(Spoilers) Firefly 3: Bushwhacked

Welcome to episode three of the Firefly Film Festival.

As discussed here, we’ll be reviewing and talking about one Firefly episode each week.

In this thread, please remember the following as a warning to yourself and courtesy to other posters:

  • There will be unboxed spoilers about the current episode in this thread; you are forewarned.
  • Please use spoiler boxes if you want to bring up points from later episodes.
  • Please use spoiler warnings if you want to use info from the movie. Also be prepared for massive jealosy.
  • Label what the spoilers are about so that readers can decide whether to open the box.
  • We’ll be talking about both the episode and the DVD commentary here.

Previous episodes:

  1. Serenity
  2. The Train Job

This week’s episode: Bushwhacked. Who’s starting the thread this week? Oh yeah, that would be me…

I don’t think this is as strong as the previous episode, but I still liked it quite a bit. The crew is forced to be reactionary this time (instead of deciding in advance what they’re doing), and we get to see some different angles.

More about the reavers, and what makes them scary, but not a lot of background on them. (Both here and the pilot, we have Alliance then reavers. Hmmm…) Nice highlighting of Mal’s ambiguities - Inara thinks that he’s being nice about the shepherd, but it might be to distract them while he worries about what the reavers have left. Two things, though: first, the reavers think and plan enough to leave traps? Second, how much does Mal know about the reavers, and how?

The interrogation scenes get to show some more character development. I would have liked to have heard more about Shepherd Book.

Space seems cramped in this series, and here’s an episode where it shows. They aren’t anywhere in particular, but they come across the derelict ship (which, even if its drive is out, should still have been drifting with the last direction and velocity it had, modified for any gravity wells it’s gone near). Then the Alliance cruiser happens to see them both? Odd coincidence. Won’t be the last time, either.

All in all, it did a bit to develop the setting and background, but didn’t have a lot of plot in it.

I thought Bushwhacked was better than The Train Job, which I thought was an overall weak episode. The interrogation scenes and how they hid River made it for me.

Wash going on and on about Zoe’s…virtues, the LOOK on Jayne’s face, the panic in Mal’s when he realises what’s happening… Perfect.

And the joyous look on River’s face when she and Simon are clinging to the outside of Serenity. It was nice.

Loved the interrogation scene. Oddly enough, the series finale of Enterprise uses a similar technique, where the same guest interviews various main characters in turn, with ambiguously phrased questions used to transition between characters. I thought “Bushwhacked” did a much better job, however, particularly the Zoe-to-Wash transition (“We’re very private people”). My favorite moment in the episode is Jayne just glaring at the Alliance captain silently- a perfect character moment.

I also really liked Simon’s fear of the emptiness of space, and the way it was used throughout the episode to illustrate both his character and the characters around him (Jayne’s dislike for Simon, River’s fascination with the very thing that frightens Simon, etc).

I thought it was interesting how Mal knew about the Reavers, particularly how they “convert” new members. One wonders just how he knows so much, particularly since he didn’t become a Reaver himself…

Nail/head interface, IMO. Despite the ‘ghost ship’ plotline, the main purpose of this episode seems to be to further fill the audience in on the day-to-day lives of the characters. So, we get the initial scene of the improvised basketball game in Serenity’s hold, plenty of detail about how one goes about conducting an illegal salvage operation, hinting at River’s clairvoyance abilities (while making it plausible that the rest of the crew doesn’t quite pick up on this), more picking on of the nerd (Simon) by the schoolyard bully (Jayne), and the interrogation scene provides a convenient opportunity for the characters to explain a bit more about themselves.

The rest all seems to be mood and atmosphere. This episode, directed by Tim Minear rather than Whedon and the first in the series to be set entirely in space, is extraordinarily beautifully lit and photographed. Considering the TV budget, the density of detail is amazing. The derelict homesteader’s ship, perhaps a bit derivative of Alien’s Nostromo, has its own distinctive design and creepy personality. The bizarre tendrils that, without explanation, attach themselves to Serenity when she docks with the derelict (we later learn it’s a Reaver boobytrap). The color red (a warning of the bloody horrors to come?) figures again and again: River spotlit in her red frock, seemingly channeling the ghosts of the passngers, Simon carrying a ludicrously bright red doctor’s kit; later, a red balloon is seen floating eerily in the background in the darkened derelict’s corridor. The scene in which Simon and River hang on to the outside of Serenity, Simon terrified and miserable, River gazing in rapt wonder at the billions of stars, is really quite lovely. And the flashlit shot in which Mal and Zoe discover the eviscerated passengers hanging like slabs of beef in the hold is one of the more disturbing images I’ve seen in a TV show over the past few years.

Then the survivor turns up, and this part of the plot, unfortunately, goes to hash. I never found myself buying the central premise: that simply having witnessed the horrors carried out by the reavers would somehow push him into becoming one himself. It seems pretty clear that his main plot function is to provide a justification for the Alliance officer eventually letting Mal and his crew go. Even then, the officer suddenly developing a conscience, after demonstrating repeatedly that he doesn’t appear to have one, doesn’t ring all that true either.

Still, not particularly bad. I’ll keep watching. :smiley:

Don’t get me wrong; in spite of the weak plot, I really loved the character moments. I’m with Tarrsk and Tengu about Jayne. Everyone else it talking about this or that… then you see Jayne just sitting there. Says more about Jayne then anything Jayne could have said. I’d put it among the best lines, only there ain’t actually a line there.

I also thought the basketball was a nice touch - the crew gets bored, and isn’t always doing this dangerous stuff. Every so often you see the crew doing just normal things, and it’s a nice background to the rest of the show. This episode would (probably) not have gotten me hooked on the series, but it’s a good solid show developer.

I’ll make another mention of the humor in the show. Some shows, when they try to be humorous, have the writer making the jokes, and it’s funny because of what the characters get into. This is the basis for sitcoms, sure, but too often when they try to put humor in a drama, that happens, too. In this show, it’s not the writer being funny - well, obviously it is - but not with the externals, but by having the characters have a sense of humor. In Serenity, Mal tells Simon Kayley’s dead. Here, Jayne plays the joke on Simon. (Yes, it’s cruel in both those cases, but it shows about the characters.) Wash has a different sense of humor - he’s silly with the dinosoars, then he says things like “Who’s flying the ship? Oh yeah, me”. Zoe is rarely humorous, but when she is, it’s a deadpan, understated humor. So the writers can do humor within the show by having the characters produce humor that fits them, rather than forcing it on them. It seems more real, fits with the characters better, and - well, I just like it better.

Overall, I took the show to be mostly expository about the 'verse Fireflt is set in. What I’m not sure about is what to make of the Alliance personnel.

Was the story done this way to show that while brusque and officious, the Alliance officers can still be human beings on occasion once confronted with irrefutable fact? Or just plot-like Deus Ex that the Alliance Capt. decides to let them go afterwards? After all, he had them dead-to-rights on Illegal Salvage. And I get the impression that just normally bad people do very bad things and blame it on Reavers.

IMO, they could’ve left the whole Alliance bit out and turned the episode into a terror-crawl (ala Alien) through the insides of Serenity and/or the derelict as the rescued crewman goes totally nuts and tries to stalk and kill the crew. But then we’d have missed the great interrogation scenes. Jayne has probably heard “You have the right to remain silent…” plenty of times, and knows how to properly exrecise that right.

And I too am wondering how come Mal knows so much about Reavers. Maybe he picks up rumors here-and-there in different spaceports and puts the pieces together; but then again, anyone can do that. Then again, since it looks like they were being set up as the series boogeymen, someone has to fill us in on them one way or another.

Yeah, what are we supposed to think of the Alliance? Ruthless lawgivers? Good guys seen from the wrong perspective? They seem wildly inconsistent.

Bureaucrats. Tax Collectors. Time servers. Good Germans.

They certainly don’t seem to take that much of an interest in the local affairs of the planets and moons they administer. In The Train Job, a platoon of their troops is explicitly told to continue on rather than help Paradiso’s sheriff search for the stolen medicines.

The Alliance seems closest in metaphor to the European colonialist powers that exploited Africa and the Subcontinent in the 1700- and 1800’s.

Well, like Mal said, “…unite all the planets under one central government so that they can all be ignored or interfered with equally.”

The Alliance is a bloated bureaucracy interested only in protecting the corporate interests that shore it up. Itcan and will break its own laws and commit terrible atrocities to pursue those interests.

Much like any government you’d care to name, brought to its logical conclusion. Firefly presents a system where Anarchy is more or less the correct choice.

That said most of its officers are too banal to be truly evil, and some of them are good guys who just happen to be protecting the law for an unjust government.

I’m dying to know more about Reavers, and you’re right, what everyone knows about Reavers is rumors picked up here and there in various spaceports.

But Mal seems to have real experience with them. Maybe back during the war, the Rebels were forced out into the darker reaches of the galaxy and had real encounters with Reavers?

How does Reaver “society” work? How do you drive someone insane yet retain the ability to maintain and fly spaceships? Why don’t they eat each other? How do they get along at all? What is it about the dark edges of the galaxy that drives people insane?

I’d love to see what happens when Reavers run into one of those large, government “mothership” whatcha-call-its.

Kaylee’s still mighty durned cute.

We really don’t know what Reavers are or do, we only know what Mal believes he knows. He thinks that witnessing the horrors will turn a person into a Reaver, but neither he, nor we, know the mechanics involved.

Other than that, the whole ep is exposition, thinly disguised with a plot. More about life on Serenity, more about Alliance, more about Reavers, more about each character. I dunno if the writers started with the intention of making an ep with exposition or if they realized the plot was kinda thin and decided to use the extra time to do exposition, but the overall result is still enjoyable. It doesn’t move along very quickly, but then, that should be the dynamics of all storytelling, sadly lacking in most tv shows.

I really liked the fact that it didn’t turn into a bug-hunt episode. Seen enough of those.

This is the episode when I really grocked the how great, how effective the no-sound-in-space anti-effect can be, when Serenity docks with the derelict.

I remember laughing really hard the first time I realised Jayne had played a trick on the doctor. Guess it was just as funny the second time, too, because I laughed again!

People stung up like meat - brrr

Love Mal’s way of talking down the panicked “survivor”: 'no-one’s going to hurt you - WACK! '. Again, shows how pragmatic he is.

I got the same vibe from the Alliance commander as from that Commodore/Captain guy in Pirates of the Caribean - a real rules stickler. So even though he let Mal go, he had to see to it that he didn’t profit.

I really liked this one, probably because it’s expositry.

I don’t think Reavers are a “society” so much as a syndrome. A strange self-replicating insanity in which the victims not only leave each other alone but are driven to drive others to their paticular madness. IOW, it’s a viral meme.

I think it’s a sign of the quality of this show that this is my least-favorite episode - and I still mostly like it, especially the interrogation scenes. Especially Jayne’s. Overall I thought it was pretty contrived, especially the Alliance ship just randomly showing up.

This is definitely the first episode where I was able to fully appreciate Wash’s lovely arms. Mmmm… Wash…

I would love to know what previous contact Mal had with the Reavers. It certainly seemed like he had some kind of experience with them.

Was the scene with the bodies on the derilect shown as fully when the show was broadcast on Fox? It seemed rather gruesome for network TV.

As for the random ships showing up: I think it was implied that the Alliance goes hunting for missing or known-destroyed ships in the pilot. It is ambiguous whether they simply ran across the other ship or not, though.

Similarly, I’ve heard the idea that most space travel goes along specific corridors, explaining why space is so crowded. I don’t know that this makes any sense–planets and moons move in positions all the time, such that if your ship from Earth leaves for Mars fifteen minutes later than my ship, we’ll end up being thousands of miles apart in our journey. But at least it’s something of an explanation.


Well, I guess that makes sense. Especially in the light of Wash’s comments (in Out of Gas?) about charting courses that will keep Serenity in emptier areas.