Now, if you already know what I'm talking about when I say "Why You Should Watch Firefly", I want you to go buy yourself something tasty. Candy, ice cream, pizza, anything you want. You deserve it. You are an amazing person, and you deserve something nice. You know what, go ahead and give yourself a round of applause! You rock!
If you DON'T know what I'm talking about, take a moment and cry. Your life has been empty and meaningless up until now, even if you didn't know it. But fear not! Your hopeless void of existence is about to be injected with color and vibrancy! Purpose! Joy! An explosion of fantasticness! For you will now be introduced to:
Alright, starting with the basics.
Firefly was a TV show created by the brilliant mind of Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Angel, Dollhouse, etc.). It aired on FOX in 2002 for a tragically short run. Only 14 episodes were ever made, and three of them weren't aired in the original run. It was set in 2511, and is a cross between a Western and a Sci-Fi. It's in space.
NOW WAIT A SECOND! Don't leave! I know that sounds weird. Believe me, I know. I was a bit put off at the beginning too. As a child of Trekkies, I thought, 'Argh. Space? Aliens. Super-weird confusing technical jargon about singularities and stupid stuff I don't understand. Weird nonsense. People with plastic stuff on their faces. Laaame.' I tell you now, there are no aliens. There is very little super-weird technical jargon, none of it about singularities. There is a bit of weird nonsense, but it works. Nobody has plastic stuff on their faces.
Firefly is a story about nine people. It's not about the space, or boldly going where no man has gone before. It's about these nine people, the odd little family they make up, and how they survive on the fringes.
In case you couldn't guess, here there be spoilers for the first episode. YE BE WARNED, YE SCURVY DOGS!
Captain Malcolm Reynolds (played by the hilarious Nathan Fillion), better known as 'Mal', 'Captain', and 'Captain Tight-pants', is the leader of the crew. He captains a ship called Serenity, which is a Firefly-classification ship. That means it looks vaguely like a cross between a bird and a firefly. It's back end glows. It's cool. He fought for the Independents in their rebellion against the Alliance (rebels against the big bad government who wanted to crush them), and lost. That loss turned him into a broken, bitter man. But you still love him. Since then, he has been smuggling and hating the Alliance, although he hasn't done much about it.
His second in command, Zoe Washburne, is played by the gorgeously kick-ass Gina Torres. She will shoot you in the face without batting an eyelash, and has followed Mal through hell. She's married to the pilot, Hoban Washburne (called Wash), played by Alan Tudyk. His character is introduced wearing a Hawaiian shirt and playing with dinosaurs in the most hysterical monologue you will ever hear in your life.
The crew's hired gun, Jayne Cobb (the badass Adam Baldwin), may have a girl's name, but he's a man alright. He has a beastly gun named Vera, which has "extreme sentimental value". Jayne is "a trained ape, without the training". He is hilarious. The kinda guy you love to hate.
The ship's mechanic, on the other hand, is the sweetest girl in the 'verse. Kaylee Frye (the lovely Jewel Staite) is a bright, bubbly girl, who has never had any training with machines, but she knows them like the back of her hand. There isn't "a power in the 'verse that can stop Kaylee from bein' cheerful". You'll love her, I promise.
The last member of the original crew, bringing the cast of characters up to six, is Inara Serra (played by the unfairly beautiful Morena Baccarin). She's a Companion; it's kind of like a high-class courtesan crossed with a diplomat. Or, as Mal likes to say, "she's a whore". Then again, there's all kinds of unresolved sexual tension between Inara and Mal, so we'll forgive him being blunt and rude. He's like that a lot.
In the pilot episode, the ragtag crew picks up passengers on their way to smuggle foodstuffs to a guy named Badger (Mark Sheppard, wonderfully slimy as ever) who has a "very fine hat". The first passenger is a Shepherd, or travelling preacher, named Derrial Book (Ron Glass, who is awesome). At first glance, he's a peaceful old man with funny hair. But if you piss him off, he'll take you out with two punches, or shoot you in the kneecap so that you do a faceplant onto a formerly-on-fire ATV. He's a badass with a secret past. And we love him.
The last important passenger (that we know of), is a bit more difficult to warm up to at first. Simon Tam (Sean Maher, and prettier eye-candy you will not find this side of Lord of the Rings) is a trauma surgeon from a wealthy planet, and seems to have a giant stick up his butt. He also brings aboard a strange box, asks uncomfortable questions, and is clearly hiding a secret.
That secret is in the box, and it is his sister, River Tam (the fabulously crazy Summer Glau). The government played with her brain, making her crazy. Simon got her away from them, but they're now on the run. Their opposition to the government, and the presence of a secret-Federal Officer on board (the minor character Dobson, who was a passenger that I didn't mention before now because he doesn't really matter except in this episode), draws Mal and his crew into conflict with the Alliance, sparking the series-plot.
Throughout the fourteen episodes, they deal with sadistic Russian crime-lords, rogue-Companion seductresses, insane bounty hunters, and Reavers: the most terrifying things that you've never seen. Reavers don't fully appear onscreen in the TV series; their ships do, and the horror and pants-wetting-fear that they inspire in the characters make YOU fear them too. They are "men gone savage". If they board the ship, or overrun a town, or have any contact with normal people, they will, to quote Zoe, "rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order". Not. Pleasant.
Although Firefly had a TRAGICALLY short run (blame FOX; they aired the series out of order and didn't market it properly), it rose again from the ashes as a movie, Serenity, where the crew discovers the source of the Reavers, the Alliance is set on its ear, and we finally get a look inside River's head.
Firefly will make you laugh until you cry. It'll make you cry until you're sick. It'll steal it's way into your heart and your mind until you find yourself saying gorram and shiny in everyday conversation. Once you let Firefly into your life, it is there for good. And you won't mind a bit.
(Firefly is available at least in part on Hulu, and, last I checked, for Instant-Download on Netflix. It's also available on DVD.)