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Following has some spoilers for Serenity:

This is gonna ramble 'cause I can't get my thoughts in order -

I have been thinking about Serenity a lot lately. It's not the film I thought it would be - I still loved it - but more and more I am thinking of it as a season of TV squished into one film. I have been argueing with The Boy over the movie - he's not sure if he liked it, and thinks some of the characters were uncharacteristic - I think they were all in character.

There is a point early in the film where Mal is telling Simon why he's taking River along on a job - they crew needs work and the River and Simon's Alliance problem has been keeping them from work. The ship needs repairs, the crew is gonna be hungry soon.

The Boy didn't like the scene because in the previous television episodes, Mal had come to accept River and Simon as crew. The scene in the movie is a reprise of the Mal/Simon at odds over River with Simon and River being portrayed as outsiders, again.

He didn't like it and didn't understand it. But in my eyes, it was the set up for the whole film.

The film was about Mal's journey through the valley of Serenity. And in order for that journey to be revisited, Mal had to be put back into that place.

Mal is about duty - no longer to a greater cause, but to those who depend on you and that you depend on. When the series started, that was Zoe, first and foremost, Wash, Kaylee, and Jayne. Duty goes both ways - he expects loyalty in return for his loyalty - the scene with Jayne after Jayne has betrayed River and Simon makes it clear that duty goes both ways with Mal.

No work, ship needing repairs - of course Simon and River are going to take on an outsider status again - they are the cause of the problem, and aren't original crew. They simply don't have as many bonds of duty going back and forth - and they didn't sign up as crew but as passengers.

I think if the series had continued, the falling out of Simon/River and Mal would have been gradual - we would have the decline as they had trouble finding work, with near misses from the Alliance. Inara and Book have long served as moral guides for Mal - with them off the ship and trouble coming for Simon and River - the duty to the original crew versus the duty to the pair was going to shift in favor of original crew. The arc would have taken longer but I think it would have still been there -

Because the conflict in the movie is heightened by the conflict in Mal. When he knows the assassin is coming, when he knows there is no safe place - it's that internal conflict there was in the valley - he has people he has to protect - not just protect but to lead - and the force against them is overwhelming.

In the valley on Serenity he held on to the belief that the ships would come, that he wasn't the top of the duty/responsiblity chain - that they might be outnumbered now, but if they just held on, it would get better.

When I watched the scene with Mal talking to the assassin, I realized that in many ways, this was the valley again - overwhelming odds and Mal with people to protect and lead.

But this time they were alone and Mal knew it.

In the valley, he lead his men to hold on until the ships came - which really would have been the safest choice in a bad situation. There was nowhere to run, no real way to surrender.

And on the ship, there was no way to run. He could turn River and Simon over.

But that would have been the equivalent of waiting for the ships. It would have been putting faith in something outside his group. He would have to take the chance that the assassin wouldn't kill his crew for having sheltered River and Simon.

And he doesn't make the same mistake again. He does the crazy thing, the stupid thing, the thing that shouldn't work. In doing so, he finds something larger to fight for again. It's the path out of the valley.


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July 2014

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