“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”
Arthur C. Clarke
So it turns out Firefly episodes have titles. Who knew?
The Train Job, the second episode of the single, solitary series of Firefly, sees the Serenity gang take on a job for a notoriously violent criminal mastermind. (Probably.) But the task goes sour when they realise that what they’re stealing is life-saving medicine destined for a mining colony beset by a horrible degenerative disease.
It has to be said that the episode is a slightly anticlimactic follow-up to the first episode, which was a ninety-minute extravaganza of sorts as the series came out all guns blazing. The plot here feels formulaic and self-contained, the moral dilemma too easily solved (although I suspect we’re going to see a return of the Violent Criminal Mastermind at some point in the series). It’s not a bad episode by any means, and many of the elements that made the first episode excellent are still here: space opera earthed in lived human experience, good pacing, well-thought-out worldbuilding, realistic crew dynamics. It’s just that the episode feels more plot-based than character-driven; it shows off what these characters do for a living rather than interrogating it.
Still, really good SFF series are so rare these days that even a weak episode like this one stands out as better than, for example, Steven Moffat’s latest Who offering. The characters here continue to be interesting and relatable and multi-faceted, and there’s enough suspense being generated over the course of the first couple of episodes to keep the show powering through its low moments. So I’ll not give up hope just yet.