For the Adherent of Pop Culture
Adventures of Jack Burton ] Back to the Future ] Battlestar Galactica ] Buckaroo Banzai ] Cliffhangers! ] Earth 2 ] The Expendables ] Firefly/Serenity ] The Fly ] Galaxy Quest ] Indiana Jones ] Jurassic Park ] Land of the Lost ] Lost in Space ] The Matrix ] The Mummy/The Scorpion King ] The Prisoner ] Sapphire & Steel ] Snake Plissken Chronicles ] Star Trek ] Terminator ] The Thing ] Total Recall ] Tron ] Twin Peaks ] UFO ] V the series ] Valley of the Dinosaurs ] Waterworld ] PopApostle Home ] Links ] Privacy ]

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

"Living Weapon"
(Chapter 15-end of the Serenity movie DVD)

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon


The crew of Serenity must get through Reavers, the Alliance, and the Operative to reach Mr. Universe and broadwave the Alliance's crime to the Verse.


(This episode begins with Mr. Universe's death at the hands of the Operative and ends with Mal and River piloting Serenity into the stars.)


Read the full movie summary at the Firefly and Serenity Database


Didja Know?


This study covers Chapter 15 through the end of the two-hour theatrical film Serenity. I've divided the movie Serenity into three ~40-minute episodes, each with a unique title.


Didja Notice?


Starting at 1:23:04 on the DVD, the video screens in Mr. Universe's sanctum are showing scenes from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and a scene from the Max Fleischer Superman cartoon "The Arctic Giant" (1941), among others I've not been able to identify.


After betraying the crew to the Operative, Mr. Universe tells him to toss him his "thirty coin". This is a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot for 30 pieces of silver in the New Testament of the Bible.


The DVD audio commentary of "Government Goods" by Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion reveals that the Reaver ship that appears in that episode later also appears here. You'll see it a couple times at about 1:24:33 and 1:25:20.


As Wash swiftly threads Serenity through the obstacle course of Alliance ships to reach the sanctum of Mr. Universe, the crew is tugged this-way-and-that with the maneuvers, but Wash's toy dinosaurs never jiggle an inch! (The dinos do finally take a tumble during Serenity's spiral through the atmosphere.)


At 1:27:06 on the DVD, the Operative uses one of a set of tubes to slide feet first down to an escape pod. This may be an homage to the 1970-1971 TV series UFO. In that series, pilots stationed at Moonbase would access their Interceptor ships via tube in the same manner.


At 1:28:20 on the DVD, one of the Reaver ships seen is a so-called Colonial Defender-class ship from the Battlestar Galactica (2005) universe! (See the study of the BSG episode "Home" Part 1).

Reaver ship


As Wash is trying to pull Serenity out of its tailspin dive towards the planet's surface, he flicks some switches at 1:28:43 on the DVD and the panel to which the switches are attached moves under his hand!


At 1:35:46 on the DVD, Inara is armed with a high-tech bow-and-arrow in the crew's stand against the Reavers. Where did it come from? There was a deleted scene in the film in which her skill with a bow is depicted as she teaches students at the Companion training house in "A Better World", so presumably this weapon was in the trunk of stuff she left behind when she left Serenity to teach at the house and she carried it with her when they fled the ship into Mr. Universe's citadel.


How does Mal survive getting shot in the back by the Operative? Was the electronic weapon set to...heck, not even stun...startle?


At 1:37:48 on the DVD, Joss films a classic Western quick-draw moment of Mal versus the Operative.


Simon says he needs calaphar to treat the toxin in Kaylee's system from the Reaver darts with which she was hit. Calaphar appears to be a fictional drug.


At 1:41:40 on the DVD, a knee brace is visible on River's right leg as she vaults through the hatch.


When the Operative tells Mal he (Mal) is fighting a war he's already lost and Mal responds that he's known for that, it is a reference back to Mal's time as a soldier fighting for the Independents in the Unification War.


Wondering over River's fate against the Reavers in the next room, the blast doors suddenly open, and the crew sees her standing there in the middle of the room, clutching a bloodied weapon in each hand. So who opened the door?! Maybe River has telekinetic powers as well?


What planet is the crew on when they bury Wash, Book, and Mr. Universe? From the desert landscape seen, it might be interpreted as Haven, but the film script describes it only as a desert planet. Either way leaves the question of how did Serenity get off Miranda? Her port engine was ripped off in the crash landing. After the burial scene, we see the crew repairing the ship, including installing a new port engine. No other person (repairmen, etc.) are seen in this montage, so it may be they did all of this while still on Miranda, salvaging the parts needed from the dead city. When the Operative pays a tense visit to Mal after the repairs are complete, it's implied he assisted with the patching up in some way; not directly, but by providing resources or towing them to another world or some such.


During the funeral scene, small rocks are seen to have been placed on top of the three tombstones, a Jewish tradition; presumably, there is one for each surviving member of the crew, i.e. seven. Zoe wears a white dress, a customary Chinese color of mourning. A small rocket is seen sitting atop a fourth, blank headstone, with what may be firecrackers attached to it. Zoe approaches it with a flame, but for some reason we don't see the rocket lit in the movie. The script describes the rocket being lit and blasting off into the sky, where the fireworks explode. In some Asian countries such as Thailand, this is a tradition at funerals.


The tombstones reveal that Book's first name is Derrial (though we learn in The Shepherd's Tale that Derrial Book is not his real name) and Wash's first name is Hoban.


Mal refers to River as "little albatross" as they copilot Serenity out of the atmosphere and into space. This refers back to his discussion of the "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" with the Operative in "A Better World".


The last 50 seconds of the end credits feature a new guitar instrumental version of the theme song of Firefly.


Notes from the Audio Commentary by Joss Whedon on the DVD


Joss comments that he needed Wash's death in the final act to make the viewer think that, just maybe, no one was going to survive the final confrontation, that this could be a Wild Bunch scenario where all our protagonists die. The Wild Bunch is a 1969 Western film about an aging outlaw gang that decides to pull one final heist, which leads to their deaths against an assortment of other cutthroats.


Joss remarks on the Operative's turnabout at the end of the movie: "For the hero to convince the bad guy that he's wrong is a lot more powerful than just killing him."


Chinese translations
(Thanks to the Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary for the translations)
Time on DVD Chinese English
1:38:22 Chinese writing on the metal crates Unknown
1:46:09 Chinese writing on metal crate: Jing gao: Zha yao dan tou Warning: Explosives Bullets
1:48:12 The necklace worn by Kaylee at the triple funeral has a large pendant of the Chinese symbol "Xi". Marital bliss (Mal has this same symbol on a wall-hanging in his quarters in episodes of the TV series, see "Serenity")


Memorable Dialog


I am a leaf on the wind.wav

do you really think any of us are going to get through this?.wav

can't stop the signal.wav

I'm gonna live.wav

my swingin' cod.wav

do you know what your sin is?.wav

a war you've already lost.wav

I like to hear you say it.wav

a home.wav

storms getting worse.wav 


Back to Firefly/Serenity Episode Studies