I look at my notes from when I was watching the episode and I consistently see these words: fantastic, awesome, great, and perfect. Those words can accurately describe the episode "Serenity." The episode does a great job of introducing the characters and the storyline of the series. What it also did was it introduced the show fully formed. Joss Whedon knew exactly what this show would be from the start and I could tell from watching this episode. He knew who each of these characters were from the moment they were introduced on screen. It makes for pretty much a perfect pilot for the series and an episode that plays like a great 90 minute movie. (Even if the episode aired last out of the episodes that aired (*))
(*) This really shows how badly FOX messed up the airing of this show. They aired the first episode with all the exposition last (even if episode 2 did exposition, it didn't do it as well as this episode did).
The main job of the episode was a very interesting one. It set up what the crew on the ship do for a living really well. It held my interest throughout the episode, which is rare for a self contained story like that to do. It held my interest and made for a fun plotline. Everything from Mark A. Sheppard's guest appearance to the crazy Ivan at the end was fun and very good.
These characters came out of the gate fully formed with room for development. That's very difficult to do but Whedon pulled it off. Malcom Reynolds is probably the most conflicted character on the ship. He's brilliantly played by Nathan Fillion and is a great center for the show. He can be heartfelt, intelligent, and bad ass all at the same time. He also gets the best lines ("We're too pretty for God to kill us").
Zoe and Wash are great sidekicks to Mal and great featured characters. They each have their role on the ship and they play it well. Alan Tudyk and Gina Torres have great chemistry together and it makes for great fun when they are onscreen with each other (or anybody else for that matter).
Adam Baldwin plays Jayne the hired muscle really well. (Or is his role public relations?) He's playing a similar character to John Casey (although to be fair, Jayne came first). His character is one of the more interesting ones who definitely has a conflict of interest. (No money, no interest). This is something that I hope plays out more as the series progresses. It's also clear that he does care about the others on the ship. (He tries to kill the guy who shoots Kaylee). He also gets great lines like "Pain is scary." Baldwin knows how to play this character and he plays it well.
Jewel Staite is probably my favorite actress on the show. She plays Kaylee with a youthful innocence that is very fun to watch. I quickly grew to care about the character which is what made her getting shot even a more riveting plot twist. I really do love her character and Staite does a great job playing her.
The character I want to see develop most is Morena Baccarin's Inara. The companion is a fantastic character that I really enjoy seeing on my screen. She's a very interesting character and I really hope she gets more development. Baccarin is quite good at playing her. It's clear, that even if she's only renting a space on the ship, she still cares about the other people on board the ship. This is something that I hope is explored as the series goes on.
Dr. Simon Tam and River Tam are the most mysterious characters on board. Dr. Tam comes on and Whedon is definitely hyping up the creepy. His transition from possible hindrance to a part of the ships crew is hinted at during the episode and steps of this happening are shown. (Heck Mal even plays a pretty mean, yet funny, trick on him). River is a very interesting character. She isn't developed much but we do learn hints of her backstory. She is a character who I really want to see get more to do then being a damsel in distress, although that works for the pilot.
Ron Glass is very good as the Shepherd Book. He is a very good character who I enjoy seeing on screen. His character definitely adds some conflict and some morality to the ship. Also, Gless's performance in the scene with Inara at the end is very, very good.
Some other thoughts:
- Very good opening, sets up the pilot very well and shows off some relatively good effects
- The score by Greg Edmonson is fantastic. I love the western/country feel that it has and where it's used. It really adds to the show in it's use and it's silence.
- The opening credits and theme song are very good. I do enjoy listening to the song, even if it's feel is just slightly too minor.
- Jayne is a very scary man. I wouldn't want him interrogating me.
- The Alliance agent played by Carlos Jacott was a very good character. He was very well used and was a very strong plot point. His presence really worked and his death scene (or lack of one) was brilliantly written.
- Alan Tudyk+Toy dinosaurs=Amazing
This episode was a strong pilot to the very good series.
Next week: I review the first episode to air, and the second to be produced, "The Train Job"
What did everyone else think of the pilot? (remember, no spoilers about future episodes, I don't want to ruin plot points for any new viewers, including me).