Firefly Review – “Safe”

They’ve got a witch and a doctor, but I don’t see any witch doctors…

Cast

Nathan Fillion
as Malcolm Reynolds
Gina Torres as Zoe
Alan Tudyk as Wash
Morena
Baccarin
as Inara
Jewel Staite as Kaylee
Adam Baldwin as Jayne
Sean Maher as
Dr. Simon Tam
Summer Glau as
River Tam
Ron Glass as Shepherd

Crew

Written by Drew
Z. Greenberg
.
Directed by Michael Grossman.
The complete IMDB listings can be found here.
The official website can be found here.

Original Airdate


Safe
originally aired on Friday,
November 8, 2002

Premise

The crew tries to sell the cattle they picked up last week, but things
don’t go smoothly. Things never go smoothly.

High Point

Jayne reading the diary.

Low Point

Seeing clips of episodes they haven’t yet shown in the “previously on”
bit. If I didn’t know they hadn’t aired the original pilot, I’d have
been seriously confused. I’m sure there are a few viewers who didn’t
know that who now think they’ve missed something big.

The Review

This was a moderately original story. We’ve all seen the
kidnapped doctor bit before, but I think this is the first time the
kidnapped person’s teammates didn’t risk it all to save that person,
no matter what. Had this been shown in the original production order,
I wouldn’t have been sure they were going back for him this week. (It
is a Joss Whedon show, after all. Remember Jesse? How about Doyle?)
We also didn’t get the standard “yeah, I bug you, but I really like
you” reconciliation between Jayne and Simon. I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects were, once again, primarily well-done stock
footage and minor changes to old CGI shots. The effects are not the
focus of the show, but rather a means that is used minimally to tell
the stories they want to tell in the settings they want to use. This
is the way visual effects should be used. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story was pretty light on plot, once again favouring
character development. Still, the plot was nice and coherent. I give
it 4 out of 6.

The acting was convincing, but not astounding. Sean Maher is
doing a decent job of the doctor, but he hasn’t really had a chance
for a lot of range before. This week we were able to see him in an
assortment of situations, driven completely by his sister’s
well-being. Summer Glau did a great job, as usual. I give the acting
5 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced was very good. I didn’t
doubt Shepherd’s recovery, but I was intruigued by how they got the
Alliance to help. Similarly, if I didn’t already know I’d seen the
next episode, I would have thought that Simon and River were being
abandoned for a time, and might not have been rescued for another few
episodes. When dealing with Joss Whedon, no character is safe. There
were some incredibly funny moments, as well. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was great. The editing and blocking
throughout the episode were all excellent, and the use of the
steadicam in the “frontier” areas compared to the stationary cameras
in the technologically advanced areas is a great way to subtley remind
the viewer about the technological desparity across this galaxy. I
give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, I’d have to say that this is a great episode, and
well worth a repeated viewing. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Safe receives 33 out of 42.

12 replies on “Firefly Review – “Safe””

  1. wayfaring_familiar says:

    “The ‘Previously On’ Bit”
    I’ve been thinking about this “previously on Firefly” thing. It seems to me that they’re making slight mid-course corrections to make the show more understandable to new viewers or to keep viewers watching who’ve only seen a few shows.

    It seems to me that the “previously on” segment was aimed at those part-time or new viewers. I’ve seen every show, and I was confused by the “previously on” thing, because IIRC it showed some scenes that haven’t aired (yet), and it gave the impression that there was some story building up over a number of episodes when really there’s no such specific story thread.

    Also along these lines, they’ve subtly changed the opening sequence voice-over a few times during the series. It used to be Book talking, from a more objective historical point of view. Then they switched to Mal talking. And I noticed this latest episode had slightly different information in that voice over (gonna have to watch the last two episodes I taped with this in mind). I think they’re trying to pack as much info on the characters and the setting into every single space in the show, so that casual viewers are “on board” faster.

    I chalk these kind of changes up to the apparently poor/dwindling ratings. Thoughts?

    wayf.

    • y42 says:

      Re: “The ‘Previously On’ Bit”

      Also along these lines, they’ve subtly changed the opening
      sequence voice-over a few times during the series. It used to be
      Book talking, from a more objective historical point of view. Then
      they switched to Mal talking. And I noticed this latest episode had
      slightly different information in that voice over (gonna have to
      watch the last two episodes I taped with this in mind). I think they’re
      trying to pack as much info on the characters and the setting into
      every single space in the show, so that casual viewers are “on
      board” faster.

      I chalk these kind of changes up to the apparently poor/dwindling
      ratings. Thoughts?

      I think you’re off on the intro thing (not on the fact that it changes,
      but on the why).
      I think what they’re doing is showing a subjective view of the firefly
      universe, and going through the characters. The preacher has a
      more academic view on things, the captain talked a bit more about
      the differences between the rich and the poor, etc.

      I like it, its kinda like the simpsons’ intro with the blackboard and
      the couch (or more genre-specific: the futurama intro with the small
      print), you get something different each ep. and it makes the show
      begin at the intro instead of starting after the music stops.
      And I don’t really feel that they’re jamming as much info as
      possible into each show, on the contrary, I feel that they are
      spacing out the info quite nicely. Only explaining what needs to be
      explained for the current show.

      They’ve got a whole future history
      and a big diverse civilisation to cover. Lucas has his yellow text
      scrolling up in the star wars intro, Whedon has people telling us
      how they see the universe. I think it works well, they’re not shoving
      it down our throats, and they get to explain the universe and delve
      deeper into character’s personalities all in one go…2 birds, 1
      stone.

  2. wayfaring_familiar says:

    Anyone Speak What I Assume to Be Chinese?
    Does anyone know for certain what language they’re so fond of swearing in on Firefly? I’ve been under the assumption it was Chinese (of some kind) but since I don’t speak Chinese….

    I’d really like a little glossary of the phrases they commonly use. Anybody know?

    wayf.

    • rickyjames says:

      Re: Anyone Speak What I Assume to Be Chinese?

      I’d really like a little glossary of the phrases they commonly use. Anybody know?

      Apparently it’s in the Mandarin dialect, not Cantonese. There are ongoing discussions about this at:

      http://www.fireflyfans.net/threadlist.asp?b=14

      • wayfaring_familiar says:

        Re: Anyone Speak What I Assume to Be Chinese?

        Apparently it’s in the Mandarin dialect, not Cantonese. There are ongoing discussions about this at:

        http://www.fireflyfans.net/threadlist.asp?b=14

        Thanks for the tip. I wasn’t aware of this site. From reading their Chinese language thread, it looks like the question of what’s being said on the show is a pretty complicated — some of it Mandarin, some Cantonese, some impossible to understand because the actors’ pronunciation is so poor!

        wayf.

        • hitch says:

          Re: Anyone Speak What I Assume to Be Chinese?

          Apparently it’s in the Mandarin dialect, not Cantonese. There are ongoing discussions about this at:

          http://www.fireflyfans.net/threadlist.asp?b=14

          Thanks for the tip. I wasn’t aware of this site. From reading their Chinese language thread, it looks like the question of what’s being said on the show is a pretty complicated — some of it Mandarin, some Cantonese, some impossible to understand because the actors’ pronunciation is so poor!

          wayf.

          I’ve only been able to pick up a few things myself…
          last week, where kaylee was going to the buffet (my favorite line in the ep: “is that him?” “kaylee, that’s the buffet table” “how can we be sure until we question it?”. ) and he said “go ahead”, she replied with what sounded like “sure, sure”…and I realized she’d said “thank you” in chinese. which I don’t know how to spell…but it sounds about like that. anyway. heh. I thought that was pretty neat. I’d like to read the WHYs about this.

  3. rickyjames says:

    A River Runs Thru It

    I’ve really enjoyed watching all of the chracter interactions on Firefly but I am starting to get a distinct impression that River and not Mal is turning into the focal point of the entire series. She is the only one that is really “on the lam”; her brother is only because of her, and while the rest of them have their secrets, they are all pretty much free to do whatever they want and go wherever they want in that society…

    So I’ve been trying to review what I’ve about River and I gotta admit it’s a little sparse because I haven’t really been paying attention to her (Kaylee has just been so CUTE) and I haven’t understood half her dialogue over the past few eps. So help me out here, folks, and let’s analyze just what River is. She’s obviously brilliant and yet her brilliance seems to have an idiot-savant aspect to it – because of the experimentation on her? She definitely seems to have some sort of telepathic ability – not only the reading of minds to divine people’s pasts (exhibited repeatedly over several eps) but also an awareness of what’s going on remotely with someone in the present (she knew Shepard had been shot). She’s made several proclamations about what the future is going to be like but is that rambling or precognition? Has any of her predictions come true yet? And she seems to ramble on repeatedly about some specific thing but for the life of me I haven’t been able to make out the catch-phrases she’s using. Also, given that Shepard has some kind of golden past, I’m wondering if he’s somehow a mysterious good-guy plant to watch (as in Watcher?) over River. Or am I being Shakespearian here and making much ado about nothing?

    Again, a superlative Firefly effort that continues to transcend both Western and sci-fi conventions. Rating for last week (“Shindig”) was 2.8, down from 2.9 for “Out of Gas” but not as low as the 2.7 for “Jaynestown” before that. Obviously the core audience is settling in for the long haul…but wil it be enough?

    • dirtrin says:

      Joss is my Hero
      Mal is going to be the center of the show, with Zoe and Wash being the ever present sidekicks. The other characters will always be in danger of dying, I bet.

      As for River and Simon, River is going to turn into the driving force of the plot as the season arcs. I will not be surprised if they don’t make it thru the season finale.

      River’s powers appear to be pre-cognition (she predicted that her and Simon would not be in the kidnapper’s village long) and some sort of telepathy.

      And, the funniest part of the episode was after the rescue, Jayne running into the Doc and River’s bedroom and dumping all their stuff on the bed.

    • hitch says:

      Re: A River Runs Thru It

      I’ve really enjoyed watching all of the chracter interactions on Firefly but I am starting to get a distinct impression that River and not Mal is turning into the focal point of the entire series. She is the only one that is really “on the lam”; her brother is only because of her, and while the rest of them have their secrets, they are all pretty much free to do whatever they want and go wherever they want in that society…

      So I’ve been trying to review what I’ve about River and I gotta admit it’s a little sparse because I haven’t really been paying attention to her (Kaylee has just been so CUTE) and I haven’t understood half her dialogue over the past few eps. So help me out here, folks, and let’s analyze just what River is. She’s obviously brilliant and yet her brilliance seems to have an idiot-savant aspect to it – because of the experimentation on her? She definitely seems to have some sort of telepathic ability – not only the reading of minds to divine people’s pasts (exhibited repeatedly over several eps) but also an awareness of what’s going on remotely with someone in the present (she knew Shepard had been shot). She’s made several proclamations about what the future is going to be like but is that rambling or precognition? Has any of her predictions come true yet? And she seems to ramble on repeatedly about some specific thing but for the life of me I haven’t been able to make out the catch-phrases she’s using.

      interestingly, she seems to be pre-cog about things like people’s actions, etc. Things that have to do with what people are planning to do, even far out and non-specific – BUT. she predicted that they were going to freeze to death in the ship when the life support went. apparently, she’s not actually clarivoyant. she didn’t *see* that they’d find a part to fix the ship. she does, however, seem to be able to hear either into the past or into an afterlife – remember the screaming when the reavers took that one ship?

      • dcheesi says:

        Re: A River Runs Thru It
        Yes, but she did say “Fire!” before the explosion that injured Zoe (and killed the engine). I don’t think that was just guessing or deduction -she said it before there was any way to know.

        • hitch says:

          Re: A River Runs Thru It

          Yes, but she did say “Fire!” before the explosion that injured Zoe (and killed the engine). I don’t think that was just guessing or deduction -she said it before there was any way to know.

          did she say “fire” before it occurred, or after it was already rushing through the ship? I don’t remember, but it’s an important distinction. she’d either be hyperaware of her surroundings or precog….
          for some reason, precog just doesn’t seem to me to fit what they’re trying to do with her character.

    • dcheesi says:

      Re: A River Runs Thru It
      From this episode, it looks like she’s always been a super-genius; the experimentation was probably to bring out the telepathic aspect. I think the “idiot-savant” aspect is just a manifestation of the induced mental illness (Simon said paranoid schizophrenia). The question is whether the craziness is a byproduct of her experience, or actually a necessary part of the experiment (ie. break her rational mind in order to make her more open to the ESP visions).

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