My Theory on Why It’s a Good Thing Fox Canceled Firefly When It Did

Save your tomatoes till the end, folks.

Firefly was a show from Joss Whedon that was on for one season a few years ago. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

The nerd love, let’s be honest, is strong with this show. And it should be, because Firefly was brilliant. It had heart and humor, derring-do and shades of gray (one day I’ll tell you about my “Joss Whedon’s increasingly dubious morality” theory). Each episode was infinitely quotable, magnificently plotted, and incredibly satisfying. The cast was astonishingly solid; it’s not just that there weren’t any weak links – from the very beginning, everyone meshed and every character was fully developed. Most Joss Whedon shows take about half a season to find their footing, but Firefly knew exactly what it wanted to be and how to go about getting there from the first ten minutes of the pilot.

So it’s not that I don’t want more Firefly, because, well, duh. It’s just that I’d have a little trepidation about that story continuing. Because, above all else, what set Firefly apart for me – and the reason it’s my favorite Joss Whedon show – is that it was almost entirely angst-free. There’s no world to save, no prophecy to fulfill, no evil villains to defeat. There’s just a bunch of fairly unremarkable people trying to quietly make a living and maybe have a few laughs or do some sightseeing or fall in love. There’s no Buffy: I must save humanity from monsters! or Angel: I must be a champion for the Powers That Be! or Echo: I must stop the evil dystopian corporation from taking over the world! The crew of Serenity doesn’t really matter to the people in charge, and so, even though their lot might be a bit difficult, they’re happy with it.

Watching this coming right out of my Buffy/Angel marathon was the most refreshing thing possible. But my fear is that it would have been unsustainable, that Firefly would have inevitably fallen into the same angsty/gotta save the world from the evil authorities who are after me personally/chosen one/all I want is a normal life sensibility that all of Joss Whedon’s shows end up in. There were already signs of this in the movie (which is one of the reasons I didn’t really care for the movie all that much). River Tam is the chosen one and the Alliance is brainwashing its citizens and Mal is moody and oh look beloved characters are dying and we’ve gotta stop them guys ONLY WE CAN SAVE HUMANITY.

Yes, the movie was a nice conclusion to the story. But I felt like it was starting to betray what I loved about the show, and I feel like it’s reasonable to expect that any further seasons would have gone in a similar direction. Because, see, I loved the Mal who didn’t take shit from anyone, who knew exactly what he stood for and was perfectly capable and content hanging out on the fringes of his universe, and I don’t think I would have liked seeing moody, mopey “the love of my life left me and now we have to go save the universe” Mal week after week. So I complain a little bit about FOX to keep up appearances and all that, but I also tuck the movie Serenity into my little mental vault (where I also put the Star Wars prequels, the Harry Potter epilogue, and the entire 7th season of Buffy) and am secretly thankful that nobody got a chance to mess up the show I loved.

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3 responses to “My Theory on Why It’s a Good Thing Fox Canceled Firefly When It Did

  1. As much as I would love to see more Mal…you make a good point. Though I did enjoy the movie, even if they did dare to kill my Wash.

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    • I liked the movie, because, even with its flaws, it was still (a) Firefly and (b) made by Joss Whedon, and so it sort of has to still be decent, even when it’s bad. I just really think that if the show had gone on for much longer, it would have indulged the bad parts of the movie rather than the good parts of the show, if that makes any sense.

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      • Oh I absolutely do. One of the things I think ruins a good show is not ending it when the story is over. Not every show should go on for over 20 seasons (ahem, The Simpsons). Some shows can tell their story in a season, some in five. Imagine how much happier everyone would have been if we’d found out who the killer was in The Killing at the end of the first and only season?

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