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Firefly Episode 12: Kaylee Falls For a Recently Undead Man
Further thoughts on the strange developments regarding the organ harvester.
Last time, we reflected on the fact that the crew of the Firefly was given a body in the mail.
It turned out the man in the coffin had faked his own death. When he woke up, Kaylee, who was having another spat with Simon, decided to fall in love with the recently undead man. This was infuriating and confusing but the show doesn’t give us much time to dwell the implications.
While the organ smuggler is telling his tale, the writers suddenly remember that the bad guys have been shooting at the ship this entire time. So, after some superficial shaking on the part of Serenity, the plot trudges on before the viewer can ask any questions.
Meanwhile, Serenity flies down to an ice planet and begins maneuvering through a series of cliffs, to evade its pursuers. The crew eventually takes refuge in a cave and is allowed a brief moment of reprieve before the villains begin dropping bombs through the canyon in the hope of collapsing whatever cave they are hiding in.
During this chase, the Shepherd mentions that, although there is an Alliance station on the planet, the pursuers — who have claimed to be a part of the Alliance — did not radio in. This was a hint that the Shepherd had a plan but again the viewer is scarcely given a chance to realize this because we are suddenly bombarded with another hallmark of bad writing — sudden contrivance driving the plot.
While hiding in the cave, the organ smuggler conveniently decides to stop flirting with Kaylee and visit Mal and the others so he can see if they’ve lost his buyers. He just happens to show up right as Mal and the Shepherd are debating about turning the organ smuggler — who is also an old war buddy of Mal’s — over to their pursuers.
Viewers likely already know that the Shepherd has figured out that the buyers are not from the Alliance; therefore, there’s no danger in confronting them because the Alliance won’t come after them if they do. So, we already know that Mal and the Shepherd have no intention of turning the organ donor in. And that’s what makes the next scene so confusing because the writers have already established that this threat is a red herring. But at the same time, they set the scene up as if we really are supposed to believe that Mal and the Shepherd, (let me repeat the second name for emphasis, the Shepherd, the religious guy, the guy who’s constantly reprimanding people for their skullduggery) are really planning to betray this man. In short, the viewer doesn’t believe this set up so there’s no tension.
So we have an unlikely set up: The organ smuggler just happens to stumble onto to the crew having this debate and the writers have already tipped their hand because the Shepherd realizes that the men chasing the smuggler weren’t connected to the Alliance. Then things become even more aggravating when the smuggler — upon hearing about this betrayal — grabs a gun and threatens the crew. While it’s true that we, the viewers, already know this betrayal is a red herring, the smuggler couldn’t possibly know that, so he does the obvious thing, which is to try and defend himself.
But what is absolutely confounding to me is: Why in the world do Mal and others act shocked and chagrined?
Needless to say, a chase follows. The organ smuggler runs around the ship screaming for everyone to stay away. Mal and the others take off after him, and the whole time, there is this bizarre tone to the scene. Why doesn’t somebody, anybody, just scream “Hey! The guys chasing you aren’t from the Alliance, so we’re going to bait them onto to the ship and shoot them.” If one person had just said this, we could’ve saved ten minutes of airtime. Instead, everybody stomps around the ship, acting offended, because even though he literally heard them say they planned to turn him in, he, Mal and Zoë are war buddies. So he should’ve just trusted them… or something. It’s ridiculous. The whole set up is ridiculous.
Then Kaylee shows up for no reason, at just the wrong time, so the organ smuggler grabs her and holds her gunpoint. That’ll sure show her to not to fall in love with the first corpse that bats its eyelashes at her.
Before he grabbed Kaylee, I’ll admit, I was on the organ smuggler’s side. But once this happened, he’d gone too far. Mal shoots him and leaves him to bleed out on the railing.
A few minutes later, the pursuers arrive and are quickly scared away in, possibly, the most anticlimactic standoff I’ve ever seen in a show. Once they leave, the organ smuggler realizes the true plan — it seems nobody told it to him during the interim when they were standing over his broken body, waiting for the bad guys to arrive — he apologizes, and they give him a heartfelt goodbye before he dies. Then they leave his body on his home planet, and the episode ends.
I was told by a fan of the show, that this was the episode where the cast discovered that Firefly was to be cancelled, and therefore, some of the conflicting tones could be explained by a lack of focus on the part of the cast and crew. This makes sense.
This episode feels bizarrely angry. The show is well-known for its fun-loving tone. Even the abysmal Episode 5 has moments of levity and demonstrates the chemistry of the cast. The actors were always having fun, even when wading through terrible writing. But that joy is gone in this episode, and it was very sad to see. But despite the episode’s problems, there are still some moving moments. The clip below is such a scene.