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Firefly: Ariel Ep. 9 November 13, 2007

Posted by Chris in Firefly.
Tags: ,

This episode starts with River suffering a relapse in her mental state.  At first glance, her attack on Jayne with a knife swipe across the chest seems random and unprovoked, but as the story progresses, we see that River has good reason to question Jayne’s intentions.  Jayne’s intentions towards River and Simon aside, this event disturbs Mal and the crew and the seed is planted in our minds that River needs radical interventions to set her back on the path towards some sort of mental stability. 

So when Simon comes up with a plan for the crew to sneak River into a hospital for medical testing and steal valuable medicines at the same time, as so often happens in Firefly, Whedon et al. give us and the characters some moral cover for committing what would otherwise be a self-serving, straight-up crime. 


 Justification for the Crime:  Simon Examines River’s Surgically Scrambled Brain-Parts

What follows are some less-believable plot devices.  The idea that one can go to a junkyard and find a serviceable flying ambulance is absurd in any time period — past, present or the future.  The materials in any modern vehicle — whether a Ford F350 today or George Jetson’s flying car in tomorrowlandia — would surely end up being recycled or sold in secondary markets.  I doubt they would be able to find one this easily.  Anyways, geeky transportation-related criticisms aside, our crew finds a way to sneak into the hospital with River and Simon posing as corpses.  Jayne, responsible for ferrying their drug-induced comatose bodies to the diagnostic imagery facility, makes a quick videophone call on arrival at the hospital to the Feds, revealing he has sold River and Simon out for a reward.

Once Jayne, River and Simon are nabbed by the Feds, Jayne quickly realizes he will not be rewarded — rather, he faces the same fate as those he betrayed.  As Jayne works on a way to break away from his captors, Mal and the rest of the crew come to understand that Jayne et al. have been caught and start to effect a rescue.  Here’s another bit of sloppy plot construct as Mal et al. are able to come up with detailed design drawings of the hospital to help them plan their rescue.  I’m quite sure that again, in any era and on any world, the designs of a hospital are not made widely available. 

When the “two-by-two, hands of blue” guys show up, they are an imposing and creepy pair, indeed.  I’m just a bit disappointed in their choice of killing tools.  Their little device that slowly and painfully kills the Feds that arrested Simon, River and Jayne through a vicious nose-bleed seems much less effective than say, a simple gun-shot to the head.  I guess there are some killing efficiencies gained by getting to bloody everyone’s nose in the room at the same time (except themselves), but all-in-all, it still seems like a ridiculous device to me.

In the end, we’re led to think that all’s well that ends well, and Jayne has managed to skate by without his betrayal being discovered.  But Mal sees through his story and pushes Jayne into the open airlock of the ship as it’s starting to leave “Atmo’.”  As Jayne begs for his life, he begins by insisting that he would have never betrayed Mal and the crew — his “…hand to God.”  Needless to say, Jayne’s invocation of Divine truthfulness is unconvincing to Mal.  Interestingly, what gets to Mal’s heart is what we are led to believe are Jayne’s last request that Mal not tell the others that he betrayed them.  So, while Mal is not swayed by appeals to his religious beliefs, he is moved by Jayne’s feelings of community (and love?) for his crew-mates.  This redeems what would have otherwise been a somewhat lackluster episode.



1. Kym - November 13, 2007

Lackluster, OUCH! Its not my favorite but I think the hands of blue guys are diabolical. Their glove covered hands a perfect symbol of corporate hand washing. I suppose now that you insist on minutely viewing their handheld device that maybe it is a little odd of a weapon to develop (I say, guys, lets come up with a weapon that makes people bleed out their noses…hmm, not probable unless the weapons development team was a bunch of fourteen year olds)but… I still think it gives an eerie flavor to the pair.

I love the Simon as criminal mastermind thread that plays out here. The crew might want to give him a shot at further criminal plots. He seems better suited to it than Mal.

The dialog is less witty than in other episodes. There seems to be more reliance on film rather than words to tell the story. But who could forget the whole Mal and Jayne scene–so much is told with actions not words. I love your analysis of the Mal not swayed by religion (particularly any professed by Jayne;>) juxtaposed with the Mal moved by feelings of community. Nice.

Not my favorite but still a far sight better than most other tv available.

2. Chris - November 13, 2007

I hope I’m making it clear through my critiques that I love the show, and even the most “lackluster” of episodes beat the rest of the TV universe (with a few notable exceptions, like BSG) hands-down. My criticisms all come from a place of love, of that have no doubt. Maybe I should state this in my posts more often, but I’ve been trying not to be too redundant.

As to my nit-picking comments on the implausibility of certain technological details, I would say that in the overall scheme of things, these are, of course, minor complaints. The story works and is fun to watch. But I must say that we’re talking about science fiction here! The technology is important, if not central, to the experience. If the hands of blue guys had plausible killing thingys, then they’d be a whole lot more diabolical.

Simon as criminal mastermind is cool. I’m guessing that his character needs to feel his criminal activities need to serve some higher purpose, however obliquely. He only wants to do the heist as a way of motivating the rest of the crew into breaking into the hospital so he can examine River. Similarly, he’s invovled with Serenity’s criminal activities as a way to avoid the Alliance. I’m guessing that he’s not into crime for personal gain.

Good point about the dialog taking a back seat to the film action in this episode. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms. There are some nice one-liners, like when Zoe shocks the doctor and then says “clear” with a flat, montone delivery after-the-fact. That always makes me laugh.

3. Kym - November 14, 2007

I agree that science fiction should exhibit good science but, for those of us writers technically impaired, maybe there should be a scifi/fantasy hybrid–Sciantasy anyone–less technical but still futuristic. My engineering husband often+

4. Kym - November 14, 2007

I agree that science fiction should exhibit good science but, for those of us writers technically impaired, maybe there should be a scifi/fantasy hybrid–Sciantasy anyone–less technical but still futuristic. My engineering husband often reluctantly stomps with big heavy boots on my current scifi novel project. :weeps in self pity:

5. Chris - November 14, 2007

Don’t sell yourself short on technical good sense. Engineering technical abilities are one thing, good sense is another. I’m not an engineer, but I work with them (but I do play one on TV :-)) and their technical abilities are indeed, enviable. But just because I don’t know how to calculate the fluid dynamics of water runoff systems (or some such thing), doesn’t mean I can’t know what is useful and what is not. In fact, engineers often get so caught up in the technical details of their calculations, they need someone to help them apply common sense. Anyhow, I’ve done a lot thinking about engineers and engineering, so you’ve hit on a geeky subject of interest to me.

In reality, I think that all science fiction is “Sciantisy”, just in varying degrees. There’s a whole discourse within the sci-fi community about how “hard” or “soft” science fiction should be. Hard sci-fi aims to be as scientifically plausible as possible, while soft sci-fi tends to play more fast and loose with the technical details. But in reality, it’s all speculative, all conjecture, all made-up. So, while my tendencies are towards the “hard” end (all double-meanings are null and void here — sometimes a cigar is just a cigar :-)) of the sci-fi spectrum, just let yourself write (of course!) without your internal engineer/skeptic getting the better of you and quashing your inspiration. As long as you apply some common sense judgement to your final draft, you’ll be fine.

I can’t wait to see your novel when you post it on your blog 😉

6. Kym - November 14, 2007

My internal engineer is just fine. My external engineer is who gets in the way;>

I hope I don’t have to post it on the blog. I would like to get paid for it.

7. Chris - November 14, 2007


And yes…get paid!

8. Kym - November 14, 2007

Doesn’t that sound heavenly… At last I will be a “real” writer in my “real” life. Maybe someday!

9. Chris - November 14, 2007

One of my dreams, as well, but it sounds like you’re a lot closer to making your dream a reality than me. This blog is the closest I’ve come to a sustained creative writing effort [sniff — apply sympathy here]. Hopefully I can use it as a springboard…

10. Kym - November 14, 2007

Sympathy bandage applied.

Blogging is the best exercise in writing I’ve done. I’ve belonged to a writers’ group for almost 4 years now–which I love. But I always just squeezed out the minimum. The blog keeps me writing everyday. Hopefully, that will translate into writing better for my ‘real’ writing.

11. Firefly: Trash Ep. 11 « Sci-Fi TV Geek - November 20, 2007

[…] where Jayne is knocked out and Simon gets a chance to confront him over his betrayal back in “Ariel“.  But the ultimate sign of Mal’s trust in his crew is shown through his willingness […]

12. Firefly: Objects in Space Ep. 14 « Sci-Fi TV Geek - December 29, 2007

[…] when the person next to you isn’t going to rat you out like Jayne did to Simon and River in Ariel?  Fortunately, this all makes for fun and interesting viewing.  But, at this point I’ve […]

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