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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Firefly Ep 2 "Train Job" - Mike's Review

The Train Job felt like diving right into the deep end after the introduction in the first episode.  Same kind of job in a sense, illegal, don't ask questions, but in that we are introduced to the widening web of the Verse.

In quick summary Mal signs the crew up for a job for a notorious and ruthless crime boss.  We are introduced to Niska where he explains his theory of reputation and relationships.  He knows he has a reputation for ruthlessness he wants to turn the idea that he is ruthless and demanding into reality for Mal.  To do this he shows them a man he has tortured and killed for failing to complete a job he hired him for.

Niska tells Mal that he knows of Mal's reputation for getting things done but that only how he completes this job will make that reality for Niska.

Mal's idea of what it means to be a free being and loyal to his crew means that he can not ask questions his other ideas of morality would normally demand.  It showed to me how we all prioritized our ethics and morals, holding one above all the others we can easily allow ourselves deliberant or not to be blind to some of our choices and actions.

The job is to rob a train on a resource poor world.  It has one resource, an ore that combined with other environmental conditions creates a chronic disease condition in the human settlers there.  The condition is painful and fatal except when treated regularly with medicine.  The question Mal didn't ask was what the cargo to be stolen was.

After they steal the cargo they learn it is this medicine.

The settlers on the world are people who in general share the Brown Coat (the rebel, anti-aliance faction) sentiment but as Mal tries to make the larger political/social moral point about the exploitation of the less powerful settlers by the alliance the sheriff makes the point that it wasn't the alliance who stole the medicine.

Even when we try to be blind to the real consequences of our actions often the 'verse just keeps trying to show us and Mal is forced to see the consequences of his actions because of spending time with the sheriff and others in the settlement.  Once faced with the reality he chooses to return the medicine and face the consequences of dealing with Niska.

And in fact this choice only strengthens his connections with his crew; with the possible exception of Jayne, although it puts them in danger.  It was a crack in Mal's image that let in all the others and together they are able to if not fully resolve at least live through the resolution of the job for a while.

And so it seemed to me that Niska was indeed right, by his actions in "accomplishing" the job Mal did show who he was.  That time at least.

A few other things of note in this episode.

Having been part of and entangled with big bureaucracies I thought the portrayal of the bureaucracy on the Alliance ship excellent.  The Alliance isn't an evil empire, just large, powerful and trying to maintain the status quo and made up of moral human beings doing the best they can with the lives they have.

River still seems inaccessible to me as a character.  Interesting in an intellectual way but while I find something in each of the other characters that touches something inside myself I haven't felt that yet in River.  Along those lines I felt both Simon and Book really started solidifying for me.  Simon when he says he'll deal with Jayne on his own shows the courage to take responsibility for his own life that he must have had to rescue and flee with his sister in the first place.  And Book at first feeling useless but in the end provided valuable information and help to the crew.

The ease in which Mal shoves Niska's thug into the engines at the end is disturbing and yet somehow it seems appropriate to me for the character of Mal.  This is not a soft hearted enlightened man, this is troubled determined man who wants to be free and wants to be good.

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