Hey guys! It’s…not Sunday. However, it is time for the next episode of Firefly, “Ariel.”
This episode starts out with a cozy, domestic little scene in the dining area of Serenity, with Jayne cleaning his guns, Kaylee and Inara playing a game, River and Simon having something to eat (or not), and Wash and Zoe bickering in a friendly way. Mal walks in and says some blustery Mal stuff and so on, and then BAM – River attacks Jayne with a carving knife.
Short aside here: I actually really love it that Jayne backhands River in this scene. There’s a tendency in television to never have sympathetic male characters (which Jayne more or less is) hit women under any circumstances. Now, I’m a big proponent of the general attitude that hitting people is wrong, particularly if they are people who can’t defend themselves. However, I find it offensive that all women are automatically slotted into the “can’t defend themselves” category, and on a show with a fair quantity of violence, having your male leads engage in what would quickly become dangerously sexist behavior is absurd. So, yeah. I like that Jayne belts River one, because that is a reasonable response to getting sliced across the chest, regardless of who is doing the slicing, y’know?
Okay, onward! River’s brief foray into t-shirt reconstruction sets up the plot, giving Simon a reason to organize a heist that’ll give the crew a shot at some very lucrative goods in the form of medicines – and Simon a chance to take a look at River’s brain via a nifty hologram thingy. There follows a montage of the planning and preparation process that has some really entertaining bits to it, as well as some very thinky things. Jennifer had this to say via email:
The scene where Simon’s teaching Mal, Zoe and Jayne their paramedic lines is hilarious, but I love the dignity the actors give it. In a literate society, I often forget that it’s quite a luxury to be able to pick up medical terms from TV, books or the internet. This scene always reminds me to appreciate that privilege – in the Firefly ‘verse, it appears to be available only to the wealthy (Tams) and those schooled in specific trades (Inara and Book). And the same was true in our society until last century. (Yet another example of the power of pop culture to spread education – or miseducation.)
Of course, once they get to the hospital, things start going wrong, then badly wrong, mostly because Jayne turns out to be as deceiving as a low-down dirty deceiver. Some mayhem ensues, Mal, Zoe, Wash, and Kaylee think quick on their feet, and the day is saved and everyone is happy, hooray! Well, everyone but Jayne, who gets a wrench to the face and a serious death threat.
So, things I like about this episode! I like that we get to see Simon being as smart as he claims to be. His plan is really well-thought out, and we see him in action as a doctor, too. Simultaneously, we see how terrible he is at reading Jayne, which seems in keeping with his generally poor social skills. It’s a good episode for adding some depth to his character.
River gets more interesting in “Ariel,” too. We see her doing and saying more than just one or two inexplicable and wacky things (not a lot more, but still), and as Jennifer says, “There are a lot of great scenes in this one between River and Simon, showing her affection and concern for him. This says something about River rather than something about her mental illness.” It’s a relief to see her being a character instead of just a plot device.
I gotta say, though, that Jayne’s moral not-quite-journey is my favorite part of this episode, character-wise. Is it just me, or is he actually the most complex character in the show? It could be my deep appreciation for Adam Baldwin’s biceps talking, I suppose.
“Ariel” is pretty short on things that irritate me. Plot-wise, I find it frustrating that we don’t see any further development with the guys with blue hands, or the Blue Sun angle (I know some of this comes up in comics, yes), but that’s not really a fault of this episode, which was clearly meant to be foreshadowing something that didn’t get to happen because of the cancellation of the show.
The one thing that really makes my teeth grind is the way Mal reframes Jayne’s betrayal as against him rather than against Simon and River, and I’m not sure just why. Maybe one of you will have some thoughts on this.
How about it?
Next week, it’s time for “War Stories.”