|"Objects in Space"|
December 13, 2002
Objects in Space is the fourteenth and final episode of the Firefly TV series. It was first aired on Fox, on December 13, 2002.
Serenity encounters Jubal Early, a ruthlessly professional bounty hunter who will stop at nothing to retrieve River. But River, feeling unwelcome on the ship, takes a novel approach to escaping from the long arm of the Alliance.
The show opens with a shot of Serenity flying by a planet, and then zooms into the ship and through its passages to end on River, who lies in bed listening to not-quite-audible voices. She rises and takes a walk through the ship's rooms and corridors, encountering her shipmates in varied conversations with each other. Simon and Kaylee are relaxing in the common room, the doctor telling the mechanic an amusing anecdote about medical school. River suddenly "sees" them looking at her, with Simon telling her that he'd "be there right now", apparently implying she is responsible for taking him away from his successful medical career. Finding Jayne and Shepherd Book in the kitchen, she "hears" Jayne guiltily repeats his confession to Mal about selling out the Tams on Ariel, and Book mutters an angry but cryptic statement hinting at a sadistic past. River continues to wander the ship, and is moved by the sound of ocean waves as Zoë and Wash passionately kiss on the nearby bridge. Above the cargo bay, as Mal and Inara discuss her impending departure, River sees their unspoken frustrations over their unrequited relationship. Fleeing the intense emotions, River runs down to the unoccupied cargo bay, where she spots a tree branch. Picking it up, she sees herself on leaf-strewn ground, and picks up the branch, telling herself "It's just an object. Doesn't mean what you think." Suddenly, the real world returns, and she finds that she is holding one of Jayne's pistols while the crew surrounds her in a panic, trying to get her to drop the weapon. Mal takes the gun from her and discovers that it is loaded and ready to fire. When Mal admonishes her for handling loaded weapons, River runs off, shouting "It's getting very, very crowded."
The image cuts to a small vessel closing with Serenity, aboard which is a man reviewing wanted bulletins for Simon and River. Meanwhile, the crew discuss the dangers of River's presence on the ship. When Zoë muses whether River has ever handled a gun, Kaylee reluctantly tells everyone about her experience during their assault on Adelai Niska's SkyPlex, when she was unable to return fire, and how River easily killed her attackers with single shots. The crew begin to speculate that River may be a "reader", having psychic powers, and though Simon objects, they begin to question whether she is a danger to them. While talking, the crew are being listened to: above the room, on the hull of Serenity, the mysterious bounty hunter is tapping into the hull, and below the room, in the cargo bay, River is listening through the floor plating.
Mal decides to sleep on the matter, and the crew breaks for the "night". Kaylee follows Simon out as he goes to "check on my assassin", and she apologizes for having to point out the danger River presents. Simon, however, is more sad than angry, believing his sister feels that Serenity is "more home to her than any place she's been". He openly admits his regret at not practicing medicine (using the exact words that River "heard" earlier) and tries not to blame it on River herself, but on her unknown experimenters.
Once the crew goes to sleep, the bounty hunter boards Serenity. He runs across Mal and quickly knocks him unconscious, dropping him into his cabin, and then locks the rest of the sleeping crew in their cabins. He surprises Kaylee in the engine room, and uses a combination of philosophy and terror—specifically threatening to rape Kaylee—to force the frightened girl to surrender. Next, the intruder drops in on Book, disabling him instantly with a brutal kick to the head. Simon hears a noise and arises to check on his sister, only to be attacked by the stranger, who addresses him by name. The two men engage in verbal sparring; the bounty hunter, Jubal Early, waxes imaginative on the nature of things while he demands to know where River is. Though Simon refuses to help Early at first, the bounty hunter threatens to kill him and rape Kaylee if he refuses, and the doctor reluctantly agrees.
With Simon "helping" in the search, Early checks out the cargo bay and shuttles, commenting on the nature of "objects in space" while doing so. When Inara tries to appeal to Early's emotional side, he smacks her across the face, and then locks her in her shuttle. The two men finally arrive on the bridge, where Early settles on a direct threat, announcing loudly to the ship that he will kill Simon if she doesn't reveal herself. River then responds over the ship's intercom, telling Early (and incidentally her friends as well) about how she was unwanted on the ship but couldn't bring herself to leave, so she simply "melted away," becoming part of Serenity.
In the engine room, River's voice comes over the intercom, reassuring the bound Kaylee and asking for her help in a task. Meanwhile on the bridge, Early is openly skeptical about River's claim, but her voice returns to reveal uncanny knowledge of the bounty hunter's own weaknesses. River's verbal probing, aided by Simon's wry humor, gradually convince Early and the others that she has joined with the vessel. She sends Kaylee, now free, off on a mission to unlock the cabins. Zoë prepares an assault, but River insists that they do not use guns, and instead tells Mal of an alternate plan.
On the bridge, River continues her banter with Jubal, relentlessly hinting at his own insanity. Finally, Early realizes that River isn't part of Serenity, but has managed to sneak onto his ship. However, River reassures the frantic bounty hunter that she will go with him. She compares her own dangerousness and instability with his, and she weighs the hearts of her shipmates with her words about not belonging with them, and that her departure will allow them to get on with their lives. Simon refuses to let Early escape with River, and tries to stop him, but in the process is shot in the leg. Leaving Simon in the cockpit, the bounty hunter starts his EVA back to his ship, but finds Mal outside, waiting in ambush, and the captain shoves Early off into space, before welcoming River back aboard Serenity. Later, in the infirmary, Simon directs Zoë as she patches him up. Just outside, Mal and Inara start and fail again to deal with their implicit affection. In the cargo bay, Jayne mocks Book's failure to defeat Early, despite "all them years of priest trainin'", when Book expresses regret at not being able to do anything to help. Kaylee and River play jacks while Kaylee relates a sexual anecdote from her past. River picks up and examines the bouncing ball, with its swirling, multicolored surface, which recalls the multicolored planet Serenity flies by in the opening shot. The camera pans down through and out of the ship to show Serenity sailing off into space.
The show ends on Jubal Early, tumbling through space: "Well... Here I am."
Behind the scenes
- The episode illustrates some of Joss Whedon's existentialist beliefs, as he describes in the episode commentary.
- This episode began the "Summer Blame Game" among the cast in which any time someone messed up in a scene they would yell the name "Summer" after Nathan Fillion did so following Summer Glau forgetting her line at the end of a long continuously-shot scene.
(Special Thanks to BrownCoats.com.)
- "Well that's feifei de piyan. [a baboon's anus.]" - Jayne refuses to believe in River's marksmanship.
- "Bizui, nin hen butitie de nansheng! [Shut up, you inconsiderate schoolboys!]" - Inara chides Jayne and Wash.
- "Any chance that xiongmeng de kuangren [violent lunatic] might survive?" - Inara, about Jubal Early.
- Nathan Fillion's character Edward Buck in Halo 3: ODST quotes Jubal Early's infamous "Well...here I am." during the game's penultimate level.
- It is interesting to note that Nathan Fillion is a descendant of Confederate Lieutant General Jubal Anderson Early, which may be where the name came from.
- At the climax of the plot in this episode, River has a spiel about leaving the ship and going with Early. During her speech, she says that she wants to be something more, and "...not fade away." This quote is the name of the final episode of the Angel series (also cancelled), and "Objects in Space" is the final episode in the Firefly collection.
- The original filmed version of the scene between Mal and Inara has the two discussing her recent decision to leave the ship. However when the episodes were reordered by Fox with Heart of Gold, which concludes with Inara deciding to leave Serenity, no longer airing before it an alternate scene was filmed with Inara instead threatening to leave due to lack of opportunities to find clients (Mal and Inara's unspoken thoughts remain the same in both versions). The replacement version was shown during the initial airing, but the original scene was restored for home media releases (which had the episodes shown in their intended order).
- In the Machinima series Red vs. Blue by Rooster Teeth, the fifteenth episode of the series' fifteenth season is also titled "Objects in Space".
- "Objects in Space" transcript
- "Objects in Space" shooting script from Firefly Browncoats at Internet Archive
A Conversation with Nathan Fillion