Thursday, December 22, 2011


I perked up quite a bit when I noticed Jane Esperson wrote “Shindig.” While I remain blissfully unaware of her previous work for Joss Whedon, I have enjoyed many of her scripts for Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, and Torchwood: Miracle Day. I looked forward to watching “Shindig” and was not disappointed.

Serenity returns to Persephon, the planet they beat a hasty retreat from in the pilot. Inara plans to attend a formal ball and chooses an aristocratic client named Atherton Wing as her escort. grease monkey Kaylee is enthralled by the formal dresses the upper crust wears to these things, but Mal pops her bubble by insulting how she would look in one. She storms off very upset. The rest of the crew, sans the not so sensitive Jayne, follow suit in solidarity with her.

Mal and Jayne are accosted by Badger, whom we also met in the pilot. He has the opportunity to move some hot property off world for a big shot named Warwick Harrow, but harrow will not have anything to do with a lowlife like Badger. He wants mal to act as the middleman contact. Harrow happens to be the man throwing the formal ball, so mal kills two birds with one stone by escorting kaylee to the ball in order to get close to Harrow.

Inara is not thrilled to see Mal in attendance. He cuts in her dance with wing in order to tell her about the business proposition. She reveals she is considering building a life here with wing instead of continuing on Serenity. wing cuts back in under the rationale he has paid for Inara’s company. Incensed at the implication inara is a hooker--paid companion is a much classier term, I guess--Mal punches him. He winds up being challenged to a sword fight at dawn with master swordsman Wing. Oops.

Mal practices all night, but it is clear he has no skill with a sword. Inara is still angry at him for defending her honor when she did not ask for his help. She thinks he ought to escape to avoid being killed, but mal refuses to back down from the duel. In the morning, mal meets the challenge, and is outclassed as a swordsman by wing until he decides to punch him and steal his sword. Having won as far as harrow is concerned, mal is awarded the deal to move the hot cargo--a full head of cattle. While looking out over the cattle in the cargo bay, Inara thanks Mal for defending her and wonders why she ever thought about leaving such a glamorous life.

“Shindig” has some great character moments. Obviously, the main characters featured are mal and Inara. Mal’s roguish ways have been well established already, as has his warped sense of morality. He will brutally insult a young girl, then backhandedly make her dream come true while using her to line up an illegal operation, and then nearly blow it all risking his life to defend a prostitute’s honor when she refuses to do so herself. If nothing else, Mal’s actions towards her establish Inara as an important part of the crew. Kaylee is amusing. The low class tomboy in her keeps her from fitting in with the high society girls, but she finally finds her place talking shop with a crowd of mechanically inclined men.

River’s manic ways are on display yet again. In a down period, she frantically rips the blue sun labels off the can goods in the mess hall, which is a reference to the Blue Hand agents who sre looking for her. In a lucid moment, she provides a distraction for the crew who are being held captive by Badger to prevent them from interfering with the duel. There is no way she could have known they needed a distraction at that precise time, nor could she have known the details of Badger’s life in order to converse with him as she did. Emerging psychic powers, folks.

“Shindig” hovers close to sitcom territory in much of its tone and plot, but the jokes are funny and the characterizations are fun, so I have no complaints. Esperson apparently had a good time writing what is essentially a Jane Austen period piece. It shows in the finished product.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

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