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
It’s been a wild ride as we’ve reviewed the first and only season of Firefly. During the last half of the season, we had three incredible episodes back to back, then two that were awful. But thankfully, the last episode is said to be one of the greatest. In fact, whenever the series comes up in discussion, this episode seems to be the one people point to as a favorite.
It opens from River’s perspective. We see that she can indeed read people’s minds. The way this is done is very interesting. As she is watching the crew talk about various issues, their words and thoughts are spoken side by side as if they are all a part of one continuous conversation.
But as the scene draws on, we watch her reality gradually become more and more distorted until she picks up what she believes to be a stick — but it turns out to be a gun. We are pulled into her perspective and see the crew all begging her to put the gun down. She looks at the “stick”, confused, until Mal manages to grab the gun from her.
Later on, the crew has a meeting concerning River’s deteriorating mental state. Kaylee tells the crew of the time River killed several men with ease when Mal and Wash were taken captive. She’d been hesitant to discuss the incident because, although it had frightened her, she thought highly of River and didn’t want the crew to worry about the doctor’s sister without reason.
However, this recent close call with the “stick” forces Mal to the point where he must decide whether to allow River to continue to stay on the ship. He concludes that he should take some time to think about the problem and leaves the kitchen.
I have to say this guy is actually quite the interesting character:
He ties Kaylee up after some harsh intimidation. Then he knocks out Mal and the Shepherd. Finally, he reaches Simon and the two have an exchange.
He tells Simon he’s going to help him find River and leads him throughout the ship at gunpoint. But just as the bounty hunter is running out of patience, we hear River’s voice over Serenity’s intercom. She tells the bounty hunter that, because the crew didn’t want her to stay, she has become one with the ship.
This confuses everybody onboard, of course. But before anybody can ask too many questions, she begins to tell the bounty hunter about his life. During this interaction, she randomly goes quiet. While the bounty hunter is trying to figure out what is going on, she begins to talk with Mal, Kaylee, Zoë, and Wash. She tells Zoë and Wash to stay hidden, but forms a plan with Mal and Kaylee.
By the time all this is arranged, the bounty hunter realizes that River has not become “one with the ship,” but has in fact boarded his vessel. She has been using the pictures and decorations in his cockpit to infer his life story. River agrees to go with the bounty hunter so the rest of the crew can have a normal life. The bounty hunter takes the bait, and after a brief scuffle with Simon — who again, is horribly mangled but survives — he leaves Serenity to board his ship again. However, Mal is there waiting for him and pushes him off. The bounty hunter goes careening into space, never to be seen or heard from again.
After this, River is accepted again by the crew and Serenity flies off into the void of space for the last time in the series.
This was a strong episode to end on. I’m glad the series ended on a high note though I wish it had wrapped up a few plot points. But a few of them do get resolved in the 2005 movie Serenity.
Before reviewing the film, which is one of my personal favorite sci-fi movies, I’d like to offer some final thoughts on the TV series as a whole, as well as discuss some of the rumors and speculation as to why the series was cancelled after one season. Then, if all goes well, we’ll wrap up this series with a review of the movie.