Firefly: Season 1 (2002 - 2003)

Season 1

Critics Consensus

Firefly earns its audience's adoration with the help of Nathan Fillion's dry delivery, a detailed fantasy world, and compelling storylines -- even if it doesn't stand with creator Joss Whedon's most consistent work.



Critic Ratings: 44


Audience Score

User Ratings: 755

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Air date: Dec 20, 2002

Conclusion. Mal races to hold the Reavers at bay, while Simon struggles to keep River safe from the Alliance mole. River: Summer Glau. Simon: Sean Maher. Jayne: Adam Baldwin.

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Air date: Sep 20, 2002

The premiere episode of Firefly, directed by the show's creator, Joss Whedon, opens in a bar, where Mal (Nathan Fillion), the captain of the titular transport ship, is having a drink with Zoe (Gina Torres) and Jayne (Adam Baldwin). Another patron (Tom Towles) shouts out a toast in honor of Unification Day, which celebrates the Alliance's triumph over the Independents, and the end of the galaxy's civil war. Mal takes offense, picks a fight with his quips, and the three Serenity crew members end up between a cliff and an angry armed mob of Alliance sympathizers. Happily, Serenity's pilot (and Zoe's husband), Wash (Alan Tudyk), pulls the ship up behind them, and pulls them out of trouble. Back on the ship, Simon (Sean Maher) is tending to his sister, River (Summer Glau), who is having nightmares about being tortured at the Academy, but won't tell Simon what happened to her. Simon gave up his comfortable life to rescue her, and they are now fugitives. Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) questions why Mal, who doesn't need any attention from the Alliance, would risk helping the high-profile fugitives. Mal later gets work from Adelai Niska (Michael Fairman), a ruthless criminal who warns Mal that there will be trouble if Mal and his crew don't get the job done. Niska wants him to rob an Alliance train, and Mal agrees to do it without knowing what he's stealing. After a daring raid, in which the goods are lifted out from under the noses of a squad of Feds, Mal has a crisis of conscience when he learns that he's stolen medical supplies bound for a struggling mining town. "The Train Job" aired as the premiere episode because Fox was not happy with Whedon's original two-hour pilot.

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Air date: Sep 27, 2002

Praised for his selflessness in rescuing River (Summer Glau) from the Academy, Simon (Sean Maher) quips, "I selflessly turned us both into wanted fugitives." The Serenity encounters a seemingly abandoned cargo ship, a short-range vessel reconfigured to carry settlers. Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) insists that they board the ship to see if anyone needs help. Mal (Nathan Fillion) agrees to check it out, because there might be something valuable aboard to scavenge. Mal and Zoe (Gina Torres) board the ship, where it seems like everyone left in a hurry. Mal calls over some others to help pilfer the farming supplies, but soon finds what remains of the ship's passengers, and realizes they were attacked by the dreaded Reavers. Horrified, he orders everyone back to the Serenity, but before they can leave, Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is attacked by the ship's sole survivor (Branden Morgan). Mal manages to subdue the distraught young man, and they take him to the Serenity's infirmary. "It doesn't matter we took him off that boat, Shepherd," Mal tells Book, "It's the place he's gonna live from now on." Mal soon discovers that the Reavers left a booby trap for any potential rescue ship, and the Serenity will be blown up if they try to detach themselves. Just as Kaylee (Jewel Staite) manages to disarm the trap, the Serenity runs up against a massive Alliance ship. Simon and River are hidden away, as Mal and the rest of the crew are questioned by a strident young Alliance commander (Doug Savant). Meanwhile, the survivor snaps, and begins emulating the Reavers, viciously attacking his rescuers.

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Air date: Nov 1, 2002

The crew plans a visit to Persephone, where Mal (Nathan Fillion) just wants to re-supply, look for a job, and get out. He walks in on Inara (Morena Baccarin) as she's making plans to visit a regular client on the planet, a well-heeled gentleman named Atherton Wing (Edward Atterton). She tells Mal she'll attend a grand ball with Atherton. Mal, obviously jealous, makes disparaging comments about her profession, and she returns the favor. On the planet, Mal mocks Kaylee (Jewel Staite) when she admires a frilly dress in a store window, opining that his mechanic in such a get-up would resemble "a sheep walking on its hind legs." Later, Mal gets a business proposition from an unfriendly acquaintance, Badger (Mark Sheppard). There's a rich client, Harrow (Larry Drake), who has some goods he wants smuggled off the planet, but he won't deal with the lowlife Badger. Badger suggests that the somewhat more refined Mal hook up with Harrow at an upcoming ball (the same one Inara's attending, of course), and take the job. Mal makes up for his earlier rudeness to Kaylee by getting her that frilly dress, so he can go to the ball as her escort. While Kaylee attacks the buffet table, and wows a group of attentive men with her technical expertise, Mal approaches Harrow and offers his services. Before any kind of deal can be struck, Mal sees Inara and is introduced to Atherton. Mal cuts in on their dance, and Inara tells him that Atherton has asked her to live with him on Persephone. This news provokes Mal to strike Atherton, inadvertently challenging him to a duel. Atherton, an expert swordsman, accepts. Does Mal know anything about fighting with swords? As Zoe (Gina Torres) puts it, "I think he knows which end to hold."

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Air date: Nov 8, 2002

River's (Summer Glau) behavior is getting more erratic, and Simon (Sean Maher) is having difficulty controlling her. The Serenity touches down to deliver the cattle they picked up in "Shindig." As some of the crew go off exploring the area, local law enforcement stages a raid on the buyers during the transaction, and Book (Ron Glass) is badly wounded in the crossfire. He needs medical attention, but Simon and River are nowhere to be found. They've been abducted by local bandits, who routinely kidnap visitors and drag them to their village. The townspeople welcome them graciously, though, because they need Simon's medical skills. Unable to locate Simon, Mal (Nathan Fillion) reluctantly decides to leave the planet and seek aid from an Alliance cruiser stationed nearby. The Alliance is unwilling to help them until they learn Book's identity, and then, suddenly and mysteriously, the wheels are greased. Meanwhile, back on the planet, the townspeople's hospitality turns to malevolence when they learn that River seemingly has the ability to read minds. The superstitious hicks proclaim her a witch, and prepare to burn her at the stake. Simon stands beside her, prepared to die along with his sister if the townspeople follow through with their plans. Flashbacks throughout the episode show how Simon defied his father and gave up a promising medical career to respond to the encoded cries for help which River sent him from the Academy.

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Air date: Oct 4, 2002

After Mal (Nathan Fillion) and the crew help a backwater community fend off a vicious band of robbers, Mal takes off his dress and bonnet (long story) and there's a drunken celebration. The next morning, Serenity has to leave in a hurry to avoid an Alliance patrol boat, and Mal finds an uninvited guest aboard. Her name is Saffron (Christina Hendricks), but she introduces herself to Mal by telling him, "I'm your wife." It seems that at the party the night before, as Book (Ron Glass) helpfully explains, Mal unwittingly participated in some kind of primitive marriage ceremony with this pretty, impossibly naïve and innocent young woman. Since they can't bring her back, Mal reassures her that he won't kill her, and decides to drop her off at their next destination, Beaumont, where she can probably find work on a farm. Most of the crew are amused at Mal's predicament, with the notable exception of Inara (Morena Baccarin). Jayne (Adam Baldwin) offers to trade Mal his most beloved gun, Vera, for the blushing bride. Book warns Mal that if he takes sexual advantage of Saffron during the week-long trip to Beaumont, he'll be going to a "special Hell...reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater." Unfortunately for the pent-up Mal, Saffron seems determined to consummate their marriage. "Leave me at the nearest port," she tells him, "only let me have my wedding night." Unfortunately for the rest of the crew, Saffron seems to be in cahoots with some rather less pretty types who are greedily tracking Serenity .

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Air date: Oct 18, 2002

Simon (Sean Maher) is trying to explain to Kaylee (Jewel Staite), who's obviously smitten with him, that he does indeed use swear words, when it's "appropriate." They're interrupted by a commotion, which turns out to be Jayne (Adam Baldwin) trashing the infirmary, looking for some tape, so he can strap a gun to his belly. Turns out their next job is in Canton, where guns are forbidden. Mal (Nathan Fillion) insists that they obey this rule, despite Jayne's worries. Jayne has been to Canton before, and thinks he may have an enemy or two waiting there for him. Kaylee suggests that Simon come along on the trip, leaving Book (Ron Glass) to look after River (Summer Glau). Mal knows the only way they'll be able to pick up the goods they're supposed to deliver is by posing as buyers of the planet's clay, and since Simon is the only one on Serenity who looks moneyed, Mal agrees to bring him along. Canton turns out to be a smelly, dirty, impoverished place, where the clay workers, mostly indentured servants, are treated like chattel. The local magistrate, Higgins (Gregory Itzin), has contracted the services of Inara (Morena Baccarin) to deflower his 26-year-old son. To the shock of the Serenity crew, including the man himself, there's a statue of Jayne in the middle of Canton, and the workers sing his praises in the tavern -- all because on his last visit, Jayne was forced to dump the loot he stole from Higgins over the town as he made his escape. While Jayne confusedly basks in his misguided glory, Higgins plots revenge. Meanwhile back on the ship, River tells Book that his Bible is "broken," -- filled with "contradictions" and "false statistics," -- and she's taken the liberty of "fixing" it.

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Air date: Oct 25, 2002

This episode opens with Serenity idle, floating in space. Mal (Nathan Fillion) appears to be the only soul aboard, and he's badly wounded. Bleeding and gasping for breath, he flashes back to when he bought the ship. He explained to Zoe (Gina Torres), back then, how the little ship would keep them out from under the arm of the Alliance. As Mal struggles to stay alive and make a critical repair to Serenity, he flashes back to the beginning. We see how he hired Wash (Alan Tudyk) over Zoe's objections; how he used cold cash to convince Jayne (Adam Baldwin) to turn against his pirate brethren, who were robbing the ship; how he convinced a stately companion, Inara (Morena Baccarin), to rent one of his shuttles; and how he discovered that a promiscuous country bumpkin, Kaylee (Jewel Staite), was also a brilliant mechanic. Mal also remembers, much more recently, how an explosion onboard Serenity knocked out Zoe, robbed the ship of most of its oxygen, and disabled all the life-support systems. Because they had been flying "under the radar" at the time, to avoid the Alliance, it was unlikely that anyone would receive the ship's distress call, so Mal opted to stay with the ship, sending the rest of the crew out in the two shuttles, in hopes of reaching help. As it turns out, someone does pick up their distress signal, but they may not be the good Samaritans Mal was hoping to see.

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Air date: Nov 15, 2002

The Serenity visits Ariel, a core planet, which has all the amenities and is under complete Alliance control. Inara (Morena Baccarin) has to undergo physical exams to renew her companion license. River (Summer Glau) becomes violent, slashing Jayne (Adam Baldwin) with a knife without provocation. The crew needs work, but Mal (Nathan Fillion) is leery of looking for it on Ariel. Simon (Sean Maher) offers them a job. If they get him and River into the diagnostic lab of the local hospital so he can figure out what was done to River at the Academy, Simon will tell the crew which drugs are the most valuable, so they can steal them. After patching up a junked space ambulance, stealing uniforms and forging ID badges, they're ready to go. River and Simon are brought to the hospital disguised as corpses. While Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Zoe (Gina Torres) go to get the drugs, Jayne takes the siblings to the diagnostic lab. At one point, Jayne sneaks off and makes contact with a federal agent (Blake Robbins). He has his own devious plan -- to turn Simon and River in for a huge reward. In the lab, Simon learns that the Academy repeatedly operated on River's brain, stripping away the part that allowed her to keep her emotions in check. He downloads the brain scan for further study, and then Jayne leads them right into the hands of the feds. The feds double-cross Jayne, so as those creepy blue-handed government operatives whom River dreads arrive at the hospital, Jayne tries to help Simon and River escape.

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Air date: Dec 6, 2002

Simon (Sean Maher)'s treatment of River (Summer Glau) is helping her sleep a little better, but she's still unstable. Inara (Morena Baccarin) entertains a powerful client, who turns out to be a woman, on the ship. Jayne (Adam Baldwin) has stolen a crate of apples, which he strangely shares with the rest of the crew. Kaylee (Jewel Staite) notices that Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Zoe (Gina Torres) always cut up their apples before eating them, which leads Zoe to tell another grisly war story. Wash (Alan Tudyk), tired of the reverence with which his wife seems to treat the captain, messes with the shuttle so that Zoe can't fly it, forcing Mal to use Wash instead of Zoe the next time he goes to deliver some stolen goods. Wash tries to reassure the captain about his experience. "I've been in a firefight before!" he tells Mal. "Well, I was in a fire..." he amends, "Actually, I was fired...from a...fry cook opportunity." Unfortunately, the pair are waylaid by Niska (Michael Fairman), the powerful criminal Mal double-crossed in "The Train Job." Niska decides to torture Mal and Wash to death, while Mal keeps Wash's spirits up by arguing with him about Zoe. Zoe shows up and tries to pay Niska for his captives. Niska decides she's only got enough money for one of them, necessitating a daring rescue mission. River turns out to be surprisingly -- almost disturbingly -- handy with a gun.

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Firefly: Season 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

A former rebel and his renegade crew embark on galactic missions for profit in a transport ship, named Serenity, in this space swashbuckler set 400 years in the future.

News & Interviews for Firefly: Season 1

Critic Reviews for Firefly Season 1

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (27)

It's different and it's good, but Nathan Fillion is the wimpiest hero since Mr. Limpet.

Feb 9, 2021 | Full Review…

The dialogue is not quite as snappy as Buffy or Angel, but both those shows started slowly and built momentum. Firefly may do the same... It's a provocative mishmash of future shock and peculiar anachronisms.

Feb 9, 2021 | Full Review…

"Firefly" blasts off in fine style. It's a lot of spaced-out fun.

Feb 9, 2021 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

[Joss] Whedon's approach is intriguing, and the storytelling refuses to settle for simple heroics.

Jan 29, 2020 | Full Review…

Whether it's enough for a ya'll-come-back-y'hear depends, I suspect, on your faith in Whedon's ability to whip it into shape once it docks.

Jan 28, 2020 | Rating: C | Full Review…

It's pretty forgettable.

Jan 28, 2020 | Full Review…

The key to shows like this is its characters and the way they interrelate. Though arguably overly-calculated in this regard, Firely's characters are immediately interesting and their personal stories and struggles involving.

Jan 29, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Premiere is quite entertaining. Just don't go in expecting your average sci-fi, outer-space series. Go in looking for a Western with sci-fi touches.

Jan 29, 2020 | Full Review…

Without the patina of [Joss] Whedon's name, Firefly is just a nondescript adventure hour in a Friday time period in which Fox has had 11 different series in 11 years.

Jan 29, 2020 | Full Review…

The revitalizing take Firefly gives us of our potential civilization five hundred years from now is a unique one, not marred by overly idealistic sympathies or absurd, estranged technology.

Sep 25, 2018 | Full Review…

Firefly has all the elements to enjoy it... [Full review in Spanish]

May 22, 2018 | Full Review…

By the time Mal utters the words "We're still flying" at the episode's end, we know exactly what this show was, is and could have been, and that's what a good first episode should be able to do.

May 21, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Firefly: Season 1

  • Feb 01, 2021
    Firefly fails to reach the same narrative highs as some of Joss Whedon's other, more consistent work, but it does boast fully realized characters with an unbreakable on-screen chemistry, unforgettable dialogue and an impressive visual flair.
  • Oct 30, 2020
    There is this one question that from eons untold haunts many a sci-fi enthusiasts all over the world, and it goes like this: "<Star Wars> or <Star Trek>?". Well, from now on to that question I firmly answer: "<Firefly>". This show, despite being so very, very short, is not only a definitive visual work in the entirety of the space western genre (sorry, "Mandalorian", but you ain't even close), it is a bona fide definition of a cult classic. Nothing that I've seen in similar works (including both of aforementioned titans of science fiction) achieves so effortlessly such an Olympic level of writing, and that applies to it all: originality of characters, their dialogues (especially the clever one-liners), plot structure both in episodes and in the series as a whole... And there is a thousand and a one other things that went well here (cast, sets, world-building, costumes, design of it all), so if I were to name them all, this review would quickly become a book, so I will try and contain myself. Although I must at least mention Nathan Fillion and how splendidly he embodied the role of captain Malcolm Raynolds – an archetype of the space smuggler with heart of gold that, in my personal opinion, outranks even Han Solo himself. And with all this praise said and done I can now only add one last thing, with a smile on my face: "There's no place I can be since I found <Serenity>...".
  • Oct 25, 2020
    I am a browncoat... ...
  • Sep 23, 2020
    The show that should have been the best science fiction series of all time, with wonderful attention to detail and not a single dud episode. Fondly remembered by a loyal audience, its genius was dis missed at the time in favour of more profitable ventures.
  • Sep 16, 2020
    What else really needs to be said? This is basically a masterclass in all forms of cinema: narrative, music, screenplay, framing, presentation, costume, concept. Firefly is eternally strong, and its indoctrination among the most cultish of classics through its strained creation and distribution only makes its legendary aesthetic even more unique and inspiring. This is a true gem among the sci-fi canon, and there will likely never be anything that hits the notes quite as right as Friefly did.
  • Aug 23, 2020
    Hands down, the best SciFi TV series ever! Of course there were only a little over a dozen episodes, so Firefly never had the opportunity to stale.
  • Aug 21, 2020
    It was really such a damn crying shame that this show was as screwed over as it was because the show kicks ass, despite lasting only 14 episodes, 3 of which never even aired. Maybe Joss Whedon should've considering pitching this show to a different company. After all, his scripts for his last two sci-fi endeavours were hit big time by executive meddling. While I perhaps won't become as fanatic about the show as those who started watching it and got PISSED with the network leaving the show to rot, that doesn't mean I didn't find a lot worth loving. The writing is sharp and witty with some hilarious bait-and-switch moments, the acting is stellar, the action sequences are enjoyable, the cheesy camerawork serves as part of the show's charm, the world-building makes the show stand out primarily by being essentially anti-Star Trek with no aliens or ambassadors, the characters are memorable and fleshed out pretty well and the cast shares great chemistry with each other. You can definitely get the feeling of friendship and camarederie with the crew of Serenity and clearly had a lot of fun hanging out with each other, everybody having their own dynamic with each other that are all entertaining in their own right. Maybe in an alternate reality, Firefly is this big TV show that became a cultural phenomenon the same way Fox shows like The Simpsons and The X-Files left an impact but the fourteen episodes we got to see in this reality definitely make the show worth checking out. Besides, the series stilll managed to live on with a movie and a lot of comic books. If that wasn't reassurance that this show hasn't fallen into obscurity, I don't know what is.
  • Aug 11, 2020
    A must see mismanaged show with a fantastic cast and a story that should have lasted forever.
  • Jul 24, 2020
    The Most Amazing Space opera Ever-Made!its a Shame on Studio that it wasn't continued,Literally Each and every episode is worth experiencing,the Characters were heart and there Togetherness and weirdness was engaging and amazing to watch,the back-story of whole crew specially The Shepherds was very Amazingly Glimpsed Love to see whole Origin of his and whole crew,the music and intro of whole show has the out-of-world feeling,the Story was brilliant,the visuals and CGI was breath-taking,the whole theme and feel of show the western fights and all it was literally incredibly awesome.The jokes and Punchlines throughout the show was sarcastic and amazing the whole "Our Mrs Reynolds" Episode is jaw-droppingly hilarious,the Cultures and system through-out the show was amazingly showcased,right from the start the adventures in different planets was awesome to explore,the main plot Inara's and Mal's love story was amazingly developed yet the incomplete ending was sad,the RIver and Simon's story was emotionally encouraging and the Last episode it was emotionally satisfying.Literally each and every episode in this show is Masterpiece!Overall its the Must-watch Incredible/speech-less experience A Masterpiece!
  • Jul 18, 2020
    A cult sci-fi western classic.

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