He looks better in red – Rewatching Firefly’s Ariel

Last Tuesday J and I watched Ariel. [We also started watching a new and potentially great webseries called H+ , but more on that in another post.]

Once, just once, I want things to go according to the gorram plan!

The best laid out plan … always goes wrong.

This episode is deceptively simple. Structured as a typical “bank, err I mean hospital job gone wrong” plot that Kaylee nicely sums up in one line, “Oh, well, let’s see. We killed Simon and River, stole a bunch of medicine, and now the Captain ‘n’ Zoe are off springing the others got snatched by the Feds!” The gang come up with a plan to rob an Alliance hospital because Simon wants to scan River’s brain while the others get on with a spot of harmless crime. Kaylee and Wash get to be awesome by rebuilding an ER chopper, which even it it does stretch the bounds of credibility is kinda fun to watch. The others get to be hysterical failing to learn lines of incomprehensible medical jargon.

But, of course as expected, the plan goes wrong …

Putting the plan into operation.

The Robin Hood bank (err I mean hospital) job gone wrong storyline, while very entertaining, especially the first time you watch it, is not really what the episode is about.

Firstly, the episode is designed to convey Simon back story without having to create a narrative flashback. The primary reason for setting the story in an Alliance hospital, I suspect.

Secondly, the episode progresses the main storyline. Although, just how crucial it is to the series’ main arch is only apparent once you know what happens later on.

The main plot of the series arch starts to ramp up.

Thirdly, the story is carefully balance to arrive at the near final scene of the episode between Mal and Jayne. This is the episode’s emotional punch. Jayne operates from within a mindset that prioritises the individual, the competitive, opportunistic survival in a dog-eat-dog world. Traits  paralleled within the social order the Alliance wishes to impose.  In this scene, Mal fundamentally rejects this as a viable way to live. Mal’s fight is for a more humanly connected universe bound together by loyalty and cooperation. For Mal the survival of one depends on the survival of all. A world view Jayne is slowly starting to appreciate.

The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face.

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