Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
The Alliance is still determined to track down River, and now they’ve sent a highly trained Operative. He tries to find River using a subliminal message signal that will trigger her sleeper agent combat programming. Serenity’s crew pulls a heist, but Reavers attack the area before they can get out. They barely manage to make it off the planet with their payload, and they report back to the guys who got them the job. Simon is furious with Mal for making River be part of the heist. He and Mal get into a shouting match, and Simon decides it’s time he and River get off the ship for good. Mal is fine with that. When they meet up with their contact, the subliminal signal reaches River, and she beats the crap out of half the people in the bar. This gives the Alliance the lead they wanted, so here comes the Operative. The crew go to Haven to visit Book, who’s been living there for a while, and then they get a message from Inara. Even though they know it’s a trap, they go to get Inara out, and they succeed. But the Operative plays super dirty. He sends troops to hit everywhere Serenity ever goes between jobs, including Haven. Book dies in Mal’s arms. The subliminal message knocked something loose in River’s brain, and she knows there’s something important on a planet named Miranda. Mal orders the crew to make Serenity look like a Reaver ship so they can make it to Miranda through all the Reaver space on the way to it. They make it in safely, only to discover that Miranda is a ghost planet. All the inhabitants let themselves waste away and die. They find a beacon, which shows that all these deaths and the existence of the Reavers are the result of the Alliance attempting (and horrifically failing) to implement mass behavioral conditioning. Mal is determined to share this information with the rest of civilization, because the Alliance cannot be allowed to ever attempt this again. They deliberately agro the Reavers on their way to Mr. Universe, whose equipment can send the message to literally everyone. The Alliance’s massive blockade is thus distracted from Serenity, because they have to deal with the Reavers. One Reaver ship chases Serenity down to Mr. Universe’s place. Wash manages to land the ship, but then he dies in their first ground attack. Zoë and the others hold off the Reavers so Mal can get the message broadwaved, but the Operative catches up with him on the way to Mr. Universe’s backup message system. Nearly everyone takes serious injuries during the battle, but Mal eventually beats the Operative and sends the message, and River manages to go back into combat mode and slays the remaining Reavers by herself. The Operative, faith in the Alliance shattered, has his men stand down, then helps ensure Serenity gets fully repaired. The crew holds a funeral for the fallen characters, and then Serenity flies off again, now with River as the pilot.
I love this movie so much. It's been at least eight years since I first saw it (and I had absolutely zero spoilers about it, too), and it's still probably one of my top five movies.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t
Mal hasn’t had something to believe in, really, since losing the war. He believed he was on the right side of the war, but if that was the case, then how could they have lost? How could God have let them lose? He believes in his ship and his crew, but he hasn’t really had something bigger than that to believe in. The secret of Miranda kind of ties it all back together for him. Now he has a cause again. It reaffirms that he was fighting on the right side of the war, and that no matter how big the Alliance is, someone needs to stand up to them. You can tell how much more powerful and centered Mal feels because of that conviction.
Zoë in total soldier mode makes me cry. Everything light-hearted and bright in her world just got snuffed out. And she’s never been so bluntly pessimistic as when she asks Jayne if he really thinks any of them will make it through the fight. But she does make it out of the fight. She’s tore up plenty, but she’ll fly true. I sort of doubt she’ll be interested in dating ever again, though.
Wash is an extremely skilled pilot, but he’s not as cool-headed in a tense flying situation as he likes to pretend he is. It’s just a front he puts up as he tries very hard not to succumb to panic. And he continues to make fun of Jayne with no fear of consequences. Love that. I’m going to miss Wash a lot when I read the comics. And I still can’t watch this movie without curling up in the fetal position in horrible anticipation about ten seconds prior to that harpoon through the windshield. Also, I absolutely still think Joss got the idea of killing someone off like this from “Spiral” when Giles nearly died the same way. Big, extremely tense escape sequence, and then just when everyone has a second to let out the breaths they’ve been holding, sudden attack to the driver from the front. And I still think I would have preferred Giles to die in “Spiral” than for Wash to have died in this movie.
You know what? Screw this. New headcanon. Inara was terminally ill. She got the diagnosis, decided she’d rather spend the time she had left seeing the galaxy than holed up in House Madrassa, and shipped out with Serenity. However, after leaving the ship for a while, she found out either that the diagnosis was wrong or there’s a cure or something, so now she’s going to be fine! Which is why she decides she does want to stay on the ship at the end of the movie, and let whatever’s going to happen with Mal happen.
The first time Jayne tried to sell out Simon and River, it was right after River slashed him across the chest. In this, he gets all belligerent about them again after River beats him up in the bar. He can be a good, loyal crew member, but only when his own life isn’t in danger. Anything that threatens his life is his primary enemy. But then, once he knows what the Alliance did, he’s completely focused on the mission. He even makes sure everyone else is strapped in once they’re hurtling down to the surface of Mr. Universe’s planet before strapping himself in.
Kaylee certainly doesn’t pull her emotional punches when she’s upset! Calling Mal out for not holding onto Inara. Nice. Also, I like that she doesn’t freeze up and panic at the prospect of a firefight against Reavers the way she did when they were attacking Niska’s station. And her aim is pretty decent for someone who hasn’t done much shooting before now.
Even when he thinks he’s about to die, all Simon can think about is helping Kaylee and how sorry he is that he’ll be leaving River alone. He’s so selfless. I love him.
I don’t think River believed she could ever be herself again after what the Alliance did to her, right up until they discovered the truth on Miranda. She saw a light at the end of the tunnel there. It still wasn’t a clear path out; sorting out the truth and getting catharsis for it doesn’t change the fact that she’s psychic. She still has to be able to master her own abilities. Simon getting injured gives her the motivation to finally take control. She’s probably still not all the way there, but it seems like she’s stable enough now to be the new pilot of Serenity. And I really hope the comics have more of this sort of father/daughter-ish thing between her and Mal, because it’s really sweet. She clearly admires him a great deal.
I guess Book finally realized it doesn’t really make sense to stay on a smuggling ship if he’s supposed to be a missionary or a preacher? The likeliest explanation I can think of is they had a job on that planet Book was on in the movie, and Book really connected with the people there and decided they needed him more than Serenity did, so he stayed.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.