Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Firefly

by | October 30, 2014 | Comments

There is a long, sad history of quality shows that struggled to survive the rigors of broadcast TV (Sports Night, Freaks & Geeks, Arrested Development). But one of the most frustrating examples has to be Joss Whedon‘s Firefly, a space western that most fans (known as Browncoats) would agree was cancelled far before its time.

Firefly

Firefly

What’s the premise? The show is about the crew of a small, run-down cargo ship (the Serenity) that’s just trying to get by on the fringes of a society that spans multiple worlds. The ship’s captain is Malcolm Reynolds (Castle‘s Nathan Fillion), a man who fought on the losing side of a civil war that mostly affected planets on the frontier. After that defeat, Mal bought the Serenity so that he could live on his own terms and not under the yoke of an Alliance he doesn’t believe in.

What’s it like? As creator Joss Whedon points out, the sequence in the opening credits where the Serenity flies low over galloping horses should give you a pretty good idea of what’s in store. It’s first and foremost a sci-fi action-adventure series with a lot of old west elements; think spaceships mixed with six-shooters, trains, covered wagons and horses. Many episodes find the Serenity crew taking on heists or smuggling jobs, so there are plenty of brawls, gunfights and chase scenes. The universe of Firefly is also surprisingly well-realized (arguably more so then some of the Star Trek series). As a reflection of the original world powers that colonized these new planets, we see a fair amount of East Asian-influenced costumes and set decor, and the dialogue — consistently sharp and helpful in defining the class system at play — is peppered with Mandarin phrases. And the show is smart about the way it shows future technology; for the most part, the day-to-day use of sci-fi gadgets is only common on the more cosmopolitan worlds in Firefly, whereas we don’t see them as much on the frontier.

Where can I see it? You can pick up the DVD or Blu-ray box sets, and it’s also available on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, and Vudu.

How long will it take? Sadly, there are only 14 episodes. The pilot was a two-hour special, so it’s only about a 15-hour commitment (or 17 hours, since you’ll undoubtedly want to see the feature film).

What do the critics think? When it aired, the critics were split, and many didn’t know what to make of it. After Buffy and Angel, this mixture of sci-fi and western elements wasn’t exactly comfortable for a lot of critics. At least one critic called the show a “vast disappointment,” but many at the time (and since) saw the show as something special. In one report of the show’s cancellation, Jason Snell at TeeVee.org called the show “absolutely brilliant.” With the benefit of hindsight, a lot of the critical reaction has been more balanced and similar to what Tasha Robinson wrote for The AV Club: “At its best, Firefly plants its feet where Whedon’s shows have always found solid ground, in creative plotting, experimental storytelling, sharp writing, and a cast that seems to love its work.” After years’ worth of reviews, the season is now Certified Fresh at 80 percent.

Why should I watch this? Firefly features well-defined but complicated characters, and that’s what will stick with you the most about this show. For instance, Mal’s past means he doesn’t have all that much respect for the finer points of law, but make no mistake, he does have a very definite sense of right and wrong. There’s a lot of Han Solo in Malcolm Reynolds, but there’s more than a little bit of Josey Wales, too. As you’d expect with an unrepentant outlaw, Mal’s crew is made up of mostly misfit types who that you’ll quickly feel a lot of affection for: Mal’s First Officer is a no-nonsense, former comrade-in-arms, and she’s married to their talented (and much-nonsense) pilot. Mal also employs a mercenary thug whose loyalty is defined by who will pay him the most, and his ship’s mechanic, who’s “kind of a floozy who wears her heart on her sleeve.” Their long-term passengers are a classy courtesan, a preacher with a mysterious past, and a high-society doctor on the run with his mentally unhinged sister. In the end, this is a show about how a diverse group of people comes together to function as a family.

What’s my next step? The obvious next step is to watch the feature film, Serenity, which answers some of the lingering questions about what happened to River Tam. And there are a handful of comics from Dark Horse, all of which are considered canon by fans (and Whedon himself). If you need more Joss Whedon TV goodness, you can get your fill with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you’re feeling really masochistic, you can try some other well-reviewed sci-fi shows that didn’t make it past their first seasons, such as Space: Above and Beyond, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Almost Human and The X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen.


Isn’t it time you checked out Firefly? Tell us why!


Tag Cloud

zombies Certified Fresh The Walking Dead FXX hispanic Polls and Games political drama television Family facebook Marathons Ovation Anna Paquin Teen Toys cats diversity vampires discovery San Diego Comic-Con crime thriller Amazon BET Disney IFC green book First Look Biopics VH1 south america biography Pride Month LGBTQ TBS ITV 2015 President medical drama Binge Guide OWN Oscars crime ESPN game of thrones E! APB Mary Poppins Returns binge 21st Century Fox cancelled TV shows Warner Bros. MTV Dark Horse Comics cinemax latino nature Hulu dragons cars SundanceTV Comedy supernatural Mary poppins AMC The CW movies Freeform Spike Martial Arts Ellie Kemper doctor who MSNBC IFC Films Shudder Infographic romance anthology Columbia Pictures justice league Musicals Paramount Network PBS NBC Chilling Adventures of Sabrina transformers witnail Cartoon Network Sony Pictures ABC Sundance Heroines YouTube Box Office Grammys Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt travel Sneak Peek children's TV toy story Reality Rocketman Film TLC comiccon cancelled TV series Disney Plus WGN Emmy Nominations batman YouTube Premium Lionsgate Awards Amazon Prime Writers Guild of America book Extras El Rey crossover HBO Max Universal Christmas elevated horror war First Reviews Tarantino Animation Spring TV 45 Epix TCM American Society of Cinematographers aliens spanish language social media Fall TV Nat Geo anime Country mockumentary Acorn TV RT21 unscripted BBC canceled Britbox blaxploitation Fantasy cooking 2019 MCU Nominations Set visit Comedy Central Rocky spain science fiction VICE DGA Mary Tyler Moore DirecTV Action strong female leads Quiz Countdown RT History harry potter Brie Larson Showtime TCA CNN Crackle cancelled Valentine's Day Holidays BBC America Star Trek PaleyFest robots 2018 A&E Cosplay renewed TV shows Vudu GLAAD joker Marvel based on movie CBS police drama DC Universe teaser cults Musical Chernobyl Mystery Year in Review sports politics Masterpiece 20th Century Fox Lucasfilm HBO Emmys See It Skip It Star Wars thriller talk show Cannes ABC Family CW Seed FOX historical drama Superheroes Video Games psychological thriller what to watch Lifetime casting stand-up comedy FX sequel DC Comics Shondaland DC streaming service Sundance Now award winner Fox News sitcom X-Men The Witch Bravo Premiere Dates Peacock TV Land SXSW disaster theme song Thanksgiving true crime free movies Netflix hist Women's History Month GoT Best and Worst Esquire New York Comic Con technology Character Guide Disney Channel CBS All Access Creative Arts Emmys Adult Swim Tomatazos Comic Book psycho Calendar zombie Super Bowl miniseries CMT cancelled television Awards Tour jamie lee curtis streaming Starz Film Festival ghosts Election Sci-Fi Pop singing competition Stephen King Disney streaming service Opinion NYCC Amazon Prime Video dc Winners dramedy Food Network Interview TCA 2017 Paramount adventure Elton John 007 TruTV animated Horror spider-man docudrama kids USA Network Trailer mutant 2016 richard e. Grant ratings dceu SDCC Rock game show Western Winter TV Trophy Talk tv talk YouTube Red Drama finale Music Watching Series Ghostbusters Mudbound spinoff The Arrangement festivals History Spectrum Originals Podcast crime drama Comics on TV Syfy Apple TV+ TNT serial killer slashers video quibi TIFF Nickelodeon cops Pirates E3 YA Superheroe Schedule WarnerMedia Walt Disney Pictures series Red Carpet Tumblr period drama zero dark thirty halloween composers space TV revenge Pet Sematary USA Summer LGBT spy thriller 24 frames Kids & Family Arrowverse 71st Emmy Awards Pixar Reality Competition TV renewals Television Academy Logo Captain marvel Apple comic National Geographic Rom-Com Song of Ice and Fire canceled TV shows Trivia 2017 GIFs adaptation golden globes boxoffice natural history Photos Black Mirror Mindy Kaling foreign