Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Firefly--"Bushwhacked"

“Bushwhacked’ is a reminder of why I am so ambivalent about Firefly. The premise is not a bad one--the crew salvages a derelict ship and gets caught by the Alliance, but the they have to team up with the alliance to solve a more immediate problem. The problem is more in how the complication is explained and issues are resolved.

The Serenity encounters a derelict ship adrift. Mal decides to board the ship, either to help the survivors or loot the dead. The salvage crew discovers it is a former scow converted into a transport vessel for settlers headed for outer planets. Whoever the ship’s complement were, they were attacked by reavers and hung upside down from the ceiling. As the salvage crew finishes taking all the valuables, Jayne is attacked by a lone survivor from the transport. They take him to Serenity for medical treatment.

Shepherd requests to cut down the victims and give them a proper funeral. Mal agrees, if for no other reason than to keep him busy while Kaylee disarms a booby trap attached to Serenity by the Reavers. The scene is Shepherd’s only reason for being in the episode, and the extraneous nature of it carries over to Kaylee’s disarming the booby trap. It is her only moment in the episode, as well. The poignancy of Shepherd’s spiritual concerns and the tension of Kaylee saving the ship is completely absent because the scenes are there solely to involve the characters in a story in which they are otherwise not engaged. Shades of Chakotay from VOY there.

A medical exam reveals the nameless survivor has been brutally tortured by the Reavers. The reavers, by the way, are feral, cannibalistic humans who lost their minds when they traveled to the edge of the galaxy and found nothing. Of significanse. Make sense. Clark Griswald went crazy when Wally world was closed for repairs after his family’s long journey, so if the reavers became feral cannibals, it makes perfect sense. Oh, wait--no it does not. I understand civilization is supposed to be a hot meal and a good night’s sleep from utter collapse, but seriously. Becoming feral cannibals because because you did not even learn 42 is the answr, much less the question? I assume the reavers are supposed to be a commentary on the barbarism of man, but it is too ridiculous to take seriously. Sorry, Browncoats, but unless there is a better explanation coming in an episode I have not seen before, tha Reaver origin does not fly.

An Alliance ship arrives and detains the crew, first on suspicions they are harboring the Tams and then on an illegal salvage operation. Both of which are true, by the way. Simon and River hide in spacesuits on the hull while the alliance inrrogates the crew. Harken, the alliance officer in charge, believes the still unnamed sirvivor’s mutilated condition was caused by Mal torturing him. Mal explains the ship was attacked by reavers, so they are the ones who brutalized him. Mal surmizes his experience at their hands was so traumatizing, he is becoming a Reaver himself. True to form, the guy ihas become a reaver. He attacks Harken, who is saved by mal and Jayne. Presumable in gratitude, the Serenity is allowed to leave, sans salvaged cargo, and with suspicions the Tams are still onboard.

I am not as down on “Bushwhacked” as it may sound, but the episode is not very well thought out. Shepherd and Kaylee have contrived roles devoid of any emotion because they are just thrown in there. The Reavers would make for more interesting villains if their origin was more plausible. As I said above, I assume their condition is supposed to be a comment on the thin barrier holding in man’s dark nature, but making them aliens would have been far better. Joss whedon’s prohibition against aliens on Firefly has its first casualty.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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