Now that the universe has been established in the first episode of the series (Serenity), the second episode takes us through the daily life of the Serenity crew.
Right off the bat I noticed that unlike the pilot episode, which was 1.5 hours long, this episode is nice 40 mins, which makes for a much smoother episode. I didn’t feel like I was watching a two part story; it felt line one cohesive episode.
In “The Train Job”, Mal, Zoe and Jeyne (whom I shall refer to as “the trio” henceforth) go to an alliance-sympathizer bar on Unification day (i.e. the day that the Browncoats lost the war) and get into a fight before making a cool escape on their firefly ship. One good thing that comes out of a knock to the head? They’ve got a job!
Using their lead, they head to see Niska, crime lord with a ruthless reputation. He wants them to do a “train job”, stealing two crates of unknown Alliance goods from a train as it travels from Hancock to Paradiso. Before they go, Niska shows them the dead body of a man hanging from his ceiling, telling them that that is what he does to people who “Don’t finish the job”. Uh-oh! Right then, I wondered why they didn’t just decline the job, but then I guess one cannot walk into a lion’s den and then decide they are not ready for fight.
Zoe and Mal get aboard the train and find an entire compartment filled with Alliance troops, but they don’t seem to be guarding the goods. The two successfully get into the cargo bay and manage to sneak the goods off the train to Jeyne (who drops in from Serenity as she is flying above), but all the noise they make attract the attention of a curious Fed, who ends up tripping on the smoke alarm at the door. Shootout ensues, and Jeyne’s leg is hurt; he’s airlifted out, but Mal and Zoe get left behind. The train stops to let all the passengers out, except the troops who don’t consider the theft important enough for their intervention. Turns out, the goods they stole were actually medicine that the Paradiso town desperately needs for its sick people. Mal and Zoe feel like, and you can already see Mal making plans to double-cross Niska in order to return the goods now that he knows it’s for the greater good.
But first, they’re investigated by a sheriff in town, who thinks their story of being a newlywed couple in town looking for a job sounds fishy, especially since the contact they claim to have in town died 8 months ago! Uh-oh.
Back at the ship, an injured Jeyne is freaking out on people, demanding that they go to the rendezvous point to drop off the goods with Niska’s men before he finds and kills them all. Sheppard Book points out that they cannot risk Niska finding out that Mal has been detained and may talk to the Feds, so it is better to wait. This rational argument only subdues him momentarily. He is back trying to strong arm Wash into taking the ship to Niska’s men. This time, the doctor (Simon) subdues him with a tranquilizer shot instead and everyone claps in glee! (well, on the inside anyway :P). But soon, they all get worried, and Book and Inara come up with a plan.
Cut back to town, we see Inara in her Companion garb making her way through the police station. She slaps Mal and tells the sheriff that he is her indentured man, who convinced Zoe to take Inara’s money and run away with him. She asks the sheriff to let her take the two in her custody, and the sheriff – satisfied with her documents and more than a little bit in awe of seeing a real life Companion for the first time – lets them go.
Back on the ship, Mal and Zoe announce that they are going to return the cargo to the townspeople and the money to Niska. Everyone thinks it’s a bad idea, of course, but before they have a chance to debate any further, Niska’s men appear. A shootout ensues and the trio wins (by now, Jeyne has woken up and makes the last life-saving shot). The cargo is returned to the sheriff, who catches them red-handed, but lets them go because they were already returning the cargo; and the money is returned to Niska via one of his henchmen, who promises to relay their message to his boss in exchange for his life.
Other than the main story line, we also see River suffering from dreams of the experiments performed on her by the government. By the end of the episode, she warns everyone that “they will never stop looking” for her and that they will come “two by two, hands of blue”. You think she’s just being delusional, but her words actually turn out to be pretty chilling in the end, when in the last shots of the episode, we see two men with blue gloves inquiring about her in the local Feds office.
Jeyne’s loyalty continues to be in question, so does his rivalry with Simon and his really bad way of expressing his crush of Kaylee. The ship engineer for her part remains smitten with the doctor, and he with her. There is some romantic tension between Inara and Mal again, especially as he tries to be protective of her by telling her to stay inside the ship while they go meet Niska.
I thought this episode was much lighter in terms of the amount of new information compared to the pilot, but it was much better put together episode. I liked all the comedic breaks they used throughout the episode, and I really love that they are making use of Mal’s sarcasm. My continued squabble with this series is that it’s not very “realistic”. I know, I know. It’s science fiction, how can I expect it to be realistic? But in a lot of (good) science fiction, I find that there are strong elements of realism (with respect to that universe) that make the story much more “believable”. While I understand that the series is going for a Western/sci-fi juxtaposition, some things just don’t line up.
For example, how come these people have the technology to terraform entire planets and travel between them in spaceships but are still fighting each other with old, western-style shot guns? I mean, wouldn’t they have lasers and other high-tech weapons? What about bulletproof vests – why isn’t everyone on a heist wearing them? How come the cargo they are stealing isn’t locked with eye-recognition software and guarded by a laser system?
And the biggest question of all: if River is such important government “property”, don’t you think they would’ve micro-chipped her by now so that they could track her wherever she went?!
Just some things to think about.
All in all, “The Train Job” was fairly good. Really enjoyed the light hearted dialogue interspersed throughout the episode, and I look forward seeing the next one! For some reason, I think this whole Niska thing isn’t over (he doesn’t seem like the kind of man who will just accept this kind of insolence from hired help) and the ominous “blue hands” really gave me the chills!
Until next time 😉