It’s Sunday – time to chat about another episode of Firefly! This week, we were watching “The Train Job,” the first episode that was actually aired. This episode starts off with a scene in a bar that establishes a couple of things:
- Mal has a tip on a new job, handed off to him by a bellydancer who’s wearing 1990’s style flashing raver jewelry (seriously, I owned those bracelets).
- It’s “Unification Day,” when the Alliance won the war that Mal and Zoe were on the losing side of (and in which Jayne did not fight. I wonder what he was up to? Probably no good…).
- Mal, Zoe, and Jayne know their way around a bar fight.
Wash rescues them from a potentially bad end to said fight, and some establishing scenes take place showing who all the characters are, their relationships to each other, and what their positions are on the ship. Then they head to a meeting with the episode’s employer/villain, Niska, who wants to hire them to steal some Alliance cargo from a train. Mal accepts the job, though he is unsettled by Niska’s reputation (and the body Niska shows him to cement that reputation).
The crew works up a plan, begins the heist, and things go predictably wrong, leaving Mal and Zoe stuck on the train, and Jayne with a bullet wound on Serenity. On the ship, the crew argue about whether they should make the rendezvous with Niska’s men and hand over the cargo, or wait for Mal and Zoe, culminating in Simon drugging Jayne to remove him from command. Meanwhile, Mal and Zoe learn that the cargo they’ve stolen is medicine that’s desperately needed by the downtrodden locals.
Inara springs Mal and Zoe, they get back to the ship, and Niska’s men arrive just as they’re discussing returning the medicine. Oh noes! Our heroes win the resulting fight, and take the cargo back to town, where the sheriff and Mal exchange some very noble sentiments. Then they try to return Niska’s money, with somewhat mixed success, and the episode ends with some creeeepy foreshadowing about the shadowy people who want to recapture River. Cue end credits!
A lot of the ideas we talked about last week come up in this episode, too. For example, the whole thing with whether or not Inara’s job is a respectable one, and Mal walking into her shuttle uninvited, etc.
Something a little more specific to this episode that I think is interesting is the very Western – by which I mean the genre of cowboys and the frontier and whatnot – flavor of the heist. There’s a train robbery, a plain-dealing sheriff, a mining town with ramshackle buildings, a really kind of amazing quantity of dust… The Western genre influence on Firefly is never clearer than in “The Train Job.”
Also pretty clear in this episode are the parallels between the war Mal and Zoe fought in and the American Civil War. Which is, y’know, not unproblematic. As Jenn said to me in an email, “this makes me uncomfortable because we’re supposed to assume the browncoats fight for O Noble Freedom, but I feel more like somebody’s been watching Gone With The Wind too much lately.”
On the squee side, OMG, how cool is Zoe? So cool. I love her dry sense of humor, and her fight scenes are awesome. Jenn pointed out to me that part of what she finds appealing about Zoe as a fighter is not just that she’s competent, but also that the portrayal of her skillz isn’t gendered – there’s nothing cutesy or, like, femme-fatale-y about it.
And for my ridiculously shallow comment this week – I want Inara’s red dress with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. I don’t even actually like the color red that much, you guys, but apparently this show makes it work for me.
What are your thoughts on “The Train Job”?
Next week’s episode is “Bushwhacked” – I hope I’ll see you all again then for more discussion.