‘Firefly’: "Shindig"

22May09

I’m not sure if I dislike “Shindig” more than “The Train Job,” but this episode certainly represents a nadir of the series’ short run. Where “The Train Job” is schmaltzy, “Shindig” is boring, and both are predictable.

This episode attempts to illustrate that Mal doesn’t really belong in “his world” of thieves and Inara doesn’t belong in “her world” of manners and fancy parties. No, they belong together! on Serenity! because they luuuuuuuurve each other! Or something. But really “Shindig” acts as a vehicle for Mal (and others!) to degrade and objectify Inara even more than usual. Also, Inara has the opportunity to establish that the only way she’ll ever be useful on the series is when she can sleep with someone. The only part of this episode that I find somewhat unexpected and refreshing is the gender role reversal of Mal asking Inara to teach him how to fight.

Mal also gets to assert his patriarchal authority over Kaylee when he pretty much orders her to come to the ball with him, telling her that she “got no need to speak.” Just to look pretty on his arm at the dance. Mal is real different from Atherton, ain’t he? Yeah, yeah, I know that Mal buys Kaylee the layer cake dress to make up for being rude to her earlier, but I’m not as easily won over as she is. As much as Hollywood tries to sell me on the idea, I don’t think that someone being an asshole is actually endearing and romantic.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew sits around, and Summer Glau gets to show off her ability to do accents. Her Cockney isn’t as impressive as her Russian accent from the Angel episode “Waiting in the Wings.” However, next to Mark Sheppard who makes a living doing ridiculous voices, Summer doesn’t look so bad. But I don’t understand why Badger reacts so congenially to River after she completely humiliates him.

The only bit of this episode that I really like is Kaylee. I like her walking back to her bunk from the engine room and lying on her bed to stare at her layer cake dress and listen to classical music. I think Jewel Staite looks so sweet but also sexy with the top half of her coveralls dangling around her waist. I also love her beleaguered “Hi” when she returns to Serenity as the captive of Badger’s henchmen.

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