Sunday, December 15, 2013
Cult-TV Blogging: Firefly: "The Message" (July 28, 2003)
In “The Message,” Serenity makes a quick stopover at a bustling space station and bazaar. Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Zoe (Gina Torres) unexpectedly receive mail in the form of a giant crate, and Jayne (Adam Baldwin) receives a care package from his mother.
Inside the over-sized crate is a dead veteran of the Unification Wars, a fellow soldier, Lt. Tracy. Included with his body is a taped message from Tracy asking Mal and Zoe to bring his corpse home to his parents on a frozen outer planet.
Mal and Zoe take their new mission very seriously, despite the fact that a sadistic Alliance captain (Richard Brugi) is also after Lt. Tracy’s casket, and pursues Serenity to get it.
When Tracy unexpectedly awakes from a coma, the crew learns the reason for the pursuit and his deception.
Inside his very body, Tracy is carrying special human organs worth a fortune on the black market. He is not just a carrier, but an “incubator” for these organs. While Tracy attempts to make a profit off of his own flesh, the captain is looking or the same payday…
“The Message” is probably my least favorite episode of Firefly (2002). In part this is because the episode already recycles information about the characters that audiences already know.
Specifically, “Serenity” and “War Stories” both feature flashbacks to Mal and Zoe’s past. In the case of “Serenity,” we see the duo in the Unification Wars (at the battle of Serenity, rather than the Battle of Du-Khang), but we clearly get the message about them: they are honorable brothers-in-arms fighting a just war against impossible odds. Nothing that happens in “The Message” really adds much to that information, or character equation. Here, they agree to take home the body of a fellow veteran, because of the bond they still share with their fellow soldiers. The “leave no man behind” edict has been voiced before on the series, and to have it front and center here adds little new. It’s not the information is bad or unworthy again, it’s that we already know it.
We have also seen the “Simon-says-something rude-and-offends Kaylee” subplot before, particularly in the story “Safe.” Here, Simon (Simon Maher) again comes across as “too good” for Kaylee (Jewel Staite), and she gets into a snit about his high-falutin’ ways. In this case, Kaylee contrasts the stolid Doctor with the “down to Earth” Tracy, and in the end, sees that Tracy’s “down to Earth” behavior comes at a price. Simon would never treat her so disrespectfully. Again, this aspect of the episode is something of a rehash of Simon/Kaylee repartee we’ve seen before, and just serves as another (unnecessary) bump in the road preventing them from getting together as a couple.
The episode doesn’t really come together in the end, and is one of the few episodes of Firefly (2002) that seems to be treading water.
Again, the message of the episode is good, but the tragedy seems a little manufactured; a bit too patently “sad” and without reason.
Mal and Zoe finally shoot (and kill…) Tracy, and then, in the end, deliver his body to his parents, thus living up to the “leave no man behind” edict. The worthwhile message is that after the war, many soldiers simply didn’t know what to do with their lives, and strayed to a life of crime…even though at heart they weren’t really criminals. This notion reflects, even, on Mal and Zoe, who also turned to a marginal existence. But they possess a moral compass that Tracy doesn’t seem to.
Next Week: “Heart of Gold.”