(Spoilers) Firefly Film Festival #9: "Ariel"

Welcome to episode nine 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
  3. Bushwacked
  4. Shindig
  5. Safe
  6. Our Mrs. Reynolds
  7. Jaynestown
  8. Out of Gas

This week’s episode: Ariel. “But not boring like she makes it sound.”

No, not boring at all. This is a powerful episode, I think, because we find out what’s wrong with River, but also because of Jayne’s betrayal. The combination of 1) Simon’s description of what’s been done to her and 2) the way the men in the blue gloves kill people really brings home how evil River’s captors/torturers (don’t even know what to call them) are.

Once again, Mal reads Jayne clearly. Not sure at what point Mal realized that Jayne had almost messed the whole thing up. My favorite giveaway line was Jayne’s “You’re part of my crew,” which he uses as a response to Simon’s naively admiring remarks. To me, this is another spot where we see how important Jayne is in his own mind; it has a very “captain-y” ring, since it’s a line Mal used previously when they went back to retrieve Simon and River in Safe. And it gives Mal (and the audience) an easy opportunity to doubt Jayne, who has never had a selfless moment that we know of.

And despite Jayne’s delusions of grandeur, Mal continues to emphasize to him that he, not Jayne, is the captain. He does so early on when he tells Jayne he won’t leave Simon and River on Ariel. He does so again at the end, when he makes clear to him that Jayne betrayed him by betraying members of his crew.

Most of the humor in this ep is very dark. Lightest I can think of offhand is Kaylee welcoming Inara back to the ship, cheerfully listing what Inara’s missed “We killed Simon and River, stole some drugs, and then the Captain and Zoe went back to rescue the others that got snatched by the Feds.” (Or words to that effect.)

Still thinking about what else is in there. I’ve watched it twice today, but I find parts of it hard to watch because I don’t deal well with bloody scenes.


The lightest humor has to the part where Jayne blurts out his memorized lines when he didn’t have to. By God, it was so hard to learn them that there’s no ruttin’ way he was going to leave that desk without saying them!

I detest the rhetorical question “You know what?”, but the first time I watched Ariel, I hoped Reynolds would defenestrate Jayne. And, you know what? I hoped he would tonight. :slight_smile:

Naming the planet Ariel gives credence to the moons of gas giants being colonized, Ariel being a moon of Jupiter. The term “core world” indicates that they are speaking of solar systems in a galaxy.

Ariel is also a character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the very title of which is a double entendre. Ariel is a good spirit, doing Prospero’s will to earn his freedom. Simon earns the metaphorical freedom of his sister by aiding the crew in a job.
Jayne of course is the monstrous evil creature Caliban who (guess what, another phrase I hate) attacked Prospero’s daughter Miranda.

As for humor in the episode, there was Zoe’s “Clear.” after zapping the jerk Doctor and Reynolds shooting the lock and gesturing towards the exit.

Did Jayne as much as admit that he would turn on Reynolds in a previous episode?

I think it’s because his I.Q. is only slight more than Vera’s caliber. :slight_smile:

“Just once I’d like things to go according to the gorram plan!” – Mal

Another one of my favorites, again illustrating the genre-mixing that, in part, made this show so interesting. In this case we get a kind of a cross between Ocean’s 11 and an X-Files episode, with both parts (the heist and the creepy bits) suspenseful and well-directed.

Favorite bits:

  1. River’s slashing Jayne during the teaser, which at first seems solely some sort of reaction to his own knife-brandishing, but which we later realize meant that she knews Jayne’s ultimate intentions, perhaps even before he does.

  2. Kaylee wandering thought the junkyard, complaining bittterly about all the fun things she could be doing on Ariel instead, then suddenly beaming: “Ooh, sychronizers!”

  3. The chase sequence through the back corridors of the hospital, and particularly the musical score during that passage.

  4. The exchange between Mal and Jayne in the airlock, after Mal figures out what really happened at the hospital. Fabulous acting by both parties: when Mal says, “got no use for you”, I actually thought for a minute that we about to see the last of Adam Baldwin’s character.

Also enjoyed the little details such as everyone screwing up the medical terminology (Mal: “The patient’s pupils were fixed and dilapidated” :D) and Mal’s having the names of the medicines he was looking for written on his arm.

No so hot; not much, except for maybe some slightly ropy special effects and the medevac ambulance, which pretty obviously was a tarted-up stage prop of a Russian Mi-24 helicopter. OK, so maybe only the true geeks noticed that.

To add yet another layer to the scene, note the t-shirt Jayne is wearing when River slashes him. If I’m not mistaken, it’s got a Blue Sun logo on it.

Not a mermaid in sight. What a rip-off.

(I’m assuming that doesn’t need to be in a spoiler box since it deals with the current and a past episode)

Yes, in “Serenity.” Mal confronts Jayne about how the Fed got loose:

The A-Team episode!

This is, in my mind, one of the less interesting episodes, but it has some intriguing hints. First, of course, we have the two by two, hands of blue guys. They are damned creepy. Remind me of the Gentlemen from Hush. In true horror movie fashion, they catch up with our heroes, despite the fact that they’re walking slowly and Jayne, Simon, and River are running. Excellent.

Also, it is interesting to note that when Inara comes back from her checkup and Kaylee asks how it went, her response is “Same as last year” not “I’m fine”. I have read some speculation (was it here? Or somewhere else? Can’t remember) that Inara has some life threatening illness, and that’s why she left Sihnon, to see the universe before she died.

I like the exchange with Mal and Jayne when Mal has Jayne in the airlock. It’s only when Jayne asks Mal to make something up about his imminent death that Mal relents. If Jayne cares enough about the crew that he doesn’t want them to know that he betrayed Simon and River, he must truly regret his actions. Very nice. Of course, Mal is still pissed off enough that he leaves Jayne in the airlock, hehe.

My DVD set hasn’t arrived yet, so I still can’t watch along with y’all maybe later this week.

Except I don’t think anyone believes that the firefly 'verse is set in this solar system. And Ariel isn’t a moon, but a core world.

How do you get that? The terminology is consistent with ‘core worlds’ being the main, rich planets, while the ‘outer rim’ is the distant moons around gas giants and maybe a distant rocky planet or two. The ‘rim’ could also mean that in this solar system there is a collection of larger worlds in a ring, like an asteroid belt or the kuiper belt.

Other than the occasional use of the word ‘galaxy’ inappropriately used, everything in Firefly points to the fact that everything happens in a single solar system, albeit a very large one.

If they did have FTL travel and the whole galaxy to terraform, it would destroy the whole show. There would be no need for everyone to continually interact, and the plots of some shows would not be believable (‘Out of Gas’ would make no sense).

Besides, in the original voice-over for the series, Mal clearly says that it’s a single solar system.

Minor spoiler from the movie (not relating to any plot point - don’t highlight only if you don’t want to know ANYTHING AT ALL about the movie before you see it):

It’s made clear that the Firefly 'verse is, in fact, in a separate solar system from our own. Humans went there after using up our own solar system.

I like the bit where Mal is trying to learn the medical terminology, and gets it wrong, curses in Chinese, and ends with “Shiny!”

Always makes me laugh, and helps add to the realisticness of using Chinese.

Exactly my thought - I have the “Dun De Duh Duuun, Duh-Duh Dun…” music running through my head every time.

Was that a port compressor catalyzer whatsis (ie. “Out Of Gas” doohicky) that Wash picks up and then throws away while Kaylee’s back is turned?

That, and the “He looks better in Red” thing, makes me think it’s the latter more than the former. I don’t think Jayne would necessarily have sold them out if River hadn’t cut him - Jayne’s fairly simple, which means he’s one to hold a grudge. So if River was prescient in this case, she’s also a self-fulfilling prophet, IMO.
We know the Blue Sun corp is the HalliburtonCokeWalmartMacdonalds of the Alliance, and there’s enough reason to suspect they might have something to do with River’s “treatment”.

It was nice seeing Mal out of his element - kinda like in Shindig. I think it humanises him.

Fave quotes:
Mal: The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the balls to do it to my face.

River: Time to go to sleep.
Simon: No, mei-mei… it’s time to wake up.

Wash: You know, it’s very sweet – stealing from the rich and selling to the poor.

Great episode. It’s got everything - drama, comedy, action, and an exciting, emotional story. The cast are just so comfortable in their roles, it feels like seventh season television (but with their first-season enthusiasm and hunger). Plus, the crew are really firing on all cylinders - great camera work, the (many!) sets and props look fantastic, the lighting is creative and moody, etcetera. Postproduction’s terrific as well, but the music and the CGI have always been top-notch. I think the crew really deserve a lot of credit here.

The only criticism I can think of is that I find the idea that they could escape the Alliance’s clutches so easily a bit unrealistic, especially with such an improvised, haphazard plan. You would think with all of the preplanning between Jayne and the Alliance officer, they would have made better holding arrangements. And not sent just two plebes to lead them down to an isolated cell.

Surprisingly gory for television - but it certainly made selling the Jayne-scaring screams easier.

Great Simon development in this episode. It was interesting to see him in his element, especially when he took on the responsibility of the patient in the hospital’s common room, and afterwards, in his outrage, slipping right back into his former skin to lecture the young doctor. He was confident, comfortable, and self-assured, basically everything he hasn’t been on Serenity. And the quiet Simon and River scenes were very touching.

I agree with everyone else on the Mal/Jayne confrontation. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have the episode end with Mal walking out of the cargo bay while through the window, the daylight faded to black as they broke atmosphere.

Likes: Learning medspeak, River’s tear, Jayne trying to touch the brain display and Simon slapping his hand away (and the display registering when Jayne starts lying), and of course, “We applied the cortical electrodes but were unable to get a neural reaction from either patient…”

Dislikes: I got annoyed with Wash and Zoe when they began celebrating and kissing on the hospital roof. I agree with Mal, save that for when you’re out of sight.

A very good episode, but the one part that rang hollow for me was the whole ambulance thing. First, what are the odds that you’re going to ‘accidentally’ find the entire fuselage of an ambulance in a junk yard? Second, how did they get the hulk back to Serenity? Third, does anyone believe even a genius mechanic can rebuild an aircraft from a rusted hulk in a matter of hours or a few days at most, including painting it to look spiffy new? That was just totally unbelievable.

Oh, and if they have the kind of money and skill where they can put together an ambulance and fly it just out of spare parts, what are they doing scraping together money with two-bit crimes?

I thought that one thing was a major weakness in the plot, and it would have been better had they just stolen an ambulance, or found another way into the hospital.

Other than that, great episode.

Love this episode, even though it ranks just behind “War Stories” in “most gruesome scene in the series.” Though it loses a few points for the complete absence of Ron Glass. :frowning:

As with most episodes of Firefly, my favorite bits are minor character moments that don’t necessarily forward the main plot. Most of these go to the three characters upon whom “Ariel” focuses: Simon, River, and Jayne.

-The training montage is hilarious- I second Mal’s “dilapidated… DILATED, dilated… <Chinese swearing>, shiny!” as one of the best uses of Firefly lingo ever.

-Kaylee complaining about trash-hunting duty… only to burst into smiles upon finding cool gadgets.

-Jayne blurting out his memorized lines even though he needn’t (and still flubbing them anyway- he says “…a neural reaction from both patients,” rather than “…a neural response.” :))

-Simon saving the man’s life, despite Jayne’s protests. Establishes in one very cool “E.R”-esque scene Simon’s expertise and his compassion.

-I also love River’s expression after Simon saves the man- she’s all but saying out loud, “That’s my big brother!”

-Mal impulsively hugging Kaylee after the crew return to Serenity at the end.

-The entire scene in which Mal confronts Jayne. Brilliantly written and acted by both Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin. Mal’s eventual relenting feels like a natural result of the conversation rather than a cop-out to keep the Jayne character alive.

-Simon’s interaction with River throughout the episode- a truly touching brother/sister relationship. I especially like how he calls her “mei mei” (“Little Sister”) when trying to comfort her, as the connotations of “mei mei” in Chinese are that of fondness and caring, emotions that Simon epitomizes.

Everybody’s covered most of the great stuff from this episode, but I’d like to add the fight between Jayne, Simon and the two guards. This wasn’t an idealized brawl that we’re used to seeing in Star Trek. It was a desperate, unpleasant uncoordinated struggle for survival. If they didn’t win this they were dead, simple as that.

It was pretty uncomfortable to watch, but it really rings true. A Trek writer would’ve probably used the old “Guard, my friend is sick and needs a doctor (konks him on the head when his back is turned)” ruse… :slight_smile:

I’ve been lurking here and not watching the episodes, but I just had to nitpick this, since no-one else has.

In our solar system, Ariel would be a moon of Uranus, not Jupiter.


Ouch, thanks, chrisk. :slight_smile: