Agents of Firefly - Joss Whedon's Karmic Circle

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I’ve been re-watching season 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it dawned on me that the show really is just a larger budget, less engaging Firefly. I don’t think it’s far outside the consensus to say that Agents… wasn’t Joss Whedon’s most well-received TV show among his fan-base, even as it was a ratings hit.

Friends’ opinions ranged from “boring” to "a missed opportunity" to “not well thought-out.” But what I think I’m seeing is Firefly hangover. By the end of the season, Whedon had set up his new universe so that the crew of “the bus” are basically alone out there - self-righteous fugatives outside of the law. This is a premise that will sound instantly recognizable to any Firefly fan. But the parallels are deeper than that.

Let’s look at the cast of characters.

There’s the captain of the ship, an unassuming man with a large reputation for doing what he feels is right, laws and ethics be damned. He’s excessively loyal to and protective of his crew, and has a fatherly soft spot for a young woman in distress. Is that Malcolm Reynolds or Phil Coulson?

His second in command is a woman (and ethnic minority) who happens to be a warrior of great prowess. She knows her boss so well that they have their own operational short hand. Is that Zoe or May?

There’s another warrior on board, a younger man with a troubled past who may or may not betray the crew at any time. His loyalty runs hot and cold, very strong when it suits him, but malleable if there looks to be a better opportunity coming. Is that Jayne or Ward? I know that Ward’s out as of the end of season 1, but I don’t think that’s permanent.

Then there’s the young girl, gifted and a power unto herself, capable of many surprising, almost inhuman acts, but who doesn’t know her own worth or mysterious past. Is that River or Skye (and what’s with the geographic naming?)?

Of course there’s the brilliant engineer who can make a technological solution to any problem, but for this new incarnation, let’s swap genders, so is that Kaylee or Fitz?

Again with a gender swap, we have a brilliant young doctor, the knowing recipient of unrequited desire of the engineer. Is that Simmons or Simon (and aren’t those two names close to each other?)?

And lastly, there’s the ship. An old ship, no longer is service, long surpassed by bigger and better ships. But she’s special, somehow almost magical, even as she gets beat up week after week. Is that Serenity or the Bus?

The last incarnation of Firefly, the movie Serenity, killed off Wash (the pilot), and Book (the preacher), and moved Inara off-ship and as such they aren't represented in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It feels like there’re too many parallels here to be a coincidence. I’m not saying that Whedon is rebooting Firefly, not at all. I’m saying that at some level, even sub-consciously, he’s channeling old Firefly crew dynamics into the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. story pipeline.


This was first posted on my travel site Vicarious Vistas on August 18, 2014, but more correctly belongs here.