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Better Late Than Never. Much, Much Better.

By Randal Stevens · May 30, 2010

I realize I’m late to the party when it comes to having finally watched “Firefly.” 8 years ago, Joss Whedon’s mostly brilliant creation was greenlit, misunderstood, manhandled and prematurely canceled by Fox, further adding to Whedon’s dedicated cult following as the god of all things geek. Though the series premiered before I even had time to piss off my freshman year roommates, it wasn’t until last month that I took the time to watch the entire series on Netflix (in its intended order, I might add).

I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to finally sit down and take in the sci-fi/western hybrid – it came highly recommended from every friend I had who had seen it, whether they were sci-fi fanatics or not. It had nothing to do with the fact that I’m opposed to the science-fiction genre (I may not give a damn about “Battlestar Galactica” or “Doctor Who,” but I list “The X-Files” as one of my favorite TV shows of all time), so much as it had something to do with the fact that I cared little about “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” which instigated Whedon’s rabid fan following, and still to this day have not read Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men,” which is possibly the most celebrated X-Men book of the last decade (fans of Grant Morrison’s “New X-Men” can shut the hell up). Sure, Whedon has screenwriting credit on Toy Story (along with 6 other guys) and sole credit on Alien: Resurrection (which was awful), but for the most part, the only thing I knew about Whedon’s work was based on what I heard from friends and associates, whom I couldn’t fully trust because they also duped me into thinking I would love the abysmal Event Horizon. So, one night when I was in the mood for something new, I saw that “Firefly” was available instantly on Netflix and figured if I couldn’t get past the pilot, at least I didn’t waste the time waiting for and sending back a disc in the mail. I plopped down on my beloved leather recliner, turned on “Serenity” and took in the space shenanigans of Captain Mal Reynolds and his crew. 86 minutes later, I was a believer.

It’s a damn shame that Fox executives had their heads up their asses when dealing with this show. Whedon has previously stated that he intended “Firefly” to last for 7 seasons, but because the people at Fox speak fluently with lobotomy patients, we had to settle for one season and a feature film that, while spectacular, didn’t come close to tying up all the loose ends or answering all the questions posed by the devoted Browncoats. Still, in that time, Whedon and co-creator Tim Minear created one of the most memorable ensemble of characters in TV history lead by the phenomenal Mal Reynolds. Now, I’ve heard complaints that Whedon writes the same voice multiple times and to an extent, I can understand those complaints. There’s a lot of overlap in the personalities of Mal, Wash and Zoe, but “Firefly” ultimately succeeds because the characters are so diverse and engaging that there’s something to relate to in everybody from the terse, sometimes chastising wisdom of Shepherd to the unfiltered ego of Jayne. Personally, I found myself relating the most to the passive-aggressive sarcasm of Wash and developing quite a crush on the down-to-earth mechanic, Kaley.

Admittedly, the casting has a huge part to play in the success of “Firefly,” but it’s surprisingly not an easy sell to have a shipful of witty characters bantering from one end of the vast vacuum of space to the other. Yet in just 14 episodes, Whedon and co. created a fictional universe that was every bit as diverse and engaging as the crew exploring it. From the ominous Blue Gloves to the deceptive Saffron, from the bustling advanced civilization of Ariel swarming with Alliance to the backwater planet of Canton where Jayne is elevated as a hero, the worlds and stories explored allows fans’ imaginations to run wild about what could’ve been had Fox not severely fucked things up.

Of course, with a gig directing The Avengers, no one is really weeping for Whedon. Still, I’m glad I was able to watch the series so far removed from all the ballyhoo and without having really experienced Whedon’s work before as it allowed me to be a more objective judge. My verdict is that everyone should take in “Firefly.” Hell, because of the work he did there, I started watching “Castle” solely because it stars Nathan Fillion (and make no mistake, he’s really the only reason to watch that show). On top of that, I just added “Dollhouse” to my Netflix queue and added the “Serenity: Those Left Behind” and “Serenity: Better Days” comics to my Amazon cart. It’s safe to say I’m hooked on Whedon.