Reader Request- Call Girl of Cthulhu

If the pun in the title didn’t grab you, then… well, I’m sure you have other nice qualities. This is the parody of H.P. Lovecraft that nobody was asking for, but that we all thoroughly deserve.

SUMMARY

The movie starts with the traditional frame-story of a guy being interviewed after a massacre. It flashes back from there.

Carter Wilcox (David Phillip Carollo) is a stereotypical virgin loser for a B-film. He lives in a house where everyone else is getting laid, watches porn a lot, has a condom that predates the Industrial Age, and is pretty much everyone’s tool. One night, he catches sight of a hooker, Riley (Melissa O’Brien), who has a distinctive birthmark on her ass, and falls for her. At the same time, a group of people are searching the asses of call-girls around the city and murdering the ones that lack birthmarks. The group, revealed to be the Church of Starry Wisdom, in turn, is being stalked by a group of women who appear to be trying to stop them. The women find out that the killers have left the Necronomicon in a hotel room after a murder and flee with it, losing 2 of their members in the process.

CallgirlOfCthulhu-2Carter.png
Yes, this is a virgin. I know you’re shocked.

Carter finds Riley’s card and decides to call her. When she comes over, he’s naturally nervous and first asks to use her as a life-model for his art, believing that he’ll have sex with her only if they fall in love. The Church invites over more hookers and Riley’s pimp Ashton Eibon (Troy Jennings), but they capture the hookers after none of them have the mark. Ashton sells out Riley after a group of squid-masked cultists surround him and threaten him. Meanwhile, the women fighting against the Church contact Carter, having seen his illustrations in a local magazine and believing him to be able to copy the illustrations in the Necronomicon. Apparently, that will help them stop Cthulhu.

CallgirlOfCthulhu-3Riley
Yes, she has a squid face on her butt.

Riley and Carter go out on a regular date, where she regales him with stories of people’s odd kinks. The Church is revealed to have a number of possessed and feral demonic call-girls, who attack the captured hookers and Ashton. Riley and Carter go back to his place where he reveals that he’s a virgin, leading her to ask him to wait to have sex. Riley then gets called away by the Church using Ashton’s phone. Carter starts to ink the copy of the Necronomicon, but is haunted by strange visions. The remaining women, Edna (Helenmary Ball) and Squid (Sabrina Taylor-Smith), come to check on Carter and find a painting of Riley that shows her birthmark. They give Carter an incantation.

CallgirlOfCthulhu-5Boobs
If you don’t know what those are… they’re boobs. It’s truly horrifying.

Riley goes to pick up a shift at a strip club, where she finds herself suddenly surrounded by Church acolytes. They capture her and Edna, bringing them before their leader Sebastian (Dave Gamble), who cuts out Edna’s tongue. Sebastian opens a portal through which tentacles emerge and “get too familiar” with Riley. Meanwhile, there’s a subplot where Carter’s musician roommate, Erica (Nicolette le Faye), breaks up with her boyfriend, Rick “the Dick” (Alex Mendez), resulting in him getting poisoned by the cult and having his penis become huge and fanged.

ImageNotFound

Riley has become possessed by Cthulhu and starts to take on demonic characteristics, resulting in her killing all of her former clients by using their kinks against them (btw, acid golden shower was a little much, film). She breaks up with Carter over the phone, trying to save him from their fate. As he tries to get over it, he ends up sharing a romantic moment with Erica, but realizes that Riley might be in trouble. After he leaves, Rick comes back and attacks Erica, resulting in her cutting off his meter-long penis. Squid finds Carter and Erica before being attacked by the Church but Carter accidentally plays one of Erica’s songs which blow up the Church Acolytes’ heads.

CallgirlOfCthulhu-6Erica
Not the bodily fluid Erica is I’m not finishing this joke.

Carter and Squid make their way to the Church. Carter finds Edna captive, but she’s quickly killed and Carter is captured. He wakes up next to Erica. He believes he’s going to die a virgin, but Erica decides to bang him before the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Squid fights off an army of possessed hookers as Riley turns into a tentacle monster and gives birth to several baby Cthulhus. Squid and Carter work together to try and destroy the Church, but Squid is killed by Sebastian, before monster-Riley kills him. Carter confronts Riley while Erica stabs her repeatedly. Carter closes the portal to Cthulhu with the incantation and Erica confesses her love, right before Riley kills her. Carter plays Erica’s song, blowing up Riley’s head.

CallgirlOfCthulhu-7RileyMutated.jpg
Am I still beautiful?

Back in the present, Carter is drugged by his interviewer, who has him committed, before she is surprised by more Church Acolytes. Carter sits in a padded room and just wishes the world would end already.

END SUMMARY

Well, this is a pretty solid exploitation parody. Yes, there’s a ton of gratuitous nudity and goofy practical effects, but, counterpoint, it’s also hilarious at several points.

The people who made this clearly loved the hell out of H.P. Lovecraft. Almost everything in the movie, from the names to the places to the products featured onscreen are references. It would be impossible for me to name all of them, so I’ll do my top three:

3)   Rick “The Dick” Pickman

Okay, so, this one was a slow-burn joke that really ended up being funny for me. The name comes from the Lovecraft short story “Pickman’s Model” about a painter who keeps displaying his grotesque works that are actually paintings of real creatures. It seems to just be a name drop until you find out that this Pickman is famous for displaying his apparently enormous penis everywhere. Later, his penis gets bitten by one of the mutant acolytes and becomes huge and alive, but he still wants to show it to everyone. In other words, Pickman still wants to model his one-eyed monster (which is what they actually call it in the film). Whatever, I thought it was funny.

2)   Missy Katonixxx (Stephanie Anders)

The name of a porn star who has her own internet channel in the film. She shows up repeatedly and her breasts becoming grotesque mutant faces is the first thing that Carter hallucinates after starting to copy the Necronomicon. Her name’s a reference to Miskatonic University in the town of Arkham, a frequently recurring location within the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as the site of “Herbert West-Reanimator,” one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories and adaptations. The reason why I loved this so much is that they actually did need a school name within the story and, rather than just use it, instead repurposes it into what is almost certainly a real burlesque name.

1) Deep Ones Condoms

Why is this not a real product? No, really, why the hell is this not an actual product? I would switch brand loyalty in a heartbeat. The first story to feature Deep Ones was “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” and if you can’t make a dirty joke out of that then you are just not trying. Even the name “Lovecraft” was made for condom manufacturing. GET ON THIS, TROJAN.

Also “Get on this Trojan” is a good slogan itself. You’re welcome.

Other than the Lovecraft jokes, the plot’s somewhat interesting and the special effects, while cheap (they’d have been great in the 1970s), are appropriately grotesque. The acting is significantly better than you’d usually find in a movie like this and Carter, Riley, and Erica are actually pretty great performances. It is a classic exploitation film, so the nudity is pretty plentiful and most of the female characters are not exactly “enlightened,” which might be tough to deal with for some viewers.

Overall, if you’re a fan of Lovecraft, exploitation films, or, hopefully, both, then you will love this movie.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Why?

JOKER’S INTRODUCTION

couchedit.png

I really wanted to review this film. I did. I was so excited to see a new Jurassic Park film that I was positive I would enjoy it, regardless of other critical opinions.

For the most part, I try to be as positive as possible when reviewing films. I think that pretty much all movies have something redeeming within them, even terrible ones. However, I have decided to give this movie to my partner for this review, because I think it would be difficult for me to be as positive as I would normally want to be in this particular case.

Thus, take it away Grouch.

GROUCH’S REVIEW

I say this with all sincerity:

F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. I’m so pissed off that you’re making me censor my f*cks right now, because I really want to say f*ck this movie.

In my head, I hear this being chanted to the “Hallelujah Chorus” as a choir of angels massage every second of this film out of my head.

Little bit of background:

JurassicWorld2-1JurassicPark.jpg
This single shot has more awesome than most movies.

I love Jurassic Park. I had the toys, I played the video games, I read the book, I watched the movie in theaters, on VHS, on DVD, on Blu-Ray, even in 3-D. I consider the moment when the T-Rex first steps out to be the moment when I first believed films could be f*cking magical. It’s a movie about people experiencing something awe-inspiring and terror-inducing at the same time. The T-Rex and raptors are amazing to see both for the people in the film and for the audience, while being terrifying at the same time when you’re reminded of just what they are. It’s a monster movie, just about majestic monsters.

JurassicWorld2-2LostWorld.jpg
It’s not great, but… f*ck, some of these shots are still so good for my dino-lust.

When The Lost World came out, I actually kind of liked it. Was it Jurassic Park? No. But it had several scenes in it that I liked and it definitely tried to continue the first movie’s theme of how simultaneously beautiful and dangerous nature can be. It had some scenes that were stomach-turning (like gymnastics vs. a raptor), but it also had the raptors picking people off in the tall-grass, which I thought was genuinely horrifying.

JurassicWorld2-3JurassicPark3
Can we just forget about the “talking” raptors? Please?

In Jurassic Park III, much of the film is terrible, but it A) is short, B) is full of dinosaurs, and C) has Sam Neil, Tea Leoni, and William H. Macy in it. It’s not a good film, but it seemed to at least try to deliver what a sequel-decline of Jurassic Park would merit. I’m still mixed on the Spinosaurus taking out the T-Rex, but at least they were trying new things, even if most of them didn’t work.

Jurassic World was a movie that is a rarity for me. I didn’t like most of it. The characters were bland and there were, somehow, almost too many plotlines running for a Jurassic Park film, with several of them seeming pointless, especially Vincent D’Onofrio’s wasted talent. However, no matter what I felt at certain points during the movie, I never felt cheated by the film, because the Raptor-Rex-Rex fight gave me all the cinematic joy I felt the ticket price merited. If you had just told me that was the movie, that 10-12 minutes, and asked me to give you $20 bucks for it, I’d have handed it over so fast it would have caught fire. Any franchise that can produce something as awesome as a raptor running up a T-Rex’s back to attack another dinosaur deserves all of my money. In a franchise that thrives on instilling a feeling of awe in the viewer, that scene made me a kid again.

 

JurassicWorld2-4JurassicWorld
… Yes. Forever yes.

Then, there’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It makes me feel like a kid who thought the stranger would have the best candy.

FireflyEp7BadJoke

SUMMARY

The movie starts a few months after the last one with some guys collecting a bone from the Indominus Rex. Almost all of them get eaten by the mosasaurus which, despite the fact that it’s in a tank which has a clear sea-wall, is still alive somehow, but a few escape with the bone. A blue whale has to eat over 3 tons in a day, but, sure, the mosasaurus has been surviving on stuff near the tank, I guess. And apparently it’s undetectable, despite the fact that the mosasaurus, like most if not all aquatic reptiles, still had to surface to breathe. Also, its gate gets stuck half-open, so it escapes into the ocean. This will be the start of things that piss me off.

JurassicWorld2-5Mosasaurus.jpg
Spielberg, you could have stopped this. You could have. 

Three years later, Isla Nublar, the island which had the original park and Jurassic World, is going to be destroyed by the volcano on the island that apparently everyone had ignored until now. Spared no expense? How about putting it on an island that doesn’t have a volcano on it?

JurassicWorld2-6JohnHammond
Whoopsie.

The US Government asks Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to testify about whether or not the dinosaurs should be saved. To tell you how enthused Goldblum was by this performance, he doesn’t play Ian Malcolm. Jeff Goldblum, who has played Ian Malcolm in a half-dozen non-Ian-Malcolm roles since Jurassic Park, doesn’t bother to put enough effort into his 4 minutes on-screen to seem like he’s even the same iconic character. It hurt me physically. Also, Malcolm says “let them die.” The government agrees.

JurassicWorld2-7IanMalcolm
He’s in less of this than Drew Barrymore was in Scream.

Meanwhile, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), has a group of conservationists who are trying to save the animals. Yes, they’re trying to save genetically engineered dinosaurs and are seriously upset that the dinosaurs are going to be “extinct again.” Site B apparently was destroyed several years ago to replace dinosaurs at Jurassic World. The movie itself will point out the obvious stupidity of this several times when it reminds us that these dinosaurs are genetically engineered and lab-grown and thus easily replaceable. They can clone animals perfectly from dead cells, meaning NOTHING can actually go extinct in this world. I appreciate when a movie quickly renders the plot pointless, saves me the trouble of caring.

Claire meets with a rich guy who worked with John Hammond named Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who is stated to have created the cloning process with John, but never been mentioned before now. He and his aide, Eli (Rafe Spall), say that they want Claire to get a bunch of dinosaurs to move to an island sanctuary, but they can’t get the velociraptor Blue, because she’s too smart. They need Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Blue’s trainer, to help. They then spend 15 minutes on pretending he’s not going to go, because this movie was written by chimps who were fed copies of Save the Cat!, the guide to predictable screenwriting.

JurassicWorld2-8OwenGrady
*Screams internally*

Claire takes Grady, IT guy and comic-relief coward Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), and paleoveterinarian and tough-girl stereotype Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). Rodriguez was originally supposed to be revealed to be a lesbian ex-marine, but that was cut due to the movie being produced by a 1950s housewife who thought she just needed “the right man.” They meet up with a bunch of mercenaries (oh, that’s always a good sign), led by Ken Wheatley (Ted “I’m Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, so there’s no way I’ll be a bad guy” Levine). They manage to find Blue before Wheatley shoots Grady with a tranquilizer and reveals that he’s just taking these dinosaurs to be sold by Eli. Wheatley takes Zia to look after Blue’s injuries and locks Claire and Franklin in a bunker that has an allosaurus. Also, the volcano conveniently starts erupting.

JurassicWorld2-9FranklinZia
To be clear, they did nothing wrong. It was the movie.

Owen wakes up to find himself about 3 feet from lava, which he starts to slowly crawl away from and somehow doesn’t die. He meets up with Claire and Franklin who managed to avoid the killer dino and the lava (which, apparently, doesn’t burn very much if it’s not plot-relevant), then get attacked by a Carnotaurus, which is attacked by the T-Rex, which is truly a heroine, as all the dinosaurs start to flee the island. The humans manage to get onto a boat departing the island, while the mercenaries somehow capture several of the animals we just saw running away from f*cking lava. In a scene designed to be a cheap emotional grab, we watch a brachiosaurus die from the volcano as it cries out in pain and fear. It’s still a pretty good scene, but it really is just a “okay, we need you guys to feel now” shot that the movie didn’t earn yet.

JurassicWorld2-10Brachiosaurus
Okay, this is actually pretty touching. Poor thing.

Onboard the ship, they hijack some T-Rex blood to transfuse into Blue, which somehow works. Back at Lockwood’s Estate, Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) finds out that Eli and a black-market auctioneer named Gunnar (Toby Jones) are going to sell off the dinosaurs to finance the Indoraptor, a hybrid of the Indominus Rex and a velociraptor which was designed by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) to be a weapon. They need Blue to be the mother to the next generation of them so they’ll obey humans, which the initial Indoraptor doesn’t really. Maisie tells Lockwood, but Eli kills him and somehow shatters his mosquito-filled amber cane. It’s also revealed that Maisie was a clone of Lockwood’s daughter and apparently that was why Hammond kicked him out of InGen. This is supposed to make sense, despite Maisie clearly being so young that Hammond was dead before she would have been born and that her mother’s death, the impetus for her cloning, would also have been after Hammond was dying in The Lost World.

JurassicWorld2-AHammondDying
Continuity? What’s that?

The dinosaurs, as well as Owen and Claire, are caged at Lockwood’s house, which conveniently has brontosaurus-sized indoor cages. Eli and Gunnar auction off the dinos to all manner of bad guys before demonstrating the Indoraptor. Owen tricks a stygimoloch (which is a species that even the movie’s paleontology expert pointed out probably doesn’t exist, but that actually doesn’t bug me much since it’s genetically engineered) into ramming through walls and letting them out, before having it wreck the auction. Wheatley gets tricked by the Indoraptor into letting it out before it goes on to kill multiple people including Gunnar. It then stalks Owen, Claire, and Maisie through the house in the most ridiculous sequence in the film.

The Indoraptor seems to be more interesting in theatricality than actual effectiveness, something that’s particularly interesting not just because it’s an animal, but an animal that was created specifically to be a weapon. At least the Indominus Rex was just supposed to be a sideshow attraction, and this thing is supposed to be the SMARTER version. Instead, it gets tricked by Owen turning the lights out, even though it’s mentioned to be able to smell targets a mile away.

JurassicWorld2-BIndoraptorClaw
Granted, raptors have trouble killing kids. It’s well-established.

Eventually, Zia releases Blue, who goes to defend Owen and kills the Indoraptor by dropping it through a glass ceiling onto a triceratops skull in an act that definitely isn’t completely bullshit. Meanwhile, all the dinosaurs are being killed by poison gas, allowing Owen and Claire to, again, choose whether or not to let them die. They choose to let them die, but Maisie releases them because she’s also a clone and therefore thinks they’re the same as her. In return, the T-Rex kills Eli and destroys the Indominus Rex bone, allowing it to be the hero again. The film ends with the dinosaurs starting to interact with civilization as Jeff Goldblum narrates that humans and dinosaurs may now need to learn to co-exist.

JurassicWorld2-CLionRex.jpg
Wait, now you’re letting the Dinos loose? Why wasn’t that just the movie?

END SUMMARY

So, you know the Joker’s thing about “a movie can ask you to suspend any disbelief, it just has to be consistent in it?” Yeah, this movie shoved that up its craphole about thirty seconds in when the mosasaurus eats a submarine unnoticed and apparently that’s just fine.

The biggest problem in the movie is that everyone’s motivations are stupid. Not just stupid, but really stupid. Claire, Franklin, and Zia are all about conservation, which would be fine if these weren’t animals that can be easily re-grown. Hell, in Jurassic World, they WERE all grown. Conservation is supposed to be about eliminating mankind’s intervention, but the dinosaurs ARE the intervention. And at the end of the movie, there’s only one survivor of many of the species, meaning they’re doomed anyway unless… wait for it… we just grow more of them. It’s hard to feel like their cause is urgent when it was rendered pointless 4 movies ago. It’s made even more hollow when, later in the film, they all decide to just let the dinosaurs die.

JurassicWorld2-DSaveTheDinos.png
And yet, no one wants to bring back White Rhinos or such, even though it’d now be easy.

Eli’s motive is to make money to finance the Indoraptor by selling the dinosaurs on the black market, which seems dumb, considering he’s in charge of a multi-billion dollar fortune that he could easily use to just clone more dinosaurs to sell. Hell, they make the Indoraptor there and no one noticed until after it was fully grown. Why not add a couple of T-Rexes and someone will buy the juveniles for millions?

Wu’s motive is his love of mad science, but he’s barely in the film and even he thinks what Eli’s doing is stupid.

Owen’s motivation actually kind of makes sense, since he has a bond with Blue, but that means the most logical motivation in the movie is a guy wanting to save his pet. This is fine if the rest of the movie were John Wick, but, alas, it’s not.

The Indoraptor is stupid on so many levels. It is trained to attack a target that’s identified with a laser after hearing a sound cue. In other words, it can only attack targets that someone can point a laser at. Do you know what you can do if you point a laser at a target? You can shoot it in the head. We laser-guide missiles, but that’s because they’re taking out a huge area. The Indoraptor is only useful in attacking targets that don’t lock doors.

JurassicWorld2-ERaptor2.jpg
And it can’t detect people hiding on the other side of things. Small design flaw.

The volcano set-up not only is cliché and stupid, it gives way to lava physics and, even for Hollywood, the lava physics in this movie are terrible. Not only can people be inches away from it with no ill effects but at one point, Chris Pratt is hit by lava and is apparently fine later. A dinosaur is doused in it and barely tries to avoid it. I suspect that this movie was created by someone who was writing Jurassic Park/Volcano erotica but couldn’t get Tommy Lee Jones into the movie.

There are also weird references to Donald Trump in the movie, including Gunnar’s wig, a line about the President not believing that there ever were dinosaurs, some lines about political megalomania, and Ted Levine saying Pineda was “such a nasty woman.” Guys, if you want to make political satire, either make it good or put it in a movie where it fits better.

But I could have overlooked all of these things, all of them, if this movie didn’t fundamentally miss what Jurassic Park and, to a lesser extent, its sequels were all about: Spectacle.

JurassicWorld2-FFirstDinoSights
You’re hearing the music. You’re feeling the love. Don’t deny it.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean cheap spectacle, I mean that Jurassic Park showed us something so new and so big that we couldn’t really get our minds around it and it did that by showing us characters that were experiencing the same sights with us. Even if you re-watch it, it holds up because it presents it through the characters, making us feel it. John Williams’s epic score manages to kick that feeling up to 11. Then, in the second and third act, where it’s more directly a monster movie, it still has surprises because we’re being reminded that all these amazing creatures are also horrifyingly dangerous. You can call it an analogue for the atomic bomb or some other destructive scientific advancement, but it could just as easily be for the iceberg that destroyed the Titanic or the stars themselves: Beautiful, amazing, mind-blowing stuff is also usually perilous.

This movie didn’t really show any of the beauty, partially because it almost never had the dinosaurs being dinosaurs (preferring to put them in cages or running from danger), partially because the people in the movie don’t seem particularly awed by the animals, and partially because THERE AREN’T THAT MANY DINOSAUR SCENES. Look, I’m sure someone is going to point out something like “There were technically more dinosaurs in this movie than any other” or some other fact like that to counter it, but it doesn’t matter whether or not there were a ton of dinosaurs in the background, the point is that most of the dinosaur scenes aren’t focused on the creatures themselves. They’re used as props, both literally and figuratively. There are a lot of great monster movies where the monster isn’t the focus, but the characters in this film really aren’t interesting enough to get by without the dinosaurs. Then, in the third act, the Indoraptor is just… f*cking awful. It’s so over-the-top corny, it even seems to have a Muttley-esque smirk when it’s tricking Wheatley.

It’s true that every time you show the audience something onscreen, the spectacle is lessened but, when you have the characters barely impressed that they’re interacting with dinosaurs, it’s even harder for us to be dazzled by it. I get that these people have spent time around dinosaurs but, seriously, half the time they treat them the way normal people treat dogs, which makes us more aware of how inane their decisions are. I mean, in the first movie, the T-Rex paddock turns into a cliff magically and NO ONE cared, because it was such an amazing scene that we were feeling it rather than thinking about it. Instead, this movie just made me think about how absolutely stupid much of it was, which is not what I want in a Jurassic Park sequel.

F*ck. This. Movie.

JOKER’S REBUTTAL

So, this movie is about 50/50 split. Unlike Last Jedi or other “controversial” splits, the split’s true for both reviewers and audiences. Some people liked it, some hated it. Even the positive reviews do seem to say it was “not great,” though. If you wanted to see some dinosaurs or are a fan of more traditional monster movies, this worked. If you really wanted to see Chris Pratt building a cabin, this was the movie for you. If you desired to see Claire and Owen suddenly get back together after basically no changes to their character since their breakup, then you needed this film. If you’re willing to just completely suspend disbelief, regardless of what the film is actually giving you to reward that suspension, then you had a good time.

Overall, if you liked it, I’m not gonna condemn you. If you didn’t, I’m not gonna blame you. I do like the set-up at the end, because there are a lot of great ways to take the next film.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Reader Request – The World’s End: Aliens Ate My Nostalgia

Update: Sorry this one is late. Stuff happened.

So, most of you who read regularly may have noticed that I have a full-on heavy-duty man-crush on Edgar Wright. He’s my go-to guy for proving that most people don’t want quality films, by pointing out that, until Baby Driver, he didn’t have a movie crack $100 million, despite them being some of the most clever and thought-out movies I’ve ever watched. Because of the amount of detail put into the films and the layers of storytelling, imagery, and dialogue, Edgar Wright makes the most consistently re-watchable films I’ve ever seen. I’ve probably seen Hot Fuzz as many times as I’ve watched epics like The Godfather, classics like Ghostbusters, and cinematic marvels like Jurassic Park, because I always find something new to love about the film. He’s like Kubrick, except I don’t think he would murder me if we met in real life, until I refused to ever stop hugging him.

TheWorldsEnd-0EdgarWright
Quit making me love you.

The World’s End was the last entry in the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” beginning with Shaun of the Dead and continuing through Hot Fuzz. The movies all star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (actually, a lot of the cast is the same), they’re character dramas hidden within the framework of a classic genre film (in this case, alien invasion), and they’re all about perpetual adolescence, though I think this one hits that theme hardest.

TheWorldsEnd-0Trilogy

I’m inevitably going to do the other two movies, probably next week because I now have it stuck in my head, but this was the one that got requested, so I’ll do it first.

SUMMARY

TheWorldsEnd-1Cast

The film starts with Gary King (Simon Pegg, Thomas Law as teen), recounting his high-school years. He was part of a five-man group, consisting of himself, Peter Page (Eddie Marsden, James Tarpey as teen), Oliver “O-man” Chamberlain (Martin Freeman, Luke Bromley as teen), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine, Jasper Levine as teen), and his best friend Andy Knightley (Nick Frost, Zachary Bailess as teen). In their senior year, the group attempted to conquer “The Golden Mile” by having one pint of beer in each of the 12 pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven.

TheWorldsEnd-1GoldenMile.png

As Gary recounts it, the group slowly lost focus and never did succeed, quitting after the ninth pub, with Gary watching the sunrise, seeing a shooting star, and thinking that life would never quite be as good as it was that night. It then shifts to the adult Gary talking to a support group of some kind, who confirms that, indeed, his entire life has never again been as fulfilling as it was that night in Newton Haven. Another member of the group asks if Gary is disappointed that he didn’t finish the “Golden Mile,” to which Gary says that he isn’t. However, the look on his face clearly says otherwise, before becoming contemplative and then, finally, happy at having figured out what he’s going to do.

TheWorldsEnd-2GaryFace.png

During the opening sequence, it’s shown that while Gary’s friends are all now successful, Gary himself is living in a tiny, trashy apartment and dressing like he did in high school. Gary visits each of them in turn, trying to convince all of them to join him again in completing the “Golden Mile.” He ends up succeeding through a hastily-crafted series of lies, including telling each member that the others had already agreed and that his mother has just died. It’s notable that Gary tends to use information from the previous person to manipulate the next one, clearly approaching them in order of perceived resistance. Andy, who used to be Gary’s closest friend, is the most resistant, due to some undisclosed incident in the past, but he finally gives in.

TheWorldsEnd-3Waiting.jpg
Suckers, one and all. 

As the five make their way to Newton Haven, it becomes more apparent that Gary is basically trying to live the same life he has since High School. He wants to have a good time and doesn’t particularly care for anything more responsible. He still drives the “same” car, the Beast, though, through his monologue, he reveals that literally everything in the vehicle has been replaced at some point. He even has kept the title in his friend Peter’s name for more than 20 years, updating it periodically to ensure that Peter had to pay for all of his tickets. Gary also is apparently doing some form of drugs, as he admits to snorting something on the toilet when he’s worried that the police will find it. When they actually reach the town and start the trip, Gary still has the same map from the original trip.

TheWorldsEnd-4CastAdults.jpg
At least most of their outfits have changed.

At the initial stop, “The First Post,” Gary makes a speech about how it’s a quaint pub that used to be a post office, only to go inside and find a generic pub that has been recently refurbished. Gary tries to find nostalgia in it, even though the others make it clear that it used to look absolutely nothing like this. The four have their first drink, aside from the teetotalling Andy, then make their way to the next pub.

TheWorldsEnd-5FirstPost.png
Seen one quaint English pub, seen ’em all.

At pub two, “The Old Familiar,” they enter only to find that it’s identical to the last pub, due to the “Starbuck-ification” of the UK. The group is joined by Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), who Steven has a crush on and who Gary had sex with in the bathroom of the same pub back on the original pub crawl. Gary tries to get in Sam’s pants again but fails due to being Gary. Sam leaves and the group heads out.

TheWorldsEnd-6TheOldFamiliar.png
Everyone rises but the King.

At “The Famous Cock,” they run into Basil (David “I am also Doctor Who” Bradley), the conspiracy theorist of Newton Haven, but he avoids talking to them. Gary is then thrown out due to his behavior at the pub on the original crawl. While everyone else says that 11 pints is still enough, Gary secretly combines three leftover beers he finds outside into a pint and downs it.

TheWorldsEnd-7TheFamousCock.png

Still counts.

At “The Cross Hands,” most of the group wants to abandon Gary after he callously ignores them talking about actual problems and keeps trying to re-live his glory days. Eventually, as they’re about to leave, Gary heads to the bathroom, leaving his phone. They answer it, finding out it’s from his mother, who he had told them had recently died of cancer. In the toilet, Gary sees that there’s still a hole in the wall from the original crawl. A high-schooler joins him but ignores Gary’s attempts to talk about the past. Gary, angry, shoves him, but the boy responds by grabbing Gary by the face and trying to knock him out. Gary fights back and ends up decapitating the boy, who is revealed to be filled with a blue ink-like substance. The head continues to move.

TheWorldsEnd-8TheCrossHands.png

Andy suddenly comes in, pissed at Gary for his lies, ignoring the headless body. A group of other high-schoolers enter and attack the five, resulting in a fight which has Gary and his court emerge victorious. They attempt to call out to talk about what happened but find that their attempts are blocked. The Network is down. The five realize that this is why everything about the town has been so strange and no one seemed to remember them: Everyone has been replaced by robots. Everyone but Gary wants to head back to London, but Gary says that them quitting the crawl will look suspicious. They end up continuing the pub crawl.

TheWorldsEnd-9TheGoodCompanions.png
Four sad faces, one happy face. Symbolism is a thing.

As they make their way to “The Good Companions,” it’s apparent that many people throughout the town are now watching them. They enter, drain their beers quickly (including Andy, who is now drinking), and leave. At the next pub, “The Trusty Servant,” Oliver heads to the toilet as Gary approaches Reverend Green (Michael Smiley), his former drug dealer. Green tells them that the things in the town are NOT robots, because “robot” means slave, and they’re not slaves. They’re confronted by two more “not-robots” who try to silence Green, only for Green to eventually be told by a voice that he has a call. After answering it sadly, Green bitterly says “thanks” to the group and heads to the bathroom, where Oliver emerges. They continue on the crawl.

TheWorldsEnd-10TrustyServant.png
Wait, one of these men had drugs? Shocking!

At “The Two Headed Dog,” much of the town’s pretense has been dropped, as the bartender now not only knows their names, but also seemingly everything they’ve said to a “not-robot” throughout the crawl. They discuss that they need a new term for the “not-robots” and they end up adopting the word “Blank” due to not coming up with a better term.  Sam arrives with her friends The Twins (Kelly and Stacey Franklin), who she says have been acting weird. Gary tries to explain to her what’s happened, but she doesn’t believe him. However, when Sam tells the Twins what he said, they react poorly, leading her to believe it’s true. Gary appears and attacks them, pulling off one’s head to prove the point.

TheWorldsEnd-11TwoHeadedDog.png

The Twins attack Gary and Sam, but Gary fights them off. Steven emerges to confess his feelings to Sam, but is interrupted by the Twinbot, which is one twin with the other’s legs for arms. Steven and Gary defeat the Twinbot, rejoin the group, and head off to “The Mermaid.”

At “The Mermaid,” Steven is abducted by Basil, who reveals that he’s never been replaced because he prevents the Blanks from ever getting his DNA sample that they need to make a copy of him. Basil tells Steven that the Blanks actually arrived in the shooting star that Gary saw at the end of the original crawl. Meanwhile, three Blanks who are in the form of the hottest girls from high school (Sophie Evans, Samantha White, and Rose Reynolds) seduce Gary, Peter, and Andy. One even swallows Andy’s wedding ring, though he’s recently separated.

TheWorldsEnd-12TheMermaid.png
This is not playing fair.

Basil explains that the Blanks don’t want to replace people if they can help it and, in fact, are genuinely nicer and better than most humans but, unless you agree to comply with their plans, they replace you. Basil refuses to tell Steven what happens to the people who get replaced before disappearing. Steven relays the information to the group, now including Sam, however, it becomes apparent that the Blanks aren’t omniscient when they produce a copy of a citizen who died a few years back in Italy. They leave for the next pub.

TheWorldsEnd-13Basil.png

At “The Beehive,” they are met by Mr. Shepherd (Pierce “I’m here because Dalton isn’t and they still needed a Bond” Brosnan), their old teacher. He explains that the Blanks have been replacing people because they want to bring Earth up to a sufficient level of civilization to allow Earth to join a Network of planets which cooperate and interact. Oliver seems to agree with Shepherd until Andy notices that Oliver now has a birthmark that he had previously removed and punches the top of his head off. Seeing that Oliver is actually now a Blank, the group attacks Shepherd, before they’re attacked by a swarm of Blanks from the bar. Andy, having reached his breaking point, hulks out, grabs two barstools and starts smashing every head he can find. During the fight, Gary manages to finish his ninth pint, matching his record from the original crawl. After beating all of the Blanks, the group is met with yet another wave of the same Blanks, including a replaced Shepherd.

TheWorldsEnd-14Beehive2.png
I came here to drink beer and kick ass, and I’ve had a LOT of beer!

The remaining five members split up and escape, planning on reuniting at the smoke house, a shack at The Bowls Club where they used to get high. Gary runs off with Sam, putting her in her car and telling her to get out of the town, while he rejoins the others. Sam drives off as the Blanks stop trying to look human, instead having glowing hands and faces. Gary makes it to the shack where Peter, Steven, and Andy are waiting for him.

TheWorldsEnd-15Lights.png

Inside, everyone is suspicious of Gary but, after realizing that they can use birthmarks and scars as identifiers, the group prove to each other that they’re real. It’s revealed that Andy and Gary’s relationship soured after Gary overdosed on drugs, drove him to the hospital while drunk, rolled the car, and almost died from the crash while Gary ran off to avoid getting in trouble. Gary refuses to show his scars on his arms, instead smashing his head into a beam to produce blood as proof. The four remaining friends leave, only for Gary to lead them towards the next pub.

TheWorldsEnd-16Finger.png

On the way, Peter meets the Blank of his former bully, Shane (Darren Boyd), and Peter uses the opportunity to beat the living crap out of him, resulting in his capture. Gary refuses to quit the pub crawl, resulting in Andy knocking him out and carrying him. Andy and Steven try to get to Gary’s car, but they have to cut through the tenth pub, “The King’s Head.” They rest briefly in the bar, only for Gary to wake up and drink his tenth pint. Gary says that “ten pubs isn’t bad,” but then throws Andy his keys and makes a run for it. Andy throws the keys to Steven and follows Gary as he makes it to the next pub.

TheWorldsEnd-17KingsHead.png

At “The Hole in the Wall,” Andy fights his way through a crowd of Blanks to join Gary, who finishes his 11th pint and marks it off the list. As they are surrounded, Steven drives through the wall of the bar. Steven gets overwhelmed by Blanks and Andy follows Gary out of a window. Gary makes it all the way to “The World’s End,” the final pub, with Andy in pursuit, though Andy stops briefly to retrieve his wedding ring from the Blank that swallowed it. Gary finds a pint already poured for him, but Andy smacks it out of his hand. Andy finally confronts Gary over all of his betrayal, revealing that it wasn’t the car crash or any of the drugs, it was that Andy got better and became an adult, but Gary didn’t. Andy wanted to keep following Gary through life, but Gary never actually got a life.

TheWorldsEnd-18TheHoleInTheWall.png
I’m a sucker for a car through the wall.

Gary challenges Andy about what a happy life actually feels like, but Andy says that his life is far from perfect, as his wife has now taken his kids and he knows he can’t win her back. It’s then revealed that Gary had recently tried to commit suicide by slitting his wrists and was committed. However, he hated being told what to do by the program there, preferring the freedom of his youth.

It never got better, Andy. It never got better than that night. It was supposed to be the beginning of my life. All that promise and fucking optimism. That feeling that we could take on the whole universe. It was a big lie. NOTHING HAPPENED!

Gary tries to get his last pint, but upon pulling the lever, the bar sinks underground and the pair are confronted by The Network (Bill Nighy), a disembodied voice. The Network speaks to Gary as the representative of the human race, humorously sounding like he’s calling him “Gary, King of the humans” as opposed to “Gary King, of the humans.” The Network explains that the plan is to replace a small percentage of the population to spread the Gospel of the Network, so that the planet will be able to be part of the Galactic Community. It’s revealed that, if you agree to join, you are given the option of being young again, with only your happy memories. Gary is met with his younger self, who he quickly kills, saying “there’s only one Gary King.”

TheWorldsEnd-19WorldsEnd.png
Gary grows up.

The Network threatens him, but Gary challenges the Network, asking it who it is to tell the Human Race what to do. The Network calls Humanity children, but Andy counters that, children or not, helping someone requires their consent, otherwise it’s just controlling them. The Network tells them that this attitude is exactly why Earth is the least civilized planet in the entire galaxy and it enables Earth to constantly repeat avoidable cycles of self-destruction. Steven rejoins the pair, having survived, and agrees with the duo about resisting the assimilation. It’s revealed that the Network has not been particularly successful at dealing with Earth, having had to replace basically everyone in the town, with the rest being turned into organic fertilizer. The trio keep rebuffing the Network until the Network asks them what they want, at which point Gary quotes The Wild Bunch:

We wanna be free. We wanna be free, to do what we want to do and we want to get loaded and we wanna have a good time. And that’s what we’re gonna do.

The Network then gives up and leaves the planet to its own devices. The Blanks all power down but the Network starts to overload. The group runs away but still are going to be caught in the blast radius, until Sam returns with her car, allowing them to narrowly outrun the explosion.

TheWorldsEnd-20Getaway.png

The end is narrated by Andy. After the explosion, there was a pulse that apparently sent humanity back to the Dark Ages. There were a lot of casualties, including Gary’s mother, but Andy tries to look on the bright side as he gets back with his wife. He says he doesn’t miss any processed foods, but he sees a Cornetto wrapper and looks desperate to eat one. The Blanks woke up and face discrimination, though they now have no connection to the Network. Peter’s blank replaced Peter with his family and Oliver’s Blank took over Oliver’s business. Steven and Sam got together.

TheWorldsEnd-21Cornetto.png

Though Andy doesn’t know what happened to Gary, the film shows Gary walking through the post-apocalyptic landscape accompanied by the younger Blanks of his companions. He walks into yet another pub called “The Rising Sun,” which has a sign out front that says “No Blanks.” Gary orders five waters, but the bartender refuses to serve the Blanks. Gary says that they’re on a quest, then orders five waters again. The bartender moves to grab a weapon, but Gary draws a broadsword and gets into fighting formation with his companions. When asked who the hell he thinks he is, Gary ends the movie with the line:

They call me The King.

TheWorldsEnd-22RisingSun.png
“Gary and the Blanks” is also a pretty good band name.

END SUMMARY

I think this movie, more than the other two Cornetto films, deserves to be represented, because it was the most overlooked. Part of that is because it came out at the same time as another two movies that were also Apocalypse comedies, This is the End and Rapture-Palooza, and part of it is that it just wasn’t marketed well. Honestly, if it hadn’t been by Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg, I wouldn’t have seen it in the theater, and even when I did, I didn’t get as much out of it as Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead. And that’s really the main thing that I think hurt this movie: It’s much better on the second or third viewing than the first. On the first, you miss too many things that later become amazing jokes or character moments, because you’re still trying to follow the story and who dropped what zinger in the last conversation. The movie is a lot denser in its humor than the other two films, so it’s more important to already have an idea of what the plot is.

Now, to help with this, the Cornetto Trilogy films are huge on foreshadowing. In Shaun of the Dead, Nick Frost’s character Ed describes what he and Shaun (Pegg) are going to do the next day, which ends up being a humorous description of the movie’s plot. Additionally, Shaun outlines the plan for dealing with the attack multiple times, the TV broadcast humorously tells the audience what’s happening, and they even meet a mirror of Shaun’s group that show the decisions Shaun should have made. In Hot Fuzz, the entire first half of the movie is setting up callbacks for the last act, and the many action film scenarios that Danny (Frost) proposes to Sgt. Angel (Pegg) later come into play in the finale.

In this film, this is turned up to 11, because not only does Gary’s opening monologue basically describe the events of the later crawl (including when they meet Sam, when they lose Oliver and Peter, and where they go to escape the Blanks), but each of the pub names and signs reflects what happens in the pub. This served two purposes: First, it makes it easier for the audience to follow what happens with less exposition and, second, it drives home the point that Gary hasn’t changed between the two crawls.

As to the signs, that could literally be its own essay. Most of them have at least two meanings, and the ones with Blue paint on them are the ones where they fight Blanks. My favorite ones are “The Mermaid,” which depicts the hair colors of the girls who seduce the group, like how mermaids seduced sailors, and “The King’s Head,” because it’s actually a portrait of Simon Pegg.

The theme of the film, like with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, is perpetual adolescence, though it’s much more direct in this one since the point of Gary King’s character is that he hasn’t ever changed. He goes out of his way to try and be the same person since high school, even keeping his wardrobe and car. Due to the many changes that he’s made, The Beast is much like the fabled Ship of Theseus: If every part of it has been replaced, is it still the same car? Well, Gary says yes.

Gary equates his inability to finish “The Golden Mile” with his inability to ever actually finish anything. That might seem ridiculous, but I’m not really allowed to say anything about it, since I literally started this blog to finish “The 100 Greatest Television Episodes of All Time” list as a way of trying to move onto the next phase of my life after having it massively derailed. Sometimes the best way to move on is to find something you can accomplish that can represent what you’re really failing at, so you can stop being so afraid of failing.

I love Pegg’s portrayal in the film, and I think it nailed what Wright was going for. Gary is likeable, even lovable, but he’s never respectable, and he shouldn’t be respected. He’s complete Id, with almost no self-control or self-reflection. He just wants freedom. The problem is that total freedom is, as the Network correctly points out, basically just self-destruction. The Network, in contrast, is the ultimate Superego, a social standard brutally and completely imposed upon the individuals.

The movie goes out of the way to contrast Gary and the Network/Blanks, though my favorite contrast actually comes from the Robot/Boo-Boo conversations. The Blanks don’t like being called “robots” because the word robot is derived from a Czech term for serf or forced laborer, which they summarize as “slave.” This is despite the fact that the word “Robot” itself was coined by Karel Čapek in his play “R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)” and has since been used to identify artificial lifeforms or mechanisms capable of carrying out autonomous actions, without necessarily meaning that such life is enslaved.

In contrast to this, Gary says the phrase “Let’s Boo-Boo” when he wants to leave. He explains that it was a reference to the stage direction from A Winter’s Tale, “Exit, pursued by a bear.” It then became “Exit, pursued by Yogi Bear,” then “Let’s Yogi and Boo-Boo,” then, finally, “Let’s Boo-Boo.” The Blanks, and therefore the Network, do not believe in changing any more than Gary believes in changing himself, to the point that they hang on to the original and largely defunct meanings of words, rather than accepting that their meaning has changed over time. Gary, while he does, in fact, recognize that words change over time and for fun reasons, instead has just refused to drop the language from when he stopped changing, a sign of his stunted growth.

This is actually part of Wright’s adherence to traditional storytelling devices by having the antagonist mirrors the protagonist’s traits. In this case, Gary’s inability to grow and his selective memory are pretty much exactly what the Network is offering him: To be young again, with only his good memories. Basically, both sides are promising stagnation, and both sides are wrong. Not EQUALLY wrong, since Gary is just a shithead, not a mass-murderer, but they’re still both wrong. Life is about growth and change and some of the requisite trial-and-error for that growth is going to be error.

The end of the movie is significant because Gary orders a water, showing that he actually is trying to be sober and experience life, and that he’s moved onto the next part of his life. The fact that the pub is called “The Rising Sun” only drives that further home, signaling a new day for him.

Aside from Gary’s arc, part of the film also points out that by homogenizing or “Starbucking” everything, much of the charm and individuality of the small towns are being erased. While it’s most obvious when they enter “The Old Familiar,” most of the pubs on the crawl now look pretty much the same. They’ve been stripped of any nostalgia in favor of being “civilized.”

This is all without going into the amazing soundtrack, including The Doors’ cover of “Alabama Song, ” which was written by the father of Epic Theater, Bertolt Brecht. The characters names are all brilliant, as they are all references to court positions representing their place in the group. The cinematography is perfect, although it’s pretty similar to the other two Cornetto films, so it was expected. The detail put into the pubs, the dialogue, everything in this film was well done. It’s a shame it isn’t watched more.

I love this movie. It’s inspiring, it’s clever, it’s insightful, it’s witty, and it could fill an entire volume of analysis. Find a copy and watch it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Firefly Fridays: The Final Rankings

Alright, so, since most of them are pretty close, I’ve divided the show into 5 tiers, rather than ranking them individually. From the bottom to the top:

Rank D

“Heart of Gold,” “Trash,” “The Message”

FireflyFinalTierD

I know these are all the unaired episodes, but that’s just how it worked out. I think since the scripts were written during a shorter period, they just didn’t quite have all the elements of the others. That said, please remember, these are still great episodes of television. They just aren’t AS great. These are the people who qualified for the Olympics but didn’t medal.

Rank C

“Bushwhacked,” “Shindig,” “War Stories”

FireflyFinalTierC

All of these episodes have really great moments in them, but also have some parts that just aren’t as memorable.

Rank B

“Safe,” “Serenity (Pilot),” “The Train Job”

FireflyFinalTierB

Similar to above, these are all episodes that really showcase the best elements of Firefly, but don’t quite carry it all the way through.

Rank A

“Jaynestown,” “Ariel,” Serenity

FireflyFinalTierA

These are gold. Everything about them really drives home what makes this franchise great, from Jaynestown’s humorous premise to Ariel’s heist and betrayal to the film’s grand finale of the series. Gold.

Rank S

“Out of Gas,” “Objects in Space,” “Our Mrs. Reynolds”

FireflyFinalTierS

These aren’t just great examples of Firefly, these are great examples of television as an art form. The storytelling in each one is so well-crafted that it sucks you into the world and leaves you eager to find out more.

FireflyOnline
Maybe one day.

Overall, if you disagree, just remember: This is only one man’s opinion and even the bottom of Firefly is still pretty damn good.

Thanks to everyone who read this. When someone first sent me the ridiculous request of “All of Firefly,” I thought that was more work than it was worth. But, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of this. This was one of my favorite series and being able to really explore it in depth one more time let me get things out of it I never thought I could. Plus, I got some great feedback from some of you. Hopefully, some of you have gotten something out of it, too.

Next week, Futurama Fridays starts and, given that it has 10 times the episode count of Firefly, probably will go until the sun burns out. If you want to be in on that one, follow me on here, Twitter, or Facebook. I think I also have a Tumblr. Also maybe Instagram soon.

If you have any requests, just go to the tab on the main page and submit them. This was one of them, so, clearly, I’m willing to put a lot of work in to these requests. Hell, this series ended up being 40,000 words.

Thanks again, Browncoats. Keep misbehavin’.

Also, just as a bonus, here’s a great clip of the dearly departed Ron Glass in one of my favorite shorts from the Twilight Zone.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Firefly Fridays: The Movie (Serenity)

So, a few months after Firefly got cancelled, Joss Whedon announced he was writing a Firefly movie. This is that movie and, except for the comics that I haven’t really read, the RPG I haven’t gotten a group to play, and the online video game that apparently will never be finished, this is the end of the line for the series. This is the Return of the Jedi of the ‘Verse… assuming that decades later someone doesn’t start adding to the official canon in ways that people constantly fight over.

SUMMARY

The movie starts with a summary of the premise of humanity leaving for another solar system to terraform, then fighting the Unification War. From the beginning, it has a notably propagandistic tone, which makes sense when it is revealed to be a teacher (Tamara “there are no small parts, just great actresses” Taylor) at an Alliance school. The Alliance teacher asks the class why the Independents didn’t want to be “civilized,” to which a young River Tam (Hunter Ansley Wryn) responds that people don’t like to be meddled with. The teacher then counters that they aren’t trying to tell the Independents “what” to think, just trying to teach them “how.” Then stabs River.

SerenityOpening

This flashback is then revealed to be a dream that River is having while being experimented on by the Alliance. A young man is watching, asking about her, revealing himself to be Simon. The doctor, Mathias (Michael Hitchcock) doing the experiment explains to Simon that River is not just a psychic now, but a weapon. Simon then knocks out the lab and pulls river from the machines, freeing her. They escape the facility, but this entire sequence is revealed to be a hologram. So, yes, this opening is a flashback lesson inside a dream inside a hologram.

Quick side note: Yes, this opening directly conflicts with the show, including the fact that Simon is told she’s psychic from the beginning and that Simon paid others to break River out. Whedon explained that he changed it so people who didn’t watch the show could still enjoy the movie.

The person watching it is an unnamed Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is tasked with retrieving the Tams. He’s taken over from the Hands of Blue from the series, due to A) their deaths in the Serenity comics and B) the fact that if you have the opportunity to put Chiwetel Ejiofor in a movie, you put Chiwetel Ejiofor in your f*cking movie. The Operative confronts Dr. Mathias about River’s treatment, pointing out that Mathias put key members of Parliament in the room with River, who not only CAN read minds but, within the series, CAN’T NOT read them until after Simon starts treating her. So, River now knows all the darkest secrets of the Alliance. The Operative attacks Mathias, paralyzing him, then letting him fall forward onto a sword, killing him.

SerenityHologram

On board Serenity, Wash is having issues with the ship falling apart, issues he describes as “oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die.” Mal walks through the ship, giving every character a brief re-introduction: Jayne’s got a lot of guns and grenades and is prepared to shoot people, Zoë is the loyal number 2 who’s married to Wash, Kaylee is the gearhead who keeps the ship flying far past when it should, Simon is the doctor who is pissed at Mal for taking River on a job, and River is a 17-year-old (telling us the time-jump from the series to now is about 9 months, not the years it took to film) psychic. Concise and effective, if a bit of wonky exposition aside from Jayne and Kaylee’s intros. Inara and Book are now gone.

Well, it turns out the “job” that the crew is running is a bank robbery. Inside, River identifies a man about to pull a gun using her powers. While Mal and Zoë are emptying the vault, several ships worth of Reavers descend upon the town. The crew quickly grabs the money and gets on the “mule,” their transport hovercraft. A man tries to jump on to save himself, begging for mercy, but Mal points out that the mule can’t carry five and pushes him off. He’s immediately grabbed by Reavers who start to, apparently, eat him, so Mal mercy-kills the man. They flee, pursued by a Reaver craft. Jayne gets harpooned through the leg, but Mal manages to shoot the rope, freeing him before he can be captured. They’re almost caught, but at the last second, they’re able to do a “barn swallow” by momentarily landing Serenity on the ground, picking up the mule, and flying off.

SerenityReaverAttack.jpg
Fun Fact: A Group of Reavers is called a “You’re F*cked.”

Inside, a surviving Reaver attacks the crew, but is quickly killed. Simon punches Mal for endangering River, saying that he’s going to get off the ship. Mal and Zoë point out that River is perfectly fine and saved their lives, but Simon still wants to go. River observes the dead Reaver saying “he didn’t lie down,” because River gets all the good foreshadowing. Jayne and Kaylee clean up while talking about the Reavers, then the state of the ship, which Kaylee says Mal is slowly going to drive them all off of, like he did Inara.

On the next port planet, Beaumonde, Simon and River prepare to leave the ship. Simon asks River if she wants to stay, but River says it isn’t safe. After Simon leaves, she reveals that she’s willing to leave because it isn’t safe for the crew. At the meeting site for Mal’s employer on the bank robbery, Kaylee is complaining about Simon leaving, including more than just a loss of romantic contact, resulting in one of the most awkward and hilarious lines in the movie:

Kaylee: Goin’ on a year now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries!

Mal: Oh, God! I can’t know that!

Jayne: I could stand to hear a little more.

SerenityJayneCouldStand
Oh, Jayne. You rapscallion.

Simon and River show up to collect River’s share of the payment for the job, but River sees a subliminal message in a commercial for Blue Sun products (addressed in this post) and begins to relentlessly attack everyone in the bar, including Mal and Jayne. Simon eventually recites a phrase in Russian (which, as far as I can find, literally translates to “That’s something chickens will laugh at that” or, idiomatically, “that’s ridiculous”), which causes River to pass out.

Back on the ship, Mal inquires about what happened and Simon explains that the Alliance had conditioned her to be a weapon. Mal is upset by Simon not disclosing this earlier but allows the Tams to remain. Wash suggests that they talk to Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz) for information. Mr. Universe essentially tracks every security and video feed in the ‘Verse. He watches the footage of River’s attack and finds that there is an Alliance message carried in the advertisement that triggered her, along with River saying the word “Miranda.” It’s also revealed that someone else has viewed the footage before them.

SerenityMrUniverse

Simon and River talk on the ship, with River’s madness causing her obvious pain. Simon asks about Miranda, but River can’t articulate it because it’s not her memory. She says to Simon that she’d rather he kill her than put her to sleep again. Simon tells her that he won’t put her to sleep and never to talk about killing her again. A short jump cut shows the Operative approaching Inara.

The crew flees to “Haven,” a mining colony where Book is acting as Shepherd. After Mal says that he couldn’t bring himself to abandon the Tams. Book tells Mal that the only thing that can get him through this is belief. Mal says that he doesn’t believe in God, but Book asks why Mal assumes he’s talking about God. Book tells him that the man the Alliance will send after “believes hard. Kills and never asks why.”

SerenityBook1.jpg

River has another dream about the class, watching everyone lie down around her. Mal is awakened by a call from Inara, who asks her to come help her with a local problem. Mal immediately realizes it’s a trap, because Inara is careful not to provoke him. At her Companion House, Mal finds Inara and the Operative. The Operative calmly talks to Mal about surrendering River. In an odd moment of inaccuracy, the Operative calls her an albatross. Recognizing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” correctly, Mal points out that the albatross was good luck until the Mariner killed it. On another level, the Mariner, who is forced to wear the albatross on his neck for his sin, is the only sailor to survive the story and is eventually freed from it after he finds his faith. So… overall, it’s not usually a bad sign for the guy who has the albatross, just everyone else. Either way, it’s not the best allegory for the Operative to use.

SerenityRimeOfTheAncientMariner

The Operative tries to reason with Mal, but also points out that he’s aware that Mal will try to find a way to justify fighting the Alliance. The Operative goes out of the way to say that he’s not going to get angry, that he’s there in good faith, and that he’s unarmed. To the last point, Mal responds “good” and shoots the Operative, who quickly puts Mal in a choke hold. Unarmed is not unarmored. Mal tries to fight the Operative, but is pretty easily outclassed, even with Inara’s help. Even worse, it’s obvious that the Operative is not even trying to kill them during the fight. However, Inara reveals that she booby-trapped the incense with a flashbang, allowing them to escape to the ship, which hides among a bunch of decoys to make an undetected getaway.

Back on the ship, Jayne challenges Mal’s decision to keep River on-board, but Mal stands firm on his decision. River has another vision, identifying Miranda as a planet on the Outer Rim. Jayne tries to capture River to deliver her to the Alliance and ensure the safety of the crew, but River easily knocks him out before knocking Simon out and taking over the bridge to look up the location of the planet.

SerenityJayneRebels
Don’t try to start a mutiny in that shirt, man.

It’s revealed that Miranda is listed as a non-terraformed rock, but there’s evidence to suggest that it was once populated. However, it’s surrounded by Reaver ships, so Mal opts to hide instead of investigate. They return to Haven, but find it in flames, filled with dead civilians, including all the children. Mal finds a mortally wounded Book, who destroyed the ship that killed the mining colony, who tells Mal that he doesn’t care what he believes, “just believe it.” He then passes on. Zoë realizes that this wasn’t just a random hit. It’s revealed that all of the crew’s allies have been murdered by the Alliance.

SerenityBookDies

The Operative contacts Mal. The Operative admits that he’s evil, something that is more unnerving to Mal than if he denied it, but that the Operative believes in a better world that he is forming through his actions. He promises that more people will die, before accidentally giving Mal an idea. Mal has the crew outfit Serenity as a Reaver ship so that they can pass through Reaver space undetected and reach Miranda. Back on the ship, it’s obvious that Mal is at the end of his rope, emotionally and mentally. They manage to sneak through the lines and reach Miranda.

Miranda is revealed to be an advanced colony, containing dozens of large cities, but no people. Eventually, the crew starts to stumble on a bunch of skeletons which all appeared to have died peacefully. When they find a sealed room full of preserved corpses, they observe that none of these people were killed, they just laid down and passed away. Finding a beacon, they play a recording by a Dr. Caron (Sarah Paulson), who reveals that the Alliance tested a chemical, Pax, on the planet that was designed to remove the violent tendencies of the population. Instead, it caused the population to lose any desire to perform daily functions, leading them to just lay down and starve to death. However, in 0.1% of the population, the drug had the opposite effect, making people violent and sadistic. Thus came the Reavers.

SerenitySarahPaulson

Mal then delivers the speech that I’m going to just paste verbatim, because summarizing it just doesn’t do it justice:

This report is maybe twelve years old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear, because there’s a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They’re gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people.

You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people…better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.

Earlier in the movie, Inara had told Mal she’s seen many versions of him, with Mal saying she’d see another if there was ever a real war. This is that Malcolm Reynolds. He’s not just a badass, he’s a badass with the knowledge that there is something that he can do to help the ‘Verse. I said in “War Stories” that, at his core, Mal really wants to punch some bad people in the face. Well, this is him with the opportunity to do it to all the bad people who’ve made him suffer since long before Serenity Valley. This is a man finally finding a way to fight the system. This is Malcolm Reynolds when he finally believes in something, and may God help you if you’re in his way.

SerenitySpeech.jpg
This scene wasn’t lit. This is coming from him.

The entire crew, even Jayne, agrees to help. They plan to get to Mr. Universe and have him broadcast Caron’s recording across the ‘Verse. Universe seems to agree to help, but it’s revealed that the Operative is there and kills him. As Serenity approaches the Operative’s position, the movie switches to the Operative’s perspective as he watches the tiny Firefly pass through the ion storm. Thinking it’s just a suicide run, the Operative prepares to fire, but is quickly distracted by the dozens of massive Reaver ships following in the wake of Serenity. One of the hallmarks of the show was that Serenity didn’t have any on-board weapons, so they figured out other solutions. This is the best one they ever come up with.

SerenitySpaceBattle.png

Wash pilots the ship through the space battle, despite the ludicrous amount of explosions and damage happening nearby and the general chaos of the two fleets. As Kaylee keeps the engine running, Wash makes a series of runs that no other pilot would ever consider, destroying Reaver and Alliance alike through guile. It’s truly a crowning achievement when he finally manages to right the ship after an EMP blast, landing the ship on nothing but partial backup power and basically no thrust.

And nothing bad happens to him afterwards.

That’s the sentence I wish I could write but, unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen that way. It’s a signature of Joss Whedon that any happy couple is eventually going to be divided or killed. I don’t want to speculate as to why, but Buffy, Angel, and even, to an extent, Avengers: Age of Ultron have examples of this. So, right as Wash has just managed to prove that he’s a pilot of nearly preternatural skill, he is hit by a harpoon fired from a Reaver ship. He dies instantly. It’s an amazingly powerful moment, but I really hate having to see it again.

SerenityWashDies
If I have to re-live it, you do.

Zoë, the stoic, immediately loses control and starts begging for him to be okay, not realizing that he is obviously dead. Mal has to save her from a different harpoon, after which she regains her head, ever the professional. The crew disembarks to find Mr. Universe. Mal goes ahead while the others cover Mal, creating a choke point for the Reaver insurgence coming after them. Jayne talks about how they’re going to survive before Zoë asks him darkly if he really thinks any of them will make it. Jayne meekly responds “I might.”

SerenityLastStand.jpg

Mal heads to Universe’s control room only to find it wrecked. However, Universe left his sex-doll/wife, Lenore (Nectar Rose), with instructions for Mal, telling him that there’s a secret transmitter still operating. Mal heads for it. Back at the chokepoint, Kaylee and Simon finally express their mutual desires. Kaylee, now knowing Simon wants to bone her, resolves to live. The Operative sneaks past the crew and finds Lenore repeating the message for Mal, allowing him to find the hidden transmitter.

The Reavers burst into the room and attack the crew as the Operative finds Mal. The crew hold their own as Mal attempts to make it to the remaining transmitter with the recording. He and the Operative end up brawling on a series of platforms suspended over a rotating fan, because that imagery is awesome and is re-used for a reason. When the Reavers start to overwhelm the crew, they fall back down to another hallway, but everyone is pretty badly injured… except, it seems, Jayne, who only got grazed and River, who was hiding. Zoë has been slashed, Kaylee’s stabbed, and Simon gets shot in the gut. Upon seeing her brother lying there, River says that Simon has always taken care of her, but now, it’s her turn. River runs through the remaining doorway, attacking the Reavers, before throwing Simon his medical bag and sealing the crew off in the hallway. The Reavers can’t get to the crew, but River is now trapped with a f*ck-ton of Reavers.

SerenityRiverReavers1

Mal and the Operative are still fighting, with the Operative having the upper hand until Mal allows himself to be stabbed by the Operative’s sword to catch him off-guard and get a few solid hits in. However, the Operative recovers and hits Mal with the nerve strike that he used on Mathias earlier. As the Operative moves to execute him, Mal moves at the last second, hitting the Operative in the throat, crushing his windpipe. He tells the Operative that the nerve cluster got hit by shrapnel during the War, and they had to move it. So, losing to the Alliance once is what allows him to win here. Mal then dislocates both of the Operatives shoulders and pins him against the railing. Declining to kill him, Mal instead shows him the truth about the Alliance that he blindly obeys and transmits the recording.

SerenityMalIsParalyzed.jpg
Mal’s nerves of steel… are in a different place.

It cuts back to River, who is shown to be holding her own against dozens of Reavers. Mal rejoins the crew, informing them of their success. When he asks about River, the door opens, revealing River, apparently unharmed, standing in a room full of corpses. The Alliance troops enter, but the Operative, no longer loyal to the Alliance, tells them to stand down.

SerenityRiverReavers2

The crew buries Wash, Book, and Mr. Universe on Haven, before fixing the ship. Kaylee and Simon finally have sex. Mal confronts the Operative one last time, with the Operative telling him that they’ll likely be pursued again. Inara decides to stay on the ship and River takes over as Co-pilot of the ship with Mal at the helm. As they leave atmosphere, a piece breaks off, mirroring the first appearance of the ship in the movie. The last line is Mal, asking “What was that?”

END SUMMARY

Alright, so, I put a lot more commentary into the summary than usual, so I’ll keep this short.

I hate that Wash dies. I will always hate that Wash dies. Book died, wasn’t that enough, dammit? I also refuse any continuity in which Zoë was not pregnant at the time, allowing her to finally have the baby with Wash that she wanted. I don’t care if Gina Torres buys infomercial time where she denies it over and over again, Zoë gets to have a child she wants with the man she loves, end of story.

SerenityZoePregnant
CANON. AS. F*CK.

The Operative is one of the best villains in the series, being simultaneously simple enough to understand and complex enough to be interesting. Having the villain be someone who knows he’s the villain doesn’t often work out great, but when it does, holy cow does it pay off. Here, it pays big.

SerenityOperative

I admire that Whedon didn’t try to rely on being able to get more movies later. This is a true finale. Sure, adventures can happen after this, but almost all of our questions have been answered. We get the background of why the Alliance wanted River, what the Reavers are, and we see the “they will” at the end of our “will they/won’t they” couples. The only thing that doesn’t really get answered is Book’s past and a few small plot threads from other episodes. However, for the most part, we got everything we needed, and that’s more than most.

As far as messages go, the movie’s message is pretty strong. Not the message about standing up to tyranny or big government or evil, but the message of belief. It’s not enough to just live in defiance of something, you need to have something to believe in. It doesn’t need to be God or Buddha or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but it does need to be something strong enough to be worth more than yourself. For Mal, it’s finally finding a way to prove to the ‘Verse what the Alliance has done. “But he already was trying to do that,” I hear you saying. Well, yes, when he fought in the war, Mal believed. But, as the opening scene to the Pilot shows, that belief died in Serenity Valley. Since then, he’s just been drifting, trying to keep flying. Remember, Book’s lines in “Jaynestown:”

It’s about believing in something and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith…. It fixes you.

Now, the show wasn’t shy on showing you the other side of this. In “Safe,” the religious zealots believe River is a witch, despite witches famously weighing the same as ducks. In this film, the Operative is empowered by his belief in the better world promised by the Alliance.  So, faith can be good or bad, just like people can be good or bad, but it’s still important to have it, because you need belief to help get you off your ass to do something bigger than yourself. Like, for example, make the movie of a TV Show that’s famous for getting cancelled.

So, that was Serenity. It’s still a little dependent on the series to really appreciate it, but, honestly, it’s a well done film even without that. It just never quite has the same “feel” as most regular movies. For the most part it feels like a really high-budget episode of the show, but that’s still damned good. And I am still glad we got it, even if Wash dies.

I’m posting the final Firefly Fridays entry in a few hours, containing my ultimate ranking of episodes. It’ll probably be up by the time most of you read this.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Firefly Fridays – Episode 14: “Objects in Space”

Already wrote this one once, because I consider this one of the ten best episodes of television. Some of my impressions are taken from that review, so, if it seems like I’m re-using stuff, that’s why. Except for the airing of the pilot, this was the last episode aired of the show, and is the last episode of the show in general.

SUMMARY

The episode’s opening is told from River’s perspective and, credit to Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed it, it’s definitely different. Because River isn’t in control of her own mind, her reality is slightly altered. She can hear thoughts and emotions expressed as words or even other sounds. Objects are not necessarily what they are, but what she perceives them to be.

The first thing River hears is a man’s voice saying “we’re all just floating.” Which is both a great metaphor for the wandering nature of the people on-board and a magnificent statement about the nature of reality from a bigger perspective. We all pretend we’re on something, but whatever we’re on is just floating through space. You’ve never been not floating in your life. It’s just more obvious when you’re on a spaceship.

FireflyEp14PaleBlueDot
On this, our spaceship Earth.

Now, the main thing about the next sequence is that no one reacts to River, at all, so it’s likely that she’s not physically walking through the ship. She’s probably just extending herself through it to hear all of the people psychically, until the very end.

River awakens to hear Kaylee and Simon talking, with Simon telling her a story about how during school he once ended up singing naked on a statue of Hippocrates because he drank too much saké. Then, randomly, River sees Simon turn to her and say that he’d be there right now. This is clearly Simon’s inner thought, as it’s not something Simon would ever say out loud and is not responded to by Kaylee.

FireflyEp14SimonKaylee.png
Their relationship is clearly improved at this point.

She walks through the ship, encountering Jayne and Book. She sees a flash of Jayne saying that he got stupid and didn’t resist the money when he turned the Tams in, which isn’t surprising, but she also sees a flash of Book saying, in a threatening manner, that he doesn’t care if someone is innocent or not. This is one of the most direct hints we get to Book’s violent past, since he’s apparently just remembering something, not actually thinking this towards River.

FireflyEp14BookLaughs.jpg
Though Ron Glass’s laugh is… unsettling… here.

She sees Zoe and Wash on the bridge kissing passionately and appears to be somewhat overwhelmed by the emotions coming off of them, signified by the sound of rolling waves crashing until she cannot bear it any more. She moves away with an almost sick look.

She sees Mal and Inara arguing, and this scene was actually filmed twice, because one way doesn’t make sense given that “Heart of Gold” hadn’t aired. In the original airing, Inara is threatening to leave if she doesn’t get more opportunities. In the “real” version, Inara is talking about leaving soon, but it’s revealed she hasn’t told the crew yet. In both versions, however, their inner thoughts are the same: Inara wants Mal to tell her his feelings and Mal feels like her behavior has rendered all his feelings pointless.

FireflyEp14MalInara.png

River hears the ocean again and stumbles away looking uncomfortable. She steps on a stick and picks it up, seeing a version of the cargo bay filled with leaves and branches, looking like an autumn park. She says “it’s just an object, it doesn’t mean what you think.” It then jump cuts to all of the characters approaching her, revealing that the stick was actually a gun. Mal disarms her, saying that she shouldn’t have a gun. River leaves, upset. Mal asks Simon about River’s condition, but Simon says it’s hard to figure out how to medicate her. Outside, a ship is shown approaching Serenity. The man onboard it, Jubal Early (Richard Brooks), is shown to have conducted thermal scans of the ship, matched its trajectory, and is reviewing wanted posters for the Tams.

FireflyGarden.jpg

The crew then discuss whether River is dangerous, and the first parallel is made between Early and River: they both eavesdrop on the conversation, Early through the ship’s hull, River through the floor. Jayne recounts when she cut him with a knife during “Ariel” and Kaylee tells the crew about River shooting Niska’s men in “War Stories.” They go back and forth, but the message is pretty clear: River can be extremely dangerous, even if she doesn’t mean to be. It’s also brought up to the entire crew that River is likely psychic. In a great exchange, Wash points out that sounds like ridiculous science-fiction, only to be reminded that he lives on a spaceship. Wash only responds “So?” On the one hand, he has a point that spaceships don’t mean that psychic powers exist. On the other hand, she’s right in that they currently use multiple technologies that would basically be just as implausible as mind-reading to anyone in the past. This is why I love them.

FireflyEp14EarlyApproaches.png

The crew turns in for the night, with Kaylee following Simon and trying to apologize. Simon is angry because River really loves the ship, though he admits that he preferred helping people at the hospital, showing the wish that he was back there from River’s psychic reading. He has to fight against blaming River, because he knows that it’s not her fault, but that of the people that did this to her. Still, on some level, he resents her a little. Kaylee and Simon almost share a moment, but then part ways, heading to bed.

Early enters the ship and systematically takes out most of the crew. First, he defeats Mal with ease before locking him and most of the crew in their rooms using the control panel. Then, he intimidates Kaylee through a combination of insane philosophical speculation coupled with threats to rape her if she doesn’t cooperate. This exchange is only about 30 lines, and it is nothing short of horrifying, including Early telling Kaylee “You throw a monkey wrench into my dealings in any way, your body is forfeit. Ain’t nothing but a body to me. And I can find all unseemly manner of use for it.” I’m genuinely a little scared of Joss Whedon for writing that line.

FireflyEp14KayleeScared.png
And Jewel Staite very much plays up “scared.”

Early then disables Book, again without any effort, and confronts Simon. This conversation, similar to that with Kaylee, is a combination of threateningly insane and insanely threatening. A notable line, however, is that when he is taken to River’s room, he asks “So is it still her room when it’s empty? Does the room, the thing, have purpose? Or do we — what’s the word?… The plan is to take your sister. Get the reward, which is substantial. (beat) ‘Imbue.’ That’s the word.” Another is that he mishears Simon ask if he’s Alliance and responds “Am I a lion?… I don’t think of myself as a lion. You may as well, though: I have a mighty roar.” After they don’t find River in her room, the pair begin going throughout the ship looking for her and, honestly, everything about Simon and Early’s exchange while they’re searching the ship for River is pretty much perfect, start to finish. It cannot be done justice in a review.

Early and Simon then encounter Inara in her shuttle. Inara tries to convince Early to stop searching for River, but he pistol whips her for trying to manipulate his emotions with her Companion skills. Early seals her in her shuttle. Running low on patience, Early uses the communications system to tell River to show herself, or Simon dies. To his surprise, River responds, saying that she is no longer on the ship. She knew the crew didn’t want her anymore, but she couldn’t leave, so she has bonded with the ship. There is no River, there is only Serenity.

FireflyEp14Jayne.png
Meanwhile, back at Jayne…

River, as Serenity, then begins to toy with Early, while sabotaging his plans indirectly through seeming omnipresence throughout the ship. She first remotely contacts Kaylee and comforts her while saying that she’s going to free her and then needs her to be brave and do something for her. She starts to mock Early with her laughter, which Early outright states is “somewhat unsettling,” then by going into his past and his motivations for being a bounty hunter. In the battle of crazy-brilliant, even Jubal Early is outmatched here, something that has clearly never happened before. Despite initially being unwilling to accept that River is now a ship, eventually even he starts to believe that River might now be Serenity.

River contacts Mal the way she’d contacted Kaylee and tells him they need to work quickly, seemingly being able to see his every move. Kaylee, meanwhile, has followed River’s instructions and freed herself. She manages to get to the control panel and unseal the rooms. River contacts Wash and Zoë. Zoë wants to face Early, but River flatly states that Early would win. River messes with the ship’s electrics, allowing Mal to sneak around the ship. River mocks Early more until he realizes where she’s getting her info: She’s on his ship.

FireflyEp14River
And having a wonderful time.

Early, aware of how powerful his ship’s weapons are, is now even more afraid of her. However, River surprises him by saying that she’s going to go with him, feeling that she’s not wanted on the ship. Early appears ready to leave until Simon attacks him, and Early shoots Simon in the leg. Early is then ambushed by Mal near the airlock and is thrown out into space in a spacesuit. River comes back onboard, seeming more normal than she’s been in the series up until now. As the rest of the crew recovers from the attack, River joins Kaylee for a game of jacks.

The last shot of the series is Jubal Early, floating out in the vastness of space, saying, calmly “Well, here I am.”

FireflyEarly4

END SUMMARY

So, the main reason I consider this such a great episode is that it’s the first time River meets someone who, while not her equal, definitely serves as her dark reflection:

Jubal. F*cking. Early.

FireflyEarly1.jpg

If that isn’t his middle name, I don’t want to know what it is (though, if he’s named after the Confederate General, his middle name would be Anderson… and apparently would be an ancestor of Nathan Fillion).

He’s the bounty hunter Boba Fett wishes he could be. He’s an evil Samus Aran with what appear to be severe emotional problems. Basically every line he says is amazing, and actor Richard Brooks manages to not only sell the craziness, but to convey subtle menace, curiosity, and insecurity all throughout the episode. Yes, he gets the benefit of only having to fill a limited amount of screen time, but the fact that this character never got a second episode is a travesty.

FireflyEp14EarlyBlindShot
And he can make the no-look shots.

So, a large part of this episode is the dialogue, and I cannot convey it here. I’m currently reviewing the episode’s script after having just watched it, and I don’t know that Early has any bad lines. There are no lines he delivers where I go “I think that was pointless.” Considering how absolutely nonsensical some of them come off out of context, that seems impossible, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel that way.

Another part is that Early is not just a new threat, he’s THE threat. People make jokes about the tendency in television to have the new enemy take out the strongest good guy in order to establish the new enemy as being “real.” This episode both does and does not do that. Early takes out Mal, a more than competent fighter, in a few seconds. Then, rather than deal with any other problems, just seals the rest of the potential threats in. He doesn’t fight Book, he just brutally knocks him out by surprise. He isn’t someone puffing his chest up and proclaiming his greatness, he is a calm, methodical, professional bounty hunter, and that makes him infinitely more dangerous than any typical enemy. If it weren’t for River, the entire Serenity crew, who we’ve seen in this show are each capable of handling themselves in serious situations, would be helpless to stop him. After having two straight episodes of crappy villains, this is even more amazing.

FireflyEp14Worf
The “Worf Effect” does not happen on Firefly.

Part of the reason he’s able to be so great is also why he’s River’s counterpart: Jubal does not consider people to be people. They are only objects to him, devoid of any greater meaning than their use to him. Joss Whedon cited Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel Nausea as his inspiration for this episode. Being a dedicated writer for the people who read this, I purchased, and read, this 192-page novel… rather than, as someone pointed out, just buying a book on Firefly and Philosophy. I’m not smart, guys. However, having read Nausea, I will confirm that, yes, there are ideas within the novel that are reflected there, and since you made me read an existentialist treatise in narrative form, I’m going to go ahead and address them. Enjoy.

FireflyNausea.jpg

Jubal Early and River both address the concept of “bad faith” in existentialist terms, but in opposing ways. “Bad faith” is wanting to disavow any responsibility for your actions or your agency. The most common example, and the one most explicit within Nausea, is that of a waiter who does not wish to be a man who is a waiter, so the man dissolves into the role and becomes a waiter. He is no longer a true human, he is only the function he performs, and therefore bears no responsibility for what he does. Both River and Early do this during the episode, in exactly the opposite way.

Early tells River that he hurts people “only when the job requires it.” River, knowing the true him, says that he’s lying, and that he likes to hurt people. Early says “It’s part of the job,” to which River responds “it’s why you took the job.” Early likes to hurt people, but society and ethics frowns on it, so Early picked a career in which he would be permitted to hurt people by saying that it wasn’t him, it was just “part of the job.” He believes that he isn’t a bad person, he isn’t even a “person,” he is only a “function” that necessitates bad acts. He even asks “what’s life without work,” indicating that he doesn’t see any point to his existence outside of performing the function. This is true existential “bad faith.” No one is forcing him to be a bounty hunter, so he is still acting in “bad faith,” and disclaiming any fault.

To contrast this, River tells Early that she has “dissolved” into Serenity, thereby becoming Serenity. Now, this would seem to be “bad faith,” but it is actually a twisted mirror of it. By being Serenity, the thing which is actually responsible for keeping all of the people she loves alive, she isn’t disclaiming responsibility. She is actually taking on responsibility beyond her normal self. She is saying that she will keep these people safe, because they are now a part of her. In the end, that is exactly what she does, as she destroys Early’s plans and ends up having him kicked out into the void by Mal.

FireflyEp14MalPush.png

Another parallel of the characters is how each one addresses a gun. River sees it just as an object, in fact, she sees it as a stick within a nature scene, removed of any meaning that we imbue within it. When Early addresses the gun, he also says it is “very pretty,” but he points out that the design is part of the function, that the beauty is derived from the gun’s capacity to shoot someone. River sees it as just what it is, an object. Early sees it only as its function.

FireflyStick.jpg

While River doesn’t really have a direct equivalent, there is also Early’s statement to Kaylee that she “[a]in’t nothing but a body to [him]… [a]nd I can find all unseemly manner of use for it.” Once again, we see that Early is already considering the value of Kaylee only in terms of how he can use her. The closest parallel is when River, later, asks Kaylee to do something for her, but addressing her as a person with the ability to choose to act, not a tool.

Lastly, I’m going to address Jubal Early’s catchphrase “does that seem right to you?” Early asks that three times during the episode. They are: “Man is stronger by far than woman, yet only woman can create a child. Does that seem right to you?”; “You know… this girl is the smallest cargo I’ve ever had to transport. Yet by far the most troublesome. Does that seem right to you?”; and “They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified, but they don’t make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?” Now, look at the common theme here: It’s just something that he finds as being grotesque, in the existentialist sense, because all three have some wrong relation to their function. It’s also bizarre, because on some level, Richard Brooks says the lines with such sincerity that you almost want to nod in agreement.

FireflyEarly6.jpg

Despite all of this, Early ends the episode, defeated, with the ultimate statement of existential acceptance: “Here I am.” He isn’t performing any function at this moment, he is just existing, since that’s all that’s left to him in the void. An object in space.

This episode is, appropriately, the perfect blend of form and function. The philosophical images and concepts are woven flawlessly into the narrative. While I didn’t address it much here, the sounds effects, the camera work, and the acting are all high-caliber, even for Firefly. Within the series, I simply don’t think there’s much better, from the surreal opening to Jubal’s existential closing. This is a top-tier episode, without a doubt. However, you’re about to notice that I don’t rate it the perfect episode in Firefly, even though I think it’s one of the best episodes of TV. That’s because, despite how much I think this episode is amazing and insightful and unique and creative, it’s also a little too surreal and odd to really represent everything that’s good about Firefly. So, I give it just a little knock down.

Well, this was the end of the series, but I’m pretty sure most of you realize that I am going to have to do Serenity the movie, so that’s next week. At the end, I’ll post my personal ranking of Firefly media.

Score: 4.5 Fireflies (or Jubal Early’s Ship)

FireflyEp14Scale

See you next Friday, Browncoats.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Happy Independence Day Quotes

In honor of the anniversary of the nation in which I was born and to which I swear my allegiance, I post the following quotes.

By Mark Twain:

July4MarkTwain

In a republic, who is the country?

Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the government is merely a temporary servant: it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.

Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it, they have not command, they have only their little share in the command.

In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country: In a republic it is the common voice of the people each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak.

It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians.  Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man.

To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have your duty by yourself and by your country. Hold up your head. You have nothing to be ashamed of’.”

By Captain America:

July4CaptainAmerica.jpg

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.

This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world–

–No you move.”

By President Andrew Shepherd:

July4AmericanPresident.jpg

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

These quotes, as much as anything I have ever read, represent the reason why I started this blog. Because meaning can be found within any source, from the traditionally shallow to the epic, if you only are willing to look for it.

What’s interesting to me is that in all three of these, the speaker is contradicting someone saying a version of “Our Country, Right or Wrong!” Here’s the problem, it is not “our country, right or wrong!” It is “Our Country, Right or Wrong! When right, to be kept right, when wrong, to be made right!” Things cannot merely be right because we have done them and things cannot be wrong because we haven’t. It is our responsibility, no matter what our cause, to advocate for it if we really believe in it, and to accept the consequences of that advocacy.

My father used to say that America was represented by the people in the wagon trains headed West. Everyone wanted to get there, but there were always two groups of thought on how: Some thought that everyone who couldn’t make it on their own deserved to be left behind and die, but others thought that the key was to help everyone get there. Sometimes helping meant you pushed a wagon, sometimes helping meant that you lent some water, and sometimes helping meant you walked so someone could ride, but you did it because you believed that once we got to the other side, we’d need what those people knew and what they could do, so that it would be better for everyone.

The best thing about America is that it can change for the better even when we think we’re seeing the decline. What we do wrong can be righted and who we are can be improved. It takes work and it takes time and it takes participation, but we’ve done it a dozen times before and it can be done again.

Happy Fourth of July.

And, since at least one of you wanted these quotes based on the title, I give you:

President Thomas Whitmore:

July4BillPullman.jpg

Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

And Captain Steven Hiller, USMC:

Welcome to Earth.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.