Despite only containing 14 episodes, Firefly is one of the most beloved TV shows of the 21st century. It boasts a joyous blend of sci-fi and western elements, features a dynamic ensemble, and - thanks to its all too brief run - has a consistently high quality of episodes.
While the original series didn't even make it past one season, the franchise has lived on thanks to numerous comics, the feature film Serenity, and hopeful rumors surrounding a revival. In honor of the show's 20th anniversary and the potential reboot on the way, fans may want to revisit the best that the series has to offer.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
10 The Train Job - 8.4
The first episode of the show to be broadcast on television, "The Train Job" sees Serenity's crew take on a heist for the crime lord Niska. Though the theft is a success, they soon learn that what they stole was medicine for the local town.
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Despite not being the intended pilot for Firefly, "The Train Job" still does an effective job of establishing the show's characters, their dynamic as a group, and the overall tone. Beyond this, the episode is appreciated for turning the trope of a train robber on its head and introducing the moral dilemma of completing the job vs. doing what's right, a theme that defines the show.
9 The Message - 8.4
Perhaps the most heartbreaking episode of Firefly, "The Message" opens with the crew enjoying themselves at an outpost before being mailed the body of Private Tracey Smith, a former friend. Though Tracey turns out to be alive, he's on the run from corrupt local authorities and takes Kaylee hostage when he thinks Serenity's crew is about to turn him in.
"The Message" was one of three episodes that the show never aired, but this is in no way indicative of its quality. It stands as a highlight for the poignancy it gives to Tracey who, despite his poor decisions and threats, is a sympathetic character given his intentions and guilt over his actions.
8 Jaynestown - 8.7
Written by Tick creator Ben Edlund, "Jaynestown" is a fairly comedic story that sees the crew of Serenity land on a planet where Jayne is worshipped as a local hero. When news of his arrival reaches the authorities, they let loose Jayne's former partner to take him out and break the colony's morale.
Given Jayne's status as one of Firefly's funniest characters, it makes sense that "Jaynestown" would be a beloved episode. It puts his dimwittedness front and center, while at the same time offering the character a chance to grow and reflect on his past actions. Beyond this, it also features some of Firefly's best quotes, such as when Wash wishes he could go to the crappy town where he's the hero.
7 Trash - 8.8
The second episode to feature the character of Saffron, "Trash" sets itself up as another heist episode, albeit one where the crew is kept on alert in case Saffron double-crosses them. Though the theft is successful, the crew learns about Saffron's past, and the thief is forced to confront it.
While much of the episode's fun comes from the execution of the heist and the way the crew outwits Saffron, the real meat of the piece lies in Saffron's characterization. "Trash" sees the seductress come across a former love of hers, and the way she processes the encounter gives the character more nuance than had previously been seen. It's what makes "Trash" such a well-liked episode.
6 Serenity - 8.8
The show's pilot, "Serenity," introduces audiences to the main cast and establishes the overarching threat of the Alliance. The crew of the Serenity is made up of smugglers/criminals who are trying to get by in the universe while the Alliance is an overbearing government who have been committing shady experiments on children.
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Even though "Serenity" is largely a blueprint for what will be built upon later, many of the show's elements already formed in the episode. The characters are easy to understand from the get go, the balance between science-fiction and American westerns is nearly perfect, and by the end of the pilot, the audience is left satisfied while also wanting for more.
5 War Stories - 8.9
An episode that puts the spotlight on Wash, "War Stories" sees the esteemed pilot go on a mission with Mal, only for the two to be captured by the crime lord Niska. When the rest of Serenity discover they've been kidnapped, Zoe is forced to choose who to save: the man she loves or her trusted confidant and friend.
Though the episode is built around the jealous husband trope, it manages to transcend said trope's trappings by having the entanglement centered around respect rather than romance. It's this ability to work past a hackneyed cliché and make something good out of it - along with moments such as River taking out a group of criminals all by herself - that makes "War Stories" a delight and proves why Firefly deserves a revival.
4 Ariel - 9
On a trip to the planet Ariel, Simon proposes breaking into the planet's central hospital so that he can combat River's worsening mental condition and so the crew can steal millions of credits worth of drugs. Despite the difficulty Mal, Zoe, and Jayne have with learning the medical jargon, they successfully sneak the Tams into the hospital and steal the drugs.
"Ariel" is well-liked for the way it utilizes Jayne. The show's dimwitted muscle had always been skeptical of the Tams and finally acts on his selfish desire to turn them in. Even after he helps Simon and River escape after being betrayed, Jayne is still punished for his actions by Mal, yet audiences see a change of heart when he pleads for no one to learn about his actions. It's a tense scene and one of Firefly's defining moments.
3 Our Mrs. Reynolds - 9
Easily one of Firefly's funniest episodes, "Our Mrs. Reynolds" focuses on the crew's reaction to the stowaway Saffron, who Mal had accidentally betrothed on the planet they recently left. While the crew tries to acclimate her to the new environment, Mal is less receptive to Saffron's presence, a stance that proves to be somewhat justified when she attempts to take control of the ship.
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Like all of Firefly, "Our Mrs. Reynolds" is full of great quotes and scenes. Whether it be lines like "by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you" to Jayne's attempt to buy off Saffron from Mal, the episode is brimming with delightful interactions and laugh out loud moments that define the show.
2 Objects in Space - 9.2
The most existential episode of the series, "Objects in Space" explores River's relationship with the crew and whether she even belongs. Amidst this personal dilemma, a bounty hunter named Jubal Early infiltrates the ship and holds everyone hostage in order to capture River.
In a series where the character interactions are heralded as a highlight of the series, "Objects in Space" does something unique by having the episode centered around a lack of interaction between the crew. This choice forces them to adapt to the situation individually and trust that River is in control. It all culminates in accepting River as part of the crew, a fact that warms the hearts of fans who believe Firefly is the best sci-fi show of all time.
1 Out of Gas - 9.3
The eighth episode in the series, "Out of Gas," explores the origins of Serenity's crew coming together in a series of flashbacks. In the present, Mal is desperately holding on to life as he attempts to repair the lifeless Serenity.
To sum up all the reasons why "Out of Gas" is appealing would be an insurmountable task, but it basically boils down to the episode's exploration of Mal. Audiences had previously seen him as a charming but morally dubious captain whose dedication to the crew was near paramount. Here, he sacrifices everything to ensure their survival, and his reminiscences serve to explain why Mal would risk death for his crew. He sees them as family, and it's this confirmation that makes the episode (and the entire show) so endearing.