Firefly (Flashback) recap: Running On Empty

'Out Of Gas' grasps greatness by making Mal gasp for life
Ep. 08 | Aired Apr 17, 2011

MISSING PIECES: As Mal (Nathan Fillion) struggles to install a much needed engine part, Serenity's captain recalls how he gathered the ship's most vital components:  His crew. 

Science Channel

“Out of Gas” was one of my favorite episodes of Firefly. It’s also an episode about which I have very little to say, and even less today given that I am mentally fogged-in from a head cold. It wasn’t episode full of prickly ideas and themes to be wallowed in and rassled with like a Mudder in Jaynestown – though that isn’t to say that “Out of Gas” wasn’t full of high-octane drama to think about and feel.  The absorbing hour had mortally wounded Mal flashing on different sets of memories – snapshot recollections of purchasing Serenity and recruiting his crew; the more linear, continuous story chronicling the lead-up to his present predicament --  during a bloody, oxygen-deprived trudge to the engine room in a desperate bid to save himself and the vessel that had become more than just vehicle for him, but an expression of a still-burning idealism that the war couldn’t totally extinguish. I enjoyed the poetically fluid flashback structure (that’s right: “fluidly poetic.” I said it. I meant it!) created by writer Tim Minear that evoked other classic examples of unconventional storytelling in The Joss Whedon Family of Shows, my personal faves being “The Body” from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the chilly gem that awaits us at the end of the Firefly line, “Objects In Space.”

Maybe I have more to say about “Out of Gas” after all. But I can’t. Head cold. Ach! I can’t afford to go long today. I don’t even have the mental energy to concoct my usual post-opening preamble title/pull-quote sequence, like…

LIFE SUPPORT

"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does that mean--tame?" "It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties… Men have forgotten this truth. … But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” -- The Little Prince

+++

SALESMAN: Tell you what, you buy this ship, treat her proper,

she'll be with ya for the rest of your life.

+++

MAL: You’re all going to be here when I wake up?

BOOK: We’ll be here.

MAL: Good.

ARRGGHH! Stop being pretentious and ponderous! Just be expedient! Must … get … you … to … message boards…. ASAP… like … Mal… had … to … uuhhhhhhhh*…. get … part … to …. engine… room… quickly… before… expiringgggggg….

I loved the many bits of backstory revelation and trivia. That Wash once rocked a ‘stache and wore Tommy Bahama shirts. That Zoe hated future-husband Wash at first sight. That Jayne met Mal while sticking him up – and was bought to Mal’s side with the promise of a bigger room, all to himself. That Inara supported Unification, a beat that makes her combustible relationship with Browncoat Mal more than just opposites-attract blah blah blah. That Kaylee, that sweet little grease monkey, was never as sweet she appeared. (I also loved how Serenity’s original mechanic was some Brad Pitt-ish himbo.)

NEXT: The asterisk is explained. The reference to The Little Prince is not. Sorry.

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