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'Firefly' recap: Welcome to Serenity

Editors’ Note: Firefly fans rejoice! The Joss Whedon show was only with us for a year, but it lives on in The EW Community. Check back each week for Nathan Fillion goodness and watch with Brandi McCormick as she recaps the series from the very beginning.

Season 1 | Ep. 1 | “Serenity” | Aired Dec 20, 2002

The first episode in Whedon’s spaceship-Western opus, Firefly, opens with fantastic guns out, ships ablaze warfare. Stoic leader Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his right-hand woman Zoe (Gina Torres) are in the heat of battle, fighting off Alliance forces and fending for their lives. While Zoe and a few of their fellow compatriots aren’t so sure a happy ending is in their future, Mal maintains his hopes that rescue is on its way.

It isn’t.

Cut to six years later, long after the Alliance’s victory, and Mal, Zoe and Co. are commanding their own ship, a small Firefly craft by the name of Serenity. They remain fierce rebels to the core, but they’re the most lovable group of rebels that you ever did see!

Mal is the ship’s captain, Zoe is still his second-in-command, and a ragtag group of war survivors round out the ship’s crew: Zoe’s husband Hoban Washburne (Alan Tudyk), or “Wash” as he’s called, serves as the ship’s stellar pilot; Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite) keeps the ship running as the ace mechanic and resident free spirit; trigger-happy armsman Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin); and the seductive and whip-smart “companion” Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), who serves as a sort of high-class prostitute, who brings Serenity a sort of “business legitimacy.” (More on that later.)

The crew runs Serenity as a sort of ship-for-hire thieving ring. Big clients hire them on to loot, steal, transport, pick up, drop off goods (lots of times government related — yikes), thus keeping their ship afloat so they can continue to exist on the edges of the universe, always trying to evade the long arms of the Alliance.

After making port at nearby planet Persephone to finish their most recent job exchange, things prove to be a bit hairier than expected when the client that hired them (the always delightful Mark Sheppard) tries to pull one over on them. Realizing they might not get enough money to refuel the ship, Mal makes the executive decision to bring on a slew of random passengers. Naturally you can assume this brings with it a slew of I-don’t-trust-the-lot-of-’em feelings.

Among those passengers are the priest Derral Book (Ron Glass), a real tool of a guy Lawrence Dobson (Carlos Jacott) and handsome-but-shady doctor Simon Tam (Sean Maher).

It’s immediately apparent that something’s not right, and when Wash and Mal realize someone made a call to the Alliance from their ship, it’s all hands on deck to find the traitor. Mal is mistaken in thinking it’s someone other than Dobson (who, if I’m being really honest, just looks shady). Surprise! Everyone’s got their guns out and Dobson reveals that handsome-but-shady Dr. Simon is transporting something he really shouldn’t be and he’s been tasked with retrieving it and returning it to the Alliance. All hell breaks loose, and Kaylee accidentally gets shot. What is this mysterious cargo? (Wait for it …)

The next little while is touch-and-go with Kaylee, who seems to be the ship’s resident free-spirited little sister to the more rugged and jaded older crew members. Meanwhile, Mal decides to open up that big ol’ cargo container to see just what Dr. Handsome-but-Shady is up to. BIGGER SURPRISE! It’s … a person.

Her name is River, and Dr. Simon regales the crew with a story about how she’s his sister and that he broke her out of a government facility, a special “academy” for brilliant individuals, after he found out she was being subjected to harsh government experiments. (Cue Mal’s super-skeptical face.) River spends the next little while looking super-freaked and mostly naked. Of course.

Dobson tries to convince Mal and the crew to just give River over to him and be done with it, but Mal’s got other ideas. Of course, Handsome-Shady Dr. Simon proclaims that he’ll just let Kaylee die* unless Mal gets him and his sister to safety.

Later on, Mal still has to deal with the little matter of some stolen cargo on his ship. He arranges a meet with an old friend/foe to exchange goods, and it ends in an all-out gunfight. Mal and Zoe get away without getting gypped, just in time to make it back to the ship to deal with the freaky Reavers, inhuman scavengers that scour the edges of the universe, pillaging, murdering and wreaking havoc on pretty much all things. (More on that later, too.)

*She does not die. Woohoo!


What do you guys think of Firefly?  What about Handsome-Shady Dr. Simon? And WHAT is River’s deal? A Western set in space, replete with classic Whedon snark and wit can’t be bad. In the canon of Whedon pilots go, where does this rank on your list? Tell me in the comments below!

Oh, and by the way:

  • “If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And, if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.” — Zoe, on just what exactly the Reavers are capable of.


  • “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” God, I love Alan Tudyk.


  • Look how young everyone looks! Incidentally, pretty much everyone on this show has aged FLAWLESSLY.


Firefly is available for rental or purchase on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Xbox Video, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and more.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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