Firefly Rewatch Episode 12: The Message

When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl you find someone to carry you.

Old friends keep popping back into Mal’s corner of the ‘verse.  It usually doesn’t bode well for the crew of Serenity.  It often doesn’t bode well for the old friends either.  This is one of those times.  An old friend of Zoe and Mal’s is back in the picture, and through this friend we start to understand Mal and Zoe, and what they really are to each other.  This is about coming home from the wars.  Or not.  After the jump.

This is one of the harder ones to write.  There’s a lot going on in this episode.  Jayne get’s a letter from home and a hat.  Kaylee and Simon go another round on the WT/WT wheel.  River manages some pithy comments.  Book has some insight.  There’s comedy, drama, and even through the dark, there manages to be some fun.  But this episode is a tough one for me.  Most of it doesn’t matter because of  how I saw it, and what I experienced when I first saw this episode.  It’s tough for me to look at this episode and not see it as the coda of Firefly.  It was the last episode produced, and the sense of melancholy and  loss pervades the episode.  But in a way, like a good coda, the tempo changes, the ideas are stripped down to basics and we get a new insight on the variations on the theme we’ve been hearing and seeing played out in front of us.

“Once you’ve been in Serenity, you never leave.”  – Zoe (deleted scene)

The war ended in Serenity Valley, but Mal and Zoe are still living there.  It was part of the show, but not necessarily cannon as shown.  Once the battle of Serenity Valley was lost they stayed there while the Alliance and the Browncoats negotiated, and men continued to die.  Serenity was where they learned it wasn’t about winning.  It was about surviving.  Running, crawling, and carrying each other, hoping to stay ahead of that bullet with your name on it.  Mal and Zoe never went home.  They still live in Serenity, they’ve just learned how to make Serenity home.    Tracey, he never found another home.  They all came from somewhere, but none of them ever seemed to try to go home, until Jason saw the end.  Tracey is the perfect final piece of the puzzle.  So much potential, so much that was good.  He wanted nothing more than good for those he loved, but the ‘verse wouldn’t let him go home.  He wandered, with no home, and nobody who understood where he lived, in that limbo between life and death, Serenity Valley.  It’s Whedon at his best, and most depressing,  but its wonderful drama.

I almost want to end it here.  A part of me sees that this was the end.  They’re all lost in the woods.  Inara, Casey, Jayne.  Even Book.  They’re all looking for a way to make it matter.  Mal and Zoe especially.  They couldn’t save him, but they take their friend home.  Is it enough?  No.  In the end Tracey had mourners, but no friends.  He never learned the lesson Mal and Zoe did.  Find someone to carry you.  If there’s nobody strong enough to carry you alone, well, maybe you can carry each other.   It’s all they have.  It’ll have to do.  The rest is details.

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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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6 Responses to Firefly Rewatch Episode 12: The Message

  1. atcdave says:

    While this episode certainly has its moments, I can’t really say I like it. Too dark, too sad. But I did like Jayne’s hat.

  2. jason says:

    this probably was my least fav episode from my recollection, for sure the ‘past’, zoey and mal’s past, got overwritten in this season, kind of like every other episode could serve as the pilot – I did like the hat, would love to see near anyone on the chuck series don something like it, jeff, lester, casey, or morgan would be the primary candidates – mal may be written consistently in this show – or lets say I could be convinced it is consistent by someone who knows the show better than I – but he seems really all over the map, which for a lead character is somewhat confusing – he seems capable of killing half his own crew, then saving a ballerina at the buymore 10 seconds later, I think tv fans are looking for more hero, less cold hearted bad a$$

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    Agreed, certainly not a “feel good” episode. I still think it’s wonderfully done and executed. I wouldn’t put it in my top five or top three, mostly because it is rather depressing, but I still think it’s one of the better done episodes.

    • atcdave says:

      I think Ernie, this is a good example of how strong Firefly was from beginning to end. I agree it was a very well done episode. Its nice when one can appreciate even the “lesser” episodes of a show. Of course, Chuck was in the same boat until S3. Chances are, if Firefly had continued for multiple seasons, they would have hit a few sour notes too. But what we have is well conceived and finely crafted.

  4. Faith says:

    This is one of the darker epis and for something so dark, I actually enjoyed it.

    It wasn’t so much the deception, but rather you get to find out just how bad a world they live in now and why it is they have to run…constantly.

    To me it also speaks volumes of how “dark” doesn’t necessarily have to suck.

    Quick Q: last episode produced? Isn’t the last episode the one with the very scary assassin? Not the one from the movie…the one that snuck in during the night and River totally freaked the hell out.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      All part of the Firefly saga. The episodes were shown out of order and in this case actually produced out of order. My understanding is that while they were largely scripted already and the order being re-done, and the show being canceled, some episodes were moved ahead in the order. While we are watching them in the original order as written, this episode was the last one produced according to the production dates and code.

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