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Translating River-speak: Yor Unofficial Guide to What-in-the-verse River Tam is Saying, As Well As In-Depth Analysis of the Character Herself


Aug 10, 2021
Hello, My fellow Browncoats!

After rewatching Firefly yet again, (yes, I know I have a problem, what of it?) I realized that even before the show had revealed River was "psychic", she was already babbling in code about things happening in the past, present, and future. Suddenly, everything she was saying started to make sense.

Ever watch Firefly and hear River launch into one of her nonesensical monologues and wonder if there is any meaning to it? Well, I'm here not only to tell you that there is (almost always) meaning, but also what that meaning is.

I'll also be analyzing the character herself, as she just so happens to be an impressivly deep character. Especially for having such little role/dialogue!

Notes before we begin:

*While I will try to be very detailed and accurate in my analysis, and my goal is to provide meaningful information to promote appreciation for the character, this post is being written on a fan forum. It's going to be organized, but rather casual. I will be making jokes, and personal comments in the hope to further the enjoyment of the reader. I'm not a fan of long winded analysis that dump facts on you and use weird, complicated language rendering them unreadable. We're all here to have fun.

*While I'll be attempting to explain some of River's behaviors, I'm not going to try and diagnose her with anything. I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not going to make a judgement based upon info from wikipedia. I'm working under the impression that she had no serious disorders pre Academy, and thus (barring perhaps some PTSD and psychosis, which I think everyone will agree is fair) she has not suddenly developed anything. Hey, maybe she did, but again, I'm not qualified to diagnose. I'm not going to be talking about depersonalization disorder, as she doesn't have the perception she is disassociating when she is, in fact disassociating, and she believes her halucinations are real. (though feel free to look that up and judge for yourself.) I'm certanly not going to claim she has Autism, as it's generally agreed that Autism is something people are born with, it doesn't develop. I think I've heard that people with Autism have seen parts of themselves in her character, and it's provided support for them. I think that is wonderful, and really, really beautiful, but even so, I will not work under the assumption that she's always been autistic, as there is no evidence of that.

*Important for ease of read (if that's even possible with this monster of a post): I will be analyzing quotes quite a bit. I've formatted them in a very specific way, for "ease of reading". Because River is the focus, All her quotes will simply be put in quotation marks. (Example, "I swallowed a bug". rather than River: I swallowed a bug.) Everyone else's quotes will have their name attached to the front. This is so that it isn't confusing as to who is saying what.


"Do you know who I am"?

(Simon: Do you know who I am?)

TIMELINE: The common accepted age for River during the series is around 17. I'd say she's more like bordering on 18 or 19, as, the vague timeline of events leading to her role in the series doesn't make sense to move as quickly as would be required for her to only be 17.
It's said she had grown bored of her Gen. Ed. studies at around 14, right? So, they didn't find the Academy right on her 14th birthday. No, she probably would have been close to 15, in order for her to have time to grow bored AND find, apply to and be accepted into this program. Okay, so she's nearly 15 if not already when she enters the Academy. Let's say it takes several months to AT MOST a year for her to be made fully aware of her terrible situation AND to reach Simon. (In the R. Tam Sessions we see her descent is more or less gradual. She didn't go crazy in a month.) Okay, so she's just about 16 when Simon begins to get her out. Simon says it took 2 years before he was able to get her out. So now she's just about 18. The series is established to take place over, I'd say AT MOST a year, so by the end, she's probably about 19.

* some of these are merely well researched opinions, if you don't agree or find fault with any of them, please do let me know, I would love to hear your take!)

*This analysis contains spoilers for the series Firefly. (Duh)

Now that's out of the way, buckle up children, this is gonna be long.


Let's take it episode by episode:
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In "Serenity" (Episode) River's lines are minimal. Really in this episode, her only role is to establish herself (and Simon, to a degree) as a character. What she says is not nonesensical, and instead illustrates her terror, confusion and disturbance at her and Simon's situation.
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Once again, River's lines are, for the most part, entirely normal, if a bit anxious. A few lines to note, however:

"Mal...Bad...In the Latin".

Meaning: River and Mal haven't been formally introduced at this point. It's entirely probable Simon has told her about him, but if not, this is her first example of her foresight, knowing his name/nickname. This is also the first example of what I can only describe as some sort of "self soothing" behavior River subtly employs. When distressed, River will often state (seemingly) random facts she knows to be true. It's possible she does this to make herself feel more secure in a situation where she doesn't know what is going on. She's feeling unsure, and she doesn't know what's going on, so she thinks of things she does know. As we learn in"Ariel", she can't regulate her negative emotions. She just can't. but the human brain can only focus on so many things at a time. It's reasonable to suppose she can employ this as a sort of makeshift distraction. She still feels the negative emotions, but she can add possitive ones too, and maybe it even forces her to focus on something else, though the upset is still there.
"..Bad...In the Latin". is also River's way of saying she doesn't know how she feels about Mal. She's not sure she can trust him, so she muses out loud about her ponderings.

"Won't stop. Won't ever stop. They'll just keep coming until they get back what you took. Two by two, hands of blue. Two by two, hands of blue."

It's mean't to be implied she is speaking of the medicine the crew stole, (and perhaps on some level she is) but she is also speaking about herself to Simon and the rest of the crew, the "you" being Simon, and the crew for sheltering them, and the "what you took" being herself. The "They" refers to the two Academy agents (I like to call them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb) who are introduced in this episode.

"Two by two....Hands of blue....Two by two....hands of blue....."

This is one of River's more well known phrases, partially because she repeats it often. This refers to the two Academy agents who always wear blue surgical gloves. It is again unclear if she has encountered them before, (them possibly having participated in her captivity and torture) or if she's never met them, but knows they are coming because of her foresight.
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(Simon: What is it?)
"It's a ghost"...

Fairly obvious, meaning everyone on the ship is dead. The only person left is a "ghost". The person is dead, yet still walking around. He's not even human anymore.

"No...I can't sleep...Too much screaming".
(Simon: River...There is no screaming.)
"There was..."

It's implied she is experiencing the massacre that occured on the ghost ship. River seems to "connect" to events happening near her, or to someone important to her (feeling Shepherd Book be shot in "Safe" for example). Because they have encountered this ship, and thus now they will have interection with it, only now does she experience this trauma, whereas she didn't experience it when/ before it was actively occuring (unlike Doyle's/Cordelia's visions in Angel). Yes, she is intuitive and possesses foresight (and hindsight), but she only ever experiences things she has some form of connection to, and only ever when she has connection to them.

(Simon: River? What are you-)
"I followed the voices".

Another example of her supernatural intuition being "cleverly" disguised in the writing. She is indeed not following the crew's voices, as the casual viewer might suppose, but instead the voices of the dead.

"He's coming back".

This is said right after she and Simon have come back in from their "space walk". Simon informs her that now that it's safe, they are to hide in the shuttle. River says "He's coming back". Simon mistakingly thinks she's speaking about the captain, (one of the many times this happens) but she is, in fact, refering to Commander Harkon, attempting to warn Simon that they aren't actually safe yet.
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While River does ramble when she pulls the labels off the cans, most of it is inaudible. It seems to be, however, simply babble about the abuse suffered at the academy. Nothing specific, just mumblings about "They come" or "Hands go everywhere" (Perhaps about the experimentation) stuff like that.

I don't have any serious evidence to support this, but it's also worth noting that, while they didn't have a chance to adress it in the show/movie, the "Blue Sun" corporation (Basically BnL from Wall-E) was a huge corporation that supposedly had their hands in a lot of stuff across the galaxy, including packaged food. I'm not sure if it's adressed in a novel or something (perhaps someone can confirm?) but I believe it's generally believed that company funded, or had something to do with the Academy, as River is consistantly seen acting agressive or stressed when presented with a reminder of their logo. (Not every time, but often). It would make sense if she saw their logo on the cans, and began to destroy them, with the logo/reminder of her trauma triggering her to panic and babble.

When she enters the cargo bay later on, she says "There are tiny.......(Simon: interupts her) Pull. Pull!" I dunno if there is any true meaning here. If y'all can think of something do let me know. The only thing I can think of is her encouraging Simon to have fun with Badger and his men, as she thinks they're silly.
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Ep 5. SAFE

I'm going to go into slightly deeper analysis for this episode, as It is really important for both River and Simon, and their solidification with the team. It's also just an amazing episode.

"No! No! I don't want to go there!
(Simon: It's okay!)

It's not okay! You can't just dig into me, shove twenty needles in my eyes and ask me what I see"!
(Simon: All right. We won't go in. Look, No test today.)
"No rutting test? Stupid son of a b*tch dressed me up like a gorram doll"...
*Simon tries to calm her, she throws his medicine case.*
*Mal enters*
"You're not him? *calls Mal (as far as I can tell) son of a b*tch in chinese)"

I'll be honest, this one puzzled me. It's entirely possible it is only to convey River's growing upset and psychosis. If it does have meaning, however, this is how I, personally, interpret it.

"No! No! I don't want to go there! (Simon: It's okay!) It's not okay! You can't just dig into me, shove twenty needles in my eyes and ask me what I see"!
(Simon: All right. We won't go in. Look, No test today.)

Basically, River is still having problems seperating her reality from her trauma. I highly doubt the tests Simon does with her involve inserting needles into her face (something the Academy is actually shown to do) and ask her probing questions (again, something the Academy would do.) Instead, she thinks she's still there, at the Academy. Yes, Simon does ask her about what she dreams of, but only ever out of concern, and River seems to be refering more to a cruelly posed question. She's shown, in general, to rely on Simon, and she's normally very much at ease with him. She's clearly reminded of her trauma by the med bay (at times), perhaps being reminded of the experimentation done at the academy. (We don't get to see a lot of it, but between flashes from the show, the first scenes in "Serenity", and the "R. Tam Sessions" we get the idea that the subjects were treated very much like patients as well as prisoners, River (in the R. Tam Sessions) being seen wearing a hospital gown and yelling about how "even the orderlies wear masks". It's also established in "Ariel" that surgeries were performed, so it makes sense River doesn't like any sort of medical facilities.)

"No rutting test? Stupid son of a b*tch dressed me up like a gorram doll"...

I interpret this, her new instance (and sole instance, might I add) of cussing to, yes, as per usual, convey her anger/upset, but I also find it makes me think she's trying to "blend in" or "fake belonging" somehow. Think about it, she doesn't cuss until this point. Simon is established not to frequently cuss, so she seems to be attempting to mimic the other crew members, namely Jayne or Mal.
(I will compare this behavior to what is called "masking". Masking is normally a behavior employed by Autistic people (again, though, River most likely is NOT Autistic), in which the person takes on behaviors of other people they have observed and employs them so as to "blend in" and "seem normal". I won't say River is masking (I don't think it's exclusive to Autism, but still, it's commonly associated) but it is the closest name I can find to describe this practice.)

About the "Dressed me up like a doll", I think what River is saying here, is she's trying to convey she feels wrong, fake and out of place. A big point about this episode is that River (and Simon) don't belong, and that River is incredibly uncomfortable with herself, her lack of control over her own self, and where she is. The episode starts by showing us the quiet, happy life they lead before River left. It's established in this episode, once again, that River wants to go home. In the second episode too, River bemoaned the fact that they were on a ship, and not at home. When she says "dressing me up like a doll", she's sniping at Simon for dressing her up nicely (I think it's safe to assume that River isn't picking her own clothing in her state, more likely Simon is) as if they were home when she feels as if her trauma isn't even over yet. Look at how young River is dressed in the beginning. White dress, grey pinafore. Perfect, "like a doll". But now she's seen such cruelty and brutality, she isn't that perfect child anymore. And yet here Simon is, dressing her up in a pretty pink dress...like a doll. She's railling against Simon for trying to treat her normally, when she knows nothing is normal.

"The human body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds given adequate vacuuming systems".

This is another instance of the self soothing behavior I mentioned earlier. It's a totally random fact, not relevant to the situation at all (Well, my sister and I actually have a theory that it is, involving Mal running a secret blood farm. The theory actually holds a bit of weight, but that's an entirely different thread. Lemme know if y'all are interested. It's wild). Notice how just a second ago, she's shouting, cursing, crying, throwing things. In full freak out mode. Now, suddenly, she's sitting quietly curled up on the couch. In the back of the shot, right before this line, Mal and Simon talk. River can be seen in the back, curled up, playing with the hair at the base of her neck, her other hand in/near her mouth. This is what's considered self stimulatory behavior, or "stimming". It's often used by people to regulate/ease feelings of anxiety, frustration, and boredom. While yes, it is commonly associated with Autism, in reality everyone stims from time to time (biting nails, drumming fingers, shaking your foot, all these are common stims. I'm "stimming" right now by shaking my foot as I write. I don't have any sort of disorder, not even abnormal levels of anxiety, (though of course I have some) it's just my body's way of managing any nervous energy). I'm no expert, but I don't think River has Autism. Not at all. She suffers from something very different (Probably closer to some form of PTSD, for sure), but nevertheless, stimming might help her sooth herself, as proposed above.

As the conversation continues, she can be seen still holding herself, but not turned away from them as before. She rocks/ shakes gently.

Next we see her, she delivers the "blood" line, now relaxedly sitting, her head on her arm as she plays with the grate above her head with her finger (The tactile stimulation of the grate might also be self soothing/stimulatory). This line, I think is the strongest indicator of her using facts she "knows" to soothe heself in uncertain situations, as it follows a whole sequence of escalating distress, then self soothing behavior, as well as being entirely random otherwise.

(Yikes, that evaluation as long)

"Little soul, big world. Eat, sleep, and eat....many souls"...
(Mal: Cattle on the ship three weeks, she don't go near 'em. Suddenly we're on Jiangyin and she's got a driving need to commune with the beasts.)
"They weren't cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot. Now they see sky, and they remember what they are".

Oh, she's just contemplating the cow's exsistence, that's all.
Ha, for real though, this is a little, tiny line, that actually sums up her entire character development in this episode. And let me tell you, it's hardly visible, but it's huge.
Remember what I was saying about her feeling wrong, and stuck in her trauma on Serenity? This episode is the episode where she can finally let go of that distress of "not being home" and accept Serenity as her new home.
Something I love about this episode, is that not only does River get to see the sun for the first time since she left for the Academy, (the Academy doesn't strike me as a place with a lot of windows.) River gets to dance. It's established through the series (and the R. Tam Sessions) that River loved to dance before the Academy (which is an especially cool detail, considering the actresses story. If you've not heard it, look her up (Summer Glau) or read my Summer Glau appreciation thread in the Cast and Characters: Other section, as I go over it there), and was deprived of it, all this time. "River's Dance" in this episode is one of the first times the character expresses true joy in the series, and it's really beautiful. She's actually and truly free. It's the catalyst for the events of the episode, and it's what allows her to break from her anxieties long enough to embrace her new home on Serenity.
Look at the quote again from this new perspective.

"They weren't cows inside. (I wasn't River inside.) They were waiting to be, but they forgot. (I was waiting to be, but I forgot.) Now they see the sky, and they remember what they are. (Now I see the sky, now I dance, now I'm home, and I remember who I am.)".

Is it bad that what she said made perfect sense to me?

As I said, this is a very important moment for her character. It's by all means, the start of her slow recovery. What's most interesting, though, is how it ends. She dances. She dances her heart out. The music begins to fly, and so does she. But suddenly, she senses something wrong. Shepherd Book has been shot, and she can feel it (Remember how she has connection to people she is affiliated with). I want to note, this might actually be more of a connection to Mal than Book, because she only seems to realize it right as Mal does. Book has already been shot by the time Mal finds him, and in turn, when she suddenly stops dancing. And then, as Simon watches her, confused, he's kidnapped, a bag put over his head. Suddenly, her connection (Note: by connection, I don't mean she has "psychic connections" with people, I instead mean she is "connected" to people in such a way she can tell when things are wrong, or their presence is absent. I don't think she's able to actively read minds, as such, only feelings.) with Simon is also disturbed, and she grows confused, looking utterly lost as the other dancers begin to colide with her, and she stumbles back and forth.

This next quote is from when Simon and River are stationed in the village, after she's presented him with the hodgeberries. They begin to reminice. Suddenly, we see River for the first time. Not her traumatized shell, nor her childlike regression. This quote is just...River. This quote needs no explaination. It's one of the only times River is able to actually articulate what she is trying to say. It's kind of interesting, and a little sad...some of the only things she is able to properly express...are expressions of heartache.

"I took you away from there."
(Simon: No.)
"I know I did. You don't think I do, but.............I get confused. I remember everything. I remember too much, and.....some of it's made up, and.....some of it can't be quantified, and.....there's secrets".
(She begins to cry, as she begins to babble like always)
(Simon: It's okay.)
(She composes herself, and looks him in the eyes)
"But I understand. You gave up everything you had to find me. You found me broken. It's hard for you. You gave up everything you had"...
(Simon: Mei mei (Little sister), everything I have is right here.)


Ah, great. Now I'm crying.
Excuse me while I take 5 minutes to listen to the saddest music I can find and indulge my ugly tears.


Okay, I'm back.

The final part of this exchange is as follows:

"You need to eat. Keep up your strength. We won't be here long. Daddy will come and take us home. And I'll get better. I'll get better"!

This could be seen in one of two ways. I prefer the latter.

1: River still doesn't fully understand the weight of their situation and the fact that they are cut off from their family,
2: River is not refering to their actual father, and instead she is refering to Mal as their father figure, and Serenity their home.

I don't think the first one is accurate because she has just established that she understands, she just has trouble processing. (To quote her later in the show, "She understands, but she does not comprehend".)

I think the second is accurate, because it actually demonstrates the developement that will be completed closer to the end of this episode, which is that River (and Simon) now truly see Serenity as their home, and the crew their family, with Mal being their father figure, leading them along. ( The comparison between Mal and their father being that their father loved them their whole life, and yet when things got hard, refused to come for them, ("I will not come for you".) But Mal, even though he "doesn't like" Simon, came to their aid, and didn't leave them behind, beause they were "On his crew" (In otherwords, part of his "family").

(Simon: These are better than the Cambersons' berries)
"They are...except they're poison".
(*Simon spits*)
"You believed her! Made a face"...

Here River uses the third person. Why? Well, there isn't any solid evidence, as, while she does it once or twice more, there isn't a solid pattern. My explaination utilizes the observation that River seems to act vastly differently at different times. And while I don't think she has any serious multiple personality disorder, (Though again, not the expert) it can be argued that her personality has fragmented, to some degree, and she she has an understanding of this. We see it a lot in this episode especially. She seems to have 3-4 "fragments".

1: River (The Untouched)
2: Childlike regression (The Innocent)
3: Traumatized shell (The Victim)
4: Intuition/"mind reader" (the Empath, which often goes hand in hand with, or even resides under the umbrella of the Innocent)

These are all, completely, 100% River, but she seems to use different "mindsets" for different situations. All of us more or less change our behavior depending on the situation, but River does this to an extreme degree.

We saw the Victim outside the med bay at the beginning. We saw the Innocent in the store. And we saw the Untouched for the first time ever, here in these scenes.

This is most likely one of the fragments refering to another.
The Innocent teases Simon for believing the Untouched. (or another combination). After this, she quickly switches to the Empath (if you subscribe to the fragmentation proposal).

Also, I'd like to note here, just about the episode, I love the fact that supposedly, hundred and hundreds of years in the future, some people were like "You know what we should start doing again? Burning weird people alive. Yeah, that was really fun the first time, and never ever caused any problems or raised any moral questions".

And now the stake scene.

Oh, gosh dang it, I'm crying again. GAH WHY IS THIS SHOW SO GOOD.

Simon pleads with the townsfolk. But they refuse to listen. River will die. He looks to her, who he's sacrificed so much for. She smiles, and babbles about the meaningless interaction they had earlier, in the shop, her naiive, childlike innocence protecting herself from the terrifying reality. Will she ever be whole again?

You can see on his face...Even broken, he still believes she's the same River. He can see through the Innocent, through the Empath, even through the Victim, River is still in her. And he would rather die than lose her.

Man, Simon is a great character.

"Time to go".


The episode is over. Just think about happy River stealing Jayne's bread.
Happy River.


There. That's better.
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Okay, hopefully I can make up for the super long analysis of "Safe" with the super short analysis of "Our Mrs. Reynolds". It won't be hard. River literally doesn't do or say anything this whole episode. There is a deleted scene in which she does, however, and that is what we will analyze.

In this clip, we get to see River's more "childlike regression" side. She sees people on the ship pairing up, (Zoe and Wash, Mal and Saffron) and thinks she needs to follow suit. So, who on the ship does she love? Simon. No, not in that way, but she's not thinking of that way. (My sister didn't understand the joke when I showed it to her, and she got really confused and concerned. The scene is meant to be funny, seriously). Her vision of their "marriage" is them, sitting around, taking care of eachother. "I'll knit"! She says. No, River doesn't actually want to marry Simon, in the proper sense, the scene (which was, as you can tell, ultimately cut) was just a way for River to do something in the episode, as well as a funny way to portray the weird way she views the world, just out of step with the rules of our own.

(To Saffron)"You're a thief".
(Mal: Woah! Let's play nice here. (To Simon) Your sister's got some funny notions.)
(Simon: That's...not untrue.)
(Saffron: I'm sorry. I didn't know when I was to be fed. And I was afraid-)
(Mal: You made that fine meal, didn't eat nothin yourself?)
(Saffron: That was for you. Weren't but potlickins left. I took this for later. I didn't know she saw me.)
"I didn't see you".

What's important here, is that River clarifies that she "didn't see" Saffron take anything. She's calling her a thief instead because she knows she is. Probably even knows she's intending to steal more that a little packet of food. This is a demonstration of River's intuition.
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I won't go through the whole exchange here, as it isn't necessary, but one of River's first interactions here is with Shepherd Book, after he says he'll look after her. He comes in to the dinning room to check on her, and finds her "fixing his Bible". Basically, she finds fault with the metaphors of Genesis (Desiring them to be in line with scientific theory).
This is just an example of her amusing herself by using her logical brain. It's fun and comforting for her. She can also be seen babbling, every so often (Her short musing on the nature of the number 11). We get to see River in her (post traumatized) "resting state". She is relaxed here, and she's content, even happy, but she's exhibiting spurts of nervous and excited energy, mixed with her calm, logical evaluations. She laughs as she explains her conclusions, clearly rather enjoying her chosen passtime.

This is also the first time someone proposes to her that there is more to the world than facts and logic. We don't get to see if pre traumatized River acknowledged or believed this concept, but here, she looks bewhildered. She doesn't argue it. She let's it sink in. Even so, she isn't quite willing to let go of the pages she's torn. (Interesting note: This is the last instance of her logical self soothing.)

Later, after the "hair incident", Zoe tries to console River and she can be heard saying: "They say the snow on the roof is too heavy. They say the roof will cave in. His brains are in terrible danger"!

Just River's way of saying Book has an "unsettling" amount of white hair on his head. This whole exchange was pretty funny.
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Can I just say, this is one of the best episodes ever?

In one of the first "present day" context scenes, (Simon's Birthday dinner), we get little tidbits of River dialogue, including when Simon asks her if she told the crew when his birthday was. She responds,

"'Day' is a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles. It's not applicable....I didn't get you anything".

This is one of my favorite River quotes. it shows her seemlessly drifting from her over logical mode to just plain River.
In normal speak, she's trying to make an excuse for why she doesn't have anything for him, (which I personally think is forgivable, considering not only their situation but also the fact she basically never leaves the ship). It's actually super cute/funny.

Translation: "A 'day' is just a meaningless way we measure time based on the solar cycle. It really doesn't matter, in the grand scheme of things.......I didn't get you anything".

Next, we see a clear indication of River's foresight, once again misunderstood by the crew. After the lights flicker, and people begin to go check on what's wrong, River says,


Everyone (primarily Simon) takes this to mean she's reminding him to blow out the candles on his cake. But a moment later, Fire erupts through the halls, and everyone is thrown.

Now River can be heard screaming it. "Fire! Fire"!

Later on, she comes across Shepherd Book, reading his Bible in his room. I won't take up space analyzing the exchange, because it's pretty straight forward, and doesn't present any new informaton. Just River once again using her beloved facts to "save the day" (She said sarcastically.)

She also seems to be sure of her feelings about Mal now, as she can be seen visibly happy/relieved at the end when he is okay.
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Aug 10, 2021

Another big River episode. Get ready for a doozy.

In the opening dinning room scene, River starts out acting rather normal. She rejects food she doesn't like, though Simon encourages her to eat, she simply makes a face of distain.

River sees Jayne's Blue Sun shirt (remember the cans) or hears him begin to bully Simon, and calmly gets up. She takes a knife from the cup, and casually comes back to the table, slashing Jayne across the chest (note, right through the logo).

If this agression is caused by the logo, why doesn't she attack him when he wears it earlier? Well, it's possible that other factors contribute, such as the fact that Jayne was beginning to pick on Simon, and Jayne himself was brandishing/playing with a knife. It's also possible her association between seeing the shirt here and remembering the company from her trauma was slightly random. It's also possible, if you only want to rely solely on evidence from the show, that she was just incredibly upset with Jayne about picking on her and Simon constantly. A normally functioning person can experience this annoyance, and push it down, but as Simon says later on, "She feels everything. She can't not". It's possible this was just her normal (secret assassin) response to overwhelming annoyance and frustration.

She seems confused about why everyone is reacting. She cannot understand that what he did was not normal.

"He looks better in red".

This is the only explaination she gives. It's possible even she doesn't fully understand her motives. One thing is for certain, she seems to think it's better with the shirt bloodied, and Jayne in "red".

Also note, River seems to have accomplished the height of her goal. She didn't kill Jayne (and we all know she could have). She was just trying to warn him. That's why she's not overly upset. She knows he'll be fine. Maybe all his rudeness/mean thoughts towards both her and her brother "cuts like a knife". Maybe she wants him to feel it too...

The scene between River and Simon in her room where he is preparing her for their plan, while really bittersweet, is fairly straightforward.
"I don't wanna do it".
(Simon: I know.)
"I don't wanna go to that place. I don't wanna die".

She seems to express extreme anxiety about being taken again. It's unclear if she already knows they will be apprehended. It's possible she can only feel something bad will happen.

Simon assures her it will all be fine.

(Simon: It's time to go to sleep)

She sheds a single tear as he puts her under.

Next we see her, she wakes from her "proto-comatose state".

She rises behind Jayne.

"Copper for a kiss"?

She seems to have a notion what Jayne is doing. "copper for a kiss" refers to the instance in the Bible where Judas accepts money in exchange for turning Jesus over to be killed. Judas is asked how they will know which is Jesus so they can take him, and Judas tells them the one he kisses is the one to be taken. Judas gives Jesus a kiss, and they arrest Jesus shortly after. Thus, River is accusing him of betraying them whilst pretending to be their friend.

Now Simon is wheeling her through the hospital to get to the diagnostic ward.

"We're doing it backwards...walking up the downslide".

She's simply referring to the fact that they entered the hospital as corpses, now go to the recovery ward, then make their way to the diagnostic ward. They are doing the reverse of what is normally the case.

"They're going to die".
(Simon: No one is going to die)
"Well he is".

She's using her foresight. Though, this instance does prove that her foresight is not like Doyle/Cordelia's visions. They aren't true visions of the future, merely feelings or instincts relaying probable outcomes.

(Conversation continues)
(Simon: No, he's not. That man standing next to him is his doctor. He's going to help him.)
"He's not going to help him right".

Yeah, just her forsight/ intuition. You've been reading this thing long enough you know the drill.

The next interaction where River tells Simon to help the man just reiterates that she thinks Simon belongs in a fancy core planet hospital, and she still feels the guilt of taking him away from that. She looks at him, beaming proudly as he saves the man's life. When he joins them again, she shoots Jayne a look of "That's my brother. Look how amazing he is".

(Side note: Thinking about it, why didn't anybody recognize these two highly wanted fugitives in this big government run hospital?? Aren't River and Simon kinda well known fugitives? No one was looking at the doctor who doesn't work there and the girl he was pushing around the entire hospital in a wheelchair? What about their gorrilla man body guard???)

Simon: "She feels everything. She can't not".

Now, let's take a moment to discuss this scene, as it is incredibly important.

So, Simon finds out that the Academy "stripped her amygdala".

Now, I've seen people say that they "removed" her amygdala, and I can't be sure if this is entirely true. "Stripped" could mean "stripped her brain of" or just cut up her amygdala without completely removing it. I honestly dunno that that actually matters. Basically, her amygdala is "no longer in play".

What does this mean? Simon's "Jayned down" version basically says that she has no filter now. Every negative emotion she has, she cannot control it, it overwhelms her. (Note, as far as I can tell this is only negative emotions. Joy, pleasure, etc. aren't as affected.) But this really isn't all it means.

I'm not a neurologist. Looking back, I'm really not qualified to be writing this. But here we are, so I might as well continue. Any real doctors out there, maybe you can fact check me.

Amygdala damage can cause much more than just "lack of control of negative emotions". It can also cause memory problems (which River doesn't really seem to posess. She seems to be able to recall events both new and old), especially those of the emotional kind (She has been able to form new attachments, such as with the Serenity crew, remember new layouts and interaction etc.). It can also cause the inability to interpret facial expressions. While River isn't always the most expressive of people, she certainly doesn't seem to have trouble reading people's attitudes, barring one or two occasions. She is also fully able to express her own emotions, as we've seen, sometimes to excess. She laughs, smiles, cries and rages.

So, in other words, what Simon said is pretty much the extent of it. The rest of her behavioral/psychological issues can mostly just be chalked up to PTSD and the like.
In all honesty, I have no idea how this benefited the Academy at all. Eh, whatever, don't think about that too hard.

That was really uninteresting. Sorry 'bout that.

On we go.

Suddenly, River opens her eyes screaming. We can see the projection of her brain "flood with fear".

"No! No! No! They come out of the black! They come when you call"!

She's beginning to sense the presence of the federal officers, and the fact that Jayne called them.

(to Jayne) "You have a treasure in the sand"...

She knows he's been promised a reward for their betrayal.

As Jayne is leading them to his agreed meeting spot, she is able to sense their captor's presence, and she begins to panic, squirming in the wheelchair, crying out,

"No, no, I can't go back...I don't wanna go back"!

Simon misunderstands her, and comforts her, telling her that they are just going back to the ship. She trusts him enough to relax, only a little. Her expression stays one of unease.

After they've been aprehended, They are taken to the security ward for holding. The officers push both Simon and Jayne roughly onto the bench, but River picks up on the cue and swiftly sits beside them before an officer can touch her.

"They took Christmas away"...
(Jayne: What the h*ll now?)
"Came downstairs for the shiny presents. They took the tree and the stockings...nothing left but coal".
(Jayne: Would you shut her up?)
"Don't look in the closet either. It's greedy. It's not in the spirit of the holiday".

River is teasing Jayne for thinking he could get away with this so easily.


"They didn't give you what they promised...You came, ready for your prize. They took it away...left you worse off than before. Don't expect anything from people like this. It's not how they work".

For most of the escape scene, there is nothing to report. River simply holds onto Simon, looking mildly terrified.

While Simon and Jayne debate what path to take, we see River grow increasingly anxious.

"It doesn't matter. They're here".

She can sense the Two Academy Agents (Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dee).

"Two by two, hands of blue".

I've already explained this. (Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb)

She then proceeds to use her intuition to guide them through the facility, and to Mal and Zoe.

After all the excitement, Simon comes to River as she draws in her bunk.

(Simon: Hi. What are you doing?)
(Simon: That's really good.)
(Seeing the syringe in his hand) "What are you doing"?
(Simon: I, um...I brought some medicine. Do you remember why we went to the hospital?)
"Time to go to sleep again".
(Simon: No mei-mei. It's time to wake up.)

No more meaningless tests, or medicine to keep her docile. No more medications to force her to sleep, even fearing the nightmares. Simon has the information he needs to begin to help her. It's time for her to get better. It's time for her to be River again. It's time for her to wake up.
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In this episode, we get to see River's more childlike side (the Innocent, if, once again, you subscribe to that proposal). First we see of her, she is playing with Kaylee. Kaylee chases her about Serenity. River has stolen "her apple" and she chases River down, in order to reclaim it. It's all a game, and River sems to have immense fun with it. Seems her intentions are more to have fun than actually steal from Kaylee. Kaylee wrestles the apple from her hand, as River sinks into a chair, defeated but content. She smiles as Kaylee delivers her line of triumph.

(Kaylee: No power in the 'verse can stop me!)

We see a shot of River as the Captain talks to the crew members hanging out in the dinning room, and she almost looks a little sick. She looks on, then suddenly closes her eyes, as if suddenly feeling something off.

Next we see her, we get to know why. Simon comes into her bunk to check on her, and is taken aback to find her sitting on the bed, propped up weakly against the wall. Apparently the medications Simon is using are also making her sick.

(Simon: (Sees her) Woah...Mei-mei...How you doing?)
"I threw up".
(Simon: I'm sorry, it's a side effect. We just have to find the right treatment for you. How do you feel now?)
"Going...Going back like....apple bits coming back up. Chaos".
(Simon: But you felt okay this morning?)
(She smiles) "Played with Kaylee. The sun came out, and I walked on my feet, and heard with my ears. I ate the bits, the bits stayed down. (growing upset) And I work. I function like I'm a girl. (begining to cry) I hate it because I know it'll go away. The sun goes dark, and chaos has come again. Bits...Fluids...What am I"!?


While thinnly veiled in metaphors, this one is fairly straight forwards. She explains how she was able to act normally this morning (we could see her enjoying her freedom whislt playing with Kaylee), but suddenly, the medication racks her body, and she "gets sick" (Hearing the whole "apple bits" thing makes me gag, I guess I'm squimish...). She can feel the medication wearing off, and the chaotic over stimulus of her mind beginning again. She almost hates the joyful freedom, because at the end, the price is miserable sickness and chaotic nightmares to remind her she may never be truly "normal" again.
And thus is the (at times) cruel Law of Equivalent Exchange.


Okay, so NOT equivalent.


Okay, well now that we're clear on that, moving on.

(Simon: You are my beautiful sister.)
"I threw up on your bed".
(Simon: Yep. Definetly my sister.)

Awww. Siblings. SO accurate.

We don't see River for a good while after this. Too busy watching people get tortured. This episode was....interesting.
Next she shows up, it's when the crew is launching a rescue. Simon and Book have advanced, leaving a terrified Kaylee to hold down the fort. She trembles, eyes wide. Several men come through the opening, begining to fire, and she flees for cover. River comes to her, and kneels beside her, glancing at the three men, only for a second. She shuts her eyes tight.

"Can't look, can't look".

She stands and fires, eyes still closed, killing all the three men with one shot each. She looks faintly pleased with herself as she leans her head towards Kaylee, and delivers her line of triumph, "No power in the verse can stop me".

Kaylee looks at her horrified. Does River think this was all a game?

We can see Kaylee is wary of River now. After the crew begins to settle back down, Kaylee smiles at the captain as he passes her on the stairs. Her eyes then fall on River, who is watching her, eyes dim and focused. River sees Kaylee avoid eye contact, and she walks away herself.
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Ep 11. TRASH

Not much of River in this episode. (Whew).

First we see of her, Jayne is dropping off supplies so that She and Simon can lay low...basically for the whole episode.

(About Saffron) "She's a liar".
(Jayne: That don't exactly set her apart from the rest of us. The plunder sounds fun enough.)
"She's a liar, and no good will come of her".
(Jayne: Well, as a rule I say girlfolk ain't to be trusted.)
(Grinning playfully) "Jayne is a girl's name".
(Jayne: Well Jayne ain't a girl!)

Jayne is crude, then Jayne leaves.

(Simon: Another exciting adventure in sitting.)
(Simon: We'll be okay. Why the captain is trusting that (chinese) "remorseless harridan"-)
"Not her. Jayne".
(Simon: Afraid? Since when?)
"Since Ariel. Afraid we'll know".

In the first half of this exchange, we get to see some great "Woken up" River. (Fragment Proposal: The Untouched) She teases Jayne, and her speech is unveiled. It is reminicent of the River we see in the first R. Tam Session. Sweet, humble, and playful.

In the second half, we get confirmation that River does, in fact, know what Jayne did. She just hasn't talked about it. We know this, because by the end of the episode, Simon knows too, and the only person who could have told him is River (the only OTHER person knowing would be Mal, and he certainly didn't tell Simon).

Next time we see River is during one of my favorite scenes. Not only does it showcase Simon's amazing moral character, but also the way he and River deal with their Jayne situation is super chaotic and it's awesome.

Simon (And River) confronts Jayne about sellling them out on Ariel.

(Simon: How much did they offer you to sell me and River on Ariel?)
(Jayne: That's crazy talk.)
(Simon: Then let's talk crazy. How much?)
(Jayne: Anybody there?)
*River peeks her head in*
(Jayne: Anybody else?)
(Simon: You're in a dangerous line of work, Jayne. Odds are you'll be under my knife again. Often. So I want you to understand one thing, very clearly. no matter what you do, or say, or plot, or how you come down on us....I will never ever harm you. You're on this table, you're safe. 'cause I'm your medic. And however little we may like, or trust eachother, We're on the same crew. Got the same troubles, same enemies, and more than enough of both. Now, we could circle eachother and growl, sleep with one eye open...But that thought wearies me. I don't care what you've done. I don't know what you are planning on doing, but I'm trusting you. I think you should do the same. 'Cause I don't see this working any other way.)
"Also, I can kill you with my brain".


Ah. Iconic.
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We get to see more of normal River having fun in the beginning here...well, trying too.


She takes a back seat in this episode, but she still gets some cute moments.


Like teasing her brother, for example.



Also, I love her dress in this first part. I WANT her dress from this first part.

ANYWAYS back to the show.

The only thing even remotely odd in this episode is when Jayne and Book have a conversation, and River can be seen, walking gracefully up to the coffin, which she proceeds to climb onto. She crawls ontop of it, acting as though she were listening, or trying to sense something from it, before casually lying herself, belly down onto it.

She hugs the coffin, caressing it's side.

(Book: Oh. River, that might not be the best place to-)
"I'm very comfortable".

It's quite possible, as someone who can sense or feel the thoughts and feelings of others (an empath, basically) River might find it more comfortable to be near to someone who is "dead", or more accurately, seemingly dead. I imagine Tracey's head is quite a bit quieter than the other crewmates' would be. She might also enjoy the odd snese of life she gets from it. Everyone assumes Tracey is dead, but River never speaks to it. Can she sense that there is, in fact, life to him, even ever so faintly? We see she can do something similar to this in the next episode when she often expresses facsination with sensing the life of the unborn child.
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This episode is weird.

I dunno if y'all saw it but....I couldn't explain the plot of this one if I tried. CERTAINLY not with a straight face. I have tried.

We don't see River much this episode, which, I suppose is fine, as, though I greatly enjoy writing this, I've been at this for about a month and I'm sure y'all are falling asleep by now.
She can be seen, playing her favorite game of "be Simon's shadow". She can be seen in the background, perfectly content. Nothing to report.

Until, that is, the scene in which the gang is discussing what to do about the oncoming seige.

Suddenly, (I feel I use that word a lot, but to be fair, River has a habit of popping up) we see River. She states excitedly,

"It's starting".

This is, as per usual, mistaken by Mal to be about the seige, but, as confirmed by the mother a second later, is in fact, referring to the beginning of her labour.
She beams. We get the sense she's incredibly facinated by the child. it's as if she can sense or connect with it. It's thrilling to her.

Later on, she accompanies Simon and Inara as they prepare to deliver the baby. She stands by, completely intent on the situation.
Simon and Inara consult eachother on the fact neither of them has any idea what they are doing, River chimes in.

"Mine too". (Meaning: her first time delivering a baby.)

She clearly considers herself 104% a part of this event...Though Simon might not be too eager to agree about that.

"Who do you think is in there"?

This line reiterates her facination with the baby. She can already connect with him. He's a person. A whole complicated, amazing, infinitely interesting person. And he's just now coming into the world. She's got a sort of intense, childlike wonder. She's just infinitely thrilled and facinated. Who is this child going to be? A whole life, yet unlived...

She watches the whole thing wide eyed. As Simon presents the baby, before he can even finish, she interupts.

(Simon: It's -)
"It's a boy. Healthy".

She can't help but blurt it out. Again, she's already connected with this person (Jonah), and feels the joy of the moment deeply within herself.
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Here we are, at our grand finale. This is probably my favorite episode. This whole episode lets us see into River's heart and soul, unlike every other episode. We see the beautiful way she sees the world. Until now, she's been a background character. A subplot. But here, we see who she really is.

River's story is so incredibly beautiful, and it's a perfect way to draw her story to a close....for now!

This is basically River's episode, so get ready for some ugly tears.


(I'm not READY.)

We open with River, waking up.

She walks through the ship, observing peoples conversations. But at each one, she cannot help but hear them...Feel them...

This is one of the most thorough, and clear expressions of how River sees the world. We've never seen Serenity through her eyes before. But now, we do. She hears what people's hearts are crying out, silently.

Simon and Kaylee laugh as Simon tells an embarassing story of his days in medical school.

(Simon: *Looking directly at her* I would be there right now...)

We see her face fall as a wave of heartbreaking guilt washes over her.
He would be happy and successful, if it hadn't been for her...

But it's only a perception. Simon and Kaylee are still laughing. She continues on.

Next Book and Jayne.

Jayne poses an...interesting line of questioning to the Shepherd.
Suddenly, he is looking right at River

(Jayne: I got stupid. The money was too good.)

This is referring to his betrayel of the Tams on Ariel.

Next Book speaks harshly to Jayne without looking up from the table.

(Book: I don't give half a hump whether you are innocent or not. So where does that put you?)

She walks on.

next she sees Wash and Zoe passionately kissing in the cockpit. We hear waves crashing in the background, and we can see that River is feeling the intense emotions they are.
It's too much for her, so she moves on.

Now Inara and Mal.

Inara looks to River, but talks to Mal.

(Inara: I'm a big girl. Just tell me.)
Mal doesn't look at either of them.
(None of it means a d*mn thing.)

River can hear each of them crying out for the other to be honest about their feelings for one another. She hears the waves of emotion begin flooding back, (note, the wave sound most likely symbolizes emotion, not...other stuff.)

She staggers backwards, retreats down the stairs and continues away until her foot hits a branch, and the waves stop.
She bends down to inspect it.


(Cue one of my favorite shots...)

The ground is now covered with fall leaves. It's beautiful.

She picks up the branch, and smiles as she examines it.

"It's just an object. It doesn't mean what you think".

This branch is a metaphor for River, and her perception of herself. She is harmless. Gentle. She's loving and sweet. She's playful. She's a small branch in the cool autumn forest.
This is who she is. How she sees herself.

But everyone else sees her as a danger. An unstable weapon. A loaded gun in the hands of a child.

Suddenly the peaceful quiet is gone, and there is chaos. People cry out nervously and angrily. Simon approaches her, hands extended, scared. River is confused. Everyone is closing in on her.

The branch is not a branch. It's a gun.
Kaylee backs away from her, frightened.

River is confused and horrified at Kaylee's fear of her.


Simon asks her where she got the gun.

"It was in my hand..."

She doesn't even realize it was the gun she picked up. She picked up a branch...didn't she?
Mal grabs the gun.

(Mal: Fully loaded, safety off. This here is a recipe for unpleasantness. Does she understand that?)
"She understands, she doesn't comprehend".

She's expressing that she understands the concept, but has no idea what is going on. She cannot comprehend how this occured, or why this is happening. Also note, another use of the third person.

(Mal: No touching guns, okay?)
"No touching".

We can see the mortification and heartbreak on her face as she turns to leave. She's confused, embarassed, and crushed. Maybe she is nothing more than a danger. Maybe no one else will ever be able to see who she truly is.

Simon attempts to console her, but she waves him off angrily as she runs away, beginning to cry.

"It's getting very very crowded"!

To be fair, it is. Everyone had just been gathered around her, shouting and crying out, all their fear and anger directed at her.

The crew discuss what to do with her, and Kaylee relays the story of River shooting the three men in "War Stories". We pan down, through the floor, and see River listening in. She stands, feet spread on the railing of the walkway, her head cocked to the side to help her hear.

The team finally come to the conclusion that she's psychic. I dunno why they didn't think of that sooner, but okay.

(Simon: She's just a kid. She just wants to be...a kid.)

We know this to be true. She wants to be that child again. She mourns her innocence. When she has moments of normalcy, she spends them laughing and playing with Kaylee. She spends them investigating every curiosity. In the R. Tam sessions, we see her before The Academy.

"They call me 'Little Mouse", she says to the counsellor.

The little we see of her, she really was quiet, sweetly natured and shy. Her playful side really only comes out with Simon and her Serenity family. And think about it, she was supposedly around 14 or 15 when she went to The Academy. She was still a child.
Now, 2-3 years later, she has in no way been given the opportunity to mature. Trauma dosn't make a strong adult. It makes a traumatized child.

Simon once again proves one of my observations when "helping" Early find River. He explains that River isn't fond of the med bay, as it reminds her of the Academy.

Oh, by the way, Jubal Early is SUPER weird.

And here we come, to our climax.

Jubal and Simon make their way to the cockpit.
Jubal calls out to River, requesting yet again that she come out, and threatening to shoot Simon.

"You're wrong, Early".
(Jubal: I'm not wrong, dumpling. I will shoot your brother dead if you don't-)
"Wrong about River. River's not in the ship. They didn't want her here...but she couldn't make herself leave. So she melted. melted away. They didn't know she could do that, but she did".
(Jubal: Not sure I take your meaning there...)
"I'm not on the ship. I'm in the ship".
(Simon: River...)
"River's gone".
(Jubal: Then who exactly are we talking to?)
"You are talking to Serenity. And Jubal...Serenity is very unhappy".

River has some wonderfully amazing monologues in this episode.

"They didn't want her here...But she couldn't make herself leave. So she melted...melted away".

Yes, this is mostly just part of her trick, but it's also an expression of how she feels about Serenity.

She feels unwanted. She's feared, and talked about behind her back. But she loves them. She loves the ship and she loves the crew. They are her family. She loves them so completely. How can she leave? So she won't go anywhere. She'll fade away...into the ship. She'll just melt away...

I won't write this whole next conversation out, as it would be a little long.
Basically, River comes over the intercom and speaks to Kaylee. Kaylee begs forgiveness for telling Jubal where to find River, but River sweetly consoles her, telling her that it's all okay, and she is fine. She instructs Kaylee to be brave, and find something to free herself with.

"I'm right here", she assures her.

Next, she plays with Jubal a bit by using both her intuition and information in his space ship to read him.

"You're a liar. I don't think your intentions are honorable".
(Jubal: Well, no, I'm a bounty hunter, it's not generally considered
honorable so much as... I live by a code, though, which I think is worth --
"You hurt people".
(Jubal: Only when the job requires it.)
"Wrong. You're a bad liar. You crawl inside me uninvited and you hurt my
crew, I see everything that passes --"
(Jubal: I only hurt people 'cause they keep getting in the way of finding you!
*to Simon* Tell her!)
(Simon: What am I, your advocate?)
(Jubal: *thrusts out gun* You are starting now.)
(Simon: *to River* He's really very gentle and fuzzy, we're becoming fast friends.)

She laughs.

(Jubal: You folk are all insane!)
(Simon: Well, my sister's a ship, we had a complicated childhood.)
(Jubal: Does anybody care that I have a finely crafted gun pointed at this
boy's head?)
"I care."
(Jubal: Then are you gonna come out, stop me from doing what I don't want to? You
gonna be smart here, River?)

She doesn't answer.

She now consults the Captain, Kaylee, Wash and Zoe, helping them enact her plan.
Wash asks if they can shoot him. She repeats the Captain's instructions from earlier.

"No touching guns"!

She doesn't want him dead.
She continues to play with Early.
As she reads his inner darkness and cruelty, we see his inner insanity through her eyes, as we saw the crew before. We see his crazy smile. his unstable laughter.

We've come to my favorite part of the whole series. And coincidentally the cause of those aforementioned ugly tears.

River's monologue. This is another of River's most straight forward, clear and easily understandable monologues. And once again, it's a bittersweet expression of love, sacrifice, and heartache.

"You're not right, Early. You're not righteous. Got issues."
(Jubal: No! Or, yes, I could have that, you might have me figured out, that...
good job, I'm not a hundred percent -- Are we gonna be reasonable?"
"Talk too much."
(Jubal: I'm flawed in that way, I sometimes go on, it's been said --)
"It's okay, Early. I'm going with you."
(Simon: River, what are you --)
"Don't belong. Dangerous. Like you."

We see the crew members as she speaks. They look somber as they listen in.

"Can't be controlled. Can't be trusted. Everybody could just go on
without me, not have to worry. People could be who they wanted to
be, could be with the people they wanted... could live simple. No secrets."

We see Kaylee. She knows what River talks about.

River cares for Simon most of all. It hurts her most of all to see him sacrifice on her account. She wants Simon to be free of her. Free to be with Kaylee. Free to live his life.

(Simon: No...)
"And I'll be fine. I'll be your bounty, Jubal Early."

"And then I'll just fade away."

*Ugly tears*

Okay, let's talk about this for a minute.

"Can't be controlled. Can't be trusted. Everybody could just go on
without me, not have to worry. People could be who they wanted to
be, could be with the people they wanted... could live simple. No secrets."

The incident with the gun seems to have been a breaking point. River now knows she can never be fully "right" again. She's a danger. She a danger to the people she loves. She loves them so completely. So she'll leave. She'll give up her longing for peace, security and love. She'll just "melt away", into the darkness. So they can be happy, without her.

This always reminds me of the poem "The Town Without Me" from the series Erased.
An excerpt is as follows:

"I think about the town that I left behind,

Kids go to school as if nothing has changed,

Adults go to the office as if nothing has changed,

Mom eats as if nothing has changed,

When I think about the town without me, I feel sense of relief,

I want to go far far away".

It's beautiful. really, though profoundly sad.

"And I'll be fine. I'll be your bounty, Jubal Early...And then I'll just fade away."

She is facing a fate worse than death. She would not be kiiled of she went with Early. She would be handed back to the Academy. She would be tortured, and abused. Tormented and in pain, constantly. All alone. Death would be a mercy.

River will just fade away. As we've established, it's like there are several different versions of herself, fragmented within. River, the real true River, she wouldn't survive. Simon had only just found her, and now, to save him, she'll choose to fade away into nothing. To let her shell be forfeight to the torment of the Academy.

But even so, she smiles as she says it.

"I'll just fade away".

So why does she smile?

"For what greater love is there, than to lay down one's life for one's friends"? (John 15:13)

River's love for Simon and her Serenity family is so endlessly overflowing and unconditional, she would die to herself and endure endless torment...and smile. It shows just how far River has come. She's not just well enough to play around with Kaylee, or speak understandibly. She's well enough to love. I think this is probably the most treasured thing for her.

(Can you tell why she's my favorite?)

Simon takes on Jubal, and is bested, rather easily.

He tries to go after him, but River stops him

"Shh...it's okay".

So, it was all a trick. They just needed Jubal to come outside. but that doesn't mean River didn't mean all she said. If she didn't, she seriously needs to start her acting career. Her words were sincere.

Now, with Jubal floating of into vast and infinite space (hooray!), River descends from the spaceship to be greeted by Mal.

This last exchange between them once and for all solidifies River as a member of their family, finally granting her the love, security and belonging her heart has ached for.

"Permission to come aboard"?
(Mal: You know, you ain't quite right.)
"*laughing slightly* It's the popular theory".
(Mal: get on in there. Give your brother a thrashing for messing up your plan".
"He takes so much looking after".

The last we see of the Serenity crew, things are back to normal. (Well, as normal as can be expected.)

River and Kaylee play jacks. Kaylee tells a funny story, and they both laugh. River laughs, like a "normal' girl.

River laughs.

(Kaylee: Dyah! I'm at fours. Let's see you match that.)

River picks up the ball, studying it.

"I can win this".
(Kaylee: I'm hearin' a lot of talk here, genius. Come on. Show me what you've got.)

River contemplates the rubber ball. She turns it in her hand. She lets it fall.

And with it, we go. Through the ship, and out into space.

Serenity flies on.


I'm gonna have to make it a rule I can never watch Objects in space late at night. it gets me EVERY TIME.
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River's story really is one of hope. It's one of enduring love as well. Simon loved his sister so truly, he left everything behind to save her (remember John 15:13? It applies to him too!). His search for her didn't end on Persephone. Even after he had gotten her out, River was still no where to be found. It's only really after "Ariel" that he is able to find River. Once he has cut through the thorns, she "awakens" like Sleeping Beauty. (No kissing tho! Well, maybe on some planets, but only pretty bad ones...)

Her story is also, as the whole series is, about found family. I'll share with you a quote from River's actress, Summer Glau from when she was asked to describe the series, as it's a perfect description of Firefly and River's role within it:

"In the not too distant future, in beautiful outer space, there are good guys an bad guys, just like in every story. I'm one of the good guys, though some people disagree...Shoes are optional, and you can mumble to yourself. There are Space Cowboys (do you like cowboys?). You could probably ride a horse. The never let me ride a horse, in fact they barely let me off the ship, but I still had fun....it's really a story about family, and good triumphing over evil, and being part of a team. That's kind of the spirit of it, is finding your place in a family. [it's about] finding your moment. Finding your hero moment, because we all have one. And that's what I love most about River's experience, is she had a lot of vunerablilities, and she's been through a lot of hard times, but she could also step up and have her hero moment and save her family when it mattered most.

And here we are at the end. I know this was super long. I hope it was interesting, at least.


(Yes, River, I am aware)

I also want to note that it has taken me a month to write this, watching one episode a day and then writing the analysis on any days that I'm free in the evening (which clearly wasn't every day) This was quite the job, but I'm really content, and I'll be honest, a little proud. I hope you can enjoy it!

I now open it up to your questions, comments, and debates!

Did you find this analysis interesting?
Do you agree or disagree with any parts of it?
Should I analyze Serenity or is it better for humanity if I never do this again?
Has this made you view River differently?
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