Saturday, January 26, 2013

Firefly Special: Those Left Behind

Sci-Fi Saturday

Figures from both Mal and River's pasts come back to take their revenge while Inara and Book both consider their upcoming departures from Serenity.

Previous: The Other Half

The Hands of Blue finally track down River, culminating in a final battle that involves a great deal of violence and bloodshed. Though Mal has been preparing himself for Inara's departure from his ship, Book's sudden decision to leave is something of a surprise to him, and added together with Dobson's reappearance everything seems to be pointing to Mal's past mistakes.

In the beginning it's made evident that Book's role in the job is to act as a kind of diversion, giving a sermon filled with the Word that he actually believes in, only to have everyone run out on it as Mal robs the bank. The events lead Book to realize just the kind of man that Mal's turning him into, and he begins to think that this may not be the lifestyle he's meant to live, as Mal not only has great disrespect for the Word, but also for those who follow it. Book and Mal argue, with Book stating that he should keep his word to Inara, and Mal states that his word is just air, much like the Word that Book preaches, criticizing that Book does what he needs to just as the rest of them do, pointing out that Book had stolen a vehicle earlier that day to save Mal, Zoë and Jayne from a mob. Through the story Book comes to the conclusion that Mal has turned him into something that he doesn't want to be, and his decision to leave his life on Serenity behind makes absolute sense in this context.

Badger hires Mal and Zoë to go back to the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the war, and their hesitation is evident as they consider all the ghosts of their past likely to be lurking among the wreckage. It's not necessarily their fear of reliving the horrors of war that gives them pause, but the fact that their former allies could be among the dead, that they could be wading through the graves of those they fought alongside, that they themselves could have died here were things slightly different. Dobson reappears in the middle of the graveyard to have a showdown with Mal, and though Mal never lets on that he's thinking it, it's clearly running through his mind that he hasn't yet escaped the war.

Dobson returns in this story and teams up with the Hands of Blue, and while the Hands of Blue have been hinted at for a return for quite some time now, Dobson comes as something of a surprise, as there's little to not set up for it. Not only is Dobson quickly disposed of, but the Hands of Blue are dispatched in the blast of Serenity's engines as it powers away, and it seems like this story was simply to facilitate the deaths of the recurring villains as quickly as possible.

River tries to overdose on anesthetic to make sure that she doesn't feel whatever the Hands of Blue plan on doing to her, and while it's a heartbreaking moment, and absolutely understandable given her past with torture, it's disturbing that this is her first and only option. Not only would this mean she was killing herself, but she's also abandoning her friends and brother to whatever plans the Hands of Blue have simply because she can't bear the pain of what they may or may not do. River has always been shown as unstable, but this is a moment where she really could have taken control of her destiny, and it just seems somewhat wasted.

Penciled by Will Conrad, this story is a mix of both good and bad moments, where the likenesses are sometimes spot on, while other times they look absolutely nothing like the actors that had portrayed them in the series proper. The smaller details in the backgrounds and foregrounds is very good, and the world feels very authentic, creating a largely pleasant reading experience.

The editing and formatting by Scott Allie is very easy to follow, making the action on the page translate very well to the reader. This story feels very much like something that belongs to the series, and it works very well in relation to the universe as created by Joss Whedon.

Written by both Whedon and Brett Matthews, this story is tasked with tying up all of the loose ends from the series and connecting it seamlessly to the upcoming film without seeming as though nothing has transpired in between. The story, at large, is about the relationship between Inara and Mal, and River rambles, at the top of the script, that everything is a ball of yarn, and pulling one string will pull them all, a commentary framing Inara's discussion with Mal about leaving, after which River tells her just to let the ball go. Inara is effectively trapped on Serenity, unable to do business because she has no idea where she'll be next, and incapable of scheduling for anything because Mal keeps changing course on her. In the end Mal is unable to find the words to say goodbye to Inara until she's already long gone, and, in the context of their relationship so far, this may be the most understandable, and frustratingly realistic, ending for them.

Inara and Book have both abandoned ship, but Serenity remains in danger as long as the Tam siblings remain aboard. Though the Hands of Blue have been taken care of, River is still being pursued by an unknown agent, and whatever danger that means for Mal and his crew is likely to come into play sooner than later.

Next: Serenity


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