Firefly: Trash (21 July 2003, Vern Gillum)

FireflyTrash

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

When Mal bumps into con artist Saffron, who’s also kinda his ex-wife, she tempts him with a job that could make them both rich…

Written by Ben Edlund & Jose Molina. Directed by Vern Gillum.

Best performance: Christina Hendricks again. Her character was clearly being set up as a recurring villain/adversary/flirting partner for Mal, but sadly the show was axed before she appeared again. She’s a shameless liar and con artist, can beat people up, and has no scruples – yet you also feel sorry for her. At one point, Mal calls her Yo-Saff-Bridge, a jokey portmanteau of her aliases. We never learn her real name.

Best bits:
* The episode begins with Mal, alone and naked and stranded in a desert. “Yeah,” he says to himself. “That went well.” Cut to 72 hours earlier…
* Mal meets a friend’s new wife… who turns out to be Saffron, the con artist from the episode Our Mrs Reynolds. Saffron and Mal immediately pull guns on each other. (The mate thinks she’s called Bridget. For ease, I’ll keep calling her Saffron.)
* Saffron tries to convince her husband that Mal a liar, but slips up and gives herself away. Mal looks smug.
* Oh, yeah: EVERY SINGLE FRAME THAT HAS CHRISTINA HENDRICKS IN IT.
* A long while after he gets back to Serenity with some crates, Mal opens one of them up… to reveal Saffron trapped inside it.
* While Saffron pitches her heist plan, there’s a funny two-shot of Wash and Kaylee listening to her. The former looks confused; the latter hangs on her every word.
* Jayne proudly asks a question that the conversation has already covered.
* Zoe punches Saffron.
* The intercutting of planning the heist and carrying it out.
* Jayne, Zoe and Kaylee in their aviation goggles as they dangle underneath Serenity to reprogramme a drone.
* While stealing the MacGuffin, Mal and Saffron are rumbled… by another of her husbands. (He knows her as Yolande.)
* Saffron lifts Mal’s gun while he’s being nice to her.
* Mal is abandoned in the desert. Naked. “Yeah, you better run!” he shouts at the departing space ship.
* Saffron, having tricked everyone, searches in a rubbish bin for the antique gun they were stealing… But Inara has got there first! (The reveal that Inara – who flounced off in a huff earlier in the episode – is actually part of a plan to double-cross Saffron is audacious. Add an extra mark to the score!)
* Inara traps Saffron in the garbage bin. As the lid closes, you can hear Saffron shout, “You can’t do this! I’ve got a condition!”
* Simon confronts Jayne about the events of the episode Ariel. He’s forceful but calm and reasonable. Then River adds: “Also, I can kill you with my brain.”
* Mal walks back on board Serenity and chats to his colleagues… while still naked.

Review: This is a sequel to Our Mrs Reynolds, and the second heist plotline in three episodes. And like that previous heist story, the cast needs to be whittled down so everyone gets a role to play. Shepherd Book barely features – he does seem like one character too many at times – while Simon and River are shuffled off. Another good one, with twists and turns aplenty.

Nine feminine wiles 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