On Finding a Blogging Process

Believe it or not, blogging is hard.

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Well, no. That’s not quite right. Blogging is easy. It’s maintaining a blog with the kind of quality and consistency that you want – that’s hard. It’s so easy to jump into something with these highminded ideas, thinking that you’ll just do it every day and you’ll love it and everything will be great. But making something great takes work; hell, making something good takes work.

So, you have to find your process. By which I mean, I have to find my process.

Process is a tough thing to nail down. It took me a solid decade of serious writing before I found a fiction-writing process that works for me, and the process that works ended up being a slow and grueling long-game sonofabitch, but I found it and I’m so glad I did. Because before I found it, all I ever did was give up.

And giving up is the same track record I’ve had with blogging for the seven or so years I’ve been blogging, and I’m tired of it. So I’m working to figure out a process for it.

I went into this particular blog (obviously only very recently) with the post I already linked and an idea – my Firefly recap idea. I love doing the Firefly recap and I want to stick with it, but I dove into it on overdrive and that’s not something I can maintain. I produced something like ten thousand words in about three days, and that was just on two episodes. That isn’t sustainable.

What would happen in the past is that I’d realize it wasn’t sustainable and I’d bail – I’d delete all the posts and call it a day until I came up with another idea and went through the same cycle. Granted, this ties into some other challenges I’ve always had and am continuing to work with – in my fiction writing, this manifested as getting frustrated and tearing up or deleting everything I could get my hands on – but that’s another topic for another day.

So anyway, the point of this is that I don’t know what my blogging process is yet. I’m working on figuring it out, and I’ll probably post as much about that as I post about anything else. Weird as it is, learning to blog might be a pretty useful thing to blog about. I’m going to stick with the Firefly recaps, but I’m going to keep trying different things with them because I’m working on figuring out what my best approach is.

I hope you’ll stick with me because, for once, I think sticking with me will be worth it. I’d love comments on this (and any) post about how you blog, and I’ll always share what I find that works and doesn’t work. This might be frustrating, but it should be fun and productive and a hell of a lot less frustrating than wasting all of my time and effort and thoughts and words.

Maybe I can help myself and maybe I can help you; maybe we can help each other. We just have to stick with it.

Firefly Newbie Recap: E02, The Train Job

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This post is the second in my Firefly Newbie Recap series. In case it isn’t entirely self-explanatory, I’m watching Joss Whedon’s Firefly for the first time and recapping each episode. Spoilers, obviously.

We’re on-world somewhere, in a bazaar or a saloon or something. It’s hard to tell if it’s outdoor or indoor or kind of both. The camera follows a belly-dancer as she dances and weaves through the crowd; she has blinking light jewelry, red and blue. She sneakily gives a man a piece of paper, and the camera’s focus moves from her to the man and the man is Mal. He and Zoe and Jayne are playing Chinese checkers, and somewhere a dude starts yelling for everyone to shut up so he can make a toast. It’s this big drunk dude with a bald head, biker-ish and vaguely redneck. He starts talking about how it’s a glorious day, an auspicious day. He says it’s Unification Day, when the Alliance beat the “scumbag independents.” There are scattered cheers, and Mal looks like he’s going to get into it. Zoe says “Captain,” but he’s already standing. He says he’s just going up to get a drink.

Mal’s standing there at the bar next to big ol’ Alliance fanboy, and the guy asks if he’s going to drink to the Alliance with him. He says how it’s been six years since the Alliance beat those independent browncoats, and he notes that Mal’s coat is “kind of a brownish color.” For those of you who are inexplicably reading this without knowing, Mal’s coat is brown. Because, y’know, Mal’s a browncoat. The guy notes that Mal didn’t toast, and says he suspects Mal’s “one them independents.” Mal says he suspects the dude wasn’t “burdened with an overabundance of schooling.” The guy starts talking a bunch of shit about the independents, calling them cowards, saying they should have all been killed. Mal says to say it to his face, and the dude turns to him and calls him a “coward and a pisspot” and asks what he’s going to do about it.

“Nothin’,” Mal says, and has this chuckling smirk on his face. “I just wanted you to face me so she could get behind you,” and the guy turns and Zoe clocks him in the face with the butt of an enormous pistol. Mal calls her cute, but then a whole bunch of the bar’s sophisticated patrons all get up and look all threatening. Mal says some stuff in Chinese, looking nervous, and Jayne says it wasn’t his war, says good luck. Cut to Mal getting thrown out of a window, which is this weird hologram window thing. He radios up to Wash that a grand entrance would be helpful; meanwhile Zoe fights her way out of the bar, beating the crap out of a couple dudes at once. Brawling continues and Mal says “is Jayne even awake?” Cue Jayne coming out the front door fighting three guys and swinging a chair around like a drunk liontamer at a circus. Folks keep pouring out of the bar; brawl continues. Aaaand it turns out this is all happening at the edge of a cliff. The place looks like Whitefall, but I can’t be sure.

So the three of them, Mal and Zoe and Jayne, who are turning out to be pretty much the gunslinger/brawler trio of the bunch, are cornered at the edge of the cliff and the big bald rabble-rouser comes through the crowd and raises his gun at them. Dude says, “Someone needs to put you down, dog.” And then behind them, from the canyon, comes Serenity, and Wash comes over the loudspeaker and says “Every man there, go back inside, or we will blow another crater in this little moon” (which makes me think it is Whitefall, if Whitefall is in fact Patience’s moon), and the ramp lowers behind our scrappers and Zoe and Jayne run in and Mal backs up and smiles, waves goodbye as the hatch closes up. Jayne laughs that those guys didn’t even know that a transport ship doesn’t even have any guns. So now we know that, which is a good thing to know.

Mal thanks Wash for the save, as always, and asks how the passengers are doing. Kaylee rolls out from under fixing something on one of those rolling mechanic boards, and kind of sits up, and I don’t know how long it’s been since the last episode and can’t tell whether she can walk or not. She says the passengers are fine and asks if there was a big brawl. “Oddly enough, there was,” Zoe says; Mal says he just wanted a quiet drink and Zoe says that it’s funny how every Unification Day he finds himself in an Alliance-friendly bar looking for a quiet drink and Mal says she’s paranoid and crotchety. Also, he says they’ve got a job, and pulls out the piece of paper from the belly-dancer.

And it does look like Kaylee has use of her legs, just based on the way she’s positioned on the floor.

“Take us out of the world, Wash,” Mal says. “Got us some crime to be done.” Cue shot of Serenity doing its wonderful blastoff thing.

[Opening credits. I just bought the theme song on iTunes.]

WOAH. River’s having a nightmare flashback of people experimenting on her brain and wakes up and jumps out of her bed screaming and crashes into a bunch of stuff and knocks it over. She’s crying and cowering and Simon comes over and tells her it’s okay. He says “it’s me. You know who I am,” and she says “Simon,” but her tone and her face are more saying “of course I do, you stupid idiot.” He asks what she was dreaming about and she says it’s “not relevant,” which is an awesome and weird response and he says that he needs to know so he can figure out what’s up. She notes that they’re not at home, and he says they can’t go home. “We’re on a ship,” he says and she rattles off all the ship’s specifications. “Well, that’s something,” Mal says as he shows up through the infirmary door. He washes his hands and Simon asks if he needs any medical help, but he says he’s fine. Mal talks about how punching people is fun. They chitchat and Simon worries about any attention the fight might have brought, but Mal assures him there aren’t any feds on their tail. Mal leaves, and River says “Mal… bad,” noting the Latin.

Mal leaves the infirmary and runs into Shepherd Book, and Mal is friendlier to him than he had been previously and Book asks how River’s doing. Mal responds with pretty much the best phrasing ever, that she’s “whimsical in the brainpan.” In the background, we see River having a freakout through the infirmary window. Book talks about how brave Simon is for doing all he’s done for River, leaving a successful career as a surgeon to become a fugitive for his little sister. He says that not many people would do that, and Mal says he supposes not. “Not many would take him in, either,” Book says. He says he wonders why Mal’s doing it, helping them, and Mal claims it’s the pay but Book points out that it’s not a fraction of what they get on their jobs. He asks why he does it, harbors fugitives that the Alliance is clearly after when he’s trying to hard to avoid Alliance attention himself. They go into the engine room (I presume it’s the engine room; there’s a mess of wires all over the place and a big ol’ whirring thing that seems pretty engine-like), and Mal calls for Kaylee. Book says he doesn’t suppose Mal even knows why he’s helping Simon and River, and Mal asks him if he shouldn’t be preaching somewhere else. Book says he’s got “heathens aplenty right here.” Mal says he’s wasting his time, and says Book is welcome on his boat but God ain’t.

Mal goes looking for Kaylee. Cut to Inara braiding Kaylee’s hair and the shot has those reddish hues that go with Inara’s scenes, and there’s the kind of music playing that you’d expect at a spa or something. Inara insinuates that Simon has a crush on Kaylee, and Kaylee gets all adorably blushy. Kaylee asks about the companionship business, and Inara says its guild law that they get to pick their clients and that she judges based on spiritual compatibility. Mal pops in and starts talking about the spiritual aura of her clients’ credit accounts. Inara asks what she said about barging in and he responds “that it was… manly and impulsive?” He asks Kaylee if terrifying space monkeys had gotten into the engine room and tells her to get to work. She leaves and Mal starts telling Inara about the job and says they don’t have a location on it yet and that they’ll be docking on a space station and that she has to stay on the ship. She asks if he’s ashamed, and he basically says that he’s worried about her (although he obviously doesn’t say it outright). The client, Niska, is a scary dude, it seems. There’s a nice moment between the two of them somewhere in there. He bows mockingly and leaves. He pops back in and asks if she has time to do his hair, and she says to get out, and it’s such a Whedon moment.

Cut to space station. Our bruiser trio is walking through the concrete halls and they get to this one door and this big Uruk-Hai/Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2 looking guy answers, but a voice from inside says to let them in. (Uruk-Hai Rourke’s name is Crow, apparently. I looked it up so I wouldn’t have to call him Uruk-Hai Rourke throughout this whole thing.) Niska, this allegedly terrifying guy, is a little old man with a funny accent, sitting behind a desk with one of those little stained-glass lamps on it. Mal runs through the introductions. Jayne appears to have shaved. Niska looks like if Robin Williams was a gnome in World of Warcraft; even the accent sounds like Robin Williams putting on a German accent or something. Anyway, he says the job is a train job (hence the episode title), and asks if Mal wants to know what they’re stealing. Mal says no, and Niska talks about Mal’s reputation – seemingly his reputation as a browncoat, and then says he has a reputation of his own and has Crow open this big weird closet, almost like a walk-in freezer, and there’s this dude tied up and bloodied and hanging upside down. Niska says that’s what happens when people don’t finish jobs, and closes the door with the Crow still in there with the upside-down guy. Niska says that now Mal knows his reputation is “solid.” He says if Mal gets the train job done, Mal will be “solid.” Rourke comes back out, clearly having ended this poor dude, who was apparently Niska’s wife’s nephew. Niska says he’ll get an earful about it at dinner. He details the train job, which seems like a basic Jesse James kind of thing, and then says that if Mal fails things obviously won’t turn out so well for him. He also notes that it’s Alliance goods they’re stealing, and makes some more insinuations about Mal’s politics.

Cut to train rolling on by. Rolling fast; I don’t want it to sound like its this lazy old freight train getting hopped by hobos, it’s a bullet-train over the dusty ground toward the dusty mountains (though I’m not sure why I felt the need to clarify that). Mal and Zoe are sitting together inside, and the train interior has this cool aesthetic (fitting the rest of the show) balancing ramshackle old Westernness with sleek futurism. Anyway, Zoe’s saying Niska’s a psycho – like, another level of psycho from the ones they’ve worked for in the past – and Mal says “let’s do the thing.” They step into the next train car and it’s full of Alliance guys, a train car full of an Alliance SWAT team pretty much. “Hi,” Mal says.

Cut to Serenity flying through the canyon-plateau things. This is a very Tatooine-like planet. By the canyon-plateau things, I mean those high orange-rock things, those pillars of stone that are probably out in the American desert but that I immediately associate with podracing. Anyway. Cut into ship’s interior. Book is reading in the kitchen, and Inara walks in. The kitchen is nice in this big-wooden-table kind of way (what with its big wooden table), though it’s clearly a ship’s kitchen. I like it. The backs of the chairs have big shining wooden suns in them. Book asks her how long she’s known Mal, but she says that she’s not sure she ever will, despite having spent eight months on the ship. He talks about how he feels useless, wants to help (though not with the thieving). Inara suggests he pray that they get back, and he says he doubts Mal would appreciate being prayed for. She says not to tell him, that she never does.

Back to the SWAT team train car. Mal and Zoe get through, which was somewhat anticlimactic. Zoe’s worried about them being there at all, but Mal says that it doesn’t concern them because if it did they’d be guarding the cargo. Mal says he’d pull the job for free just for the enjoyment of pulling those goods out from under twenty armed feds.

Shot of the train ripping through the desert and Serenity following close behind (which seems a bit conspicuous, but whatever). Kaylee’s in the hold (or whatever it is, the basement, I don’t know, the garage) and Simon comes in. She says hi, calls him Doctor, and he says to call her Simon. He asks what they’re up to, and she answers “crime” and he gets all flustered and it’s all funny and kind of cute. She explains the plan and then Jayne shows up and is kind of a dick, which Kaylee calls him out on but he says “are you about to jump onto a moving train?” It’s a reasonable point, but then he keeps being a dick and saying Simon’s not really a part of the crew and that his only job is to take care of his “moonbrain sister” (cut briefly to River listening from above). Simon looks grumpy-sad and walks away. Kaylee tells him he doesn’t have to be so rude, and he essentially says that he thinks they should turn Simon and River in and says that Mal’s thinking the same thing. He says that Mal’s “got a move he ain’t made yet.” River, of course, is listening to all of this.

Back on the train, Mal uses a keycard to open some door, which just seems unfair. But then we see one of the Alliance dudes get up from his seat and start making his way toward the train car that Mal and Zoe are in. The two of them head into the room they just unlocked and prop the door slightly ajar, and Mal climbs up on a crate and starts unscrewing this panel on the roof (through which Jayne’s going to grapple in and pull them and the cargo out) and tells Zoe to find the cargo. She does.

Shot of Serenity following the ship, with some banjo or fiddle or something playing. We see Jayne about to jump out of the ship on his little wire, which he does, but we can see Wash hitting some turbulence. Mal and Zoe get the panel off the roof, but the wandering Ally goon hears them and cocks his gun. Jayne pulls himself through the panel and does this goofy monkey-somersault into the train car. Mal hooks the wire to the cargo and radios up “fifteen seconds,” but it doesn’t seem like Kaylee can hear him. Another shot of Wash trying to deal with the turbulence. Ally dude sees the open door, walks in; apparently the thing that Zoe had kept the door ajar with was a smoke bomb, which goes off, but Ally is startled and fires and Jayne gets hit. This show has a lot of the good guys getting shot due to Ally folk being startled (two in two episodes, so far). Anyway, they get Jayne hooked up and say to go. Kaylee gets the machine started reeling in Jayne and the cargo and Mal beats up the Ally dude. There’s another Ally guy walking through the civilian car that they head into and they throw a smoke bomb, and a bunch of the passengers start coughing but the Ally guy just keeps walking as if he didn’t even notice – doesn’t change pace or anything, which is odd. Anyway. Mal and Zoe hide and the guy doesn’t see them. Jayne is on Serenity with the cargo, and yeah, he’s been shot in the leg. Kaylee’s worried because Mal and Zoe are still on the train.

The train gets into this town, Paradiso. Mal overhears one of the Ally men saying that their guy didn’t get a look at who did it. He overhears the mayor or someone talking – the supplies that got stolen, it was medicine for the town. After all, Niska didn’t say what it was. “God help us,” the mayor guy says. “Son of a bitch,” Mal says.

Cut to a ship or space station or something; cut to the interior to see that it’s a bunch of Ally guys. They basically recap the train heist, but the overseer guy says to tag the cargo as “received,” says the locals can deal with it. So this guy’s a dick, and is a very clear difference from the Alliance guy at the very start of the first episode, the one who goes to help the (fake) stranded civilians rather than catching the Serenity crew. Anyway. Apparently the mayor guy is the sheriff. The woman reporting to this asshole-in-charge suggests that the Ally guys who were on the train could stick around and figure it out, but Captain Dickhead says that they should get back on the train and keep moving.

Cut to Serenity landing in some crater. It’s dusk. It’s a beautiful shot. In the infirmary, everyone’s arguing while Simon is dealing with Jayne’s gunshot wound. They need to get the job done, get the goods to Niska. Jayne’s the one who’s particularly freaking out, having been the one of this bunch who saw the guy hanging upside down. They talk about whether the Alliance will get at them in the crater, which they basically don’t seem to be worried about, but then River starts talking. It’s startling, as she talks so little; she says they’ll never stop coming, and keeps saying “two by two, hands of blue.” Jayne tells her to shut up. Jayne mentions Niska, and Book speaks up. Book seems to know a bit about Niska, says that if it’s Mal that made the deal, they’re better off showing up late than showing up without Mal.

Cut to Mal and Zoe in town. Mal says it’s a nightmare, says it’s not the worry of getting caught that he’s talking about. They’re surrounded by the sick, the destitute, the crying babies. They talk to the sheriff and pretend to be husband and wife. The sheriff’s asking them some questions, asking what they’re up to, and they ask why everyone’s sick. He says it’s a condition of the terraforming, a degenerative bone disease. He says everyone’s got it. (Of course) it’s medicine for that condition that the crew stole for Niska. The Sheriff lights what seems to be a joint, and shares it with a dude in lockup. He and Mal talk a bit of shit about the Alliance being useless, especially out on the Border Planets. Anyway, Mal and Zoe’s cover is pretty much screwed because a) they said they were looking for work as miners, whereas the mines are where the disease seems to come from, and b) the guy that was theoretically their contact killed himself eight months back. That said, Mal covers by asking if that guy (the dead one, their fake contact), if that meant his job was open.

Back on the ship is a quick, completely incredible scene. Wash and Jayne are arguing about whether to stay or go (respectively), and Jayne pulls rank, but then we’re reminded that Simon gave him some pain meds while dealing with the gunshot wound, and they were apparently completely awesome because Jayne starts hallucinating and passes out. So that’s pretty great. Wash: “Did he just go crazy and fall asleep?” Simon: “I told him to sit down.” Jayne’s lying facedown on the floor, grinning, eyes flickering. Simon says the drugs should have kicked in sooner, said he didn’t feel comfortable with Jayne in charge (which everyone kind of chuckle-sighs in agreement with). So it’s time to hatch a plan. Book says someone respectable enough would probably just be able to waltz in and get them out; we think he’s referring to himself, but it cuts to Inara walking down the street planetside. (Mal did mention earlier something about it being a planet where nobody would be used to her kind of respectability.) She strolls up and punches Mal in the face. Basically, she says that Mal is her servant and that he stole from her and that he and Zoe are having an affair, which is perfect because it explains the gaping holes in their cover story and also makes it so that she’s essentially the justice that they need to answer to. The sheriff sends them on their way.

Back on the ship. Everyone’s talking about how they can finally get going, and Mal says they’re not going and Zoe says they’re bringing the cargo back. Jayne slurs his objections, slumped in a stairway. Anyway, they talk through the plan and figure that they’ll take a shot at reasoning with Niska. But then, strolling up the ramp, we see the return of Crow and some other dangerous looking dudes. So that’s not good. Crow is pissed that they missed the rendezvous and thinks that they were going to cheat Niska, but Mal says they just changed their minds and were going to give him his money back.

So then, um. Then Crow throws a damn machete that plants in Mal’s shoulder. Not literally a machete, but an enormous knife. Shootout ensues. Mal gets in a fistfight with Crow, big monster of a guy, and is mostly getting the crap kicked out of him, but then the guy gets shot in the leg. Miraculously, it was Jayne, who (barely) says that he was aiming for the guy’s head. So that was dangerous. Oh and Wash crashes a four-wheeler into some dudes, which is fun.

Zoe and Mal go to bring the medicine back, saying that they’ll drop it somewhere and notify the sheriff once they’re way far away, but (of course) here comes the sheriff and his posse. (It’s nighttime now, obviously, seeing as it was dusk earlier, but I thought it was worth noting.) He says they got report of a ship out there and were just heading out to investigate. One of the sheriff’s cops checks the supplies and says it’s all there.

The sheriff had a conversation with Mal and Zoe back in town, about how hard it is to find work. He says now, “If a man can get a job, he might not look too close at what that job is. When a man learns all the details of a situation like ours, well, then he has a choice.” And Mal says, “I don’t believe he does,” because Mal is the best. The sheriff nods and smiles and tells his guys to bring the crates back to town.

They’ve got Niska’s guy tied up, the Uruk-Hai. Mal tells him to bring Niska his advance back. “We’re not thieves. But we are thieves… The point is, we’re not taking what’s his,” Mal says. The guy says to keep the money and use it to buy a funeral, that he’ll hunt them to the end of the universe and the last thing they’ll see is his blade. Mal kicks him in the chest and he gets sucked into Serenity’s propellors. I’m seeing a pattern with these episodes, with bad guys getting killed pretty suddenly and unceremoniously. Anyway, Mal proposes the same solution to the next guy, who agrees right off the bat.

Serenity is in space.

Simon is sewing up that machete-hole Mal’s got. Mal asks how River’s doing and they chat a bit, but the sound fades and the camera moves to River’s room where she’s sitting huddled in a corner, talking steadily – “two-by-two-hands-of-blue-two-by-two-hands-of-blue,” ad infinitum, and I get all cold when I watch it, get this chill down my spine like not many shows or movies or books or anything can give you.

And now we’re back on that Alliance ship/station. There’s the jerk from earlier walking in, and there’s these men in black suits, a black-haired guy standing toward the back and a red-haired guy at the table. They say they’re there about a theft, and the captain-guy says that the medicine theft got all handled. “We’re not here about some band-aids,” they say. They’re there about a girl. The red-haired guy slides a picture across the table, a picture of River, slides it across the table with a blue-latex-gloved hand and folds his hand, and the black-haired man folds his blue-latex-gloved hand, and the red-haired guy just stares with this weird blank smile-frown and that feeling comes back, that one from just a minute ago, that chill that so few things can bring.

Two by two, hands of blue.

Firefly Newbie Recap: E01, Serenity

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This post is the first in my Firefly Newbie Recap series. In case it isn’t entirely self-explanatory, I’m watching Joss Whedon’s Firefly for the first time and recapping each episode. Spoilers, obviously.

So it starts out with Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres and some other people fighting a battle. It’s clearly the future, or, y’know, present day in other space places that somehow have humans, or the way distant past, but it seems like the future. Despite it being the future, though, the battle scene has this gloriously old-timey war movie feel to it. I read once that Whedon was inspired by Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, which is about the Battle of Gettysburg. So that makes sense, although the scene feels much more like the trenches of WWII than the Civil War.

Anyway, the good guys (we’re assuming they’re the good guys, because they’re a scrappy bunch and they just seem good and are also our protagonists), anyway, the good guys lose by the very terrestrial-war reason of air support not showing up. Bullets zip by Fillion as he stands there heartbroken.

Six years later.

We find our intrepid heroes in space. We meet back up with Fillion and Torres and a guy named Jayne and Alan Tudyk (who is the pilot, apparently, and is playing with dinosaurs and gives us the delightful, now-classic “curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal” line). Fillion, in astronaut garb, uses something that looks like a sonic-screwdriver-glue-gun to burn through a lock to get into this abandoned ship so they can salvage stuff. Tudyk’s name is Wash, and there’s a woman named Kaylee on the ship with him who I recognize but hasn’t been in anything I’ve seen other than Space Cases (SPACE CASES, YOU GUYS). An Alliance (government, presumably) ship with the Germanic name “Dortmund” (all of which we’re told by on-screen text) shows up and there’s chatter between some younger dudes and a guy who looks like Grand Moff Tarkin in training; they’ve spotted our ragtag band.

We learn that the Firefly class of ship doesn’t get made anymore and that they’re all (or at least are generally) illegal salvage ships. So that gives us a nice clear sense of what our heroes are up to, in case we were a little slow on the uptake. Tarkin Junior and his boys make moves to send gunships to bring the Firefly in, but then Wash deploys the Crybaby  out into space – a barrel that sends out a distress signal and somehow shows up on sensors as a stranded personnel carrier  –  which distracts the bad guys. (It also shows us that maybe they’re not necessarily bad guys, as they prioritize helping civilians over nabbing outlaws.) The good guys load up their stolen goods and escape. Jayne calls it a win, and Nathan Fillion is sad. Oh, and the alliance puts out a BOLO for the Firefly.

[Cue theme song and opening credits!]

The theme song is this delightful Celtic/Western thing and there are horses, a bunch of horses. Anyway.

The cargo is bars of what looks like either copper or bronze. Fillion says to report back to someone named Badger but not to say anything about the Alliance cruiser, and then says that they’re going to be taking on passengers at their next stop (a planet called Persephone). Kaylee is really cheerful and kisses Fillion on the cheek, and Wash and Gina Torres go off and have some lovey-dovey-sexytime dialogue in Whedonesque fashion, and we learn that Fillion’s name is Mal (so I’ll start calling him that). Oh, and we find out that Gina Torres and Wash are married and that they need a vacation. Whedon-banter ensues.

Cut to somewhere else. Jessica Brody (I don’t know her name in this yet and can never remember her name in real life, but she’s Jessica Brody on Homeland) is having sex with some guy in this red-curtained place and then they’re chatting it up in comfy-looking chairs. She has an hourglass that seems to be running pretty quickly and she talks about her homeworld (cut with a quick shot of her silently looking introspective and sad) and we learn that she’s a “companion” and they’re chatting and he’s naked, and then he implies that he wants her to come away with him on his father’s dime, but then it cuts to him in Alliance military garb and they spar a bit about her rigging the clock and him being quick in his own way. So, there’s that. He leaves.

She pulls a curtain and there’s a cockpit, so she’s on a (docked) ship, which I didn’t expect. She comms through to Wash and we learn (I say learn, though it’s no surprise) that the Firefly is called “Serenity.” (Also, it was mentioned earlier that the big battle Mal and Gina Torres lost was at Serenity Valley.) I just looked it up so that I can stop calling her Gina Torres — her character’s name is Zoe, which I heard earlier but didn’t consciously notice, I guess. Jessica Brody’s name is Inara (actress is  Morena Baccarin, by the way).

We’re on Persephone. There’s a bazaar and  Serenity lands and everyone unloads, and all the dialogue seems to be peppered with Chinese. There’s a cool old guy who we saw in the opening credits; he might be a priest or something. Mal and Zoe and Jayne meet up with this dude in a bowler hat, the blind lawyer from BSG who seems to be in every SF/F show ever, and he’s got a thick cockney accent and saw the BOLO and won’t be paying them for the stolen goods because they’ve got government imprints (even though he sent them to get the stuff in the first place). Jayne calls him a puddle of piss and puts his hand on his gun, but all of Bowler Hat’s cronies pull their guns so yeah. Bowler Hat brings up the war, calls Mal a “man of honor in a den of thieves” and calls himself a business man, above Mal, etc. He’s not paying; also, we learn that this is Badger.

Kaylee is sitting at the ship’s entry ramp and has a nifty parasol and chit-chats with the cool older gentleman, observing that he cares more about ships than destinations. She asks why and he says, “’cause how you get there’s the worthier part” and I think that’s pretty cool and reinforces me thinking he’s a priest (also, his outfit is pretty priest-looking). Also, Kaylee is adorable. The older dude says he’s a shepherd, so I was right, and his name is Book and he’s “been out of the world for awhile,” whatever that means. Kaylee asks if he can pay and he says he has a little cash and shows her something in a little wooden box, which she’s thoroughly impressed by. He has this catchphrase of “I’ve never been married” whenever anyone calls him “grandpa.”

Mal and Zoe and Jayne are walking down the street; Jayne is muttering about not getting paid, not getting his cut, doing some elaborate math about what ten percent of nothing is (nothing, divided by nothing, carry the nothing…). Jayne, it seems, is really pretty funny. Mal thinks Badger might have sold them out to the feds. Zoe suggests they drop the cargo, but we learn from Jayne and Mal that the crew has had a dry spell lately and are running on fumes (financially speaking). Mal suggests they take Badger’s suggestion of trying to sell the goods on the Border Planets, and says he might talk to someone named Patience. Patience apparently shot Mal a while ago, but it was (he says) “due to a perfectly legitimate conflict of interests.” There’s an aside about “reavers,” and Jayne says “them people ain’t human,” so maybe we’ll learn more about them or maybe we won’t. Mal runs through the list of everyone who they can’t possibly unload the cargo on, so Patience it is (it seems). She apparently owns half a moon; whether that’s literal or hyperbole, Patience can afford the cargo and seems to have some need or use for it. The passengers are getting loaded up, and there’s Book and a guy named Dobson and a weirdo named Simon with weird precious cargo and weird red glasses. And Mal thinks he’s weird too, so it’s not just me.

Zoe’s worried that the passengers might find the cargo, but Mal isn’t too worried. Mal: “If anyone get’s nosey, y’know, just… Shoot ‘em.” Zoe: “Shoot ‘em?” Mal: “Politely.”

Inara docks her shuttle onto Serenity. They refer to her as the ambassador. All aboard, the ship locks up and we get some suspenseful music during a shot of weirdo Simon. Mal walks the passengers through the routine and says they’re pretty much restricted to the dining area and passenger dorm while they’re in the air. Simon doesn’t seem to like the fact that he won’t have access to the cargo bay. Mal says they need to make a brief detour to drop off some medical supplies on a border moon, which everyone (especially Simon) seems a little suspicious of, but Mal says they were ordered by the Alliance.

Everyone’s in the cargo bay so the passengers can get their belongings; Book gives Kaylee a bag and the little wooden box from earlier and Dobson trips and oofs and we get a sense of some characteristic clumsiness. Inara comes down and Mal introduces her as the Ambassador, and Book thinks she’s an actual ambassador but Mal laughs and is a jerk and tells him she’s a whore and everyone gets awkward for a second. “The term is companion,” Kaylee says. Also, Inara and Kaylee seem kind of flirty with each other when she first gets there. Book gets extra awkward and there’s some tension between him and Mal. (Worth noting that Mal wore a cross in the battle scene and kissed it. Easy (maybe lazy?) to speculate that he lost his faith after their defeat.) Inara and Kaylee leave.

Kaylee’s in the kitchen; she opens the little wooden box and it’s a strawberry and she smells it and eats it and is super-happy. We’re given to understand that real food is scarce. Cut to the dinner table, where there’s lots of real food. That, it seems, is what was in the bag that Book gave to Kaylee; that’s what he seems to be paying his way with. Book asks Mal if he minds if he (Book) says grace, to which Mal responds “only if you say it out loud,” because Mal is clearly kind of a dick about religion. Simon asks if it happens a lot, the ordered medical deliveries, and Dobson starts talking about what he hears of the border planets. We learn that a lot of the galaxy is terraformed, and Zoe says the terraformed worlds are “as close to Earth-that-was as we can make ‘em,” so now we know that it is indeed the future. Then Mal’s a Debbie Downer about life on the terraformed planets, though understandably so, talking about how people basically get dumped on these planets with minimal supplies and are left to their own devices. Odds of survival are bleak. Simon, knowingly and passive-aggressively, says “then I guess it’s good we’re helping.” Kaylee says “you’re a doctor, right?” and they get into a conversation about that and she talks about how being a mechanic (she’s apparently a mechanic) comes easy for her, that machines just speak to her, and Book says that’s a gift and she says it’s nothing like being a doctor. Then Jayne says Kaylee just wishes she was a gynecologist, and Kaylee looks really uncomfortable and everyone gets awkward, and Jayne makes some more jokes about Kaylee being a lesbian, and Mal gets really pissed and sends Jayne to his room. “Walk away from this table. Right now,” Mal says, which sounds like a boring line but it’s really intense. Simon asks what Jayne’s job is (Jayne had said something like “you don’t pay me to talk pretty”) and Mal says PR, which is a pretty lazy job of avoiding suspicion if you ask me. Also, Simon ditched the red glasses at some point. He’s still being weird, but is less visually weird now.

[A brief note on language. Chinese, as I mentioned, is thrown into the dialogue here and there. It’s “New Chinese,” which evolved from Mandarin. Firefly dictionary here; also learned there that the show takes place in the 26th century.]

So, there was a reason for that language note. We cut to Inara in her room, bathing, and there’s a knock at the door. She says ching jin,which means come in. It’s Book; he asks if she’s surprised to see him but she says she was expecting him. She asks if he’s there to lecture her, and he says he brought her supper but that he does have some catchy lectures about hellfire and brimstone and lepers, if she’s interested. The two of them share a good chuckle. Book is a nice dude. They chat about how Mal is really protective of his crew and she asks why Book is so interested in Mal and Book says “because he’s something of a mystery.” Book asks her the same question and she says “because so few men are.” It’s a nice little moment. Good scene. I liked it.

Mal’s in his bathroom, which is also his bedroom. The bathroom-stuff just folds into the wall. There’s a very military vibe to his room, very bunker-like. Wash calls him up on the radio and says someone’s put a call out for the nearest Alliance cruiser. He says there’s a mole on board. I think it’s Dobson, because he’s clumsy and bland and it’s always the boring, bumbling ones; too easy and obvious to suspect the mysterious stranger. Cut to weird, suspicious Dr. Weirdo Simon in the cargo bay looking at his huge, metal, glowy crate. Mal shows up and basically sucker-punches him, because Mal seems to have made the dumb assumption that I just warned against. Mal pulls a gun on him and accuses him of being a fed, but then Book shows up and says Mal’s got the wrong man, and for a second it’s like “OH SHIT, NO WAY,” but then they look up and see Dobson standing there pointing a gun at Mal because I’m right about everything always.”This is not my best day ever,” Mal says. Yeah. Wait, but apparently Dobson was after Simon? Simon’s a fugitive? So Mal eases up a bit seeing as Dobson doesn’t know about the stolen cargo. There’s a big standoff anyway; Dobson thinks that the medical transport story was a front for transporting Simon and his cargo, so that’s a good accidental deflection I guess. Dobson says the cruiser will intercept them in about twenty minutes. The rest of the crew shows up and Dobson is startled and NO HE SHOT KAYLEE and Book does some sweet karate and drops Dobson with one of those hand-jab-to-throat-moves. Jayne wants to kill Dobson but Book won’t let him through; Jayne points his gun at Book but, then, there’s Zoe with a shotgun and she tells Jayne to just tie Dobson up. Inara says something like “stay with me, baby” to Kaylee and they’re getting ready to take Kaylee to the infirmary, but then the cruiser shows up. Simon says to run and has a little showdown with Mal, and basically hold’s Kaylee’s life hostage because he’s a doctor and they really have no choice. So Zoe radios up to Wash and they turn the ship around.

Simon’s getting some bullets / fragments out of Kaylee. We get a shot of a teddy-bear patch on the knee of her pants. It’s Simon, Mal, and Inara in the infirmary; Jayne looks in through the window, nervous, crouching awkwardly.

Simon says he can’t do any more until she stabilizes (which he then says he doesn’t know if she will), and Inara says she wants to know what’s going on. So Mal says, basically,”let’s find out,” and walks to the cargo hold and Simon gets all upset and chases him, but Jayne puts Simon in a headlock. Mal gets to Simon’s cargo and opens it and kicks the lid off and there’s a lot of steam coming out aaaaaand the cargo is a naked woman curled up in the fetal position, seemingly on some kind of life support or in cryogenic suspension or something or whatever. “Huh,” Mal says.

Simon says he needs to check her vitals before she wakes up, and Mal is all sarcastic and accusatory, presuming that Simon is basically either selling her into slavery or keeping her as a slave. Then she wakes up. She jumps out of the crate and falls all over the place and she’s shivering and crying and shaking; Simon runs over and tells her he’s there, tells her “they’re gone” (whoever they are), and that she’s safe, that the two of them are safe. They hug, in that way of people running away from something terrible and embracing some notion of safety. Her name is River.

Mal asks what the hell is going on, Simon tells him she’s his sister.

Cut to a room where all of them are meeting up. Simon’s telling them his story; brief cut to a shot of him bringing River to the infirmary, where she really does not seem to want to be. He talks about how he’s very smart, was considered gifted, but wants them to fully understand him when he says River makes him look like “an idiot child.” We see him giving River a shot and her eyes flicker manically all over the place; back to the meeting room, Simon’s eyes light up while he talks about her. Says that everything came naturally to her “like breathing does to us.” He’s talking about her in the past tense, in this way that has the feel of a eulogy.

River had gone to a special government school when she was fourteen; she wrote letters at first, but they dwindled. Then Simon got a letter in code: “They’re hurting us. Get me out.”

Simon’s nearly crying for most of the time he’s talking. The scene cuts to a quick shot of him holding River’s hand while she sleeps. So we find out that it took him a while to figure out what to do, how to proceed, but finally Simon got some underground-types to get her out of the school in cryo and get her to Persephone. Which gets us to now. The underground guys said the government had been experimenting on her brain.

SO ANYWAY. Mal breaks back into the situation at hand. Kidnapped federal agent, fugitive, stolen government goods, the fact that they know the Alliance has some info on them, but they don’t know what or how muc. “What about us?” Simon asks, “us” as in himself and River rather than the collective “us.” Mal tells him it’s contingent on whether Kaylee lives or not, basically saying that if she does he’ll let them off at Whitefall (wherever/whatever that is), and, if she doesn’t (he implies), out the airlock they go. Jayne wants to know why they haven’t killed Dobson. They all start bickering about stuff. Wash (Tudyk) has another great line with ”can we maybe vote on the whole murdering people issue?” Everyone keeps talking over each other and bickering, but then Mal says something in Chinese and they all shut up. Mal basically says it is what it is, but Inara says that Simon and River couldn’t make it in Whitefall and that she’s leaving if Mal throws them out. Mal goes quiet for a long few seconds and says “Maybe it’s best you do. You ain’t a part of this business.” Mal walks away and Simon follows him, asking what their business is, and basically calls Mal a sellout Alliance errand-boy, says he’d do anything for a pat on the head, so then Mal (again) punches him in the face. It’s a good, loud punch.

So now we’re in a holding cell or something with Mal and Jayne, where they’ve got Dobson tied up. Mal presses Dobson for info, but then leaves Jayne to get information from him. Jayne’s theoretically the brute-type-dude; he’s the big guy with the big knife. Dobson tells him that the Alliance is never going to stop coming after them, coming after River, that she’s an invaluable commodity. Dobson says they know everything about the ship and the crew and Jayne can tell that he’s lying. Dobson offers Jayne a bribe, enough to buy a ship, and Jayne asks if that means betraying the captain. Dobson says it does, and Jayne makes this inscrutable face and then it cuts to the next scene.

Mal goes up to see Wash. There’s a ship tracking them, following them, but it’s not Alliance. It’s an out-of-operation model of ship. Wash scans it and says some technical stuff about the ship, stuff that’s all wrong. “Reavers,” Mal says. This is not good news.

Mal makes an announcement, says they’re passing the Reaver ship. Hoping they can pass unnoticed. Shots of everyone looking solemn or scared or their own variations on this; Book is praying over Kaylee, Jayne is getting out his gun stash. The Reavers are bad news. “Men gone savage on the edge of space,” says Simon when Zoe asks what he knows about Reavers, like they’re kids’ scary campfire stories. Zoe’s description of what the Reavers would do if they boarded can pretty much be interchanged with whatever the most horrible thing you can think of is. I’d rather not get into the specifics. Bad news bears indeed.

I’m not complaining, but this is a very, very long episode of television.

Inara has a syringe of something, but she’s keeping it in a case. Jayne is loading a gun; you can tell he’s worried, though he puts up his best attempt at a tough front. Wash and Zoe and Mal just watch as the Reaver ship approaches.

The ship passes them by.

Mal’s in the infirmary now, looking over River, and Kaylee wakes up. She says she’s doing well, a-okay, she says, but she can’t feel the lower half of her body. She says that Simon’s a nice man, and that Mal’s a nice man, which Mal quietly denies. “I’m a mean old man,” he says, and Kaylee says that Simon wasn’t going to let her die. She tells him he has to remember that it’s nobody’s fault and that he has to have faith in people. The two of them are holding hands, but she slips back into unconsciousness and her hand slips from his.

Cut to Inara’s room, or her shuttle, or whatever it is. She’s with Simon, giving him medical supplies. Vaccines. He says that anything helps, that the infirmary’s supplies are rudimentary. They talk about how they’re all just lost in the woods, and Mal comes in and says how the woods are the only place he can see a clear path. Mal and Inara exchange some weird, sexual-innuendo-filled landlord-tenant banter, which is a phrase I never thought I’d see put together but now it’s there, so there it is.

Simon left at some point during the aforementioned banter, and Mal comes out after him and they talk in the hallway/corridor thing. Mal says how Simon doesn’t seem to understand that the lives of every person on the ship hang in the balance of what happens with Dobson, and that it’s Simon’s responsibility to deal with that. Mal says that Simon doesn’t have much time. Mal is stonefaced. Kaylee’s dead.

Simon backs away and runs down the stairs like a kid in guilty shock who just killed someone in a hit-and-run. Slow-motion, we see Book walking for a moment, and Simon running, running to the infirmary, and there’s Book, standing over Kaylee. And Kaylee smiles and waves to Simon through the window. “The man’s psychotic,” Simon says  – cut to Mal and Zoe and Wash and Jayne laughing in the cockpit. “You are psychotic,” Wash says to Mal. “You should’ve seen his face; I’m a bad man,” Mal says, laughing, but Kaylee’s okay and Mal admits that Simon’s a good doctor. Kaylee is okay. Those thirty seconds played my heart like a goddamn fiddle.

So now, back to business.Mal has a call with Patience on the console’s little video-phone, and she says she’ll deal with them because Mal was upfront about the fact that the bars were imprinted. Patience says she isn’t scared of the Alliance. You know it’s Whedon (or Dawson’s Creek or Gilmore Girls) when one of the most prevalent words in a recap is “banter,” so I take no responsibility for my overuse of it, but anyway Mal and Patience banter a bit over the whole Patience-shot-Mal thing. They finish Skyping and Mal says she’s going to shoot him again. He seems like he’s being funny, but then he gets really pissed and knocks over a tray or something. Everyone else pretty much corroborates his thought. Zoe tries to talk Mal through other options for selling the cargo, but none are viable. She starts to say something about trying their luck and he goes into a whole thing about what their luck has gotten them in the last few days. That luck doesn’t get anyone anywhere, that they’re going to deal with shit.

Voiceover of Mal saying that they’ll get through this while, on the screen, Dobson’s cutting through the duct tape around his wrists.

We see Serenity coming up on Whitefall  -  we’re told it’s Whitefall by the text on the screen that says “Whitefall.” The ship lands, and Whitefall (or at least the part where they are) is this valley-desert type place. It’s a Texas-looking kind of place, or something, it’s Southwest-looking, though I know nothing about Texas or the Southwest. Mal and Zoe and Jayne disembark, and Mal and Zoe look over their settings and it’s a clear Serenity Valley parallel , could easily be the same filming location –  “Nice place for an ambush,” Zoe says. Jayne scampers up with a bar of the cargo, says the rest is buried. We get another awesome moment like his nothing-math moment, where he’s testing out his comm and says he can hear Mal loud and clear. “I’m standing right here,” Mal says.

Anyway, Mal’s overlooking this valley and goes through all the strategy he’s anticipating Patience will use, and he figures it out so quickly right down to the sniper locations that we get this snapshot of his mind, simultaneously this brilliant military strategist and someone who could really be an astonishingly powerful criminal. But he’s not. He’s a criminal, but he’s not really a criminal. He’s an outlaw, and this is the first time I’ve ever fully comprehended the difference (though it’s only a tenuous grasp I’ve got on it). Patience – Patience is a criminal; that’s how you get to rule half of a border moon. She rolls up with her posse on horses, and Mal and Patience go back and forth about the exchange; he tells her the cargo is buried and tosses her the bar he brought with him. She unwraps it and bites into it – it’s not a precious metal at all, it’s food, a bar of pure nutrients, protein and vitamins and immunizations – but now she knows the cargo is real, knows that he’s got it, knows where it is, knows that her crew of six has Mal and Zoe outnumbered, and Mal knows what she’s thinking. “I’d appreciate it y’all turn around and ride out first,” Mal says. Of course Patience has no intention of doing that – Patience tells him she has a policy of never losing any money she doesn’t need to, and one of her men sets his rifle on Mal. He’s got a top hat on, and Mal says “I like your hat” and a bullet whizzes through the hat – after all, Jayne did get hold of the sniper rifles and had his comm working loud and clear. There’s a shootout, and Zoe gets hit and Mal gets grazed in the arm and Jayne keeps on shooting and they all keep on shooting until the cronies are all taken out. And then there’s just Patience, hiding behind her horse. Mal shoots the horse, which is upsetting but that’s always upsetting (and inevitable) in shootouts involving horses. He stands over her, gun in her face, and takes his money. “I do the job, and then I get paid,” he says.

Four things really matter in the scene:

  • The scenario plays out exactly as Mal anticipated (though he and Zoe both get shot, but are fine).
  • The cargo that seemed like bars of precious metal, that all this trouble has been over, is food in metallic wrapping (which tells us a lot about the situation the populace of the 26th century is living in, and makes Book’s trove of food all the more interesting).
  • Jayne momentarily sets the rifle’s sights on Mal during the exchange, though he could just be watching things unfold.
  • Most importantly, Mal doesn’t kill Patience. He doesn’t take her money and take back the cargo. He takes his pay, he leaves her purchase, he lets her go. Criminals consolidate power, while outlaws are just trying to find their way in the wilderness.

But, meanwhile, crazy things are happening aboard the ship. It all plays out in parallel, but that doesn’t exactly translate too well to a written recap. So we see all this stuff on the ship happening while all the stuff on the ground is happening  – you get what I’m saying. Dobson  – the fed  –  has cut himself loose; we know this.

Dobson has cut himself loose. Book goes to the door of that room or cell or whatever it is where Dobson is being held, to help him out somehow, offer some kind of company or support. We don’t know what, not really; Book opens the door just slightly and Dobson clocks him in the head with a big flashlight (or something). Clocks him repeatedly and drags him off somewhere. Dobson goes into the cargo room where the passengers’ luggage is; he tries to send out a signal on this little gadget, but there’s no cell reception on Whitefall. So he just grabs a couple of guns and keeps looking all angry. Cut to infirmary, where River wakes up and is looking for Simon. She starts to wander off, but apparently Dobson was just waiting at the door like a creep and pops out and takes her hostage (obviously). Kaylee, bedridden, looks understandably freaked out, and Dobson apologizes for shooting her before but also threatens that if she makes a sound, the next one goes through her throat, which kind of really cancels out the apology. Anyway, Dobson’s got his guns out and he’s got River.

Wash and Simon are chatting in the cockpit, and Wash says Simon might want to see if Mal could drop him off somewhere else, somewhere other than Whitefall. Simon says not to worry about him, and Wash says he always worries when Zoe’s out doing her gunslinger thing. Then Kaylee comes over the radio and tells them that Dobson took River, and Simon runs off to try to deal with the situation somehow. Wash is upset about something in the cockpit, something he sees on the console. Simon gets down into the belly of the ship, the hold, whatever, and he sees Dobson and River. Dobson pushes a big-conspicuous-red-button and the doors start to open and Simon jumps over this railing and falls a full story to tackle Dobson; understandably that kind of waylays Simon for a minute, but River gets out of Dobson’s hold. Dobson drops his gun and River backs away from it like it’s a rabid animal staring her down.

Oh, something I forgot to mention, the moment where the two parallel scenes start to mingle back together. Once things are back under control in the gulch situation, Jayne runs down to Mal and Zoe with what’s clearly the news that Wash was so worried about. Reavers. The Reavers are back, because of course they are. For some reason, I’d figured they were more a space-problem and less of a planetary one, but apparently not. By the way, the Reaver ship, running on so little as it does, kind of just hurtles and coasts through space like an oceanbound ship that takes the water as it comes, maneuvering frantically and haphazardly.

Anyway, Simon and Dobson roll around on the floor a bit, scrambling for the guns, and Simon gets one first. He sets it on Dobson when Wash comes over the radio with the Reaver news. Dobson starts working his negotiator thing, being the lawman that he is, going in a moment’s notice from hostage-taker to hostage-negotiator. Wash says they’ll be taking off in a minute. The Reaver ship tumults and thrusts its way planetbound. They’re just waiting on Mal and Zoe and Jayne, who are cowboying back on Patience’s cronies’ horses. Dobson keeps trying to reason with Simon; “There’s nowhere you can go where they won’t find you,” he says (paraphrased, maybe). Dobson says that nobody will hurt River as long as Simon doesn’t hurt him, and Simon gets distracted for a second by the sound of the trio approaching on their horses. Dobson gets the gun from the floor, gets River again, shoots at Simon (misses).

Dobson’s got River at gunpoint. The lawman starts making his threats. Mal walks in, strolls really, drops Dobson with one bullet without breaking his stride. Book stands in a doorway, watching; Inara looks over the railing, watching. Simon keeps his gun trained on Dobson, lowers it, runs over to River and she reacts to the gun in his hand the same as when she saw the one on the floor earlier. Zoe tells Wash they’re good to go, and Mal and Jayne scramble to toss Dobson’s body out through the door into the dust of Whitefall as the ramp pulls up and they run in, just barely, though with a hurried relative calm, sliding through the closing door.

Zoe, Mal, and Jayne scramble to the cockpit. The Reavers are close and they’re all talking at once and Wash asks if he could just get some quiet for a minute, and says he needs Kaylee in the engine room. Jayne runs off, and Mal goes out into the hall and there’s Inara. The two of them have a nice moment, and his hand rests on his shoulder for a second, and there’s this tenderness between them; he tells her to get her shuttle ready and to load up the passengers so that they can all escape. She says she’s not leaving him behind, but he says to go and makes his way back to the cockpit.

“I don’t mean to alarm anybody,” Wash says, voice intense but steady and calm and unwavering, “but I think we’re being followed.” The Reaver ship is just all up on them, flying all around them, and the Serenity is trailing some bad looking grey smoke.

Back with the passengers (and Jayne), Book says he can help Kaylee in the engine room; Simon starts to ask what he can do and Book says to keep River safe. Jayne carries Kaylee to the engine room with Book close behind. She starts giving the two of them some instructions.

In the cockpit, Mal and Wash talk about the Reavers, talk about their flight patterns and what they could possibly do and what the likely outcomes are. Mal says Wash has to give him “an Ivan.” Wash says he’ll see what he can do, and we’re given the impression that this is something fun and awesome and reckless and dangerous and awesome. He asks Kaylee what she’d think of pulling a Crazy Ivan, and she says she’s always wanted to try one. She gives Jayne some instructions and says they’re simple, and he opens this thing up and it’s a beeping tangle of wires and blinking lights.

There are a few suspenseful moments, waiting it out to see whether the engine will be ready in time. Kaylee radios that it is. “Here’s something you can’t do,” Wash says, and it seems like he might almost start giggling. He pulls a lever and the engines  – the exterior ones  –  flip all over the place, and Serenity pivots and revolves and flies under the Reaver ship and Wash yells “now!” and Jayne and Book push some buttons and pull some levers and Serenity kicks into totally serious mode and does the whole blastoff-ignition thing and catapults away and leaves the Reaver ship in its fiery wake. “We’re good, people,” Mal says. “We’re out of the woods.” Everyone looks relieved and Jayne starts jumping and cheering and Kaylee says “that’s my girl” to the ship. Zoe asks Mal to take the wheel, and then she and Wash leave to do sexy stuff. Mal sits in the pilot seat and smiles a little bit and pushes some buttons; the engines flare and the Serenity drifts off into the stars.

Cut to Inara’s room, where she’s washing the cut on Book’s head from when Dobson hit him with that flashlight. He says he doesn’t need the doctor, and she says he’ll be alright, and he says “I didn’t say that.” He launches into a troubled little speech, out of the abbey for two days and he’s fallen into this grey area of morality and lawlessness and already can’t quite distinguish right and wrong like had recently been so clear. He starts to tear up  –  “I think I’m on the wrong ship,” he says, and Inara says that maybe he’s exactly where he ought to be.

It’s this beautiful scene, this beautiful moment, the stolid cleric choking up, his faith being shaken, the prostitute  –  the companion  – as his confessor and his redeemer. He’s sitting and lowers his head, and she stands and puts her hand on his head in comfort, in blessing.

Simon tells River that the shot he gave her will help her sleep and she says she’s already been sleeping for so long. She touches his face, unclear as to whether its his face that she’s marveling at, his presence, or his cuts and bruises. She says she didn’t think he’d come for her and he says “well then, you’re a dummy,” and they hug.

Jayne and Mal are in the cockpit. Jayne is saying that Simon and River are too big a liability, says they should get rid of them. Mal doesn’t accuse, but speculates on the possibility that Jayne gave Dobson the razor. He asks why Jayne didn’t turn on him, and Jayne says the money wasn’t good enough. Mal asks what happens when it is, and Jayne says that’ll be an interesting day. The two of them are smiling, smiling in this strange, knowing way. I don’t know how we’re supposed to feel about this, but it feels uncomfortably right somehow.

Simon comes in as Jayne is leaving, asks Mal if he wants him to check out the gunshot wound. Mal looks at his arm as if he’s forgotten he’d been shot. “Just a graze,” he says. Simon asks where Mal’s going to dump him and River, and Mal says they’re safest on the move. “And we’re always on the move,” he says. Mal offers Simon a spot as the ship’s medic, and Simon asks how he can know that Mal won’t kill him in his sleep.

“You don’t know me, son. So let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.”

“Are you always this sentimental?” Simon asks, and Mal says it was a good day. Simon goes through the laundry list of things wrong with the day; “We’re still flying,” Mal says. Simon says that that’s not much.

“It’s enough.”

An Introduction to the Firefly Newbie Recap

firefly

This post is the introduction to my Firefly Newbie Recap series. In case it isn’t entirely self-explanatory, I’m watching Joss Whedon’s Firefly for the first time and recapping each episode. Recaps will contain spoilers, obviously.

I like Joss Whedon; I like him a lot. But I’ve never been one of his die-hard fans. I’ve seen only scattered episodes of Buffy and have never seen Dollhouse. I read his runs on Astonishing X-Men and Runaways. I loved The Avengers. I was borderline-obsessed with Doctor Horrible for quite some time, and still have the soundtrack on heavy rotation. I fell asleep during Much Ado About Nothing, but I’d had a bottle and a half of champagne and it was one in the morning, so don’t hold that against me or the film.

I have never watched Firefly, and I’ve come to understand that this is one of the most glaring voids in my life and my geek-cred (though I don’t put much stock in “cred” of any sort).

Anyway, I’m remedying this situation now. It’ll be short but sweet, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

[Also worth noting that this is my first attempt at a TV recap.]

On Staying Unpublished

There is an insane proliferation of literary magazines these days. With the rise of easy web development, Twitter, and Submittable, anybody can start a litmag. (Please note that I’m not downplaying the dedication and effort that this takes.)

As a result, we writers have found ourselves in a weird situation. There are so many literary magazines and so many great up-and-coming writers on Twitter, and so many of these are one and the same — it seems the writers are all editors of some sort, and being supportive means being all up in their litmag-business. So now it seems that writers (or at least writers who actively engage online with other writers) are in a constant state of trying to quantify themselves with submission numbers and acceptance numbers and guest-editing.

Well, I respect all these people and I think it’s great that there are so many outlets for writers. Truly, I do. But it’s something that I have no interest in whatsoever.

Since July or so, I’ve been writing in a notebook. I’ve been writing fragments, whatever pops into my head, not full stories but things that assemble themselves into full stories over the course of months (or years; it remains to be seen). But I don’t care if they’re full stories because I’m writing. There have been so many times that I’ve quit (not altogether and not intentionally, but I’d fall into a dead slump) because I don’t want to write for other people. I want other people to read my writing, of course (who doesn’t?), but I don’t want to write for other people as I’m writing. And I don’t want to rush something to be a finished product. I don’t want to put something together and slap a title on it and make it look all nicely formatted (or typed, for that matter) just to put it out there.

Writing is personal; writing at its best is deeply personal. It’s hard. It’s so much a part of you that it’s like a horcrux (minus the killing someone). There was a time (a long time — millennia, really) where it took forever to get your writing out there. It took so much honing and crafting and learning and desperately stretching to wrap your brain and your heart around things. And now it’s different. It’s different in a way that’s good for a lot of people, and kudos to them, but it’s not for me. I’m perfectly happy keeping my words locked in a Moleskine for nobody to see.

I love the social media writing community and I love technology and the Internet and whatnot, but there are things that just aren’t for me. We don’t have to accept the new standards for what it means to be a writer in the 21st century. If that’s your thing, go for it — just remember that it’s not a requirement, not a prerequisite, not some necessary secret handshake to get into the writer’s club. Staying unpublished doesn’t make you not a writer, and getting published doesn’t magically turn you into the writer you want to be — those are both things that go back to the papyrus.

I’m an anachronism, and I’m okay with that.