Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Firefly: Our Mrs. Reynolds Review

Kristina Hendricks! Heavens above! Firefly is certainly sporting some prestigious supporting cast members. First Zack Efron and now the face of Mad Men. (At least, one of its many faces. Jon Hamm's chiseled visage is equally iconic.) 

I had the pleasure of watching Our Mrs. Reynolds with a handful of Firefly virgins, which was an enlightening experience, both for the episode and for the show overall. If nothing else, Firefly is a funny show. After four episodes under my belt, I couldn't help but wonder if my laughter wasn't starting to sound a little forced. If my affection for the show wasn't overcoming my ability to judge it dispassionately. But Our Mrs. Reynolds had all four of us in stitches at points, indicating that I have not yet fallen prey to fanboyitis. 

Pilgrim couple.
The episode starts off with Mal, Jayne, and Zoe ambushing some would-be bandits. They are undercover as a pilgrim family with Jayne as the patron, Mal as his wife, and Zoe hiding in the back with a shotgun. The reveal of Nathan Fillion under a bonnet chastising Jayne for calling him an ugly woman is priceless and the episode keeps up this light-hearted pace throughout the rest of the episode. 

The crew were defending some poor villagers who repaid them with a party, a rain-stick for Jayne and a wife for Mal. Of course, Mal doesn't realize he's getting married off when it happens and his ensuing discovery of his 'wife' on board is hilarious. Each character plays their part to perfection. Most of the crew is amused, Shepard Book is vaguely concerned, Inara is jealous, and Mal is annoyed. The initial scene of her discovery has some great bits of back-and-forth dialogue that are both funny and surprisingly natural. Tip of the hat, once again, to Whedon's writing prowess. 

As the reality of this woman's presence sets in, the sense of levity (for the crew) is lost. A scene between Zoe and Wash is particularly amusing as she no longer can make light of the situation and takes her frustration out on her husband. Their interaction is note-perfect with Zoe's transformation to ice queen and Wash's increasingly defensive unraveling feeling incredibly relateable. Equally charming is the ensuing interaction between Wash and 'Mrs. Reynolds' who, we discover, is more than she pretends to be. The meta-wink at the audience with Wash's claim that "most people don't get me and Zoe" doesn't feel forced and their otherwise unbelievable relationship becomes even more tender. 

As for the soon-to-be-famous Kristina Hendricks, she holds her own. Her initial character is unsettlingly vulnerable and her transformation into deadly con woman is convincing. (Her settler costume combined with her almost translucent white skin paints a truly tender picture.) She and Inara have a wonderful interaction as they both attempt to seduce the other, that is an enormous breath of fresh air after all the meek posturing. 

Mad Women.
Speaking of Inara, Morena Baccarin shines in this episode despite being limited to only a few scenes. Her stone-faced jealousy at the beginning is breath-taking and her eventual incapacitation at the poisoned lips of Mal is adorable. In between she steals the scene where the crew realizes their deception. "It was sloppy of her to try but she must have been under pressure" and "You don't play a player" are great lines, well delivered that make Inara more than the (admittedly very) pretty face on the ship. 

Indeed, each emotional note rings true and each is offset by an equally honest but also funny moment. The tension between Wash and Zoe is defused with Wash nursing his bruised head and talking about juggling geese. The tension between Mal and Jayne is released with Mal quipping that his days of not taking Jayne seriously are "coming to a middle." And the deepest tension of all, that between Mal and Inara, is brought to a boil in the final moments of the episode, only to be released thanks to Mal's ignorance and Inara's hilarious exasperation. 

Overall, Our Mrs. Reynolds is a wonderful episode that is genuinely funny, touching, and scary. And, not to complicate the argument surrounding alternate introductory episodes, apparently strong enough on its own merits to get newbies hooked on the show. 

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