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Firefly: Safe Ep. 5 November 4, 2007

Posted by Chris in Firefly.
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This episode spends some more time carrying on about River’s craziness — an element of the series arc that you may notice, grinds on me a bit.  But unfortunately, the story revolves around River, her surgically-enhanced lunacy, and how it can cause everyone around her to have a really bad day.   Mal and the crew deliver their cargo of illegal beefsteak to buyers on a backwater moon, and find their deal goes sour when the local law shows up.  Book gets shot in the crossfire, setting up the need to get him to a doctor.  While their own genius surgeon would seem a perfect fit for the job, Simon and River are kidnapped by some hillbillies in search of decent medical coverage.  Once the crew finds out that they’re missing, Mal makes the call to leave the moon and to seek medical help on a nearby Alliance cruiser.


River Gets Loose Just Before Getting Nabbed

Again, we are asked to consider the morality of Mal’s choices.  One thing is for sure:  he shows no hesitation when he finds out Simon and River have been snatched — he immediately gives the order to take off.  Clearly, he’s willing to sacrifice them for the good of saving Book.  As viewers, we’re mostly on board with this decision — the logic and practicality of it at least — but the fact that the writers provide no clear directions to us on how we should interpret and judge this choice shows some deftness of storytelling skill.  Though I’ve made this point in earlier posts (wait, was this really my idea or Kym’s?  I can’t remember now), it bears repeating that this technique draws us into the story, almost as if we were active participants.  Put simply, it is one of the things that makes the series great, even if this episode is not one of my favorites.

Once Simon and River reach the hillbilly hideaway, River’s unique combination of psychosis and psychic powers begin to bloom.  By reading the minds of these simple hill-folk, River makes herself the target of a real-life witch burning.  Later, in the Serenity (the movie), we see how the crew has started to put River — who has to large degree, been mostly trouble for everyone — to work for them by using her psychic insights to help pull off their thievery. 

Meanwhile, back in this episode, Book manages to get the medical attention he needs by showing his “ident” card to the cruiser’s commander. He’s instantly granted access to the ship’s surgeons, who remove the bullet.  But now, Mal and Zoe realize that there’s something in Book’s past — something undoubtedly about his work life before becoming a man of the cloth — that make him important to the Alliance.  It’s interesting to me as I write about this show how the subject of work continues to crop up.  How we earn a living and what we have to do to and with others in the course of our work lives seems to be an important theme for the series.

While I certainly don’t detest this episode, as I said before, it’s clearly near the bottom of my list.  And now that I’m reflecting on that feeling — and it is a feeling more than anything else — all I can really say is that this episode doesn’t thrill me.  Perhaps it’s primarily about my impatience with River.  Is that the writing, Summer’s portrayal of her, or some combination of the two? 

Of course, all this being said, this is the episode that gives us the “big damn heroes” quote. I’m sure the editors of the Big Damn Zine (shameless plug) would agree that this redeems the episode almost as much as Mal does for himself when he returns to rescue River and Simon.



1. Kym - November 4, 2007

Wait, wait. This is not my favorite episode either but, come on, I love the whole River mystery and I love her acting. And this episode has that joyous scene of her dancing. The scene captures joy-in-the-moment. And I love how Simon looks at her with such love. One of my favorite aspects of this series is that a sibling relationship is one of the closest on the show.

Don’t we all wish we had someone who loves us as much as Simon and River love each other.

And what about the whole cow scene at the beginning. Mal gets to be so dry and understated. Oh, and personal aesthetic–Jayne in cowboy clothes….:hugegrin:
Well, nuf said on that.

2. Kym - November 4, 2007

BTW, your insight about how the show addressed the theme of work intrigued me. I never thought about that before but I think you’ve hit on an important aspect that I’ve never seen anyone address it before.

3. Chris - November 4, 2007

I admit to being of two minds on this…maybe more so than shown in my post above. I can definitely see your points about River’s character, Simon’s love for her and how this love is a central and intriguing driver of the series’ plot. Nevertheless, I’m still left with this feeling that we’re being hit over the head a little too much with River’s craziness in this episode. I can’t really put my finger on it better than that…just a gut-level, visceral reaction kinda thing (perhaps born more of a critical eye developed from loving and watching this show a lot!). It’s nice to see you rise up in indignation to defend the show — a role I can see myself taking on if the situation were reversed.

Yup…the dancing scene is cute and joyful…nice to see her cut lose like that. Mal brings the funny vis-a-vis the cows…that’s cool too. I’ll leave the Jayne aesthetic in your capable hands 😉

4. Chris - November 4, 2007

Yeah…the work thing is interesting…I’m going to see if I can find some confirmation of this idea in the episode posts to come.

5. Kym - November 5, 2007

Yes, I think you’ve got a new way of looking at the show. I’m going to sit back, get some popcorn, and wait for you to elucidate. Much nicer than doing the hard work myself.

Thanks for thinking and writing. I enjoy where your posts take me.

6. Chris - November 5, 2007

Cool…you’re my main audience, and I’m getting a kick out of doing this. I’m going to keep on keepin’ on.

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