Episode Review of Firefly: "Heart of Gold"

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Episode Information

Title: "Heart of Gold"
Writer: Brett Matthews
Director: Thomas J. Wright
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: April 22, 2008

Synopsis from TV.com


Mal successfully defends a whorehouse, but ends up losing more than he can possibly imagine.

An old Companion friend of Inara's, Nandi, asks her for help. She is now running a whorehouse on a frontier world. The local rich guy, Ranse Burgess, is demanding that the prostitute pregnant with his child give the child to him. Nandi and the pregnant woman, Petaline, have refused, but Ranse has the money and firepower to take the child by force. Inara promises to ask Mal if he and the crew will help. Surprisingly, Mal agrees quickly and refuses payment.

Serenity lands and the crew join with the women (and some men) of the whorehouse to make plans. Mal and Inara attend a local cultural event so that Mal can talk to Ranse and size him up - he doesn't like what he sees, and immediately suggests that the crew and all Nandi's people pack up and leave. Nandi refuses to give in, so Mal and the rest plan for Ranse's assault. One of the prostitutes is spying for Ranse and reports on Mal's arrival.

Everyone knows that Ranse will attack the next day. Petaline goes into labor, which keeps Simon, River, and Inara occupied - it the first time delivering a baby for all of them. Jayne quickly takes up with one of the women and instructs her on how to keep giving him guns during the fight - then they enjoy themselves.

Nandi takes a fancy to Mal; she can see that he is attracted to Inara, but doesn't think that Inara returns the feelings. They spend the night together. The next morning, Inara catches Mal leaving Nandi's room - she puts on a good front of indifference that fools Mal, but later we see her crying over it. When Nandi sees Inara, she realizes that Inara has feelings for Mal, too, but there's no time for them to discuss it, since Ranse attacks.

The fight is a weird mix of modern and western technology. Most of Ranse's men are on horseback, and most people on both sides are shooting conventional guns. But then Ranse also has some kind of hovercraft and a powerful laser gun. Ranse's spy sneaks him into the building, where he takes the just-born baby boy. However, Nandi and Inara stop him and manage to take back the boy, but Nandi is fatally wounded.

Mal is enraged by Nandi's death and runs down Ranse's hovercraft on horseback - one of the less believable portions of the show. Must be a pretty crummy hovercraft. Mal punches out Ranse and brings him back to the whorehouse, where Petaline promptly executes him. She lets the surviving men of Ranse's forces go and kicks out Ranse's spy. Mal and the crew stay for Nandi's funeral, and then head off on Serenity.

Once back on Serenity, Mal and Inara akwardly almost discuss their feelings for each other, and then Inara announces that she's decided to leave Serenity for the good of both of them. Mal is stunned.

This episode was reasonably entertaining, but was mostly fluff except for the development of Mal and Inara's relationship. The whorehouse situation was pretty cliched. I enjoyed Petaline killing Ranse with no regrets as a hard look at frontier life. Mal's conversation with Ranse about his gun was amusing.

There were some other issues that were brought up, but didn't seem to go anywhere. We had a few short scenes of Book and some of the prostitutes talking - we might expect Book to be uncomfortable, and he was, but the discussion of their prayer meetings didn't go anywhere. Kaylee mused about whether the male prostitutes were only for other men, but then she seemed to disappear for much of the time. During the fight, Mal sent Wash and Kaylee back to Serenity as part of the plan, but Ranse had wisely sent men to hold Serenity. While Wash and Kaylee captured Ranse's men, they were unable to follow through on the plan. But we don't even know what that was - Serenity doesn't even have weapons. It didn't seem to matter in the end, anyway.

One interesting discussion that might have had ramifications (if the series had continued) was Zoe and Wash discussing having a baby. Wash is opposed, because he doesn't think their current lifestyle is very safe. Zoe agrees, but think they should anyway. Having Zoe have a baby on the series would certainly change around a lot of the dynamics between the characters and would have been very interesting to see.

The big event of the show really happened in the closing lines: Inara leaving. Obviously she feels that now that her feelings for Mal are known (although I'm not sure Mal realizes what they are), she must make some kind of change. Why that change must involve leaving is not clear to me. Is she hoping to force Mal into acting on his feelings for her by asking her to stay? She should realize he's way too stubborn for that. Has she just decided that she needs to get over Mal and move on?

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