Sunday, May 22, 2011

Firefly-"The Message"

An old friend boards Serenity on "Firefly"
Credit: FOX

I continue my look back at Firefly with the episode "The Message". My thoughts on the episode are after the jump.

I'm going to start by saying that this was a brilliant episode. It wasn't complicated, and that's what was brilliant about it. It took a simple idea, Mal and Zoe being reminded of the war days, and spun a very good story. This was as self-contained as "Trash" was, but it was there much deeper storyline in this one.  When I watched the episode and listened to the commentary, there was a major sense of reflection from the cast and crew. This is a fitting episode for that to happen because it was an episode that was focused on reflection on the war.

We heard a lot about the war in the pilot, but we haven't gotten a tremendous amount of back story about it. This episode served as a way to discuss the war, and the affect it had on people's lives. Zoe and Mal were able to clean up nicely after the war. They were able to get a ship and make a decent living. Tracy was never able to do that. He was never able to clean up his life, which is shown by him using his body as an incubator for money. He was in a bad place, so he trusted himself to Mal and Zoe in order to save himself from all of the trouble he was in because of that.

That's what was at the center of the episode, the return of Tracy and the reflection on the war. I loved the sequence that was right after the credits where we actually see scenes from the Battle of Du-Khang. It added a perspective of reflection by showing us exactly what happened, and exactly what these characters were like during the war. Tracy was a soldier who didn't really know very much about war, Zoe was a little bit of a hardass, and Mal was having a lot of fun. It also helps that that was an awesome scene. It was very well directed and well acted on all fronts. Then we get some actual reflection from the characters, with Mal and Zoe sharing war stories around the table. This was a great way to reflect on the war and to show that it will be with these characters forever, no matter how much they can try to avoid it.

From there the episode turns into an episode that's about helping Tracy, while saving Serenity at the same time. This part of the episode was fun and yet very heavy. Both Tracy and Mal know that if Tracy gets turned in, he will be killed. That adds a tension to the episode that wasn't there in the beginning of the episode and makes it so much more fun to watch. It all boils down to Mal shooting Tracy and Tracy going home like he asked for in the beginning of the episode. The scene at the funeral was chilling and a great conclusion to the episode.

Some other thoughts:

  • What helps the sense of reflection is that this was the last episode produced of the series. Listening to the commentary was like listening to two people reminiscing of a past event that everyone loved. There was a sense of nostalgia that was present throughout the episode.
  • How badass is Book? He confronts the people at the end in a way that surprised me a lot. His awesomeness has been hinted at in previous episodes, but it has never played out like this before.
  • Everything I have to say about Jayne's hat can be summed up in the words "tee-hee".
  • I loved the Simon and Kaylee material in this episode. This is how you do a will-they-won't-they relationship. I also became really happy when they held hands at the end.
  • I didn't really like the Tracy and Kaylee material though, seemed too forced to work.
  • The CGI in the chase scene was surprisingly great (at least for the standards of the show).
  • I actually like how the show has no aliens. That's one thing that Joss Whedon purposely did to separate it from other shows. 
  • I didn't know that there was snow in space
  • "You are such a boob"
Overall, this was a very good episode that focused on very interesting topics. It was well produced and well acted. It's not one of my favorites, but it has a chance of making my top five episodes of the series.

Next Up: I'm taking Memorial Day Weekend off, so in two weeks I'll be back to discuss the Inara centric "Heart of Gold".

For more information about the Old TV Watch Project and an archive of reviews of previous Firefly episodes please go to the home of the project right here.

I have announced my summer plans for the Old TV Watch Project. You can find more information 

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