if the story was too conveniently plotted. The vengeful partner came across Simon before he encountered any of the rest of the crew. But that’s a minor thing; had he encountered Kaylee or one of the less experienced crew members, the conclusion wouldn’t have changed. So, unlike the plot hole problems we saw in Episode 5, in Episode 6, the writers don’t create improbable scenarios in order to isolate Simon. Beyond this quibble, it’s a solid episode and well-acted.
Adam Baldwin gives an excellent performance as Jayne, especially in the last scene where he gives an otherwise shallow and cliché thug a great deal of depth.
Here are my reflections on Episodes 1 through 14 of the Firefly TV series, thoughts as to why the series was canceled, and my review — and defense — of the spinoff film Serenity:
Firefly: Can science fiction reimagined as the Wild West work? I strongly recommend the original 2002–2003 series for its careful development of the culture that grows up around world-building (terraforming). Firefly is an impressive blend of the future and the past and, if Disney+ carries through with its threat of a remake, be sure to see the original.
Firefly Episode 2: When Captain Mal gets a pang of conscience… In the 2002 series, he decides to return stolen goods when he learns of the plight of those from whom they are stolen — with fearsome consequences. The mystery deepens around the mind manipulation that new crew member River has suffered but we get at least one clue.
Firefly Episode 3: Should some people be left to die? After the space crew rescues the survivor of a pirate attack, Captain Mal faces off against The Shepherd on whether God can save even that man. Mal knows something of what happens to victims of Reaver attacks and he is soon grimly proven right about the ways they change.
Firefly Episode 4: Mal ends up in a swordfight amid outer planets. It all starts when ship’s engineer Kaylee decides she wants to dress like a Southern belle… The blend of space adventure and Western shows signs of strain in this episode but it advances the relationship between Mal and the Ambassador.
Firefly Episode 5, Part 1: Brawls that don’t make sense, Part 1. In this episode, after the cattle are unloaded, characters act in an uncharacteristic way in order to create a plot crisis. The problem with characters acting out of role in order to drive the story is that the story begins to feel incoherent; the crisis doesn’t quite feel real.
Firefly Episode 5:, Part 2 So River is now a witch? Simon and River are captured because a town on the planet lacks a doctor. But things take an occult turn… As I noted when looking at the first part, the characters’ behavior seems to defy their history but it does create plenty of action.
Firefly Episode 6: We Meet a Stagecoach — and a Vixen! Gary Varner: In this enjoyable episode, there is only one plot hole and it isn’t really significant. After foiling a crime, Mal finds himself wed to a local woman due to town custom. Usually, these plotlines are easy to guess… but this episode fooled me!
Firefly Episode 7: Jayne can’t live with himself as a hero Jayne Cobb, otherwise dumb muscle, once helped many people — inadvertently — and is stuck with deadly consequences when the truth emerges. In this well-thought-out episode, the Firefly series examines the burden of being a bogus hero to those who desperately need something to believe in.
Firefly Episode 8: The ship breaks down in space. What next? Mal, expecting to suffocate alone on the ship while the other crew members escape, relives the life that brought him there. While the flashbacks were strong and well-acted, too many plot developments seem implausible. For example, why didn’t the ship have spare parts?
Firefly Episode 9: A medical heist — the best episode so far Simon, with access to medical equipment, diagnoses his erratic sister’s neurological issues — after she has unaccountably stabbed Jayne.
Jayne plots a dire revenge against the crew, leaving Captain Mal with a very difficult decision.
Firefly Episode 10: Jealousy divides the Firefly crew in space. And yet jealousy plays a key role in saving Mal and Wash from a villain’s sadistic torture. Episode 10 is much stronger for building on Episode 9 and introducing danger scenarios that follow logically from earlier plot developments.
Firefly Episode 11: The Vixen! She’s back! Firefly TV heats up So why is Captain Mal sitting naked in a desert? We get to hear the story leading up to that. Saffron is now hitched to Mal’s pal; so imagine the poor sap’s shock when Saffron and Mal draw guns on one another.
Firefly 12: The Amazing Mail Order Human Body The episode, while still interesting, returned to a pattern of puzzling plot developments Kaylee falls in love with an organ harvester? But doesn’t that mean Dr. Simon has just dodged a bullet? More to come.
Firefly Episode 12, Part 2: Kaylee falls for a recently undead man Further thoughts on the strange developments regarding the organ harvester. Before he grabbed Kaylee, I’ll admit, I was on the organ smuggler’s side…
Firefly Episode 13: If you are stuck at home in a rainstorm… Otherwise, you may just want to skip this one. But let me explain why. I can’t say for sure what they were thinking, but I will say this was the closest I’ve been to being outright offended by an episode of really anything.
Firefly Episode 14: Ending on a high note River proves to be a telepath but highly unstable, as she mistakes a gun for a stick and Mal must get it away from her. But in the midst of the uproar, a bounty hunter boards the Serenity, unnoticed…
Firefly: What worked, what didn’t… and WHY was it cancelled? When all is said and done, Firefly is one of those classic series that any sci-fi fan should watch. It was the victim of poor scheduling, out-of-order episodes and a confused marketing plan that sold it as a comedy — it’s an adventure with comic moments.
Serenity: My defense of the film’s initial choices (Part 1 of a three-part review) Some viewers have complained that director Joss Whedon changed the characters’s behavior in the film vs. the TV series. I believe they are mistaken. I fell in love with the film before seeing the preceding Firefly TV series. Possibly, failure to make that backstory clear enough cost the film a sequel.
Serenity Review Part 2: Great scenes dogged by bad plot choices. We meet fresh villains and finally learn River’s secret: She knows the origin of the malevolent Reavers and it is not neat or pretty. I believe that one of creator Joss Whedon’s critical story decisions probably killed the 2005 film’s chances of a sequel, despite continuing interest.
Serenity Review Part 3: Final thoughts on the movie and TV series. Despite some lapses that made me wonder if the same crew was doing the writing, they are on a par with Star Wars and Star Trek. Were the TV series cancelation and no film sequel a mercy in a way? The film ended things on a high note. Not all TV series or films with sequels are so lucky.