Saturday, November 3, 2012


Sci-Fi Saturday

The Serenity lands on a planet where Jayne has become something of a folk hero, despite the fact that he had tried to betray the entire town.

The review for "Our Mrs. Reynolds" can be read here.

It's not often that Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is hesitant entering a situation, but his pause regarding Serenity's latest job is evident as he straps a gun to his waist, despite Mal's (Nathan Fillion) orders not to, and the disguise he tries to hide behind. Jayne being off his game tends to throw off the rest of the team, whether they grow infected by his nervousness through osmosis or simply lose focus due to his simple mistakes. What makes the situation interesting, however, is the revelation that Jayne's fears may be entirely misplaced, and instead he should feel more welcome than ever.

Kaylee (Jewel Staite) and Simon's (Sean Maher) relationship is given a good amount of focus in this story, opening with her gently chiding him about his rare use of profanity, and his determination that he uses them only when appropriate. Kaylee posits that "the whole point of swearing is that it ain't appropriate," but Simon remains steadfast in his belief that being proper and polite is all he has left, and it's his way of showing that he likes her. Their conversation here is so simple and natural, and it very effectively sums up the way these two have been interacting with one another, deftly explaining the awkwardness between them as they try to navigate toward a common ground.

As Jayne is wracking his mind trying to think of why there would be a statue of him in the center of town, the patrons of the bar break into a song about him. The crew of the Serenity momentarily freeze, unsure of how to react to the ballad of Jayne Cobb, and Jayne, too, attempts to escape the situation until he realizes that these people want to celebrate him with gifts including whisky. At first Jayne abuses his power, taking whatever these people will give him and trying to milk the lie of his heroism for as much as he can, but he eventually comes to care for these people and the lives they are to lead. It's possible that these people come to mean to much to Jayne because, through their eyes, he's a good man, and, for the first time, he's given the chance to live a life where he something other than a criminal. Jayne learns the true power he has when a young man sacrifices his own life in an effort to save Jayne, after which he comes clean about the entire situation, tipping over his statue and revealing the true nature of his original con. The episode closes with Jayne's bewilderment, certain now that no one will ever see him as a hero again, but Mal assures him that he's a good a man as he can be.

River's (Summer Glau) running story throughout the narrative is her attempt to "fix" Book's (Ron Glass) bible. While it certainly stays true to her character that she might find inconsistencies in a book to be a distraction, it seemed like writer Ben Edlund's somewhat heavy handed commentary on religion. While Book explains to River what the bible means as a tool of faith, and River does, indeed, apologise for tearing pages out of his book, the final moments with the character show her making another attempt to edit, having apparently learned nothing from Book's earlier speech.

Simon's interactions with Kaylee have always been awkward, and his overreactions to certain situations, especially those that might appear vulgar, so in that light it makes sense that Simon would declare, to Mal, that he "would never! Not with Kaylee!" On the surface it's obvious that he's saying he would never take advantage of her in that way because he respects her, but instead, to Kaylee, it seems as though he's saying that he's in no way attracted to her, and simply can't see her that way. The issue with this is that Simon is smart enough to be able to make things right almost immediately, but instead he resigns himself to failure and says nothing, letting Kaylee walk out of the bar without him thinking that she means nothing to him. Given the fact that she has openly revealed to him that she has strong romantic feelings for him, it would be nice to see him flat out tell Kaylee what it is he's thinking instead of letting her assume the worst.

This cast plays off of one another incredibly well, and it's especially evident in this story where there are so many comedic moments wherein to display genuine friendship. Alan Tudyk (Wash) and Gina Torres (Zoƫ) are especially good in conveying their characters' glee at the news that Jayne so highly regarded, and Baldwin's slow turn from hedonistic faux-hero to full-blown folk hero. Glau gives a great reaction when River sees Book's hair undone, screaming and rushing off, claiming that "the snow on the roof is too heavy, [...] the ceiling will cave in. His brains are in terrible danger!" This cast has the uncanny ability to go from comedic moments to heart-wrenchingly emotional scenes in a heartbeat, and they are all fantastic in these roles.

This episode, directed by Marita Grabiak, proves itself capable of jumping between styles and tones without breaking the pace of the narrative, allowing for a hilarious scene where the character react to a song being written about one of their own to mourning the death of a young man standing up for what he believes in. The characters react to the clay statue of Jayne with disbelief, creating a funny set of scenes, but the reactions are never over-the-top or disingenuous in any way. Where the original rendition of Jayne's song is raucous and fun-loving, Grabiak chooses to close the episode on a slower instrumental version of the same, somehow evoking an entirely different set of emotions from the exact same song.

Edlund has proven himself capable of writing good character moments here, and Inara's (Morena Baccarin) entire storyline of taking Fess' (Zachary Kranzler) virginity. Having Inara so constantly separated from the rest of the cast could easily grow troublesome as the episodes wear on, but here her story is so genuine that it's in no way a distraction. Certainly, her story here is to facilitate the deus ex machina of an ending, but the connection she develops with Fess, explaining to him what it is to be a real man, really lends itself to earning the last-minute save here. As Fess describes the hero of Canton, Inara goes into detail describing Mal's greater attributes in an attempt to defend him, only to throw all her kinds words out the window when she learns the true hero of Canton is, instead, Jayne. Jayne's story, too, is given an interesting twist, not being so cut-and-dry as simply stealing from the rich to give to the poor; there's no part of Jayne that did anything good here, displayed through his betrayal of both his partner and the town, and despite what the townsfolk believe he is every bit as villainous as he claims to be.

Jaynestown goes a long way toward humanizing Jayne, allowing him to connect, for the first time, with a group of people quite strange to him. Inara's feelings for Mal, as well as the attraction between Kaylee and Simon, continues to grow here.

The review for "Out of Gas" can be read here.


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