Firefly Rewatch Episode 8: Out of Gas

Mal: Let me show you the rest. And-and try to see past what she is and onto what she can be.
Zoë: What’s that, sir?
Mal: Freedom is what.

Mal is dying, and so is Serenity.  In what I consider the most dramatic episode of Firefly we are again given a glimpse into the man Malcom Reynolds, and how he came to be the leader of his own adoptive family.  After the jump.

I’ve said it before, Mal is a survivor, and more than any other episode Out of Gas shows why he goes to such lengths to survive.  Unlike Jayne who survives seemingly out of habit, or Book who survives out of faith that it means something, Mal, like Simon has dedicated his life to something more.  It started with Mal just wanting freedom from the alliance, but it’s become about so much more.

The opening scenes show us the family that Mal and the others have found on the edge of civilisation, and then almost immediately how fragile everything they have ultimately is.

A minor engine part, mentioned in the first episode as something Kaylee’d like to replace, fails, leaving the ship and crew adrift.  In trying to stay off the alliance and other’s radar Mal has taken the long way around to their next destination.  You sort of see why.  Weeks of nobody but his own crew, his family, to deal with.  No deals to go bad, no gunfights or rescues, no looking over his shoulder, just Serenity.  But now, that peace he sought may be the death of them all.  In a callback to the last three episodes of Chuck, in seeking to protect his family, Mal may have doomed them.

This is mostly a flashback show, once again showing us the backstory and the introduction of each of the original members of our little family, but in addition seeing Mal’s efforts to save them, all seen in the context of Mal struggling to keep himself and Serenity alive to call them back to safety from a longshot gamble at being rescued should he fail.

We see Mal doing his best to keep the ship alive, then to keep his crew alive long enough for a miracle, and then when his miracle arrives, we see that Mal’s struggle has just begun.  But this is Mal, alone, gut shot, struggling on a dying ship running out of air, it doesn’t matter, he’s a survivor and his family needs him.  And they’ll be there when he wakes up.

Like most of the episodes, it has to be seen to be appreciated.  But some discussion never goes awry.  While this episode may have been the last consequence of the decision to shelve the original pilot, thus necessitating one last look into Mal and his crew, and what they mean to him, in a way it is a perfect setup for the next episode, Ariel, and the shocking turns of events at the end of that episode.  And no, I won’t give that away  in comments either.  you’ll just have to watch.

-Ernie

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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4 Responses to Firefly Rewatch Episode 8: Out of Gas

  1. jason says:

    when I complain about chuck’s writers and actors not being able to pull off drama, all one has to do is watch this episode of firefly, riveting stuff top to bottom, start to finish. Highlights for me:

    #1 – the way the 3 time frames tied together, creative writing and story telling
    #2 – irina telling mal you don’t have to die alone, mal’s answer ‘we all die alone’
    #3 – captain ‘ordering (not asking)’ wash back to the bridge, caught me by surprise how intense it was
    #4 – river telling book ‘we won’t sufficate, we’ll freeze first’, I was looking for something really inspiring or maybe psychic, instead, totally practical

    something I did not like, why did kaylie and the old mechanic have that scene, just sort of ruins the show for younger viewers and their parents who may be watching with them

  2. atcdave says:

    This was an episode I didn’t care for on first viewing, but I’ve liked it more on later viewings. What it lacks in “excitement”, it makes up for in drama and show history. I love a lot of the intensity here.

  3. joe says:

    I need to rewatch this episode (it’s been a month since I’ve seen it). But you’re absolutely right about Mal, Ernie. This is where I started rooting for the character.

    River still mystified me, though. I know why – there were gaps in the episodes I had available (plugged now, thanks to Ernie). The gaps caught up to me here.

    There’s no denying it, though. The drama was spectacular. No cutsie stuff like Mal saying “I swear by my pretty blue bonnet that I will end you.” or Jayne saying that the man who hired them wasn’t “all cuddly like me.” This was just intense.

  4. Crumby says:

    I’m catching up and that episode was amazing. So good drama. The construction is really well done. Loved it!

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