Firefly Episode 2: When Captain Evil has a twinge of conscience…

Last time we discussed the first episode of 2002 Firefly series because Disney is thinking of spoiling it with another season. In case you were wondering, this review contains spoilers.

Tam River (Summer Glau)

In Episode 2, we find Captain Malcolm getting to know his passengers. The doctor’s sister, River, suffers from flashbacks of her time in the “laboratories”. Although he is a doctor, her brother Simon has no idea what is wrong with her. She keeps repeating the phrase “Hands are blue, two by two”.

After a fight in a bar, the team lands a job. It’s an old-fashioned train junkyard. Malcolm and Zoe, his partner in crime, land on the train and steal the goods by strapping them to their ship and lifting them into the sky.

However, some guards notice the commotion, and while they are able to get the goods onto their ship, Malcolm and Zoe are detained along with the rest of the passengers. The local sheriff of the moon mining town questions them and is unconvinced by their story. But that ultimately doesn’t matter much as Inara, the ambassador, uses her credentials and convinces the sheriff that Malcolm and Zoe are working for her.

Everything seems to be going as planned, but Malcolm decides to return the goods. While in custody, he learned that the town suffered from what is known as Boden’s disease, a disease that deteriorates the bones and muscles of its victims. Interestingly, locals attribute this disease to the unique quality of the moon and the way the air forced to the surface during the terraforming process mixes with the moon’s soil. I don’t know how it works, but it was an interesting concept that I wish they had explored in more detail.

Malcolm’s decision, of course, creates conflict with the crew’s employer who is your standard psycho in costume. He sends henchmen after them, a fight breaks out and the main henchman is killed by being thrown into the ship’s engine. His bloody demise persuades the rest of the henchmen to accept the money returned to the employer, and the drug is returned to the town, causing the sheriff to nod approvingly.

The episode ends with River repeating her ominous chant as two henchmen – more bad guys in suits – discuss the girl’s theft with another guard. It turns out that the “blue hands” she’s referring to are the latex gloves the bad guys wear for no apparent reason.

This is a standard episode. Little is accomplished to advance the plot beyond building tension and deepening River’s mystery. We know she underwent some form of mind manipulation like the CIA’s notorious Project MK-Ultra, but we haven’t learned much else. The notion of terraforming causing disease was an interesting concept, but it hasn’t been explored much, perhaps because the exact cause of disease is not the subject of the story. Rather, it is Malcolm’s moral conundrum. The show is keen to highlight Malcolm’s dual nature, even going so far as to mention that his nickname, Mal, means “bad” in Latin. And while he’s sympathetic to the townspeople, he’s still willing to kill bad guys without remorse, like a typical buccaneer – which is by no means a bad thing. Next time we will watch episode 3.

Here is my review of episode 1: Firefly: Can science fiction be reimagined as the Wild West? I highly recommend the original 2002-2003 series for its careful development of the culture growing around world building (terraforming). Firefly is an impressive mix of the future and the past, and if Disney+ follows through on its remake threat, be sure to see the original.

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