Simon: How do i know you won’t kill me in my sleep?Seth Freilich does give a good rundown of the show, but he doesn't really go through the episodes like I was hoping. His breakdown of why it's a great season is really a summation of the show in general, which makes sense because it only has one season (14 episodes) to its name. So I've included my favorite episodes below, thanks to Hulu.com.
Mal: You don’t know me son, so let me explain this to you once. If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.
Simon: Are you always this sentimental?
Mal: Had a good day.
Simon: You had the Alliance on you … criminals and savages. Half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself. And you’re harboring known fugitives.
Mal: We’re still flying.
Simon: That’s not much.
Mal: It’s enough.
Via flashbacks, "Out of Gas" explores how the Serenity crew came together, most surprising of which was Kaylee's introduction (sweet little Kaylee was having sex with the mechanic!). This episode really gets at the heart of the show: the loyalty of the crew, the sense of dignity and honor, Mal's love and pride for his ship. Each of the characters are highlighted in their own way, even though the episode primarily belongs to a fantastic performance by Nathan Fillion as the captain. Cleverly, this isn't just a flashback episode -- it's a flashback within a flashback. The ship is ready to self-destruct, and a hurt Mal is trying to put a crucial piece back into the engine. But his crew is gone. In the first set of flashbacks, you find out what happened in the moments leading up to the ship malfunctioning, how the crew split into two teams and departed in separate directions. The second set of flashbacks are devoted to how Mal collected his crew, and at first, these flashbacks seem to be for the audience, letting us know how the crew came to be. But actually, these flashbacks are about Mal, about his trust issues, about how he can manipulate people, how his strong moral center and sense of character are his greatest attributes. The best part of the episode? The voiceover at the end; it matches the voiceover from the beginning, but I'll be damned if a tear didn't come to my eye when the camera shows Mal looking at a different ship, another ship that'll "be with you for the rest of your life." Joss Whedon really outdid himself with this episode.
Possibly my favorite episode (but how does one decide such an impossible thing?), "Objects in Space" deals with a Bounty Hunter, Jubal Early (the amazing Richard Brooks), who has come looking for fugitive River. He is such a creepy villain because his understanding of reality is so logical. He completely justifies his actions because he thinks he's right in the matter, and honestly, when he makes his case, I can't say I disagree with him. Unlike other episodes, where most of the plot revolves around action, this one really deals with the psychology of being on a crew, of how one would react in this situation. Jubal Early sneaking on board the Serenity is just as suspenseful as any fast-edited sharp-instrumental horror technique. And his conversations with the crew are mind-blowing well written.
Simon: Are you with Alliance?"This room is empty. Is it still a room if it's empty?" At first Jubal's philosophical ramblings seem aimless and crazy, but then he focuses them in the creepiest of ways. "You're out of you mind." "That's between me and my mind." Richard Brooks is absolutely brilliant. He makes atrocious threats -- like violating Kaylee! -- and you never know if he's serious or not because he is so damn logical. He slaps Inara when she offers him sex as an exchange for River. Can someone so lucid and normal really be so completely twisted? Would he really have killed everyone if they got in his way? At the end, we find out that Jubal Early is a disgusting human being who took the bounty hunter job because he enjoyed the blood.
Jubal Early: Am I lion? I don't really think of myself as a lion, though I have a mighty roar.
Simon: I said Alliance.
Jubal: Oh, I thought...
Simon: No, I...
Jubal: That's weird.
And you know, I normally roll my eyes at science-fiction-y things, like men in alien suits (or Daleks) and cheesy special effects, but dear god, I believed that River melted into the ship. Joss took me there. He carried me there. It's the only time I've ever felt genuinely fooled by a television show, and it wasn't even a season-long arc. It was an episodic narrative. And even then, I didn't feel fooled. I felt full. I felt full of life and goodness and honesty and truth.
God, I love this show.