Firefly: The Train Job (20 September 2002, Joss Whedon)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

The Serenity crew take on a job: steal some supplies from a train. However, things get complicated when they discover what those supplies are…

Written by Joss Whedon & Tim Minear. Directed by Joss Whedon.

Best performance: Morena Baccarin gets a series of moments where she just *shines* as Inara – an easy friendship with Kalyee, some flirty bickering with Mal, a nice conversation about religion with Book, and the scene where she waltzes into town to rescue Mal and Zoe. Baccarin was actually a late replacement in the role. Rebecca Gayheart filmed for a day before being let go for not having the right chemistry with the other cast members. Baccarin doesn’t have that problem.

Best bits:
* Mal gets thrown through the window of a saloon – it’s a hologram that reconstitutes itself once he’s on the ground. A nice example of the show’s sci-fi/Western hybrid tone.
* Inara telling Kaylee that they should experiment. (She’s talking about hairstyles, but still…)
* Seriously, though, the sexual chemistry between Inara and *Mal* is Han-and-Leia good.
* Bad guy Niska’s office: interesting details range from the huge factory we can see through the window to a delicate Art Deco lamp on his desk. He also has a cool, tabletop iPad that he uses to lay out the mission.
* On the train, Mal and Zoe walk into a compartment full of Alliance troops.
* Zoe, to Mal: “Sir, I think you have a problem with your brain being missing.”
* Jayne’s hat.
* The town of Paradiso, which is a massive outdoor set full of detail and extras.
* Mal and Zoe have to pose as a married couple.
* Jayne, to Wash: “Do you know what the chain of command is? It’s a chain I go get and beat you with until you understand who’s in rutting command.”
* Jayne under the influence of painkillers.
* Inara pretending to be Mal’s owner and Zoe’s employer.
* Mal kicking a thug into Serenity’s huge turbine engine.

Review: After the network’s decision not to screen the first produced episode, this story also had to function as a ‘pilot’. It’s a tricky task, given that the original pilot would probably get shown or released at some point. So this one has to introduce and establish the characters, situation and setting… but not contradict or overtly repeat anything. It does it well. There’s a relatively simple plot. But a train heist honours the show’s Western idiom, while a moral-dilemma twist allows our Robin Hood heroes to show they’re more than just thieves. And the writing is very impressive. Every scene, every moment, every *line* is telling us about the characters. Good stuff.

Eight terrifying space monkeys out of 10

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