Saturday, October 20, 2012


Sci-Fi Saturday

With two of his crew kidnapped, and a third seriously injured, Mal is forced to choose who to focus his attention on knowing that the other(s) may not survive the night.

The review for "Shindig" can be read here.

There is an interesting dichotomy here in how Book (Ron Glass) has integrated himself with the rest of the crew, despite having no official role on board, and how removed Simon (Sean Maher) is from everyone else even though he has been hired on as the ship's medic. On the other hand, Simon has been fairly upfront about his past and the struggles with the law experienced by himself and sister River (Summer Glau,) where Book has remained very closed off about who he was before stepping aboard.

Much of the story involves Simon being oppressed in some way by those who would control him; in flashbacks we see Simon's parents determined to keep him on the path to becoming a doctor, convinced that his ravings about River's safety are merely a delusion. In the present, the townsfolk that would keep him hostage once more ignore his opinions in regards to his sister, claiming that, as a witch, she's a danger to everyone around her. Simon's main concern in both scenarios is his sister's well-being, with both opposing forces determined to end his relationship with River in order to continue his medical studies. Where Simon's parents were convinced that River was perfectly safe in her situation, the townspeople believed that she was a danger to the 'verse at large and tried to end her life.

The episode ends on a dinner scene, the characters coming together without an excess of dialogue, just being people and enjoying each other's company. The words not spoken here are probably more powerful than anything that could have been written, with Simon and Kaylee (Jewel Staite) having mended their tiff, as he pulls out her chair for her at the table and they sit together, and there's a nice moment where River steals food from Jayne's (Adam Baldwin) plate, to the delight of Zoë (Gina Torres) and the rest of the crew.

When Simon and River have been saved from impending death, Jayne rushes back onto the ship and puts Simon's belongings back in his room. Certainly it makes sense that Jayne would return the stolen goods so as not to hear about it later, but he acts extremely scared of the potential consequences when he runs into Simon later. I understand that Jayne wouldn't want a repeat of what Simon had done to him previously, but he doesn't strike me as the type that would feel nervous around someone he constantly antagonizes. It would have seemed somewhat more genuine had Jayne just nonchalantly passed by Simon with a quick nod of the head and acted as though he had never stolen anything from Simon's quarters in the first place.

It's understandably part of the point of the narrative that the Tam siblings were saved just in the nick of time, but it also seemed extremely convenient and lazy. The story had been framed to appear as though there was a very strict time limit that the crew would be unable to meet in saving the Tams, but instead they saunter in as though they have all the time in the world, and it strikes me as a bit of a cheat.

The acting was great from everyone involved, with a good interaction between Maher's Simon and William Converse-Roberts playing Simon's father in flashbacks. The standout of the episode was the child actress playing young River, Skylar Roberge, who completely nailed Glau's delivery and very genuinely appeared to be the same person. Torres and Nathan Fillion (Mal) do very well to get across the tenseness and fear their characters have of the Alliance as they come aboard to take Shepherd Book, and their reactions on learning that Book is, in some way, connected to the Alliance is priceless.

Director Michael Grossman's use of flashbacks here is very good, opening with a flashback of the young River playing a game with Simon (Zac Efron) and smash-cutting to the present day when the two are both in a panic over an imagined disaster. Grossman also chooses to inter-cut a scene of River dancing in the village with Mal and Jayne's gunfight, culminating in Book's gunshot wound and River possibly recognizing his psychic distress. Grossman's strength here are the moments between the characters, with Simon asking Mal why he came back, with Mal responding that "[he's] on [Mal's] crew," and having him repeat himself until Simon understands that he's come to belong aboard the Serenity.

Drew Z. Greenberg adds a lot of small details into his script that pay off later on, such as River stating in flashback that she had already learned her dance, and later being able to learn a dance after watching for less than a minute, Mal stating that he won't leave the Tams behind and later being forced to, and Kaylee and Simon both reaching for the same plate to completely opposing reactions. The Simon and Kaylee dynamic is played with in this episode, Kaylee having been determined to impress Simon at every turn only to be completely heartbroken when she realizes how cruel he can sometimes be.

Everyone appears to have settled into their roles on the ship very well at this point, having grown into a family without necessarily having noticed, but they continue to keep their secrets. Book's true identity remains a mystery, and while Mal does question it, he accepts Book's non-answer because Mal trusts him as a man and as a friend, despite his curiosity.

The review for "Our Mrs. Reynolds" will be posted on October 27th.


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