Introduction of Wash that gives a glimpse into his whimsical personality
|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Joss Whedon|
|Written by||Joss Whedon|
|Original air date||December 20, 2002|
|Running time||86 minutes|
"Serenity" is the two-part series finale and the original intended pilot for the American science fiction television series Firefly created by Joss Whedon. It was the first episode produced for the series and premiered on Friday, December 20, 2002 on Fox. With studio executives unsatisfied with the episode for the series premiere, the show's second episode, "The Train Job", was re-written and produced as a second pilot to be aired first. The episode shares its name with the 2005 feature film Serenity, which serves as a continuation to Firefly.
In the early 26th Century, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) are survivors of their rebel unit in the Battle of Serenity Valley during the Unification War, in which their side lost. Six years later, they are seeking out an existence on the edges of space in their Firefly-class spaceship Serenity, taking odd jobs even if they involve petty crime. They take on passengers to supplement their income, but one has a secret that makes their lives more difficult.
In 2003, the episode won the award for "Best visual effects in a television series" from Visual Effects Society, and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2003 for "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form".
In 2511, Sergeant Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds and Corporal Zoe Alleyne fight in the Battle of Serenity Valley during the Unification War. Without air support, their side is eventually defeated by the Alliance.
Six years later, Mal is the captain of his own transport ship, an older-model Firefly-class vessel he named Serenity, and Zoe is his second-in-command. The rest of the ship's crew consists of Wash (Alan Tudyk), who is the pilot and Zoe's husband; Kaylee (Jewel Staite), the engineer; and Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), an untrustworthy gun-for-hire. Inara (Morena Baccarin), a "Companion" (a very high-class courtesan) who rents one of Serenity's two shuttles, normally travels with them, but she is currently away on business.
While the crew are illegally salvaging some crates off a derelict Alliance spaceship, they are spotted by an Alliance cruiser. To escape capture, they deploy a decoy distress beacon. The Alliance cruiser falls for the deception, but broadcasts a bulletin that a Firefly-class ship is carrying stolen Alliance goods.
The crew of Serenity travel to Persephone to deliver the stolen goods to Badger (Mark Sheppard), the small-time gang leader who hired them for the heist. However, Badger reneges on their deal because he is worried about the Alliance broadcast about the theft. He also does not like the way Mal looks down on him. Mal decides to try selling the cargo to Patience, an old business associate who lives on Whitefall. Zoe has misgivings, since Patience shot Mal the last time they met, but Mal is desperate to get rid of the hot cargo. The crew picks up passengers before leaving Persephone for some income, and Inara rejoins the ship. The new passengers are a preacher named Shepherd Book (Ron Glass), a bumbling man named Dobson (Carlos Jacott), and a wealthy doctor named Simon Tam (Sean Maher) who brings aboard a mysterious large crate.
En route to Whitefall, Wash discovers that someone on board sent a message hailing the nearest Alliance cruiser. Suspecting that Simon is the mole, Mal confronts him, only to discover that Dobson is the "Fed". Dobson surprises Mal by telling them it is Simon he wants to arrest, not Mal. During the tense confrontation, a nervous Dobson accidentally shoots Kaylee in the stomach before being overpowered by Book, who is surprisingly good at hand-to-hand combat for a Shepherd. When an Alliance cruiser orders them to dock for prisoner transfer, Simon threatens not to treat Kaylee if they do not flee. Mal reluctantly agrees (after being prodded by Inara to do so). Mal then opens Simon's mysterious crate and is surprised to find a young woman inside in cryonic sleep.
The woman in the crate is River Tam (Summer Glau), Simon's sister. Simon explains that his sister was a brilliant child who was sent to an elite, but secretive Alliance academy when she was fourteen. After River sent him an encoded letter for help, he discovered that the Alliance was experimenting on the academy students. Simon abandoned his career as a successful trauma surgeon to rescue her. The Alliance wants River back very badly. Mal decides to proceed to Whitefall as planned and drop off both the goods and the Tam siblings.
Mal tells Jayne to interrogate Dobson to find out what he told the Alliance about them. Once Jayne finds out that the Alliance knows nothing, Dobson tries to bribe him, offering him enough money to buy his own ship.
Soon after, they discover that a Reaver ship is approaching. Zoe explains to Simon that "If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we're very very lucky, they'll do it in that order." Luckily, the Reaver ship passes by without incident.
Serenity lands on Whitefall. Not trusting Patience, he sends Jayne to take out her hidden snipers while he and Zoe meet Patience and some of her henchmen in a barren valley. Mal gives Patience a sample of the cargo. As expected, Patience tries to kill them after learning where they have buried the rest, but Mal, Zoe and Jayne dispatch Patience's gang. Mal leaves Patience alive, but takes the money he was promised. Jayne is warned by Wash that the Reavers turned around and followed them to Whitefall.
Meanwhile, back on the ship Dobson escapes, knocking out Book and grabbing River. Mal returns and shoots Dobson, dumping his body off the ship as they start to lift off, the Reavers hot on their tail.
Mal orders Inara, Book, Simon and River to go to Inara's shuttle, just in case the ship is boarded. Jayne carries the still-convalescing Kaylee to the engine room, and Book offers to help her. With Jayne and Book carrying out Kaylee's instructions, Wash is able to pull off a Crazy Ivan (VIFF), and Serenity escapes.
Jayne tells Mal that they should dump the siblings since Dobson had told him that the Alliance will keep coming after River. Mal asks Jayne why he did not turn against him. Jayne responds that the money was not enough. Mal suggests to Simon that he and River might be safer on the move, and points out that Serenity is always moving, and in need of a medic. Simon reluctantly accepts his offer.
This episode has two deleted scenes.
This episode introduces a major story arc of the short-lived series: that of River and Simon. It reveals Simon's deep, selfless love for his sister and that his life is now defined by her.
Despite the script stating that Dobson is killed by Mal, Joss Whedon had planned to bring the character back. Although the series was cancelled, Dobson coming back for revenge was a key part of the plot in Serenity: Those Left Behind, a three-issue comic book miniseries intended to bridge the television series and the movie Serenity.
As Joss Whedon points out in the commentary for this episode, every show he does is "about creating family". To achieve the sense of family, he centers some action around a dinner scene at a table, and directs warm light into the faces of the characters. Strengthening this theme is the interaction between Simon and his sister River. Simon has done a selfless act in rescuing his sister, and his life is now defined by it. Whedon wanted to show a relationship like that that was not a parent-child relationship.
Another theme is the fusion of Asian and frontier culture. As Brett Matthews said, you couldn't ask for a better mission statement for the show than the shot of Mal with a Western tin cup and chopsticks. He then contrasts this to the tall, vertical Alliance cruiser that detects them, as he wanted to show how inefficient the Alliance government was.
He also wanted to show a lifestyle that was very tactile and physical, and contrast it to the lifestyle of the contemporary audience where things "fall in your lap."
This episode was originally intended as the pilot, but Fox found the original version unsuitable, and instead "The Train Job" aired as the pilot and "Serenity" was ultimately the final episode broadcast. The episode's beginning sequence was reshot before it did air, to provide more of the "action" that Fox wanted.
Rebecca Gayheart initially played the role of Inara Serra, but was replaced by Baccarin early in the episode's filming. In anticipation of the role being recast, Whedon shot scenes of the character interacting with the crew in singles, so the only portions that would have to be reshot would be the shots of Inara.
After the Reavers are introduced, the screen goes to near black to end the act. Whedon wanted to give the audience time to "breathe" before the beginning of commercials, but a true black would automatically cue the ads, so he went with a color that was as close to black as possible without causing this.