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Wash Lives!

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Wash Lives!

Postby pennausamike » Sat Aug 20, 2016 2:53 pm

This is a repeat of my essay I have scattered all over the internet, in complete form, easy to link to:

WASH LIVES Re: Wash's death in "Serenity".
Based on what follows, you may gather that this is something I feel strongly about. To carry forward the bazillions of what I've posted regarding my take on Wash's death:

In my mind, until a film or series continuation says different, the crew put Wash in River's cryo-box to take him home for burial. Along the way, they are informed by Simon that the same medical tech that produced Tracy's hopped up internal organs ("million credit meat" in Tracy's words) are accessible at Government research facilities. Using a bit of improvisation and Book's ident card, they sneak Wash in place of a politico who bumped a deserving recipient (ala PA's governor Casey who bumped everybody down the list for his transplant). Alliance bashing, witty dialog and some gunplay ensues.
The Firefly 'verse returns to normal.

I will miss Book but his death was a more acceptable fit than Wash's.
One: Books death was important to the storyline and character development because Book was the catalyst to Mal regaining a little bit of his "rudder". Book's casual murder by the Operative and his dying wish, nay, DEMAND that Mal "believe" again made Mal and crew confront River's Miranda secret, rather than just run. Wash was sacrificed meaninglessly as a plot gimmick to create peril.
Two: Book was an individual who interacted with the crew but Wash was half of a happily married couple who as such made up an important ingredient of Firefly's unique-ness. To destroy that couple as not-even-a plot device is a cheap shot at all those who reveled in a mature, married couple as part of the cast ensemble. Which ties into,
Three: Book is a more easily replaced character. If another character with deep-seated religious beliefs were to join Serenity, (not a Shepherd but perhaps a person who wouldn't be stereotypically devout, say a blue-collar industrial worker who knows why he trusts in his Christian faith) the conscience-character would not replace Book but add to his legacy. But if some "guy" just jumped into Zoe's heart and bed, it would be creepy and an insult to both Wash and Zoe.
Four: Also, Book's mysterious past could be explored in flashback, which would keep actor Ron Glass involved in the series without quite the level of sadness that showing widow Zoe's dead husband would cause. Wash is the "funny" character and there is little funny about being reminded of his death. The dynamic has been needlessly shifted from all the things Firefly used to be about (do the job, keep flying, found family) to life without Wash. Mal has no pilot (and making River skilled at Wash's level is a farce of a fiction if ever there was one), Zoe has no husband, Simon has no friend and advocate, Jayne has no light-hearted counter-point and the ship has no smart-assed comic relief.

Book's role is replaceable, Wash is NOT. I LOVE the potential storylines and character development that grow out of Wash being saved. I am disheartened and depressed at the downward spiral that is inevitable if Wash is removed from the Firefly equation. My fear is that Joss, in his quest for "realism", has cut off major-ly interesting storylines about Simon and River's future, Zoe and Wash's future, Mal and Inara, because of killing or separating characters. Characters being "Jossed" in the words of the Australian Q&A participant. He's already wiped out the whole Zoe and Wash dynamic. Gee, I can hardly wait for him to break up Kaylee and Simon (which he has alluded to) so it feels "real". Oh Boy! Maybe he'll KILL Simon and not just break 'em up! I can hardly wait! My fear was Joss crapping all over his own show in the name of drama and cuz everybody KNOWS he's a genius, fans just nod their heads and say, "Yes, of course that was the dramatic choice he HAD to make". My response? BU(($H!T! I watched a show about people who could commit criminal acts armed with deadly weapons while still being the GOOD guys to escape reality. Not to have my nose rubbed in more reality.

So what do I want? Wash back. Wash being saved by Simon adds exciting new dramatic tension for the characters. Zoe would now "owe" loyalty to two people; Mal for saving her and Simon for saving Wash. A viable plot/character development would be her journey to her not owing anybody, which would strengthen her relationship with her husband, Wash. ("What this marriage needs is one less husband") And Mal would have less of a subordinate and more of a partner. And Zoe would be an even stronger female character; but dramatically MADE stronger thru growth, not contrivance.

Think of the character development that grows out of Wash being saved. Wash would still be sarcastic, but with a bit more "bite" in his humor. The Wash/ Zoe discussions on whether or not to have a child would amp up a notch. The whole "how long can we stay in the crime business" discussion would get more intense. Mal and Wash have both been killed. Mal brought back by Niska's torturer; in my scenario, Wash by Simon, who is the only reason Kaylee isn't dead after getting shot by Dobson. Book is gone, killed by the Alliance. "Zoe, honey, I think we need a new line of work."

I think River and Simon would travel with the crew a while longer, but they would end up settling on the Rim somewhere. Simon would be able to really help in a Rim world hospital, especially if a general practitioner was all they had. River could grow and heal, away from hi-tech intrusions. Really that is the appropriate end for Firefly as I see it. The crew sort of dissolves over the last few episodes, settling down on different worlds, losing touch with one-another. Sorta sad, seeing the found-family break up; but not TRAGIC and depressing. More like real life when people leave a job and lose touch with co-workers they considered friends.

In my mind, Wash lives. I feel so strongly about his place in the Firefly dynamic that if no more Firefly can come after Serenity without dead Wash, I'd rather it end at Serenity* and allow me to finish it out in my own mind in a way that makes me happy. ( My "Wash Lives" plotline.) Joss creates GREAT fictional characters to draw an audience in, but it is my opinion that he loses much of that audience because of his insistence on killing off the very characters he attracted the audience WITH. Look at the two big movies of summer 2008. Ironman Dark Knight Both huge hits and both true to what they were. Ironman was fun and the Dark Knight was...dark. If the filmmakers had tried to inject more "realistic" tragedy into Ironman, it would have ruined the movie. Once a motivational character is killed (Book in Serenity, the doctor in Ironman) a fun movie doesn't support any more tragic reality without losing its uplifting quality. Book's death in Serenity, and the doctor's death in Ironman were dramatically important to the main characters' growth in both movies. But the Ironman creators knew not to bring their movie down after that, and the commercial success of the movie stems in part from that. Serenity was certainly not a less good movie than Ironman, but it wasn't true to its own nature. Along with some other reasons/ circumstances, it paid for that misunderstanding of its own nature with a poor showing at the box office.

Everybody vilifies FOX, but thank God they insisted on lightening up Mal and the tone of the series. Mark my words, if it weren't for that meddling, Firefly would have faded into obscurity. I don't know who all remembers the Australian Q&A, but the question Joss asked the audience was whether they preferred more of the movie or more of the series. He even prefaced their response with "I think I know which it is". The audience strongly said "Firefly" and Joss nodded as tho' that was what he expected. Although there are fans who like the dark misery stuff, the uplifting elements of Firefly/Serenity are what create an ENDURING fandom.

Some fans point to the deaths as bringing "realism" to SERENITY. Do they really think Firefly was "realistic"? Just to ask a silly question: do you think the U.S. Navy could support a nuclear-powered submarine by selling energy bars? Even if they were salvaged? Maybe if they smuggled some cattle, too. And yet, here we stand, Browncoats happily buying into the premise that a nuclear powered spaceship is paid for and maintained just like that. Author, Orsen Card Scott, said that Firefly was the most realistic SF show out there. But, I think really the realism was in part realistic characters reacting realistically in an often not quite real world. The idea that a single person can keep up after the maintenance on a space-going vessel, especially an old one prone to breaking is unrealistic in the highest order, even in projecting future developments from where we are now.

If Firefly were truly realistic, every one of the crew would be in jail or dead. The success of their criminal enterprises, and the fact that they never hurt or kill innocent people while committing crime is far more "Unrealistic" than Wash living through Serenity. Also, this is a crew of identified "cop-killers". In Ariel they broke into a highly secure core-world Alliance medical facility and stole a bunch of medicine. Mal, Zoe, and Wash were almost certainly caught on camera and identified. Jayne, Simon and River were actually apprehended. Jayne personally killed one of the Alliance Feds and I'm sure the half dozen other cops' deaths were hung on the Serenity crew, not on duly authorized, Blue Hands, Alliance officers. Think in Trash; when Saffron was hauled out of the trash container and the priceless Lassiter was gone, do you think she said "I don't know WHAT happened"? Or do you think it is more likely she identified every one of Serenity's crew as having stolen a priceless artifact from a high-ranking, obviously wealthy Alliance officer?!

Think the 'verse is realistic far as people coming back from horrendous wounds in the 'verse? Jayne got a 3/4 inch diameter spear through the calf and was walking around on it. But the ALL-TIME-WINNER? Has to be Dobson, He got shot in the head with a pistol that Mal used to DROP A HORSE IN IT'S TRACKS! And Joss brought him back in the comic book. So don't be givin' me this baloney that it's too unrealistic to bring Wash back! If we are going to pick and choose our un-realistic-ness, lets pick and choose what makes for the most entertaining story. I stand by my point that Wash's death didn't make the story any better, and that pretending to be "real" in such an "unrealistic" (but very fun) scenario isn't a benefit. I'll accept that some folks prefer the darker turn in storytelling of killing characters, but I stand by my assertion that in an already unreal world, better storytelling is more important than audience manipulation. I'm rarely entertained by writers who have to kill beloved characters to make a point. Toy Story III's ending had tears running down my cheeks because of insight and connections. It is a cheap shot for the writer to tell his audience, "Look at me! I can kill 'em all!" Things getting dull? Kill a character to stir the pot. I hope for more creativity from storytellers.

The better writer can carry his characters through troubles without seeming cliche or trite. Loss of dreams, lost opportunities, lost relationships and friendships; and not just loss, but CHANGE that doesn't go the way you expect, for both good and bad, provides rich fodder for drama. I'm not asking that the status quo rule, only that the writers find substantive issues and loss and change to craft stories around. I feel that killing a character is the cheap way out and destroys dynamics that build audience acceptance of a fictional world. I don't care for Joss' predilection for killing characters; totally ruined Dr. Horrible for me. I wanted to see Dr. Horrible turn his "evil" against phony do-gooders, not see a light-hearted romp turned into a THUD! morality tale. Killing off beloved characters in light-hearted action tales; It's not clever, it's not insightful or enlightening, it's not commercial. It satisfies a niche audience at the cost of greater acceptance. The interactions of the crew, the contrasts of their personalities and motivations, the clever back-and-forth of their dialog, the chemistry of the actors playing their roles are what made Firefly great. At no point does killing the characters make that better, unless you're trying to make "Terms of Endearment". Killing those beloved characters doesn't make Firefly more real OR better, only...less...

But please keep in mind that I acknowledge that my bias runs to the fact that I like my entertainment to be FUN and I expect life to be tempered by MISERY, so when entertainment is tempered by MISERY it becomes a reflection of life and ceases to be entertainment. Good entertainment resonates of real life without getting sucked into dwelling on real life drawbacks. That is my definition, so I admit I don't look to tragedy for entertainment. Shakespeare is not in the same vein as Firefly as entertainment. I don't care for Serenity becoming a tragedy, when Firefly was NOT. I think Firefly did a better job of not having the consequences outweigh the dramatic return; i.e. the crew overcame peril at some cost, just not the cost of their lives. I'm pretty sure Inara is the only character who was never shot/wounded/tortured whatever. (Although she did get a pretty sharp backhand from bounty hunter Jubal Early...)

Actually, I viewed things not going "according the gorram plan" to be sort of the running gag of the show. Shoot, even the Lassiter heist didn't pay off like they hoped. Firefly appealed to a larger audience than the BDM Serenity, in part because its sensibilities were lighter at the behest of FOX. If FOX hadn't messed with the scheduling and if they hadn't allowed Joss to murder off his characters, I'd argue that Firefly would rank up there with Star Trek as long lasting and influential. So, in this Firefly/ Serenity collector's mind,
WASH LIVES!

pennausamike Wed May 09, 2012 12:37 pm

* Apparently, Gina Torres and I are on the same wavelength on this one;
On her reaction to Wash's death in the movie: |
"There was definitely a collective gasp across the nation when we all got the script and read it. I adored Alan and I adored him as Wash, as my pretend husband. I thought we were an amazing couple. In a way, it might hurt you to hear this, but since there is no sequel to Serenity it is a relief, because I can't imagine Zoe without him. I really can't."
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Re: Wash Lives!

Postby taimdala » Sat Aug 20, 2016 4:39 pm

You know, I think this is the first time I got to read the entire thing. It's certainly worth a re-reading! Thanks, Mike, for posting it.
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Re: Wash Lives!

Postby msglaigaie » Sun Aug 21, 2016 8:45 pm

I like the replaceable organs. This is an easy concept and it could very well bring a Big Damm Hero back to the world. We all just assumed he was completely dead, eh?

And the Dobson thing is (barely) possible. There was a demo guy in South America, years ago, tamping a charge in a water well, when it detonated. The tamp rod shot up and pierced his skull, through and out. He lived, but had a change of personality, he got a tad mean. I would have been a bit miffed too. So, little Dobby could have had his skull penetrated by Mal's charge, and survived with an expected increase in irritability, eh? Kinda went through his head without hitting any essential organs. Jus sayin, alliance, eh?
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Re: Wash Lives!

Postby taimdala » Sun Aug 21, 2016 9:13 pm

That sounds like what happened toPhineas Gage.

Either way, it's amazing how much punishment a body can take and survive.
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Re: Wash Lives!

Postby msglaigaie » Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:19 am

"
Either way, it's amazing how much punishment a body can take and survive. "

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