Firefly Premiered 11 Years Ago Today, It’s About Time We Recapped It

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After angering the Internet by saying Firefly shouldn’t come back for another season, we’ve decided to make Glen go back and watch the show. Here’s the first of a series of weekly of recaps starting with episode one: “Serenity.”

More than a few people have pointed out that there’s some debate over the order of Firefly episodes, and even whether or not watching them in order matters. These recaps will go in the order they’re listed on Netflix, because it seems like the easiest way to go about it.

On to the recap!

It is a period of civil war…

Why are they called "Browncoats" and not "Redvests?"

Why are they called “Browncoats” and not “Redvests?”

Firefly starts with a bang. Literally. The first frame you see is of an explosion. There’s clearly a war. People are shouting, and running, and shooting. You know– war stuff. A futuristic-looking ship flies low overhead, so it looks like we’re in the future.

Within a minute we see our hero, Han Solo Malcolm Reynolds.

"We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty."

“We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.”

Mal immediately starts screaming something about air support, and from the sound of things, it’s not going well for their side. There’s an inspiring speech to rally the troops, and everyone jumps back into the action. Everyone except for Bendis, because Bendis is scared.

In his first show of poor decision making, Mal uses a big gun to shoot down an enemy aircraft as it’s flying right towards him. The craft then begins crashing right towards him, and he has to get himself and Zoe, his apparent second in command out of the way before they’re crushed or blown up by the explosion.

They dive back into the bunker and more people are dead. Bendis is still scared, but Mal reassures him they’re both too pretty to die. It sounds like air support is coming, but Zoe informs Mal that it isn’t happening and that they’ve been ordered to lay down arms.

Mal looks out on the battlefield as his side loses, and Bendis, who isn’t so pretty after all, gets shot in the head.

Poor Bendis.

We jump six years into the future, and now we’re in space. Mal, Zoe, and their crew are on a salvage mission that gets interrupted by the Alliance — the same Alliance they fought six years ago. As the Alliance ship gets near they shut down their engines and hope for the best as they hustle to get their stolen loot back to the ship.

It’s here that we see the rest of the crew. Wash, the pilot, is playing with toy dinosaurs while the crew is salvaging. Jayne, resident tough guy with dialogue that sounds like what Chewbacca was probably saying, is out with Mal and Zoe and is there to carry stuff and dispense explosives. Also on board the ship is Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic, who scurries to shut things down when given the order.

The Imperial Alliance ship notices Mal’s vessel– a “Firefly class” (ooooooohhhhh) and would have engaged them, but the big dumb Alliance is fooled by “The Crybaby,” a decoy satellite the crew has positioned 13 clicks away to fool the Alliance into thinking a personnel carrier is in trouble. The Alliance takes the bait, and the Firefly crew is in the clear.

Oh noes! The loot they stole has some kind of mark on it, and now Mal is in a bad mood. They set a course for a nearby planet to pick up some passengers and sell their marked loot. Wash and Zoe, who are a couple, talk about getting some time off when Mal interrupts.

The three of them start talking about picking up “The Ambassador” who turns out to be a prostitute Companion named Inara. After a scene of Inara and a client, she phones in to the Serenity to arrange a pickup and the crew lands on Persephone.

For a show set in the future, Firefly takes a lot of its aesthetic from old westerns. Science fiction as a genre pulls a lot of themes from westerns, so this isn’t as groundbreaking as some people make it out to be, but Firefly clearly ramps up the effort as Persephone looks like something straight out of Deadwood, but with spaceships.

Mal, Zoe, and Jayne go to meet Badger, who sadly isn’t the same Badger as the one in Breaking Bad. This Badger has a tie on, but no shirt, just a vest and a jacket. He’s clearly some kind of crazy person.

Never trust a guy with a tie but no shirt collar. Even in the future.

Never trust a guy with a tie but no shirt collar. Even in the future.

Everyone says some clever stuff about the situation with the Alliance ship that spotted the Serenity. Everyone gets upset. A fight almost breaks out, but then everyone puts their guns away and Badger spouts some exposition about Mal’s place in the world after the war.

Kaylee manages to talk a preacher named Book into being one of their passengers by being adorable and waving around a little parasol.


Mal, Zoe, and Jayne argue about what to do with the stolen cargo they couldn’t sell to Badger, and Mal makes it very clear that they have to sell it in order to have enough money to fuel the ship and get away from the Alliance. Stakes! The plan is to go sell the goods to a mysterious woman named Patience who shot Mal one time, and people keep reminding him of that throughout the rest of the episode.

We also hear the word “Reavers” for the first time, and since Jayne’s afraid of them we’re supposed to understand they’re very bad and scary.

When Mal and friends get back to the Serenity, Kaylee is helping more passengers board the ship. We quickly see a guy named Dobson (We’ve got Dobson here!) get on board before we’re introduced to Simon– a well dressed guy who looks kind of like a jerk. Mal clearly doesn’t like him from the start, and neither should we. Boo Simon!

Inara shows up in her shuttle that she docks with Serenity. The ship takes off and we get some “getting to know you” scenes of the crew and new passengers. Mal is giving them the rundown, and it comes out that he doesn’t like Book either. Why so grumpy, Mal?

To cover the real reason they’re going out of everyone’s way to sell stolen goods with some weird mark on them, Mal tells the passengers they’ve been forced by the Alliance to drop off medical supplies on Whitefall. No one seems to buy it.

Inara meets Book and Mal treats her poorly and tries to make her feel bad about a Companion in front of the preacher. Mal isn’t very nice.

The crew and passengers are having dinner and Book talks about how important spices are. Simon turns out to be a doctor, which seems to impress Kaylee. Jayne makes some gross comments about how impressed Kaylee is by Simon and Mal sends him to his room.

We also get a lot of exposition about the weird western future Firefly is set in. Everyone basically wants to make these other planets and moons as much like Earth as possible, but it’s still not clear why everyone thinks Earth is so much like Back to the Future III.

We see Mal zipping up after using the toilet, which looks to be one step above a bucket. For as much retro-tech as there is in this show, we find it hardest to believe that any reasonable civilization goes backwards with toilet technology. Badger has some kind of weird video-paper, but Mal has to pee in a bucket?

After an extended hand-washing sequence, Mal is paged by Wash to the cockpit to tell him someone onboard sent a message calling for the nearest Alliance ship. There’s a mole on board the Serenity! Mal, being the clear-thinking excellent little decision-maker that he is immediately goes and punches Simon in the face.

Good! Boo Simon!

Mal thinks Simon is the mole, but then Book steps in to tell him he has it wrong. Book is the mole!

No! Look! Dobson is the mole, and he has a gun drawn on Mal!

No! The gun is drawn on Simon! Dobson hates Simon too! Yay Dobson! He’s is an Alliance agent who wants to arrest Simon, and he’s not buying Mal’s story about medical supplies. He wants to arrest everybody! Boo Dobson!

Kaylee walks in to see what all the fuss is about and BANG! Dobson shoots Kaylee!

Boo Dobson!

Jayne wants to kill Dobson, but no one else wants to let him. The Alliance is now on its way to arrest everybody.

Mal and Simon are tending to Kaylee, who’s in pretty bad shape. Good thing Simon’s a doctor! He’ll save Kaylee! …as long as Mal does what he says and runs from the Alliance. What a jerk! Boo Simon!

Eventually Mal agrees, and gives the order to run from the Alliance and Simon helps Kaylee. Everyone is suspicious of Simon because he’s the worst, so after Simon treats Kaylee, Mal storms off to the cargo hold to see what Simon has with him, and it’s…

Glau Box

A naked girl in a box! Knew it! Simon’s a creep!

The naked girl is awake and scared, and for some reason doesn’t seem to think Simon’s a creep. Oh, that’s his sister? Still a creep! Justify it all you want, Simon. You have your naked sister in a box, and there’s no non-creepy way to explain that.

Her name is River.

Hello, Sweetie!

Hello, Sweetie!

Hello, sweetie.

Simon goes into a long speech about how smart he is. You’re a Joss Whedon character, Simon. Everyone knows you’re smart. You’re all smart, and clever, and attractive. It’s what we like about Joss Whedon characters. It seems unnecessary, and braggadocious, but it’s a setup to explain how smart River is.

If Simon’s smart enough to be a Joss Whedon character, and he thinks River is really smart, she must be really smart. Simon’s speech goes on seemingly forever as he explains River’s backstory. Here it is succinctly:

River’s wicked smart. She went to this smart kid school that was really a secret Alliance testing facility where they did weird stuff to her. Simon paid to get her out, and at some point got her naked and put her in a box.

Mal gets tired of Simon’s story a few minutes later than we did and shuts him up. Everyone argues about what to do and who to kill– Mal wants to kill Simon if Kaylee dies. Jayne wants to kill Dobson. Wash wants to vote on who to kill, and Book wants everyone to stop arguing.

After the arguing, Mal puts his foot down. They’re going to finish the job, go to Whitefall, and sell the weirdly marked stuff they stole. He storms off, but Simon follows him and continues being the worst and won’t stop pestering Mal about why he wants to avoid the Alliance so much. When Simon accuses Mal of working for the Alliance, Mal punches Simon in the face again and GOOD.

Boo Simon.

Mal and Jayne go to Dobson’s cell and interrogate him, which seems like the kind of thing Jayne enjoys doing. Dobson tries lying, but Jayne sees right through him and he knows the Alliance didn’t get any real information. Dobson is weirdly upset he doesn’t get to torture Dobson. Dobson tries to buy Jayne off, and Jayne asks if he would have to turn on Mal. The scene cuts away before we know what Jayne will do. Suspense!

Oh noes! Reavers are coming!

Mal seems genuinely scared, and makes a tense speech about what the course of action is. They’re going to hold their course and just really hope the Reavers don’t board them to rape and kill everybody.

Simon conveniently doesn’t know what Reavers are or why they’re so scary, so we all benefit from hearing Zoe’s horrifying explanation of murder-rape and people being sewn into clothes.

Good news, everyone!

Kaylees Fine

Kaylee’s fine! Admittedly a little out of it from the drugs, but it looks like she’s in the clear and can keep being adorable. She keeps insisting Mal is a nice man, and also insists Simon is nice. Neither of these two are nice, Kaylee. You’re drunk. She drifts off to sleep.

Simon is getting medical supplies from Inara for some reason. Mal interrupts and he and Inara are mean to each other for a little bit before Mal storms out. He goes after Simon and they man-dance a bit over whether Mal thinks Simon is man enough to kill Dobson if it comes to it, and to no one’s surprise, Mal doesn’t think Simon is man enough.

He also doesn’t think Simon has the time? Wait. What does that mean? Mal, you said you were only going to kill Simon if Kaylee didn’t make it, and she’s fine. Right? Right!? She just fell asleep at the end of that scene… right? Please say she’s just asleep.

Mal tells Simon Kaylee is dead. But… but… she was just sleeping…

Simon runs down to the medical bay in slow motion while listening to violin music and…

LOLz, JK, Kaylee is totes OK.

LOLz, JK, Kaylee is totes OK.

Kaylee’s fine! Ow snap, Simon! You just got Mal’ed! Sick burn.

The rest of the crew is up in the cockpit having a good laugh at what a jerk Simon is, and Patience– the woman who shot Mal that one time that no one will shut up about– calls Mal. They work out an arrangement to meet and Patience will buy the loot they stole, because she doesn’t care about the Alliance.

When they hang up everyone talks about how Patience is really just planning to shoot Mal again and take the loot. Weird. It sounds like trying to do business with a lady who shot you one time actually isn’t a very good idea.

Oh no! Dobson has a knife and is cutting his way free! Where’d he get a knife? Jayne, you scoundrel!

They land on Whitefall and Mal, Zoe, and Jayne go to scout the location where they’re supposed to meet Patience so she can shoot Mal again, because when’s that guy going to learn? They lay out their plan to have Jayne take out some snipers, leaving it more of a fair fight between Mal, Zoe, and whoever Patience brings with her.

Back on the ship, Book goes to check on Dobson to warn him what the crew might do to him if given the chance. Book goes to enter Dobson’s cell and he gets jumped by Dobson who clumsily beats him unconscious.

On Whitefall, Patience shows up on horseback with what looks like the grown-up version of The Lost Boys from Peter Pan including one guy in a silly top hat. Everyone is very smiley and pleasant for a bunch of people who are about to try to kill each other. Jayne takes out a sniper and then AIMS AT MAL!?! Jayne! Stop this crazy thing!

Dobson is frantically searching through a bag and tries to get a signal on some kind of communicator, but throws it against a wall in frustration before pulling out a gun.

Negotiations continue, and Mal tosses Patience one of those things they stole and tells her the rest are buried nearby. Oh! It’s food. They stole some kind of space food.

Om nom nom nom.

Om nom nom nom.

Each one of those bricks will feed a family for a month according to Mal, and Patience bites off a few days worth and agrees it’s “the stuff.” Ringing endorsement.

Dobson, who continues bumbling around the ship trying to escape and be a badass, makes his way to the medical area and kidnaps River while threatening to shoot Kaylee again.

The deal on Whitefall goes exactly as anyone would have guessed, and Patience doesn’t want to pay Mal for the food. He tries giving her the money back so she doesn’t shoot him, but it sure seems like she really wants to shoot him. Mal comments on the guy in the silly hat’s silly hat, and Jayne shoots him in silly-hatted head.

Right in the hat!

Right in the hat!

Everybody starts shooting everybody, and Zoe gets hit!

We immediately cut to the ship where Wash talks about how worried he gets about Zoe, and Kaylee pages them to say River’s been taken by stupid jerk Dobson. Simon jumps down and tackles Dobson, but you know what? He’s still a jerk too.

There’s more shooting on Whitefall. Mal and Jayne take out the rest of Patience’s men, and it turns out Zoe is fine. She had a bullet-proof space vest. Patience hides behind her horse and aims a shotgun at Mal, and then Mal shoots her horse.

Come on, Mal. What’d the horse do? You’re really walking this anti-hero line, you scruffy-looking nerf herder.

With Patience pinned down and all her men dead, Mal waves a gun in her face and talks about how all he wants is to get paid for the job he did– which was stealing space food– and he takes the payment back from Patience before uncocking the revolver he has even though he’s hundreds of years in the future and telling her to go run her little world.

He’ll kill all her men and shoot her horse, but he’s just a guy looking to get paid for a job. It’s not like he’s going to shoot an old lady.

Malcolm Reynolds, everybody.

Malcolm Reynolds, everybody. Stand up guy.

So they got rid of the Alliance space food they stole, got paid, and didn’t get shot. Simon clobbered Dobson, and Kaylee survived a gunshot wound. So everything’s fine now right? We’re all good here? Time to wrap it up with a nice happy ending and– nope.

Freaking Reavers.

Remember before when the Reavers just passed by Serenity like they weren’t going to murder everyone? Psych! They’re totally going to murder everyone.

Mal, Zoe, and Jayne rush back to Serenity as the Reaver ship enters the atmosphere.

Dobson and Simon scuffle around exactly how you think two guys who are the worst would fight, and Simon comes out on top and holds Dobson at gunpoint. Dobson begins pleading for his life and tries reasoning with Simon. Simon doesn’t have the guts to shoot Dobson, so we guess Mal was right.

Dobson gets a gun, and holds River at gunpoint. He’s in control now!

Nope! Mal shows up and shoots him in the head without breaking stride, which frankly could have been done an hour ago.

They toss Dobson’s body out of the ship and the Serenity takes off as the Reaver ship shows up to pursue it. Mal tells Inara to get her shuttle ready to leave with the civilians, but she doesn’t want to. Then she and Mal have a nice tender moment.

Aww, Mal actually likes her.

Kaylee talks Book through some engine stuff to help with the escape, and Mal tells Wash he needs a “Crazy Ivan.” What’s a “Crazy Ivan?”

It’s basically the Flying V from The Mighty Ducks. It’s a silly trick play that the underdogs have up their sleeve the whole time, but only use at the last possible second.

Oh, Ivan. You so crazy.

Oh, Ivan. You so crazy.

The Crazy Ivan works, and everyone’s real happy they’re not going to get murdered and turned into clothes. Zoe seems particularly happy and pulls Wash away to give her a Crazy Ivan of his own.

Book and Inara continue to buddy up, and they talk about what they believe in and make deep meaningful statements like “I think I’m on the wrong ship,” and, “Maybe you’re exactly where you ought to be.”

Things wrap up with characters being nice to each other for once. Simon assures River everything will be okay. Mal confronts Jayne about how Dobson escaped so easily, and asks why he didn’t turn on him. Jayne says the money wasn’t good enough. What happens when it is good enough? Huh? Guess we’ll find out!

Even Simon and Mal are nice to each for a little bit. Well, Mal still lays out the circumstances under which he would totally kill Simon, but still. He’s being nice for Mal. He asks Simon and River to stay on with the ship, and then everyone is friends and nobody got turned into Reaver clothes.

Except maybe for Dobson.

Come back next week when we recap episode 2, “The Train Job.” If you don’t want to wait, all the episodes of Firefly are available to stream on Netflix and Hulu.

(images via Firefly)

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Glen Tickle
Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.