Firefly: Safe (8 November 2002, Michael Grossman)


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