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'Firefly' recap: Objects in space are more dangerous than they appear

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 Brandi McCormick’s previous posts for all 14 episodes of Nathan Fillion goodness as she recapped the series from the very beginning.

Season 1 | Episode 14 | “Objects in Space” | Aired Dec 13, 2002

Alas, fellow Whedonites, the time has come for the final episode of Firefly. And aside from feeling a bit unfinished (solely because I knew going into it that I was doomed to never see another episode), this final episode did not disappoint.

It’s the River Tam show in “Objects in Space,” and for the first time in the series’ run, I am 100 percent okay with that. This episode addressed many problems I always had with her character. My main issue was that she wasn’t that interesting or integral to most storylines, and instead was relegated to being in the fetal position with a scared look on her face most of the time. Here, she is practically bursting with personality—a funny, brilliant and helpful personality that we haven’t really seen with her up to this point. So needless to say, I was more than bummed when I remembered that we would never get to dive deeper into River’s life after this exemplary character showcase. Blast you, prematurely canceled shows!

But back to the action at hand. The saga of River begins when the sister Tam makes her way around Serenity. Presumably she’s just on a regular afternoon stroll, but as she encounters each of the shipmates, she experiences a sort of hallucination in which they “speak” to her, revealing the true meanings behind their words and actions.

When she comes upon Simon and Kaylee, she envisions that Simon blames her for ruining his prestigious medical career. Her hallucination with Mal and Inara shows her their true feelings for each other. She “hears” Jayne admit to selling her and Simon to the Feds on Ariel. All of the emotions are too much to bear, and she flees to the cargo bay. But it’s here that she experiences the most intense hallucination: She suddenly sees herself surrounded by fallen leaves and a single tree branch at her feet. She picks it up, stating, “It’s just an object. Doesn’t mean what you think.” And then suddenly, the real world comes whirling back into focus. She’s not holding a tree branch, but is actually holding one of Jayne’s guns. The entire crew surrounds her, begging her to hand it over.

This close call leads to the crew having a sit-down to talk about River and the kind of liabilities she brings to Serenity. Most of them speculate that River probably has never even used a gun before, making this a onetime incident, but Kaylee chimes in. She squashes that thought outright when she tells them how River killed three men on Niska’s SkyPlex during their rescue mission for Mal and Wash. Everyone is beyond shocked, and begins to speculate if she actually is a real danger to them—and, more important, if she might have actual psychic abilities. Of course, River hears the whole thing, but she’s not the only one. There’s a stranger tapping into the hull of Serenity at that very moment, and unbeknownst to everyone, he heard the whole thing too.

Mysterious bounty hunter Jubal Early (Richard Brooks) boards Serenity unheard and unnoticed just moments later. He’s ruthless, and without breaking a sweat he gets the jump on everyone, first taking out Mal and locking him in his cabin, then locking up everyone else as well.

Next up is poor Kaylee, who’s startled by Early. He proceeds to threaten her with rape if she doesn’t forfeit River’s whereabouts. Kaylee acquiesces and in return, Early leaves her tied up and helpless in the engine room.

Book is the next victim to Early’s violent intrusion, and he’s taken out with one swift kick from Early. This guy is good.

But things get more interesting when Early and Simon come face-to-face. Early address Simon by name, fully aware of his identity, as Early has actually been sent to Serenity for the sole purpose of capturing River. But they’re both in the same boat on River’s whereabouts—River having disappeared in the middle of the night without a trace. Early manages to get Simon’s cooperation only after threatening to rape and kill Kaylee, and the two head off in search of River. Inara gets caught in the crossfire of the hunt, and Early answers her pleas of truce with a slap to the face.

After searching fruitlessly in the cargo and shuttle areas, Early grows restless. Arriving on the main bridge, he announces that if River wants her brother to live, she must reveal herself now. And just then, River’s disembodied voice fills Serenity.

She states over the ship’s intercom that she’s no longer on Serenity, but has simply “melted away,” deciding to become a “part of the ship.” It’s a pretty spooky moment, and the true turning point for River’s character: She’s transformed from strange lab experiment to necessary Serenity entity.

This ethereal intercom announcement from River is heard by the rest of the Serenity crew, all of whom are more than befuddled, having no idea what’s going on since they’ve all been locked away in their cabins. River then communicates with each of them separately, setting up her master plan.

Kaylee manages to free herself and sets out unlocking everyone’s cabins, and the rest of the crew prepares to take down Early. Meanwhile, River is able to use her otherworldly abilities to probe Early and converse with him about personal and private details, successfully rattling Early and convincing him that she has, in fact, become one with the ship. It’s a treat to see the ruthless Early break from the unsettling shakedown River is giving him without her even being present in the same room.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 9.54.23 AM

But that lapse in Early’s judgment only lasts momentarily, as it dawns on him that he’s not been talking with a spirit-like River, but that she’s been on his ship the whole time and has been using the intercom system to communicate with Serenity. Aware of the coup she’s pulled, Early now converses directly with River, and is further surprised when she actually offers herself up to him without question. She says she’ll go with him, aware that she’s become a dangerous liability for her Serenity family, and is now unwanted and unneeded. Simon is not in on the plan, however, and as Early leaves to join River on his ship, Simon jumps Early and gets himself shot in the leg.

Early leaves Serenity, but as he traverses the top of the ship, he’s greeted by Mal, who’s been waiting in ambush for this exact moment. Without hesitation, Mal shoves Early off into space, dooming him to float around in the deep black infinity until he runs out of oxygen. Chilling, yes. But totally badass? You bet.

With Early drifting off Clooney-style, River floats back down to Mal’s waiting arms. They return to Serenity and all is well.  The Serenity family is all together; the threat of the Alliance is far away. It’s a sweet ending to an otherwise tense episode, and weirdly fitting for what ended up being the series finale. (I seriously can’t say how thankful I am that it didn’t end with a cliffhanger.)

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 9.50.40 AM

Oh, and by the way:

  • River: Permission to come aboard?
    Mal: You know, you ain’t quite right.
    River: It’s the popular theory.
    Mal: Go on. Get in there. Give your brother a thrashing for messing up your plan.
    River: He takes so much looking after.
  • When Simon and Early are forced to step over Book’s unconscious body, Simon asks, “And which part of your plan dictated the necessity of beating up a shepherd?” Early dryly replies, “That ain’t no shepherd.” Ugh! Again with the mysterious Book! I so wish we could have gotten more seasons so we could have figured out just what his backstory was.
  • Wash: Little River just gets more colorful by the moment. What’ll she do next?
    Zoë: Either blow us all up or rub soup in our hair. It’s a toss-up.
    Wash: I hope she does the soup thing. It’s always a hoot and we don’t all die from it.

Thank you for following along with me as I returned to the world of Serenity! It’s been a real joy to revisit one of Joss Whedon’s most underrated babies, and only mildly heartbreaking (again) to be deprived of a second season. Here’s to hoping that Zoë and Wash had a darling baby like they talked about; that Inara and Mal finally confessed their love to each other and then could joke about how silly they were for ignoring it for so long; that Kaylee finds true happiness, whether it’s with the oblivious Simon or some other adorable space boy; that Simon is able to go back to practicing medicine once every last Alliance member is killed, and River can go on with her life out of harm’s way; that Jayne can learn the importance of family over money; and that Book can become ruler of the universe, as he is so clearly destined to do.

Firefly is available for rental or purchase on NetflixHulu PlusXbox VideoAmazon Instant VideoiTunes and more.

Get more of Brandi’s take on all things entertainment over at ReelSnarky.com!

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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