Saturday, September 22, 2012

Serenity (Part 2)

Sci-Fi Saturday

Captain Mal sets down on Whitefall in order to do business with an old contact named Patience. Naturally, when the deal goes awry, the crew of Serenity find themselves running from Patience, the Alliance, and the Reavers all in one go.

The review for "Serenity (Part 1)" can be read here.

One of the themes of the previous hour was the crew's need to keep certain information from the guests brought aboard there ship, but in this second part of the premiere the secrets shift toward Sean Maher's Simon Tam. Simon's determination to keep his matters private is due to his need to protect his sister River (Summer Glau), mirroring the crew's familial relationship with one another.

As Simon describes who he and River are to the rest of the crew, there is a wonderful sequence that cuts back and forth between him speaking and River's panic at being back in a sick bay. It's clear from dialogue provided, and from Maher's delivery of such, that he loves her very dearly, unable to finish some sentences due to his fighting back of tears. He wanders into tangents that are unimportant to the moment at hand, but absolutely vital in conveying the echoes of loss he had felt for his sister, and it's played fantastically in every aspect.

The crisis of faith experienced by Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) as the episode ends is a beautiful symmetry to the joie-de-vivre that he seemed to display in the previous hour. Two days out of the abbey, Book was determined to learn more about the universe and, in turn, about himself, though now he worries that he has gotten onto the wrong ship, gotten in far over his head. His confession toward Inara (Morena Baccarin) is telling, because, as a companion, she is, in the eyes of a religious man, one of the more morally corrupt members of the crew. His need to know that he can be forgiven is played beautifully, and in a show where every character moment is a good one, his is one of the best.

Mal (Nathan Fillion) mentions that the snipers are likely already in place, and then points to their likely locations. If the snipers are, in fact, already waiting, then they should be watching the rendezvous point, and will have seen Mal direct Jayne (Adam Baldwin) toward them. Subtlety on the part of Mal would have been a nice element here, as I can't see any reason why the snipers wouldn't have followed Jayne's path only to realize he was coming for them.

Patience's (Bonnie Bartlett) horse remains suspiciously calm in the middle of a gun fight, remaining steadfastly still as bullets fly all around it. How Patience managed to keep it from running off is beyond me, aside from the narrative need to trap her under it's body.

The cast shines in their roles here, Fillion in particular carrying a good portion of the episode. It's clear through their interactions that everyone on board the Serenity knows exactly where they stand with Mal, whether through flirtation, laughter, or threats, and each actor plays off of one another very well here and it's amazing that they haven't all worked with one another before now.

Joss Whedon's direction is very purposeful in this episode, many shots done in the manner of a wartime documentary in order to convey the tension and excitement of the moments. Every close up on someone's face is intentional, every wider shot displaying a sense of grandeur or community, and it all comes together exactly as he intends. The Reavers are first introduced without any kind of explanation as to what they are, but the tension in the air, the expressions on the character's faces, tell us everything that we need to know about them; we may not have a full picture of the enemy, but we're already well aware of the danger they pose to these people.

Written also by Whedon, the script is full of fantastic moments, one of the highlights being Jayne's interrogation of lawman Dobson (Carlos Jacott) and his utter disappointment when Dobson reveals his information too soon. The characters are written very human, with Dobson so afraid of being tortured that he tells Jayne everything he knows, and even more rare on television is Simon's injury after tackling Dobson: most shows would have played it off as though Simon managed to escape injury, almost superhuman in effect, but here he is as frail as anyone else.

The crew of the Serenity are a tight-knit family, despite any disagreements they may have with one another, and the events of these first episodes solidify the notion that their inner circle will soon come to include the three new guests brought aboard. Planting the idea that they are now on the run from the law, and laying seeds of doubt as to what was done to River, there are any number of stories that could spring up down the line.

The review for "the Train Job" can be read here.


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