Heathen Chemistry (2002)

oasis-heathen_chemistry-frontal

Cover: A really boring, black-and-white, distorted shot of the band. This was the first Oasis album with new members Gem Archer (guitar) and Andy Bell (bass), who’d joined in 2000. They brought with them a more democratic approach to songwriting: here, every member of the band bar the drummer contributes.

Best track: The Hindu Times is energetic and infectious. It was the lead single from the album and became Oasis’s sixth number one. The title comes from a T-shirt Noel saw in a charity shop.

Honourable mentions:
* Stop Crying Your Heart Out was the album’s second single. It’s a lush, bombastic and unsubtle rehash of old Oasis tunes. You can hear elements (or at least echoes) of Slide Away, The Masterplan, Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger. But it’s inoffensive.
* The overly simple but pleasant-sounding Songbird was written by Liam Gallagher and is an ode to his then girlfriend, Nicole Appleton (who cameos in the promotional video). When released as a single in February 2003 it became the first Oasis A-side not written by Noel.
* Little By Little is a pocket-rocket of a track, packing a lot of punch into four minutes. It was released as a double A-side single with the disposable She is Love, which also appears on Heathen Chemistry. Noel sings the lead vocal on both.
* The entertaining (Probably) All in the Mind has a guitar solo played by Smiths legend Johnny Marr.
* Born on a Different Cloud – written by Liam – has the feel of a John Lennon record. The lead vocals are drenched in reverb, for example, which was Lennon’s preference too. The lyric also uses a phrase – “Busy working overtime” – from Happiness is a Warm Gun, a Beatles song John wrote in 1968. There’s a good bottom end, while the lead guitar pierces through well.
* The funky Better Man, meanwhile, sounds like the Stone Roses circa 1994. It’s another track written by Liam.

Worst track: Sadly, the contributions from the band’s two new members do not impress. Hung in a Bad Place, written by Gem Archer, is a tired pub-band rocker, while Andy Bell’s A Quick Peep is a throwaway instrumental.

Weirdest lyric: Hung in a Bad Place contains this gem from Gem: “I can sing to the trees/Tarzan on harmonies for free, yeah.”

Best video: Little By Little’s promo stars actor Robert Carlyle as a tiny little man in central London who mouths along to the song as people ignore him. Noel is busking in a doorway, while the other members of Oasis have cameos. Everyone in the video is dressed in muted, dark colours – then Liam appears in a startlingly white jacket. He helps Robert Carlyle get up from the floor and magically turns him back to 5′ 7″. Bobby then shoulder-bumps him – which may be a reference to the Verve’s video for Bittersweet Symphony – but Liam doesn’t react. (Well, you wouldn’t want to get into a fight with Begbie from Trainspotting, would you?) London then morphs into a country lane and now Robert is a giant. Obvs.

Personal connection: The second and final time I saw Oasis live was when they toured to promote this album. At their gig in Finsbury Park, London, on 5 July 2002, the support bands were The Coral, Proud Mary, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Charlatans. Oasis did a cover of My Generation and dedicated it to The Who’s bassist, John Entwistle, who’d died the week before. 

Review: This one sees Oasis go back to basics after the studio flamboyance of recent albums. There’s a simplicity to some tracks, which means the album doesn’t stand up too well to repeat listens. But the good stuff is worth checking out.

Seven wheels of your life have slowly fallen off out of 10

Advertisements

Dracula (2002, Roger Young and Eric Lerner)

il-bacio-di-dr

Aka: Dracula’s Curse

An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: This two-part miniseries made for Italian television starts with a scene of a horse being attacked in the Pampas Plain of Argentina. We then cut to Budapest and the rest of the story takes place there and in Romania. It’s the modern day, circa 23 April.

Faithful to the novel? Mostly. Here are some areas in which the story departs from the original or provides a fresh spin:
* It’s the early twenty-first century.
* We never see London. The story is largely set in Budapest, Hungary. American lawyer Jonathan Harker (Hardy Krüger Jr) suggests to his fiancée, Mina Murray (Stefania Rocca), that they get married the following week. He’s even arranged for their friends – Lucy (Muriel Baumeister), Quincy (Alessio Boni) and Arthur Holmwood (Conrad Hornby) – to fly over for the ceremony. It’s not 100-per-cent clear which nationality some of the characters are. Jonathan is American, Arthur English, Quincy Italian – the women are anyone’s guess.
* Meanwhile, a local psychiatric doctor, Johann Seward (Kai Wiesinger), is dealing with an unstable patient called Roenfield (Brett Forest). After that, Seward meets Lucy and through her becomes part of her friend-group.
* Harker meets a client called Vladislav Tepes (Patrick Bergin), who needs help to buy Carfax House, a large property next to the hospital, for his Romanian uncle.
* Lucy starts to sleepwalk as in the novel, but instead of wandering a windswept cliff, she falls down the stairs of her mod-con house.
* When Quincy hears of Jonathan’s business deal, he suggests they rip off the Tepes family.
* A man shows up at the hospital – Dr Valenzi (Giancarlo Giannini off of Casino Royale), an old friend of Seward’s and an expert in zombies and the like. He’s the Van Helsing character, of course.
* Harker and the gang meet Tepes, who riles Mina for no apparent reason. Harker then has to drive to Romania (via some stock footage scored by a nondescript soft-rock song) to see Tepes’s uncle, who is also called Vladislav Tepes (and is clearly the same man). En route Harker has two encounters with nasty-for-no-reason locals.
* At Tepes’s castle, Harker is wined and dined and forced to change into Victorian-style clothes (very Doctor Who-y). He then realises he’s locked in, so escapes. But crashes his car and ends up in hospital.
* Tepes, meanwhile, sails to Budapest. (Er, Hungary is a landlocked country…) Once awake, he can CGI-transform into a wolf. He then seduces Lucy (well, you would) and starts to grow visibly younger.
* Valenzi deduces that Tepes is really the infamous Dracula. It’s 80 minutes into the piece before the word is spoken. (Arthur sarcastically mentions Boris Karloff.)
* Arthur and Lucy get engaged, but then Lucy turns vamp. There’s an equivalent of the ‘bloofer lady’ sequence from the novel.
* The gang hunt down and kill Lucy, then go after Dracula, who forms before their eyes from dozens of rats. He escapes and later seduces Mina. So the men use Mina as bait to lure Dracula in – and in the film’s one great elaboration on the Stoker plot, it’s Mina who kills the vampire.
* Quincy was killed during the climax (as in the novel) and we see his funeral.

Best performance: The Renfield equivalent, here called Roenfield, isn’t in the story much. But it’s a creepy bit of acting, helped by the fact he’s one of the few characters who doesn’t sounds like he’s been dubbed by another actor.

Best bit: The film is at its best when visually interesting – the elaborate dancing at the ball, a neat trick where Tepes moves at normal speed and everyone else is in slow motion, the creepy scene on the ship, Tepes seducing Lucy… The problems start when people talk.

Review: This is 100 minutes of heavy-handed storytelling delivered by a very weak cast. Maybe something has been lost in translation. The film is in Engilsh, but there’s a large number of badly dubbed performances and actors talking in what is clearly a second language. In its favour, the script is an attempt at a faithful adaptation of the novel with some nice twists and changes. But overall? A mess.

Four Porches out of 10

Firefly: Objects in Space (13 December 2002, Joss Whedon)

objects_in_space_1_288829

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

A man sneaks aboard Serenity, hunting for River…

Written and directed by Joss Whedon.

Best performance: Guest star Richard Brooks as the bounty hunter Jubal Early. He has a whimsical manner and spouts philosophy, yet is stealthy, dangerous and threatening. (Joss Whedon modelled the character in part on Boba Fett.)

Best bits:
* The opening SFX shot: a zoom into Serenity, through its innards and ending on River – the key character of the episode.
* A series of moments where River observes her colleagues – Simon and Kaylee, Jayne and Book, Wash and Zoe, Mal and Inara – and we see the conversations through her warped and possibly psychic POV.
* A stunning cut from River holding a stick to what’s really going on: she’s actually holding a loaded gun.
* The incidental music is great, especially an oboe-like cue linked to the character of Jubal Early.
* Silently, calmly and efficiently, Early breaks into Serenity while it’s alone in deep space.
* A pair of camera moves in the same scene of the crew discussing River – one goes through the floor to reveal River eavesdropping from below; the other goes through the ceiling to reveal Early eavesdropping from above.
* Wash scoffs at the idea that River is psychic. “That sounds like something out of science fiction,” he says. Zoe: “You live on a spaceship, dear.”
* Mal unexpectedly comes face to face with Early in the ship’s corridor.
* Early confronts Kaylee in a scene of real menace. “Have you ever been raped?” he asks nonchalantly.
* Simon asks Early if he’s “Alliance,” but Early mishears him: “Am I a lion? [Considering it] I have a mighty roar.”
* River talking over the Tannoy, claiming to have become the incorporeal essence of the ship. It’s a stunning bluff, coming just as you’re starting to think the episode is morphing into 2001: A Space Odyssey.
* River, despite only talking to him over a radio, knows that Mal has pulled a face.
* The reveal of where River is actually hiding: in Early’s spaceship.
* Jayne, who’s been sleeping through the whole incident, is woken by the noise of a nearby fight… so turns over and goes back to sleep.
* A super 77-second Steadicam shot that moves through various spaces, encompasses all nine regulars and ends on a smiling River.

Review: Objects in Space is a lyrical episode, full of beautiful imagery, mounting tension, deep questions, point-of-view switches and smart storytelling. In fact, it often feels more like an art film than an episode from a science-fiction show. Various threads in River’s character arc are drawn together then weaved into a thriller plot featuring the deliberately arch and cool Early. He and River are two sides of the same coin. They share an overwhelming awareness of existence and each *experience* life and the physical world, rather than just live in it. “People don’t appreciate the substance of things,” Early says at one point, not long after we’ve seen River fascinated by her mundane surroundings. Questions of how meaning is created also run throughout the story – for example, River picks up what to her is a harmless object, but we recognise it as a gun. Yet this is far from a drab existential exercise: it’s also gripping, exciting, tense, classy. What a sensational ending to the series, which makes you ache even more that it was cut so short. At least there’s still a movie to watch…

Ten embarrassingly large stacks of money out of 10

Firefly: War Stories (6 December 2002, James Contner)

firefly-2002-ep10-war-stories-271

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

While meeting some traders, Mal and Wash are captured and tortured by an old enemy…

Written by Cheryl Cain. Directed by James Contner.

Best performance: A rare focus on comic-relief character Wash (Alan Tudyk). At one point his dialogue contains a stunningly long and complicated Chinese phrase, which has to be rattled off like a frustrated aside. (“Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiou sai-jin wuh duh pee-goo,” which apparently translates as “All the planets in space flushed into my butt.”)

Best bits:
* Kaylee and River run around like children. Mal: “One of you is gonna fall and die and I’m not cleaning it up!”
* Jayne has bought apples for everyone. Subtext: he’s feeling guilty for what he did in the previous episode, Ariel.
* Wash and Zoe’s argument over her lying to him.
* Against Inara’s wishes, various crewmembers spy on her meeting a client. The client turns out to be a woman. “I’ll be in my bunk,” says Jayne, leaving the room.
* Mal’s frustration with Wash and Zoe rowing again: “Okay, I’m lost. I’m angry. And I’m armed.”
* Mal points out to Wash that Zoe doesn’t follow every order he gives her: she married Wash, for one.
* Mal and Wash bickering… while being tortured.
* Zoe walks into the bad guy’s space station, unarmed, to barter for her colleagues’ release.
* The head bad guy, Niska (who was also in The Train Job), says Zoe can have one of her friends back. He expects her to waver over such a Sophie’s choice… but she immediately picks Wash.
* Niska has Mal’s ear cut off and gives it to Zoe!
* Once back on Serenity, Zoe passes Mal’s ear to Simon and tells him they’re going to get the captain back. Jayne: “What are we going to do, clone him?”
* As Zoe and Wash tool up to rescue Mal, the others insist on coming too.
* A cut from the gang getting ready for the assault… to Niska being told that Mal is dead. (He’s speaking medically: they then revive him.)
* The assault on the space station – an action sequence built around specific characters’ personalities and abilities. (Zoe is unfazed, Jayne gung-ho, Kaylee scared shitless, and so on.)
* Mal fights back!
* River takes Kaylee’s gun and – without looking – shoots three bad guys dead. “No power in the ’verse can stop me,” she says, quoting a joke Kaylee made earlier.
* Zoe and Jayne find Mal wrestling with a bad guy. Jayne’s about to shoot the goon when Zoe stops him. “This is something the captain needs to do himself.” “No, it’s not!” shouts Mal.
* Simon telling Mal not to tug on his reattached ear.

Review: A nasty little story about torture, sacrifice and relationships. A dark episode on the whole, though there’s also humour, plenty of action and solid drama. Oh, and a perfunctory subplot about lesbianism too.

Eight writings of Shan Yu out of 10

Firefly: Ariel (15 November 2002, Allan Kroeker)

firefly-2002-ep09-ariel-265

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Simon offers the gang a job: help him break into a hospital so he can treat his sister and he’ll tell them which valuable medicines to steal…

Written by Jose Molina. Directed by Allan Kroeker.

Best performance: It’s a real ensemble one, this. Because he drives the story, Simon (Sean Maher) gets a lot of good screen time.

Best bits:
* While the team are chatting, River calmly picks up a knife and slashes Jayne across the chest. (Fun fact: his T-shirt has a Blue Sun logo on it. A plot thread would have revealed that the Blue Sun corporation are the bad guys who experimented on River, hence her reaction. But the show was axed before it was really developed.)
* Just in case we doubt our heroes’ morals while they’re planning to rob a hospital, Zoe points out that the stores of medicine will soon be restocked.
* The Ocean’s 11-style planning-the-heist montage – a briefing scene loaded with how difficult the mission will be, intercut with shots of preparation and rehearsal.
* Mal, Zoe and Jayne are given detailed jargon to recite when posing as paramedics. They spend ages mastering it, then don’t need it…
* Wash and Kaylee’s A-Team-style scene: suiting up the fake ambulance.
* The harshly lit and colourless hospital, a real contrast to the more earthy settings we usually see in this show.
* Jayne’s double-crossing them!
* Zoe electrocutes a troublesome doctor with defibrillation paddles. “Clear,” she deadpans once he’s unconscious.
* When Simon and River are arrested, Jayne’s also taken in for abetting criminals. Hashtag dramatic irony.
* The two guys with the blue gloves – creepy government types who are hunting for River and gruesomely kill anyone who’s come into contact with her. (The same characters had also featured in The Train Job.)
* During a scene in the hanger, Mal grabs Kaylee and pulls her in for a hug – an adlib, apparently. You can actually see how surprised actress Jewel Staite is.
* Mal punches Jayne then puts him in the airlock and threatens to kill him unless he admits his betrayal.

Review: Shepherd Book doesn’t feature at all, while Inara goes off on an unseen errand. The script is whittling down the characters so everyone has a role to play in the heist plot. And like all the best heist stories this is slick, breezy, infectious fun, which takes a number of surprising turns. It’s not especially Wild Westy, but in this instance that works as a nice change of pace.

Nine beautiful museums, not to mention some of the finest restaurants in the Core, out of 10

Firefly: Jaynestown (18 October 2002, Marita Grabiak)

firefly-2002-ep07-jaynestown-402

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

The crew are stunned to land on a planet where Jayne is revered as a folk hero…

Written by Ben Edlund. Directed by Marita Grabiak.

Best performance: Adam Baldwin’s having a blast as the routinely funny Jayne. The character is a selfish thug with a childlike outlook, but it’s still believable when he feels guilty for his actions.

Best bits:
* Simon and Kaylee’s sweet chat about swearing. He’s anti, she’s pro. (It’s set-up for a gag at the end of the cold open).
* Kaylee saying goodbye to Inara, who’s off to meet a client. “Have good sex!”
* The huge exterior set of the mud farm.
* Simon sees the statue of Jayne. “Son of a bitch!” (There’s that gag.)
* Book’s shocked to find River ‘fixing’ his Bible – ie, striking through passages that don’t make sense, ripping out pages and generally editing the text.
* Jayne and co hide in a bar, wanting a low profile. Then a guy with a guitar starts singing a song in praise of “the hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!”
* The whole song, in fact.
* River freaks out when she sees Book with his usually tied-back hair hanging loose.
* The twist of who Inara’s client is.
* Simon and Kaylee getting drunk together. “You’re pretty funny.” “You’re pretty… pretty.”
* River, still obsessed with Book’s wild hair: “His brains are in terrible danger!”
* Jayne symbolically knocking the statue over.
* Kaylee tells Simon they slept together while drunk. (They didn’t: she’s just winding him up.)

Review: There’s a lot going on. The zippy and fun main story is about Jayne and his connection to the people of Canton. There are also subplots centred on Inara and River, while the Kaylee/Simon romance goes through a few more gears. Terrific stuff.

Nine inherent metaphoric parallels out of 10

Firefly: Our Mrs Reynolds (4 October 2002, Vondie Curtis Hall)

Firefly1x06

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Mal is stunned to discover he’s got married by accident…

Written by Joss Whedon. Directed by Vondie Curtis Hall.

Best performance: It would be very embarrassing for me when I finally marry Christina Hendricks if I hadn’t picked her now in this category. The words womanly perfection spring to mind.

Best bits:
* The cold open: a trap to lure in some bad guys, which involves a stagecoach and Mal posing as a woman.
* The fireside party – Jayne drunk, Book seeing to the bodies of the dead bad guys, the first appearance of Saffron (Christina Hendricks) and lots of dancing – which abruptly ends with a hard cut to the next morning.
* Saffron’s on the ship!
* Saffron’s married to Mal! (After this revelation we get another of Nathan Fillion’s wonderful reaction shots.)
* Zoe calls the whole crew together so they can tease Mal.
* Inara’s look of hurt when she finds out Mal’s married.
* Book’s warning to Mal, worth quoting in full: “If you take sexual advantage of her, you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre.”
* Saffron coyly asking if Mal wants her to wash his feet. Mal just walks away.
* A fantastic rug-pulling act-break: Jayne suddenly appears in front of Mal with a huge gun… which he then offers to trade for Saffron. (The gun, by the way, is called Vera.)
* Saffron waiting for Mal in his bedroom. Naked. I have no words.
* Mal collapses after kissing Saffron. (He’s been drugged by her lipstick.)
* Saffron – who we now know is a con-woman – rolls her eyes while Wash talks about his happy marriage.
* Saffron tries to seduce Inara, but savvy Inara sees through the ruse: “You’re amazing – who are you?!”
* Inara in a daze, having kissed Mal and therefore been dosed by the lipstick, but trying to tell everyone she fell and hit her head.
* The snowy coda.
* The final scene with Mal and Inara.

Review: It’s not showy or significant or epic or experimental. It’s just a standard episode telling a nice self-contained story. However, judged on its own merits – on how well it achieves what it sets out to achieve – this is a rather magnificent piece of television. The script is packed full of plot, character, subtext and comedy – so much wit! – yet the whole thing is as light as air. There simply isn’t room for improvement. A quiet masterpiece.

Ten very nice qualities out of 10

Firefly: Safe (8 November 2002, Michael Grossman)

firefly-safe-our-witch

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Simon and River are kidnapped by some locals – just as the doctor’s expertise is needed on board Serenity…

Written by Drew Z Greenberg. Directed by Michael Grossman.

Best performance: This episode is the first real chance for Summer Glau – a former ballerina who had little acting experience – to flesh out the childlike yet dangerous River Tam. It’s a fascinating performance, even when she doesn’t have anything concrete to say or do.

Best bits:
* Oh, look: it’s Zac Efron playing a young Simon in a flashback.
* The crew are selling the cows they acquired in the last episode: a nice bit of continuity.
* Inara and Kaylee poking fun at the merchandise in a local shop. Inara then clocks that Kaylee fancies Simon.
* How hurt Kaylee is by Simon being a douchebag,
* Wandering off, River stumbles across a group of people dancing around a maypole – so joins in.
* How calm Zoe is while tending to a badly injured Shepherd Book.
* Captured Simon says his crewmates will come and rescue him and River… but then looks up to see Serenity flying away.
* The twist that Simon hasn’t been kidnapped to be a hostage: the locals need a doctor.
* Jayne reading Simon’s diary and making up entries. “Dear diary, today I was pompous and my sister was crazy. Today we were kidnapped by hillfolk never to be seen again. It was the best day ever.”
* Mal’s taken Book to an Alliance ship to ask for medical help. They refuse, until they check Book’s ID card and then act like he’s incredibly important. (The series was axed before we found out what his secret past contained.)
* The twist on a twist when the locals who have snatched Simon and River turn on them: they think River is a witch so plan to burn her.
* Simon joining his sister on the stake.
* Mal and Zoe swaggering into town to rescue Simon and River.
* Jayne quickly returns the items he stole from Simon’s room before the doctor finds out.

Review: River and to a lesser degree Simon have been in the background of the series until now, but this episode is built on their relationship and history. We get some very nice intercutting between the present and a series of flashbacks, which flesh out their characters well. Meanwhile, Shepherd Book – the other passenger who joined the team in the first episode – takes part in the story more than usual. It’s not the most gripping 42 minutes of television ever made, but broadly enjoyable.

Seven big damn heroes out of 10

Firefly: Shindig (1 November 2002, Vern Gillum)

firefly-shindig-mal-kaylee-dress1

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

While Mal tries to negotiate a bit of business, Inara takes on a possessive client. And then the two men collide at a party…

Written by Jane Espensen. Directed by Vern Gillum.

Best performance: Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the baby of the gang and therefore whatever emotion she goes through we feel in spades.

Best bits:
* Inara and Mal’s banter. You could watch it all day. They clearly want each other.
* The town of Persephone has a dress shop that has live models in its windows.
* Jayne’s confusion over whether a clearly upset Kaylee is upset or not.
* Badger’s back from episode one; as is his hat.
* Badger says someone has taken a dislike to him. “Did he see your face?” asks Jayne.
* Mal and Jayne’s smirks when Badger inadvertently says something smutty.
* Kaylee – in her enormous dress – showing up at the party.
* Inara’s saying how much she dislikes the swearword gosa when she sees Mal arrive at the party. “Oh, gosa,” she says to herself.
* “Yes, sir, Captain Tightpants.”
* Kaylee’s obsession with the buffet table.
* Jayne, Simon and Book playing cards and betting with daily chores.
* At the party, Kaylee charms a gaggle of men by talking about engines.
* Mal punches Atherton, the twat who’s paid to spend the evening with Inara.
* Mal’s double-take when he realises the upcoming duel involves swords.
* River mimicking Badger’s English accent. Dick Van Dyke would be proud.
* Having won the duel, Mal nobly declines to kill Atherton… but can’t resist poking him with the sword a couple more times.
* The reveal of what the all-important shipment is: a herd of cows.

Review: It’s another very smart script – watch it tell a story, reveal character, make jokes, provide cute scene transitions, spin numerous plates and not neglect anyone. And it’s made with style and a huge sense of fun. Marvellous.

Nine little pieces of wrapping paper blowing around out of 10

Firefly: Bushwhacked (27 September 2002, Tim Minear)

q7ThwoiakscSHdPOkcL9wCkppQd

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

The crew find a derelict space ship with just one survivor aboard. The assumption is that it’s been attacked by savage rapist cannibals called Reavers…

Written and directed by Tim Minear.

Best performance: Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is always funny. And after how mean he was to Kaylee in the first episode, it’s really sweet to see hints of a brother/sister vibe in this one.

Best bits:
* The crew enjoying a basketball-like game in Serenity’s cargo hold. It’s a bit of fun before the darkness descends.
* Unlike most sci-fi films and TV shows, space is silent in Firefly – a really nice, eerie touch.
* The gag of Jayne tricking a nervous Simon into wearing a space suit for no reason.
* The reveal of the dead bodies.
* As in the pilot episode, the sheer fear in everyone’s eyes when the zombie-like Reavers are mentioned.
* Zoe, telling a freaking-out Jayne to calm down: “You’ll scare the women.”
* The reveal of why Mal’s acting more compassionately than you’d expect: it’s just a diversion because he has another problem to deal with.
* The Alliance agents board the ship and Wash puts his hands up.
* The interrogation montage: unflappable Inara, defensive Zoe, chatty Wash, pissed-off Kaylee, stone-faced Jayne, serene Book…
* The reveal of where Simon and River have been hiding.

Review: There’s a horror-movie shock in the teaser as a dead body hits Serenity’s cockpit window – and that sets the tone for the next 20 minutes. The episode starts out as a haunted-house format (a la Alien) and is creepy… to a point. But the fact we’re stepping outside the show’s USP (Wild West meets science fiction) means it doesn’t feel especially Firefly-ish. The story also takes a drab turn halfway in when the feds arrive – it’s very much an episode of two halves. Sadly the result is underwhelming, a bit flat, and has a simplistic resolution.

Six pirates with their own chaplain (there’s an oddity) out of 10