‘Firefly’: "Safe"

29May09

“Safe” continues the boring precedent that “Shindig” established, but I have sort of a soft spot for this episode because it’s about Simon and River. Theirs is probably my favorite relationship on the show because I feel like I so rarely see a platonic yet loving relationship between a man and woman. I also finally started to like River when I first saw this episode, because she gets to be lucid for a few moments. And she dances. I like almost anyone a little bit better if I get to see them dance so unselfconsciously as River does here.

This episode begins with a flashback, which usually would make me cranky. But the flashbacks in this episode actually aren’t so terrible because they provide information that isn’t rehashed a thousand times during the course of the series, namely that Simon was the beloved child and he severed his relationship with his parents when he rescued River. I only wish that the first scene had been written a little better. And didn’t involve Zac Efron. But isn’t that Summer Glau’s voice coming out of young River’s mouth? I think so. Joss does the same trick in The Big Damn Movie, which makes me wonder why he thinks having Summer voice all of River’s incarnations is so important.

I don’t understand the inclusion of the scene with the mountain people in the teaser. That moment telegraphs the main plot of the episode and kills any suspense that could have been created in the moment that Simon is kidnapped. Not that the kidnapping plot is at all interesting. I never feel as though Simon and River are in real danger.

The writers jump through an impressive number of hoops of contrivance to separate Simon and River from the crew so that they can be kidnapped. Mal says he wants River to leave because she makes his disreputable dealings “not be smooth,” but if one considers the previous episodes, River had little to do with Mal’s criminal activities not going smoothly. River has yet to be a benefit or a detriment to any of the jobs. Mal has managed to screw up all by himself. Then Mal sends River and Simon into town rather than into the ship and to their rooms. If Mal were really concerned about the sale going smoothly, I would think he would want the fugitives safely tucked away out of sight. Even if the Alliance doesn’t regularly patrol a “backwater” planet like Jiangyin, Mal knows that criminals are afoot. And criminals might turn in River and Simon for a reward or to bring trouble down on Mal. Or the criminals may be pursued by law enforcement officials, you never know. It could happen. Apparently, the mountain people conclude that Simon is a physician because Mal calls him “Doc.” Maybe it’s the academic (and the Back to the Future fan) in me, but I would need a mention of treating wounds or stitching people up to decide that Simon wasn’t just a really educated person.

And does Simon walk through an alleyway and end up in a field? Who planned that?

Book receiving such quick medical treatment from the Alliance is intended to add to the “mystery” of his past, but personally I don’t find his background all that intriguing. So he’s a preacher who knows about nefarious dealings and has an in with the government. There are several explanations, all of which have been explored in literature, film, and television before. I’d be interested in Book’s mysterious past if the explanation finally showed up and was something new and different. These “hints” are tiresome.

I’m rather fond of some dialogue from this episode. Mal’s “Morbid and creepifying I got no problem with, long as she does it quiet-like,” gets a chuckle from me, and Simon scores with “I’m very sorry if she tipped off anyone about your cunningly concealed herd of cows.” “Safe” also features the “big damn heroes” line that Browncoats seem to like, but it sounds awkward to me. I think the situation calls for an f-bomb or some other two-syllable curse word. “Big gorram heroes” would have worked.

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