Saturday, October 27, 2012

Our Mrs. Reynolds

Sci-Fi Saturday

Mal finds a stowaway on board who claims to have married him in a drunken stupor and must find a way to get her off the ship without hurting her feelings.

The review for "Safe" can be read here.

Romance in this series runs on a slow burn, and one would imagine that if Zoë (Gina Torres) and Wash (Alan Tudyk) weren't already married, they would be in for a long engagement. The attraction between Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Inara (Morena Baccarin,) as well as that between Simon (Sean Maher) and Kaylee (Jewel Staite,) has been well-paced given their personalities and situations, but it's nice here to see a relationship come to fruition so quickly for once.

Mal and Inara grow closer to one another as the story opens, flirting with one another at a celebration in honor of the Serenity's crew, and it's fun to see the two of them banter without being at one another's throats; naturally, this dynamic is destroyed when it is revealed that, in his drunken stupor, Mal accidentally married one of the locals, destroying whatever relationship Inara might have had with him in the near future. As everyone teases Mal about his situation, he storms off after his bride (Christina Hendricks) declaring that the two of them have "one thing in common: [they're] the only ones [that] don't think this [situation] is funny," while the camera slowly pans in on Inara's face, clearly overwhelmed with anger and a sense of betrayal. When Saffron finally shows her true colors, Inara rushes to Mal's aide, kissing him lightly on the lips and subsequently realizing he had been poisoned; rather than allow him the satisfaction of knowing how much she cares for him, she lets him believe that it had been Saffron she had kissed, and the strange cat-and-mouse game that the two of them have been playing continues on in a believable and entertaining fashion.

There is a discussion between Mal and Inara about Saffron's situation, wherein Mal implies that Saffron would want nothing to do with Inara because her line of work is degrading to women, to which Inara counters that Saffron's situation is degrading. It's interesting because Inara is selling her body to relative strangers in order to make a living for herself, but she has so many guidelines and safeties in place that she very rarely has a reason to worry. Inara is in complete control of her situation, allowing her touch only to those she feel has earned it and refuses any client she feels unsafe around. Saffron, on the other hand, has been traded to a stranger and sent off-world never to see her family again, effectively having become a slave to her new husband, but the advances she makes here are her own, and while she makes numerous attempts to please Mal he instead encourages her to pursue her own desires. The only people that see them as victims of circumstance are those removed from their situation, while those involved display every sign of having absolute control over their own fate.

Zoë expresses an abundant amount of pleasure in Mal's discomfort at the discover of having a wife, and she eggs the situation on at a continuous pace, despite how insensitive it is toward Saffron, especially since Saffron already was in tears. Zoë later gets angry, citing that everyone had let it go on too long, and that it should have been put to a stop immediately; unfortunately, Mal had asked that it be put to a stop immediately, and it was Zoë that introduced the news to the rest of the characters. Had Zoë allowed Wash to turn the ship around when Mal had asked, then she would have no argument, and her berating Wash for not following the orders to turn around immediately, despite having told him not to do so, invalidate her entire argument.

After learning about Saffron's lot in life, Book (Ron Glass) threatens Mal regarding the possibility of him taking sexual advantage of her, stating that there is a special place in hell reserved for "child molesters and people who talk at the theater." On the surface this is the kind of dialogue that Joss Whedon is famous for, intended to undercut a serious moment with a dash of humor, but to liken something as trivial as an irritating audience experience to the abuse of a child is in extremely poor taste.

There is a good amount of humor spread throughout the narrative here, and Fillion and Adam Baldwin (Jayne) do a fantastic job of playing drunk. The actors are clearly having a lot of fun as they partake in the village's festivities, and it's nice to see their natural chemistry shining through as they enjoy a period of quiet time in one another's company. Baccarin displays good range as she plays with Inara's natural flirtiness and very quickly switches to pure jealousy when Saffron's appearance threatens what she might have wanted. Hendricks, too, is very well used in this episode, with her actions in the earlier portions of the story becoming very clearly layered upon second viewing, providing a very convincing con that becomes entirely visible when the clues are already on hand.

Vondie Curtis Hall directs this episode with a near-constant contrast between the more serious tone of the scenes and a funnier moment to undercut it, beginning from the top of the story when Mal is shown dressed as a woman to distract their bounty because Zoë was needed in the back of the wagon. Jayne corners Mal later in the story, the framing suggesting that he's preparing to kill his captain in an effort to steal Saffron away, and Mal very genuinely believes that his life is in danger and starts trying to figure out how to outsmart Jayne and survive their encounter. After several moments of uncomfortable silence Jayne's true plan is revealed: he wishes to trade his gun for Mal's wife.

Written by creator Whedon, there is an absolute understanding of his characters and their motivations, giving him the chance to truly flesh out a brand new character in Saffron. While Mal has remained fairly distant in regards to his personal issues, it takes only moments for Saffron to get him to talk about his past, and even though he later vehemently resists her advances, her seductive powers remain too great. She proves incredibly perceptive, capable of twisting someone's interests into a plan for personal gain, romanticizing the glory of the stars to win over Wash and later glamorizing the life of the life of a companion in an effort to seduce Inara. The moment her con is found out, she immediately drops her sweet and demure act, becoming the ruthless person that no one would have suspected of her.

The back and forth between Mal and Inara continues, though they slowly progress into a more romantic territory here, which certainly could welcome a future return of Saffron, as she seems set up here to have a redemptive story arc down the line.

The review for "Jaynestown" can be read here.


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