Firefly Episode-by-Episode Reviews & Guide
1.00 – Serenity – Pilot: B
“Serenity” is the triumphant, two-part pilot episode … that wasn’t the actual pilot episode. And that fact alone ought to illuminate many of the challenges that faced this series. Instead of opening with the intended character introductions as presented in the two-hour “Serenity,” the series had to make do with just one hour in “The Train Job.” It’s unfortunate because much of “Serenity” is captivating, compelling, funny, and deeply human. It’s a logical launching point for the series. But like the show itself, its television run was anything but ordinary.
1.01 – The Train Job: B+
“The Train Job” is the first official episode of Firefly and, as such, it replicates some of the introductions that were made in the pilot episode, “Serenity” (which was aired much later in the series’ run). Fortunately, though, the episode handles itself quite capably. And, like the pilot episode, the episode’s success rests squarely on the humor. In fact, the humor more than compensates for the episode’s main plot – which is almost overly simplistic. The result is a strong installment which officially kicks off one of the most memorable television series of the past decade.
1.02 – Bushwhacked: C+
“Bushwhacked” has a little something for everyone. There’s humor and action, suspense and characterizations. It has all of the ingredients for the perfect Firefly episode. But as any cook can tell you, how you mix the ingredients makes a big difference in the final result. The analogy is important for this particular episode because despite the number of very interesting moments, including a very worthwhile theme, the elements of “Bushwhacked” don’t mesh together as well as they ought to. That’s not to say that the episode is distasteful – far from it – but instead, it is an awkward mix of flavors. In a sense, the episode is symbolic of Firefly as a series: a lot of really good ideas, but no clear direction or identity.
1.03 – Shindig: B+
“Shindig” is one of those rare Firefly episodes which centers around a clearly established character story. Of course, it also has its share of humor and action. But the primary focus of the episode is the relationship between Mal and Inara. Toss in a swordfight, a swinging party, a theme of social class, and a return appearance by one of the series’ most memorable cameo characters, and you have one of the most complete episodes of the series. And the episode manages to be quite enjoyable despite a few hiccups in pacing.
1.04 – Safe: C+
“Safe” is a rather unremarkable episode – at least as far as Firefly is concerned. Oh sure, there is plenty of humor and action. But the plot isn’t especially interesting. Additionally, there are some stylistic choices which, while understandable, just don’t work as they ought to. The result is a rare example of a boring Firefly episode.
1.05 – Our Mrs. Reynolds: A-
“Our Mrs. Reynolds” is very, very funny – despite the utter annoyance and horror of the episode’s guest character of the week. The fact is, this episode plays perfectly into Firefly’s strength: its humor. And trust me, in this episode, the humor is on full display. It’s a perfect blend of writing, character and timing and from start to finish. Nothing epitomizes Firefly’s humor at its best more than this episode.
1.06 – Jaynestown: B
“Jaynestown” is another strong episode of Firefly. Once again, it relies heavily on humor, at the expense of one of the crew members – in this case, it’s Jayne, as the title suggests. The episode does attempt to merge to seemingly disparate storylines, but it does so rather clumsily. On the other hand, the scenes themselves are so enjoyable that you almost don’t even notice the episode’s shortcomings. But to be fair and objective, it’s important to note that even when Firefly is playing to its strengths, it’s still unable to overcome some of its fundamental shortcomings.
1.07 – Out of Gas: A
Firefly’s biggest asset is the very natural, and compelling, camaraderie of the crew of Serenity. “Out of Gas” successfully draws upon that strength and along with a compelling story the result is the perfect Firefly episode. I’ve often said that one of the biggest drawbacks to the Firefly series is that it never quite knew what it wanted to be: comedy, western, edgy drama, sci-fi, and so on. Most of the time the series unsuccessfully tries to merge all of these concepts into a single episode. “Out of Gas” is an example of what can happen when Firefly succeeds and every element works together seamlessly.
1.08 – Ariel: C
“Ariel” is a moderately entertaining episode – the first time you watch it. But it doesn’t hold up particularly well upon repeat viewings. The episode is primarily framed around a Mission: Impossible! kind of plot which just isn’t very interesting when you know what is going to happen next. There is some humor along the way, but there simply isn’t enough of it. The result is an episode that, while it’s compelling enough from the perspective of wanting to know a little more about why River Tam is so mentally unstable, is unable to deliver a final product that is anything other than average.
1.09 – War Stories: D
“War Stories” epitomizes the flaws of Firefly. Whereas “Out of Gas” was successful at creating a natural mix of various elements of drama, humor and characterization, “War Stories” is a bumbling mess of a narrative forcing humor and melodrama into the worst of places, resulting in an episode that is just short of a failure. The fact that it manages to avoid complete failure is thanks to Jayne, who manages to be the one character capable of natural humor in the episode.
1.10 – Trash B+
“Trash” is another one of those well-paced Firefly episodes that manages to find the right place to insert Joss Whedon’s brand of humor. But on the whole, it’s a surface-level story that doesn’t do much to further the character development of any of the cast members. What is does do, though, is to utilize the already-established interactions and histories of the characters to full effect – including the prior confrontation between the crew and Saffron, from “Our Mrs. Reynolds.”
1.11 – The Message: B
“The Message” is a story about what happens when the past forces its way through to the present. It’s a story about the meaning of loyalty and friendship. And it’s a story about what happens when you receive a cadaver in the mail – especially when that cadaver is an old army comrade. Along the way, the episode features a riveting chase sequence, some stereotypical bad guys, the typical Firefly brand of humor, and one of the most emotionally poignant moments of the series. On the whole, this is a perfect example of the Firefly series: good, eclectic ideas that sometimes work well, and sometimes don’t.
1.12 – Heart of Gold: B
“Heart of Gold” is a surprisingly emotional episode, despite being filled with almost as many mistakes as successes. But by the time it is finished, this episode will most likely be remembered for what it does well. And rightly so. Because despite the missteps and awkwardly placed moments, the episode does indeed have a “heart of gold” — one that seems to be pulled in several directions at once. And by the time all is said and done, this still-beating heart is liable to be pulled right out.
1.13 – Objects In Space: B-
“Objects In Space” is the perfect example of Firefly. There’s plenty of camaraderie, more than enough laughs. A story that has action and suspense. And it all comes with a bit of an edge. But it’s also a bit sloppy and unfocused. And the main villain is portrayed as such a caricature that it’s impossible to take him seriously. The result is an episode that is both compelling and utterly laughable (as opposed to laugh-inducing). Firefly sure does get quite a few things right – but there are just enough missteps to justify its detractors.
2.00 – Serenity