You ever watch a show that you first saw years ago and it’s somehow even better than you remembered it?
That’s how I feel when I watch Firefly – every time.
I probably don’t have much fan cred when it comes to this show. When the episodes were first airing (apparently out of order and infrequently, because that totally makes sense, Fox), I was like eleven. The only thing I was watching regularly at that point wa Pokemon and maybe Degrassi: The Next Generation, when I could get away with it.
I finally watched Firefly almost 7 years later, purely by coincidence. During a trip to Target with my family, my older brother bought the DVD box set on a whim, knowing nothing about the show beyond the fact that it was very well-known on the internet, looked vaguely promising, and was on sale. We watched the first episode that evening and were hooked almost instantly. I could wax poetic about how I fell in love with Serenity and a show that captured the wonder and freedom of space the way I had always pictured it in my imagination, but I’ll save that for another post. Today, I want to focus on the quietly burning rage deep within my soul. It was a sad day when we reached episode 14, “The Message,” and finally knew for ourselves the pain of being a Firefly fan.
Before I start getting all up in my feelings about this, I want to acknowledge that this was not a show without its faults. Chinese language and culture survived but little to no actual Chinese people did? Bruh.. Wtf?
Despite Firefly’s problematic aspects, I believe that it is one of the greatest crimes against humanity that we only got 14 episodes but my great grandchildren will have to swallow back vomit as they flip past Two and Half Men while they watch tv in space. American primetime needs another good weekly sci-fi show; nothing the SyFy channel shits out is doing it for me. (I also want to mention that the spelling of the SyFy channel makes me want to slap whoever decided that needed to happen, whenever I see it.)
The last episode of Firefly aired in 2003. Here are five reasons why I’m still salty about its abrupt cancellation, all these years later. I’m probably never going to let that ish go, and I know I’m not the only one.
1. Zoe Washburne
This list very nearly became a five-part epic poem about Zoe Washburne, the greatest ex-military space thief who ever lived. Have I said today that representation matters? While I am not a super hot, badass ex-Corporal who looks like the closest thing to a literal goddess on Earth that any of us can ever hope to see, I still think its important for those who are to see themselves represented on screen.
But in all seriousness, as a young black female sci fi nerd, I got used to seeing space as a place where apparently no black women existed, anywhere, on any planet, ever (except for Whoopie Goldberg). Zoe existing in Firefly’s world and being a badass will always be important to me, and I’m sure to many others like me. Even more important is the fact that she was allowed to be a complex character-alternately stoic vulnerable, and never a cliche. Plus, she punched Saffron one time and it was awesome.
In the sacred hall of fame where awesome, life-changing black female characters are venerated (and oh how I wish that was a real place), Zoe Washburne would surely occupy a place of honor.
I’m not a Whedon fangirl, by any means (his writing can be a bit too clever, if you know what I mean), but I will always enjoy the way Firefly consistently takes the most annoying aspects of its genre and says to the audience ‘yeah, we hate that crap too.’
I remember the exact moment that my brother and I, all those years ago, knew we had stumbled upon something special by watching this show. Do you remember that scene in “The Train Job,” where Mal is trying to reason with Niska’s henchmen, and the guy is all ‘no matter how far you fly I’m going to hunt you down blah blah blah”? And instead of pulling a Goku move and letting the guy go so he can come back and try to kill them all at some inconvenient point later on in the series, Mal just kicks him into the engine and starts making the same offer to the next guy?
That was the moment that I fell in love.
3. A+ Ensemble Cast
The magic of Firefly is that even the characters I didn’t really like (‘My name is Simon, I wear waistcoats and hate on trinkets in shops and keep making sweet baby angel Kaylee feel bad because I’m so douchey and snobby that I don’t even know it!’), I still kinda liked, you know? This cast worked so well together that it wouldn’t work without every single one of them in the mix, and because I loved the sum so much, I had to love the parts too, I guess? I don’t know. So much banter! And flirting! And one-liners that are actually witty and funny and not slapstick-y and annoying!
Sometimes everything just fits together perfectly and it’s a wonder to behold. I wouldn’t feel that way about an ensemble cast again until I would watch Leverage some years later, but I won’t even go there because then this post will turn into a tirade about underappreciated works of art and how Aldis Hodge should be in every genre show ever made.
4. The show didn’t get a chance to run its natural course – not by a long shot
At the time of Firefly’s cancellation, there was so much left of the story that needed to be explored – and explored slowly, not crammed into a movie. Watching the show, I had so many questions: when are we going to really learn about Book? What the hell did they do to River? Will Mal ever stop calling Inara a whore long enough for them to hook up? Hell, considering the part where he keeps calling her whore, should they even really get together? Cause I’m just saying, you shouldn’t really date someone who doesn’t respect your work/keeps calling you a ho all super casual-like.
You know what I like to believe? That if the show had been allowed to continue, then [SPOILER ALERT] Wash wouldn’t have died, and my heart would still be intact.
As it is, sometimes in autumn I see a leaf floating in the wind and get teary-eyed.
Man, fuck Serenity.
5. Nathan Fillion’s face
What? Look at this adorable, handsome man. Now if I want to look at him I have to watch Castle, and no one should have to do that to themselves. (I’m just taking shit. Castle isn’t even that bad.).
Lovely readers (I know you’re out there), are any of you Firefly fans? Are you like me, and randomly watch it on Netflix and end up getting way more emotional on a Tuesday afternoon than you had planned to when you woke up that morning?