Season 1 Episode 11

Serenity (1)

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Dec 20, 2002 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
951 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

After a flashback to Zoe's and Mal's days in the wars six years previous, we cut to the modern day where the Serenity crew is running a salvage operation on a deserted ship and are forced to flee with the cargo when the Alliance show up. Their buddy Badger refuses to buy the cargo so they head off to the rim worlds after picking up three passengers: Book, Simon, and Dobson. En route someone sends a signal to the Alliance and it turns out to be Dobson, an undercover Federal agent, who arrests Simon but is glad to take the whole crew in. He shoots Kaylee before being captured, and Simon forces Mal to flee in return for his doctoring services. When Mal investigates Simon's cargo he finds a naked woman...moreless

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  • This show makes me sad

    I have watched this show about 4 times now. Once on TV, once on DVD, and twice on Bluray. What a wonderful show. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this breath of fresh air. Sadly it was cancelled. Watching this show gives me mixed feelings - happy to see it, to experience it, to enjoy it... sad, it was cut down before it could shine even more. I'm angry, I'm sad. I cancelled my cable when this was cancelled and never bought cable ever again and never will. It wasn't just this show that caused me to cancel my cable... it was a series of cancellations of some of my favorite shows, well written, exciting, and fresh over the years. At least this show was able to get a movie to wrap things up but oh... what it could done.... I wish I had millions of dollars to fund the show back in the day to keep it afloat. Serenity - so enjoyable, but also so sad.

    The characters were awesome right from the first seconds of the show. It just "felt" right. The stories were wonderful. How I wish things could have been different. The reviews speak volumes. How many shows get this kind of ratings especially being cut down after so few episodes.moreless


    The good;

    The 'treasure' mislead is very clever indeed as is the mole, we think it's Simon then Book. Love Kaylee's parasol. The Mal/Jayne face off at dinner is powerful as is Mal telling Jayne to shut up on Persephone but then agreeing he's actually right. It's a small gesture but love it when Simon is about to give River an injection and she sticks her tongue out.

    The bad;

    The opening battle scenes are too dark, I can barely work out what's going on. They appear to operate on Kaylee yet keep her clothes on (like Buffy at the end of season 6). Passing the Reaver ship is a tense moment but stupid when you think about the physics as Joss admits on the commentary. Shouldn't Jayne bring his own rifle to the gunfight, what if there were no snipers? What if they're rifles were inaccurate/faulty and how does he use a weapon not zeroed for him? The Reavers just letting the Serenity go then arbitarily coming back for it later with no adequate expectation is just stupid and lazy writing or am I trying to find logic in the actions of madmen? (The Reavers, not the writers). Can't they just take the markings off the food? Why does Mal peg the guy in the hat for the best shot when he's got an ancient Colt repeater rifle? How come Mal shoots Dobson in the head yet he doesn't bleed as he and Jayane chuck him out the door?

    Best line;

    Mal; "How's business?"

    Inarra; "None of yours"

    also like;

    Zoe; "She shot you"

    Mal; "Yeah, she did a little bit"

    plus a new spin on the old Whedon fallback "Standing right here!"

    Kinky dinky;

    Naked Summer Glau, a cause for joy as anyone who ever watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles knows ("Put'em back in the holster"). Mal tells Kaylee he's considering tying her up, gagging her and throwing her into the hold. She then kisses him and says she loves him. Much like Willow maybe there's a lot of kink beneath that sweet and innocent exterior? "Force is ok" Wash likes to watch Zoe bathe, Inarra also does it unabashedly in front of Book, causing him to gawp. Kaylee certainly knows how to eat a strawberry, maybe Inarra taught her how? Zoe says the Reavers will "Rape us to death" if they are boarded.


    Notches on the Serenity bedpost;

    Inarra;1-a paying customer who wishes to make her his kept woman

    Wash; 1-the missus

    Zoe; 1-the hubby

    Capt subtext;

    Is it just me or does the Dortmunder resemble the World Trade Centre? The might of 'imperialism' cruising for a fall? I always figured all spaceships were sleek to enable them to perform at least some atmospheric flight but maybe the Dortmunder is like a supertanker, so vast that it never sees port. Some nice kinship between Inarra and Kaylee, they seem tight, Inarra describing her as 'very dear'. Kaylee thinks River is a 'real beauty' and calls her 'sweetie'. Some have argued for an incestuous subtext between Simon and River in the same way people saw it between Spike/his mum, Buffy/Dawn/Joyce, Connor/Cordelia. You can almost see why they'd think that, Simon hugging naked River and the little stroking gesture when he holds her hand but as with the other examples I'm not convinced, I just think they're a very devoted brother and sister (they're all each other have in the world).

    When Book comments that the Serenity "Doesn't look like much" Kaylee replies that "She'll fool you", are they flirting? Joss comments she's 'Open to everyone'.

    Mal thinks he's better than Badger and Badger knows it and resents it. Of course Mal also thinks Simon is a better than him 'rich boy' and he resents that, possibly because Simon epitomises the Alliance.

    Total Serenity crew; 7(8?)

    Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, Kaylee, Inarra. Mal invites Simon to join and I guess River comes with him? Book not really part of the team yet.

    Whedon cliches; (see I spelt it right!);

    Devoted siblings, haunted charismatic leading man. Teenage girls with superpowers. Hookers. Arguments where everyone talks over one another. Naked girls in boxes (like Darla in Angel)


    The Fed tied up.

    Knocked out;

    Book; 1

    Simon; 1

    Kayleigh; 1

    Women good/men bad;

    Mal's jealous attitude towards Inarra is very nasty, you can see why Joss cast Nathan Fillon as the misogynistic Caleb in the last season of Buffy. Inarra's trick commenting about her speeding up the clock was probably intended as a joke but he instantly realises it was a huge mistake, inadvertently insulting her.

    Happy high-class hookers in Space (the title the porn industry wished they'd thought of!);

    Prostitution a recurring theme in the Whedonverse, here the nature of ladies (and gentlemen) of the night and their work is explored.

    Ironically Inarra the high class hooker is considered the one who makes the honest living in the crew, some planet's not even letting a ship dock unless they have companion onboard. Book comes across less refined hookers plying their trade at Eavesdown spacedocks. Mal seems to take perverse delight in teasing Inarra by describing her as a 'whore'. She teases him back saying she gave Simon '... a free thrust'. Mal thinks River is a sex slave Simon is smuggling to the frontier.

    Alliance good or bad?;

    It says much for the skill of Joss' writing that he could have made the Serenity crew the out and out good guys and the Alliance all bad. But throughout the series we see that actually the order and civilizing influence of the Alliance is very good news for a great many people. Not everyone supports Mal and his crew of outlaws who like the galaxy wild and untamed, resenting that it's "getting awfully crowded in my sky" (one man's freedom another man's anarchy?). Inarra says it best when she declares that Mal likes being 'lost in the woods' whilst Mal's view is that 'goverments are for getting in a man's way'. At the end when they've escaped Mal declares them 'Out of the woods'.

    In many ways they're like the Roundheads vs the Cavaliers in the War of the Three Kingdoms (modern historians shy away from the term 'English civil war' as it also involved Ireland and Scotland and Britain didn't exist yet), the Confedracy vs Union in the US Civil War and the Republicans vs Nationalists in Spain, one side with the romance and glamour and one side with the might and right. As the end of the battle of Serenity shows romance and glamour are no match for unity of purpose and an overwhelming military-industrial complex. Note the Alliance soldiers wear Nazi stormtrooper style coal-scuttle helmets.

    Much like Dollhouse or Angel Investigations taking over WR&H in the final season here we have shades of grey. I wonder if Joss ever watched the British sci-fi series Blake's 7 when he lived in the UK? It also has a small band of rebels in a spaceship pursued by an all powerful and authoritarian Terran Federation. Here the Alliance cruiser leaves the Serenity alone in order to rescue the survivors from their fake distress call, a low trick in anyone's book. Badger appears to be dealing in slaves which you would imagine wouldn't happen in Alliance territory (US Civil War again?). The Fed doesn't kill Book or Kaylee even though he has the opportunity and motive too, he even apologises for accidentally shooting her and says he doesn't want to hurt anyone. He seems a good enough guy just doing what he considers a perfectly reasonable job. His argument to Simon about coming back to the Alliance almost seems to persuade him. Even Shepherd is unsure who is right or wrong.


    Plenty of stuff showing Zoe and Mal shacking up together during the war before she met Wash

    Missing scenes;.

    Western cliches;

    If you're old enough you surely remember the wonderful documentary series 'The American Civil War', the emotive Serenity music strongly resembles it. Mal speaks of the Alliance 'waltzing through serenity valley' much in the same way Sherman went 'marching through Georgia'. Shooting the horse is very Magnificent 7 whilst Zoe's cut down carbine is very Steve McQueen.

    Firefly speak;


    Weak tea=not good

    Back birth=idiot

    Sticky=corrosive acid

    Skiff=Alliance attack craft


    Companion=high class courtesan


    Shot; Zoe shot but her body armour takes the hit

    Mal; 2-shot by Patience offscreen and onscreen.

    Kaylee;1-shot by Dobson

    Crew injured;

    Simon kicked around by everyone, Book bludgeoned.

    Questions and observations;

    Note Mal kisses his cross before taking on the skiff. Is that why he shows hostility to Book later over grace, he's lost his faith? Note even Jayne does say grace. Mal seems to resent Simon as a 'rich kid', he's a very working class hero. Simon tells Mal to dope Kaylee which you shouldn't do with a stomach wound but maybe their drugs are more advanced? Who are the underground movement Simon claims helped him free River? Did Jayne free the Fed? The Serenity reminds me not so much of a bug as off a goose. I always thought at the end Wash was giving some sort of weird futuristic thumbs up, hilarious to think he's actually faking steering the ship and in the widescreen we see there's no control there. Mal tries to put his past behind him but still can't give up his resentment against the Alliance, won't beg to work for them. He also resents Inarra, Book and pretty much everyone. In the future they still use platinum for money.

    Marks out of 10; 7/10, interesting but not brilliant from the beginning by any means

  • The pilot episode, aired out of order, introduces the ensamble cast and the basic setup of the series and its western-science fiction world.

    Serenity was one of the best television shows aired on American network televison. Everything about it -- the cast, crew, scripts, colors, images, themes, philosophy, music -- was top notch and incredibly entertaining and enlightening.

    Alas, someone at the Fox Network had -- other views -- on the subject. Episodes were aired out of order, the ads for the pilot -- when it finally aired -- shamefully spoiled a major plot point and the series was not given a proper full season.

    Why Serenity was killed, is not all together clear. It had a passionate and loyal fan base, was widely praised and generated good -- even great ratings. Yet, its demise is one of the great errors of network television.

    It is not much, but ever produced episode was given a proper DVD release -- with some nice extras and interviews --, a cool feature film was made and the series lives on in the graphic novel world.moreless
  • This is what should have aired first.

    Being a big Joss fan, I was very excited when Firefly came out and really wanted to like this show a lot. When the series premiered on FOX, the first episode was "The Train Job", and although it was a well written, funny, action packed episode, it really didn't do much to set the story line for the series. "Serenity" is what should have aired first, it was a great episode that gave you a good background on the characters and allowed you to fall in love with the characters and the series. It's too bad that the bog wigs up at FOX didn't start here, or we still could be watching new episodes today.moreless
  • A sci-fi western comedy with exquisite drama and thriller elements... still would not be enough to properly describe the magic that is Firefly. A portrayal of loyalty and a longing for the old west...moreless

    a retelling of the classic western set in a sci-fi future. The ever prescient down-on-his-luck captain with a loyal crew. We follow their escapades as they go through hell and back flying under the Alliance's radar and trying to eek out a living smuggling goods. From train robberies to hold ups to shootouts and especially a duel, Firefly was in its most promising stages when it got canceled in what must have been the most disastrous of decisions. Staying away from stereotypes, Joss Whedon chose to explore a future with humans and the different levels of humanity we are apt to. And he does it very well with a great storyline and more importantly with well fleshed out characters with whom everyone can easily relate. One of the best series to ever be.moreless
Nathan Fillion

Nathan Fillion

Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds

Sean Maher

Sean Maher

Dr. Simon Tam

Ron Glass

Ron Glass

The Shepherd Book

Gina Torres

Gina Torres


Jewel Staite

Jewel Staite

Kaywinnit Lee 'Kaylee' Frye

Alan Tudyk

Alan Tudyk


Carlos Jacott

Carlos Jacott

Lawrence Dobson

Guest Star

Mark Sheppard

Mark Sheppard


Guest Star

Andy Umberger

Andy Umberger

Dortmunder Captain

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • At the beginning of the modern scene in space just after Mal says "The vault's sealed" we cut to a shot of Mal's back you can clearly see the "sticky" around the vault lock - this is before he applies the sticky which is seen a few seconds later.

    • After the crew lands on Persephone and everyone is leaving, Wash drives the mule down the ramp, but stops to tell Zoe to be careful ("Zhu Yi"). As he prepares to start down the ramp again, a hand can be seen reaching for the front bumper of the mule to pull him forward. This may not be visible in all formats.

  • QUOTES (19)

    • Mal: This is not my best day ever. (raises his hands)
      Dobson: Simon Tam, you are bound by law to stand down. (Simon raises his hands)
      Mal: What? The doctor?... oh. Hey, is there a reward?
      Dobson: Get on the ground. Get on the ground!
      Simon: You're making a mistake.
      Mal: I think you oughta get on the ground, son. Man seems a mite twitchy.

    • Mal: The Alliance said they were gonna waltz through Serenity Valley, and we choked 'em with those words. We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.

    • Zoe: I know somethin' ain't right.
      Wash: Sweetie, we're crooks. If everything were right we'd be in jail.

    • Wash: I'm just the pilot. If we got boarded, I could always say I was flying the ship by accident.

    • Wash: Didn't (Patience) shoot you one time?
      Mal: Everybody's making a fuss!

    • Mal: If anyone gets nosey, you know, just... shoot 'em.
      Zoe: Shoot 'em?
      Mal: Politely.

    • Jayne: I don't understand why we didn't leave that sumbich in a pool of his own blood.
      Mal: We'd be dead. Can't get paid if you're dead.
      Jayne: Can't get paid if you crawl away like a bitty little bug neither.

    • Mal: I don't believe there's a power in the 'verse that'll stop Kaylee from being so cheerful. Sometimes you just want to duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.

    • Simon: Are you out of your mind?
      Mal: Just about.

    • Simon: What do you pay him for?
      Mal: What?
      Simon: I was just wondering what (Jayne's) job was on the ship.
      Mal: Public relations.

    • Kaylee: Being a doctor is important.
      Jayne: She just wishes you were a gynecologist. (laughs)

    • Book: Captain, do you mind if I say grace?
      Mal: Only if you say it out loud.

    • Mal: Ambassador... I'd like you to meet Shepherd Book.
      Inara: I'd have to say, this is the first time we've had a preacher on board.
      Book: Well, I wasn't expecting to see a state official either, Ambassador.
      (Mal laughs)
      Book: (confused) I'm missing something... funny.
      Kaylee: Not really
      Inara: Ambassador's Mal's way of saying...
      Mal: She's a whore.
      Kaylee: The term is "companion."
      Mal: I always get those mixed up. (to Inara) How's business?
      Inara: None of yours.

    • Mal: Jayne, your mouth is talking. You might want to look to that.

    • Jayne: 10 percent of nothing is... let me do the math. Nothing, and nothing, carry the nothing...

    • Mal: The wheel never stops turning, Badger.
      Badger: Only matters to the people on the rim.

    • Badger: The situation is... fluid.
      Jayne: The only fluid I see here is the puddle of piss refusing to pay our wage.

    • Wash: (first toy dinosaur) Yes, yes. This is a fertile land and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land and we will call it... "This Land." (second toy dinosaur) I think we should call it your grave! (first toy dinosaur) Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal! (second toy dinosaur) Har Har Har! Mine is an evil laugh! Now die! (first toy dinosaur) Oh no, God! Oh dear God in heaven!

    • Mal: We're not gonna die. We can't die, Bendis. You know why? Because we are so very pretty. We are just too pretty for God to let us die.

  • NOTES (8)

    • Joss Whedon noted on the DVD commentary of this episode that only villains of Firefly wear hats.

    • Jewel Staite had to gain weight for her role as Kaylee because Joss Whedon wanted a "woman" to play the part.

    • Joss Whedon originally wanted Angel star, David Boreanez to play the part of Malcolm Reynolds, but he turned down the part after being told there would be chickens running around on the set (David Boreanez has a fear of chickens).

    • Joss Whedon created the role of Badger intending to play the part himself. When that didn't work out he hired Mark A. Sheppard, who was intimidated when he found out that he was playing the Executive Producer's personal role. Joss Whedon, for his part loved Mr. Sheppard's work in the role.

    • This is the only episode in which the crew calls Inara the nickname "Ambassador".

    • Rebecca Gayheart was originally cast as Inara, but Joss Whedon, in the middle of production, thought she wasn't right for the role. The part went to an "unknown actress" at that time, Morena Baccarin. As she explains, on Monday she auditioned, got a call back on Tuesday, and shot the pilot on Wednesday.

    • Since this is the premiere (although it is not presented as such), this is why we out-of-sequence see how Book, River, and Simon join the crew despite the fact they've been with them since the beginning of the season.

    • Parts 1 and 2 originally aired as a single consecutive two-hour episode by Fox. This episode was intended as the 2-hour premiere/pilot. Fox wanting a more action-packed premiere, rejected this as a pilot, leaving Joss Whedon and Tim Minear with a weekend to write a new pilot episode. That episode was "The Train Job." "Serenity" parts 1 and 2 was the final episode aired by Fox, after the show had already been cancelled.