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August 28 2014

Yet another Buzzfeed episode-ranking listicle. Alexis Nedd at BuzzFeed claims to offer "The Definitive Ranking Of 'Firefly' Episodes".

The rankings are of course arguable, but what struck me was how superficial the episode descriptions were, as if the writer had completely missed many many layers of the content of each episode.

I liked "Train Job" when I saw it as the first episode on TV, but the scene between Mel and the sheriff at the end was what hooked me and made me love it. It's not my favourite episode - "Out of Gas" and "Objects in Space" are pretty much tied for that - but there are no episodes that I don't like and I always have to rewatch them all from the beginning if I want to watch any.
I have no idea if this is a popular opinion or not, but I personally think The Message is the weakest episode. It's not bad, per se, but I just can't figure out why nobody tells Tracey there's a plan that involves not giving him over to the cops. Strikes me as a bit of what's often referred to as an "idiot plot". Things would've gone fine if just one person hadn't decided to be an idiot just then. I don't know what Mal, Book and whoever else was in on it expected to gain from having Tracey think they were selling him out. And then he's dead and nobody goes "Hey, maybe all of this could've been avoided if we hadn't kept the kid in the dark...we're kinda bad people". Instead they blame him for his own death, which, sure, he brought on himself to a large extent, but nobody did anything to prevent it, when somebody probably should've. That, to me, places the episode at #14. Jaynestown is fun, and Safe, while not the best, is hardly the worst.
GreatMuppetyOdin - 'The Message' is the only Firefly episode I really don't like all that much myself, and I also got the same vibe off all of my friends.
But personally, I just don't really like Jonathan Woodward & his Whedonverse characters, I find them all rather annoying and samish. Tracey's the worst of the three for me. He's acting like he's got everything figured out while he really doesn't, and for me, that makes him a bit unpleasant.
Yeah, I think "The Message" has it's pluses, but it suffers from reaching it's conflict late. With tighter writing, it could've been much better. I like it for a parallel between Tracey and Simon, as people who are seeking help from Mal and crew, and for the things it says about Simon and Kaylee's relationship. I could talk all day about a Tracey and Simon comparisons, but unfortunately the episode glosses over what it think is it's best merit and barely addresses to could've been a great commentary on Simon and his relationship with Kaylee and their difficulty in understanding one another, and why she's drawn to him in the first place. And like I said I chalk it up to writing that should have been tighter, with a more sensible and coherent plot.

Meanwhile I can't talk for the article as I haven't read it because I'm in class. Oops. ;p

[ edited by TenTonParasol on 2014-08-28 20:43 ]

[ edited by TenTonParasol on 2014-08-28 20:44 ]
"The message" is also my least favorite, I just couldn't care for the character of Tracey.
I love the message.
So I did read the article now that I've had the time, and yeah, I agree with tomg's comment that the reviews seem a little superficial.

Ultimately, there are episodes I like less than the others, but I can argue for each episode and what they have to offer to the series, especially in the way of character and relationships. Like I (barely coherently, tbh) said about "The Message" is a weak episode due to its flaws in execution but it does offer something for someone's character arc, and I give it credit for that. I've sen so many episodes of television fail to give me even that. I think "Safe" is also not a very strong episode, but it says volumes about Simon's and River's situations, their relationship to each other and their parents, and their relationship to Mal. (The parallel between Gabriel Tam's "I will not come back for you. You're on your own". and Mal's "[Why'd you come back for us?] You're on my crew." was always very striking to me.) I actually lost my train of thought and why I thought this paragraph necessary.

In the end, I tend to think about Firefly in terms of its character and relationship building because it never had enough runway space to properly set-up, let alone execute, a story arc.

It annoys me immensely that the article says it's the definitive ranking when it doesn't seem to address any of these points, or look very much into what these episodes add to the series as a whole, or even make in-depth commentary on the quality of writing for any of these episodes. Like I said before, and you are probably tired of hearing it now, "The Message" and some of the other episodes suffer from getting to its main conflict a little late in the episode and the action tends to drag a bit. "Objects in Space", in a minor comment, I think could have moved the scuffle between Mal and Early into the end of the first act to leave that hanging over the break, so that the first act ends with a more real and definitive threat (Early has proved to be very dangerous and has hurt someone already) rather than a threat of a threat (Early looks menacing). I think these things should be considered when making a claim that your list is the definitive. I can barely take this list seriously as it is as it seems to rank on terms of interesting and exciting at face value rather than... blah, blah, blah I've talked too much already and I'm already repeating myself. Forgive me.

This list barely tells me what the author thinks is each episode's merits and faults.

[ edited by TenTonParasol on 2014-08-28 23:53 ]
The episode that struck me the most was "Out of Gas". It was brilliantly plotted. "Ariel" and "Objects in Space" are a close second and third. Actually, I loved them all!
I actually really like this list. The last 4 are probably spot on
I don't care about the rankings so much, but this really got to me:

While “War Stories” gives the audience some much-needed insight into Zoe and Wash’s relationship (and Zoe and Mal’s relationship, and Wash and Mal’s relationship…there are a lot of relationships on this ship), it feels like filler between better episodes that do more to advance the plot.

Grr. Not everything is about advancing the plot. An episode that develops three key relationships is not "filler."

[ edited by sumogrip on 2014-08-29 02:01 ]
I agree, sumogrip. War Stories has always been my reliable number three Firefly episode.
I think it's time for a rewatch. Personally I don't have much time for Safe or Shindig but I'll see if nostalgia makes a difference. Objects in Space is a tour de force though. And I like Out of Gas but the make-up used on Mal in the flashback to the space yard takes me out of the episode. He looks terrible.
I just re-watched a couple of weeks ago. The Message has always been my least favorite, followed closely by Heart of Gold, but "least favorite" out of 14 amazingly good episodes in no way equates with "bad". Now I need to go re-watch Serenity. :-)
I found reading this article to be an interesting exercise; at first, I felt "I can't rank these," but then found myself disagreeing with - or concurring with - some of the rankings anyway. I definitely agree with "Safe" at the bottom - and it's still a really good episode! (Showing just what we lost with the early demise of this series....) Besides the iconic Big Damn Heroes stuff, we get River's "in the ship they weren't cows" observation, and Mal's realizing it made a certain kind of sense; and pretty much everything with Shepherd Book in this ep. On the other hand, we have the idiotic hillfolk, probably the biggest factor in Safe's "least-favored" status in my personal ranking and re-watching feelings.

To try not to babble on too much more: War Stories and Serenity parts 1&2 stick out as way underrated, as well as Jaynestown; I like Heart of Gold, but not top six like; and I'm pleased with Ariel's high ranking.

Also, semi-related (actually, I may just end whatever occasional post I make on the 'esque with this for a bit) - I'm still calling for an audio book of A Shepherd's Tale read by Ron Glass!

[ edited by LKW on 2014-08-31 21:24 ]

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