I admit it: I am somewhat of a recent Nathan Fillion convert. He caught my eye as the singing arch-nemesis to Neil Patrick Harris' titular Dr. Horrible in Joss Whedon's special Sing-A-Long Blog of a web series. But he really won me over with his humorous Tweets and somewhat tongue-in-cheek single dad/writer/police detective tag-a-long on ABC's Castle. So of course when I started sharing with friends that I was a new fan, they all asked me how it took me so long to love him. I mean, hadn't I see him as a seeming outlaw, just trying to find a place in the new society after a civil war, in Whedon's Firefly? The answer to that, as you should have guessed from the column into which this piece is falling, is no. Or at least not yet.*
Now, Firefly falls into the "gone but not forgotten" category, having aired its first and only (fourteen-episode) season in 2002. The cast and creative team got to say a final good-bye to their characters in 2005 with a follow-up movie entitled Serenity, which I actually did see and thought held up even out of context. But friends, like Jaime Smith, still think Firefly is worthy of its own look because "the writing was the most clever, vibrant writing on any show airing at the time. The show itself was so original in premise and so perfectly executed. There was nothing like it, and still isn't."
And she thinks it's a good thing to get into the show now, with the season available on DVD. "Fox aired the episodes out of order," she explains, "including not starting with the pilot." Even the most casual television viewer knows that does not make it easy to follow, let alone, get heavily invested in a group of characters, regardless of genre. But for Firefly it was even more of a challenge since there were so many fantasy elements ingrained in the story arc.
Rachel Zimmerman from Philadelphia PA, another fan, admits that since the show was being advertised as a "space western," she didn't assume it would be something in which she'd have interested. But after Fox prematurely canceled it (as they tend to do), she found the full season on sale and figured it was worth a shot. "I watched the first episode and knew this was much more," she says. "It had depth and character development [which are] my two main criteria for shows I choose to watch."
Smith and Zimmerman would be considered "Browncoats" on the internet. This was a term to which I was first introduced through Twitter. I posted a request for fans to @reply me if they would like to be interviewed for this piece, and I had quite a few correct me on my terminology. See, Browncoats are more than just trenchcoat-clad Independent Faction soldiers on the show; it has been adopted by supporters of the show, as well, and an online alliance has even been set up.
Smith shares that though all fourteen episodes should be viewed, and in order, of course!, an absolute can't miss is the final one, entitled "Objects in Space." "[It] is absolutely one of the best episodes of television I've ever seen, with such a complete, dynamic villain introduced. It's heartbreaking that it's the last episode we'll ever see," she laments.
Another fan favorite is "The Message," which everyone I surveyed mentioned! It is a Mal (Fillion)-centric episode that shows characters still dealing with the casualties of the war, while still reinforcing that Mal will do anything to protect his crew. And that sense of loyalty and misfit family is something to which fans of the show really relate.
"What drew me in [to the show] was the complexity of the characters, and the idea that although they had different reasons/goals for being aboard...they were all able to come together and function as a crew," Zimmerman points out.
And though the tone of the show could be dark at times due to the seriousness of the issues brought up by war, it still featured the same sense of humor that has become known, loved, and expected within the Whedonverse. Wash, the character portrayed by Alan Tudyk is perhaps the best example of this: though Zimmerman calls him "the voice of reason," Tudyk's usual brand of quirky, comic relief character acting is front and center and lending itself to lighten the mood and ease the tension.
Picking a favorite character in such a diverse setting, therefore, is often dependent on one's mood, as well. Or at least it is according to Smith. "Joss Whedon has a knack for making characters you care about right from the get go," she explains.
And Smith believes the actors from the show would agree with her. After all, they still make references to this particular piece of past work in their current projects. For example, Fillion went as Captain Mal in the Halloween episode of Castle during its second season as a pretty meta show-universe-within-a-show-universe reference. "It's a testament to the show, and to Joss, that the actors still hold the love they have for the characters they played even years later," Smith believes.
So it's no wonder the fans are so deeply invested then!
*Are you a part of a fandom of a show you think I should check out? Leave it in the comments!