I briefly touched on my thoughts about Firefly in my post about Dollhouse, but as promised, here is my full review of Firefly.
I’ll start with what I liked. The idea behind the show is that the main characters are outlaws, whose home planets were taken over by an intergalactic alliance that they didn’t fought and lost a war to. They are outlaws, smuggling, and taking whatever jobs they can to get by. It is a great concept, and the western mixed with space travel sounded like a really weird idea to me, but it made sense because most of the planets where they are traveling with less fear of running into the alliance are on the outer rim of the system and were terraformed planets that had gone wrong. So they were more primitive, and almost old west like. It makes sense and it definitely works, although it does still feel a little weird at times, and my favorite episodes didn’t focus much on the western aspect of the show. I also loved the mysterious backstory of River being experimented on by the alliance. I wish they had spent more time on it, as she was my favorite character on the show, partly because of her awesome story, and partly because I love Summer Glau! All of the characters were likable, even the bad boy Jayne Cobb. Everybody did a good job of playing their parts and acting was solid throughout, basically the only person I didn’t care for too much as an actor was Simon, River’s brother. I also liked that it was easy to watch in shorter bursts, and if it were still on the air it would be a good weekly sci fi fix. It gives story resolution at the end of each episode, and each one is easy to watch, even if you kind of drift in and out of paying attention.
So now what I didn’t like, and since I know this show is so beloved by many, this might be controversial. Many of the things that I sited as what I liked, are actually what lead to why I didn’t LOVE the series. I was actually quite frustrated by it as a tv series, because I felt it had everything it needed to be great, but didn’t quite get there until it was cancelled and made into the movie Serenity. It had me interested enough that I liked it, but not so thrilled about it that I loved it. I liked the characters, and Firefly is often praised for being a show that proved that the secondary characters can be just as important as the main characters. I definitely disagree there, I liked the characters, but to me, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, and River Tam, were the only characters interesting enough to have entire episodes devoted to their stories. The episode focusing on part of Jayne Cobb’s backstory and him being praised by sewage farmers, was boring. The episode focusing on Kaylee and Inarra and them going to an old timey ball, was boring. They are secondary characters and should have been kept that way, they really were not interesting enough to be pushed as if they were just as important and interesting as the main characters. If you want to praise a Joss Whedon show that has interesting supporting characters that are just as important, it is Dollhouse, not Firefly. Dollhouse actually pulls that off successfully. The episodes of Firefly that focused mostly on the Captain and his backstory and River and her backstory were really the only ones that had me interested enough to keep going through the series, and are really the only reason I liked the series. My biggest problem was how under-utilized River was in the series. They hardly touch on her backstory, just drop small hints at it here or there, and there are only a few instances where they let her badassness out… until the show was cancelled and brought back as the movie Serenity! Serenity focused on all the parts of Firefly that I liked and cut back on the supporting characters in the spotlight. It also cut back on things that I found cheesy and weird about Firefly, like how they would start talking in chinese all of a sudden when they were swearing. This was overdone on the show and always felt odd to me. Also, in firefly, clearly the most interesting villains were the reevers, which were BARELY touched on in the series! They brought back the reevers for Serenity, focused on the alliance’s control of the galaxy and their history with River, and focused on the Captain as the main character and leader. These were the strengths that the show desperately needed to take more advantage of! I think because they knew they only had 1 and a half to two hours to pull off that movie and wrap everything up, it caused them to focus on the strengths and highlight them, which is what it did, and that is why I LOVE Serenity and only kind of like Firefly.
Now, most Firefly fans blame fox for it’s cancellation and failure to establish success. Fox aired the episodes out of order, and also disproved of Joss’s first Pilot, and forced him to write another one in the span of a weekend or the show would be cancelled. The pilot fiasco, is the only bad move I think Fox made. The first episode and original pilot was awesome! I really liked it. It established the characters and the story and let it unfold for the viewer to experience it for themselves. Fox didn’t like that and forced a rewrite which lead to “The Train Job” which is one of the worst episodes of the series. Instead of letting the viewers actually meet and figure out who the characters are for themselves, it basically just has them walking around talking to each other and saying things like “Hey you, this is who your character is and this is what you do. It would normally be weird for me to be talking like this, but for the sake of being lazy and establishing characters quickly instead of developing depth, this is how we’re introducing you.” So there’s that, but that’s the only mistake I think Fox made. As far as the episodes being aired out of order arguement, I really don’t think there’s a problem with that. Since most episodes are not part of a larger story arch, and they all give story resolution at the end of each episode, the series really can be viewed out of order, with the exception of only a few episodes. Watching Firefly out of order is like watching The Simpsons out of order, there’s nothing wrong with it.
So there’s my review. I liked Firefly, but overall I think it is largely overrated among Sci Fi fans. It failed in so many aspects that were not corrected until they made the movie Serenity. I think it is an awesome thing that Firefly was cancelled, because it gave us Serenity.