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Firefly (Re)watch & Discuss: 1.09 Ariel

Athena

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This week, we'll be watching the ninth episode of the first (and only!) season of Firefly - Ariel - written by Jose Molina and directed by Allan Kroeker. This (re)watch is open to new Firefly viewers and existing fans. Everyone is welcome to join in!

This episode 9 (re)watch takes place between 5th August 2017 - 11th August 2017. You can watch this episode at your leisure during that time and discuss the episode below.

Although Firefly has aired for some time, this and all future episode threads are a dedicated no spoiler zone! Please ensure any spoilers are spoiler tagged. :)

Ariel - S1E9
Synopsis
While waiting on the Core planet Ariel, Simon hires the crew to help him smuggle River into a local hospital for a thorough diagnostic. In return, he will tell them how to loot the hospital for valuable medicine. Once inside, Jayne attempts to turn in Simon and River for the reward. However, the Alliance officer arrests Jayne as well in order to keep the bounty for himself. The crew escapes, but Mal realizes that Jayne betrayed Simon and River.
 

thrasherpix

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I liked this one for many reasons. It works on its own in a self-contained way while also connecting to past and present episodes. It foreshadows a lot (though it's easily missed on first viewing, one example being how River actually slashed the Blue Sun on Jayne's shirt...in a previous episode she also ripped off the labels of cans with the Blue Sun logo). Blue Sun is apparently like the Umbrella Corp of the verse, involved in many secret government black ops (as a private contractor) as well as dominating many mundane markets, and they're apparently the ones who run the Academy.

I presume the "hands of blue" represents the Blue Sun somehow.

The one thing I don't get story-wise is why 2 men would go around killing even security detail and/or cops in such a horrid fashion that must raise a lot of questions. Even if the government can cover it up, the horrible shrieks have to draw attention. It's good to scare the audience, but I don't see how it's explained in-universe.

I will say that the "hands of blue" guys along with the Academy are the only things I can think of offhand that make the Alliance seem truly evil. They don't seem that bad otherwise, more benign than say the Empire of Star Wars, or the Romulans and Cardassians of Star Trek.

Heck, I imagine the UFP isn't that much better since it's strongly hinted more than once that there's a dark underbelly beneath the shiny, happy exterior (similar to the Alliance), though the law abiding--and thoroughly indoctrinated--don't see the Section 31 (who, like the Operative, don't officially exist) and other hidden underbelly, just as the law abiding like Inara almost never do with the Alliance. Or like how Sisko shocked me on DS9 when he said it was time to become the villain and did so by making a planet uninhabitable, forcing the Maquis to evacuate (which I don't think even the Alliance ever did) and threatening to repeat that action against all Maquis (rebels) worlds. And Sisko was one of the more conscientious officers of Star Fleet when fighting the Maquis.

Star Fleet, just like the Alliance, had a dark side, well hidden but terrible, and I'd say most people of the United Federation of Planets are about as brainwashed to trust Star Fleet just as people under the Alliance are brainwashed to trust their own government, and that if Star Trek wanted they could adapt their own "Firefly" show that show the Federation as ominous with shades of evil (despite all the shiny, happy people in it) as well. Just because Star Fleet uses a strange economics (which simply can't be as simple as Picard makes it out to be, particularly in that too much wouldn't make sense if it did), and given how even officers have limits on what they can generate out of nothing, it sounds to me like Star Fleet is careful to maintain control of its citizens by control of resources that don't really need to be controlled, and given how even civilians dress I dare say they're probably a police state comparable to the Alliance (though more benign, generally speaking).

And mentioning the Maquis...why would people go off to join colonies unless they found the Federation too restrictive? Just as people go to the rim to minimize Alliance control, so to did people in the Federation go to colony worlds to get away, which helps explain why the Maquis was so rebellious to Star Fleet (not just because of what the Cardassians were doing). Heck, Star Fleet and the Alliance probably both pushed their more rebellious elements away from the core worlds so as to maintain better control where the power was at (and where they'd recruit their enforcers). And even colony worlds in Star Trek could be vicious, given that Tasha talked about having to flee rape gangs on some colony world, which sounds as bad (maybe even worse) as many of the rim planets of the Alliance run by vicious thugs and narcissistic bullies. While comparing the Browncoats to the Maquis sounds like comparing apples to oranges, I can see similar social forces that shaped both of them.

I'm not saying the Federation is evil, mind you, but I am saying that the Alliance doesn't strike me as that evil even though there are corrupt individuals and heinous black ops within the system (well hidden in both verses), and that the Federation of Star Trek strikes me as comparable. The Alliance has great technology and reach, and maintain a lot of control over their worlds, but that in itself doesn't make them evil, though it does make it dangerous to be a criminal or a rebel. The law abiding in our world would tend to want law breakers, no matter how idealistic or freedom loving the criminals may be, to be punished, and themselves would not be likely to feel the iron fist of the authorities as criminals do. It makes sense to me that Mal has learned to fear and hate the Alliance, but that doesn't make the Alliance in general evil anymore than it makes barons and colonists far from Alliance or Federation control good.

Of course their governments, like ours in the real world, make an effort to hide their more shady and outright vile actions from public scrutiny, and the kids in the public school systems would be raised with a sugarcoated version of the history of their government just as we are in our world.


Other than that, the only thing I feel like saying right now is that I like how they make Simon so brilliant and clever in many ways, but also so gullible and naive at the same time. I think they get his character so right, and he's another example of someone who never even seemed to suspect a dark side of the Alliance until the Academy got his sister, and even as a clever criminal mastermind who has learned a thing or two from being on Serenity, he's still not very streetwise and easily tricked. He's terrible at lying, though I can see how he bluffed being a doctor assigned to that hospital (as he never really lied, he merely played his role and let others make their assumptions). I also liked how he tossed the Alliance rifle to Jayne, realizing Jayne would be the most proficient with it while not realizing that Jayne had betrayed him (as Simon is so honest, he wrongly assumes others are as well).

All the characters are played well. Even Jayne, who was a bit more complex despite his very simple reasoning and motivations. I can see why Mal spares him at the end. His request for Mal to "make something up, don't tell them what I did" showed genuine shame...and that's the kind of subtle thing Mal is good at picking up on and what...barely...got Mal to spare his life. (Of course Mal, given his history, would have a seething hatred for any who sold out his side or his people to the gorram Feds. I'm sure the Browncoats did much worse to traitors they caught in their midst, and probably worse than what the Alliance did to the traitors of their own ranks.)
 
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thrasherpix

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And mentioning the Maquis...why would people go off to join colonies unless they found the Federation too restrictive? Just as people go to the rim to minimize Alliance control, so to did people in the Federation go to colony worlds to get away, which helps explain why the Maquis was so rebellious to Star Fleet (not just because of what the Cardassians were doing). Heck, Star Fleet and the Alliance probably both pushed their more rebellious elements away from the core worlds so as to maintain better control where the power was at (and where they'd recruit their enforcers). And even colony worlds in Star Trek could be vicious, given that Tasha talked about having to flee rape gangs on some colony world, which sounds as bad (maybe even worse) as many of the rim planets of the Alliance run by vicious thugs and narcissistic bullies. While comparing the Browncoats to the Maquis sounds like comparing apples to oranges, I can see similar social forces that shaped both of them.
I just had to add that something I just remembered, as this makes me think the Browncoats and Maquis were closer in spirit and thought even more than I first thought (though the context is different as it's a different verse, it sounds downright Browncoat in philosophy to me):


"I know you. I was like you once, but then I opened my eyes. Open your eyes, captain. Why is the Federation so obsessed with the Maquis? We've never harmed you. And yet we're constantly arrested and charged with terrorism. Starships chase us through the Badlands and our supporters are harassed and ridiculed. Why? Because we've left the Federation, and that's the one thing you can't accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation. Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You're only sending them replicators because one day they can take their 'rightful place' on the Federation Council. You know, in some ways you're even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You're more insidious. You assimilate people and they don't even know it." - Michael Eddington



Heh, ST could make a Firefly type series if they wanted (since the Maquis lost just as the Browncoats did), with some crew making their living in the space lanes just as the crew of Serenity did, having to navigate the many roguish powers and planets (of which there seem to be plenty though officers only rarely go there) on one hand and the shiny, happy people of the Federation on the other. :D
 

Mylie

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I thought this was good and it left me on the edge of my seat!

I was sad to see Jayne betray Mal, but that's the character. He's an opportunist and I do enjoy him a lot nonetheless. I love how Mal sticks up for his crew.
 

Athena

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one example being how River actually slashed the Blue Sun on Jayne's shirt...
I've seen this episode a few times and never made that connection - I just assumed she foreshadowed Jayne's betrayal! :eek:

I actually forgot how gruesome this episode is, with the two by two, hands of blue men and their neuro-machine that makes blood seep out of every orifice on your head!

It's a good episode though, and great focus on Simon and River. Simon finding out they lobotomized River was heartbreaking, but not as much as the fact he genuinely believes Jayne saved their lives when we, the audience, know he sold them out for cash, but the great thing about this show is we know Jayne will do pretty much anything for money, even betray his fellow crew and captain. But that's one of the things I love about this show; most of the characters are morally grey, no one is perfect.
 
Bluebird
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lol the blood seeping - I forgot how horrific Firefly can be!

Fuffy Baith

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This was an ok episode. Good Simon and River story. I will always recognize that actor that plays the doctor bugging Mal and Zoe as the dad from the Disney Channel show Even Stevens. He just always sticks out every time I see him pop up in things. lol.

I don't like that Jayne betrays them, but that's in his character, and it does backfire on him. I like that Mal knows Jayne was the one that called the feds.

I like the planning and prepping for the heist, that was cool. I also liked Simon saving that doctors patient. I've figured it out. Simon reminds me of Matt Smith from Doctor Who, who also would say the name River a lot. lol.
 
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