Monday, 13 August 2012

TV Review: Firefly Season 1 Episode 3 'Bushwhacked'

This third episode of ‘Firefly’ deals mostly with a subject that was briefly seen in the pilot episode, Reavers. The Reavers provide the horror aspect of the show and serve as great villains simply due to their unrelenting brutality and twisted minds. In this episode we see in more detail just how vicious the Reavers are.

The crew of the Serenity discovers an abandoned vessel in space and they investigate it for survivors and loot. Upon exploration of the ship the crew discover a lone passenger left from a Reaver attack that slaughtered the entire crew. Mal orders the team to return to Serenity and to help aid the victim back to health, but the dark threat of Reavers hangs over the crew as they ponder the inconsistencies of what they discovered.

There’s a really strong story in this episode of the series. The new elements introduced to the show compliment its characters excellently, allowing for an interesting story with undertones of mystery to be told. There are plenty of great character moments in here, many of which come from Mal during his interview with Commander Harken, Harken and Mal’s opposing views bring out some great lines from the captain as well as showing a little more of the character of Mal.

Mal and Zoe investigate the abandoned vessel.

There is a clear change in tone observed in this episode in comparison to past episodes. Previous episodes were dominated by their western influence and possessed plenty of comedic situations and witty quips; this episode on the other hand introduces an aspect of horror and suspense to the show by its depiction of the brutality of the Reaver’s. Whilst ‘Firefly’ does have a primary tone and genre, that being a space drama with western influences, this episode clearly shows how capable the show is of tackling multiple new genres and executing them in the series’ distinct style.

This episode fully introduces the audience to the Alliance, before this point much like the Reavers, the Alliance have only been referred to by the characters and briefly appeared onscreen. The figurehead of the Alliance cruiser in this episode, Commander Harken, who is portrayed by Doug Savant (Savant would go on to have a starring role in the 2004 comedy series ‘Desperate Housewives’, this is an early appearance for him before he found that commercial success), is the embodiment of everything Mal opposes, besides being part of the Alliance Harken is someone who follows orders and doesn’t have compassion for those in his way, he also hides behind his title and refuses to face things head on in contrast Mal’s code of honour. The relationship between the two men in this episode shown in their exchange during Harken’s interview process of the crew of the Serenity also gives more insight into the tension that exists between the Browncoats and the Alliance.

Nathan Fillion does a great job during Mal's interview scene.

Simon and River Tam have played a more supporting role in the series thus far which is surprising given that the mystery that surrounds them is one of the driving forces of the show’s plot, in this episode they are given more to do and the audience has a great opportunity to observe their relationship more closely and learn more about them as characters. Their events in this episode only increase the audience’s fascination of why so many people are searching so tirelessly for River.  Sean Maher and Summer Glau do an admirable job as Simon and River respectively in this episode, the relationship between the two characters is really put under a microscope here and the actors excel in their scenes together. Through their great work in this episode Maher and Glau show the strength of the relationship of the two siblings to the audience and help their characters to become more defined.

River and Simon bond over the course of this episode.

Tim Minear wrote and directed this episode without input from show creator Joss Whedon. Minear’s solo writing lacks the usual wit present in Whedon’s work but Minear nevertheless delivers an effective script in the new genre present in the episode and makes it a success.

There is some further elaboration on the mysterious Reavers in this episode as well. Up to this point the audience has only be given brief glimpses into these strange people and thanks this episode the viewer is simultaneously more frightened and more intrigued by the mysterious Reavers than ever. The descriptions given of these elusive and highly dangerous people by the characters in the show is evidence of how fearsome they truly are.

The lack of Whedon’s guidance causes this episode to go off track for a period but it sustains quality through the strong writing and character work the show is great at, thereby delivering a thrilling story nonetheless.

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