Firefly Retro Review: The Train Job

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If you were watching back in 2002 when it originally aired, Firefly Season 1 Episode 2 would have been the first episode you saw due to Fox airing installments out of order.

While this is a great hour, it's definitely better served if you saw Firefly Season 1 Episode 1 before it.

Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the pilot, did such a good job establishing the characters that by "The Train Job," character development was already in motion.

The bar brawl is probably one of the best opening scenes in terms of establishing the setting of the show.  Mal gets thrown out of a holographic window of an old saloon and then gets rescued from a good old-fashioned bar fight by his spaceship.

You can't get more "futuristic space western" than that. 

The job they get is from a ruthless crime lord, Adelai Niska, who makes it a point to show them just how psychopathic he is.  They have to steal cargo from a moving train, no questions asked.

Unfortunately, the train is full of Alliance officers who complicate the execution of the heist. Making things worse, Mal and Zoe find out that the cargo was full of much-needed medication for the town they're stopped in.

The way Mal handles this job shows more of his character. He's not ashamed or afraid of being on the wrong side of the law, but he has honor and won't let a town full of sick people face death just to score a paycheck. 

The only person on his crew who even questions those ethics is Jayne, who spent the entire episode giving questionable directives to the crew.  

Jayne is almost the polar opposite of Mal. While the latter will risk his life for his crew and for people who are in need, Jayne is more than willing to cut his losses and high-tail it out of the danger zone. If not for the rest of the folks on Serenity, Jayne would have left Mal and Zoe behind.

Some of the most compelling moments this episode were with the passengers of Serenity, Simon and Shepherd Book. The crew of Serenity has made a point of living on the fringes of civilization, but they have their very own outcasts on the ship.

Neither Book or Simon are members of the crew, and they both know how hopelessly out of place they are on the ship. The jobs of thievery that Mal takes on are not part of the lives they're used to leading. However, they both find themselves trying to fit in and be useful. 

Book has an easier time of it - mostly because it's constantly alluded to that he knows more than a simple Shepherd should know. Even as a Shepherd, though, he finds that his prayers, while renounced by Mal, are actually welcome by Inara.

Simon's attempt to fit in isn't quite as successful at first.

Kaylee: Hey doctor.
Simon: You really should just call me Simon.

Simon's response here isn't an acknowledgment of familiarity, camaraderie or friendship. It's more of a resignation to his current situation. He's a man whose superior intelligence and social standing has always brought him a measure of respect and usefulness, but there's none of that for him on Serenity. 

At the beginning of the episode, his attempt to be a medic after the bar fight was pleasantly reneged by Mal and he found himself unsure of his place on the ship. Not to mention, Jayne later told him to get out of everyone's way. What's the point of being called doctor when it doesn't matter to anyone around you?

However, both Simon and Book later found their place... or have at least started to do so. Book proposed the plan for Mal and Zoe's extraction and rescue. Simon rightfully figured that Jayne was a dangerous man to have in charge and, by the end of the episode, he was back in the infirmary doing his medic duties.

River, Simon's sister, continues to be brilliantly crazy. She somehow manages to recall everything about the firefly class of ship, but still is mostly incoherent. However, "two by two, hands of blue" seems to be more than the ramblings of a crazy teenager, as the episode closes with Men-In-Black wearing blue surgical gloves...

The last scene with Niska's men, where Mal kicks the big henchman into the ship's propellers, is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. It is what sold me on the show back when I first watched it. Firefly deftly balances depth with humor with moments such as this one and with dialogue packed with wit. 


  • Love the tension between Mal and Inara.  Unresolved romantic tension at its finest.
  • Again with the compression coil...


  • Captain Malcolm Reynolds is being played by the king geek himself, Nathan Fillion, who many of you may recognize from TV today as the titular Castle. There are a LOT of shout-outs to Firefly in the show Castle.

NOTE: You can watch Firefly online at any time via TV Fanatic.

The Train Job Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (12 Votes)
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Firefly Season 1 Episode 2 Quotes

A ship would bring you work; a gun would help you keep it


A captain's goal was simple. Find a crew, find a job, keep flying.