“When you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
OK, so the Internet lied to me. It’s this episode, episode 3, that’s called Bushwhacked; episode 2 should have been The Train Job. I went back and changed it. Damn you, Internet.
We’re back with Firefly, by the way.
So Bushwhacked I liked, despite all the ‘orrible violence (there is much ‘orrible violence). Our ka-tet finds an abandoned spacecraft drifting in the endless black, and promptly decides to rob it, obviously. But something terrible has happened on board, and it’s pretty inconvenient that an Alliance space station has just rocked up, too, since the crew of the Serenity have reasons to avoid the law.
Bushwhacked makes a desultory effort at being a kind of ghost story – River wanders around muttering about voices while the crew explores an uncannily empty spacecraft – but this is difficult to sustain in a world so obviously non-supernatural. There’s only one thing that can have happened there, and everyone knows it, including the audience. No, the episode is good for what happens after the inevitable discovery of ‘orrible violence: capture by the Alliance, the after-effects of torture, the testing of the crew’s loyalty. There’s a great sequence in which Serenity‘s crew is interviewed by Alliance officers; the camera cuts between characters, showing up a number of different responses to questioning – hostility, confidence, openness, silence – while also pointing up what links them: loyalty to each other. It’s a fairly common technique in, for example, police procedurals, but while those tend to use it for revealing information, this is a way of exploring character and motive. The episode is strong in this respect: none of the crew is incompetent, but they all deal with stressful situations differently.
It doesn’t quite measure up to the first episode – there’s a disappointing example of the kind of suspense building (will Mal betray Simon and River? Of course not, but we have to think it) that gets subverted so well in the first episode – but it’s still good. Great, in fact. Why are there only 14 episodes of this?
L-space news: It’s Fall of Sauron Day today – or, for the pedantic among you, Tolkien Reading Day. I traumatised myself reading the very affecting “Leaf by Niggle”, which I can recommend as a very short, very lovely story if you’re looking for some lunch-break Tolkien.