I really enjoy “Ariel” because no other episode of Firefly goes this deep into life in a major city in this universe. Almost all the episodes are set on the periphery, but in this one, they go to a large and heavily-populated city for Simon to scan his sister’s brain and find out what was done to her. It’s a really good episode of a heist that should not have gone wrong, except Jayne betrayed the crew to sell out Simon and River.
The climax is completely amazing. I think that because Firefly is largely a light show with a humorous touch, and also because Nathan Fillion moved on to star in the incredibly light and silly hit Castle for ABC, he’s got a reputation as not really being an actor who tackles dark and heavy. But what Fillion and Adam Baldwin do in this final scene is amazing and a little scary. This is the sort of breakdown in trust that many television series don’t go anywhere near, and it’s blindingly brilliant.
Anyway, while it was certainly a shame that Firefly would be cancelled – there were five more episodes to come and the axe would formally fall about one month after this was shown, when Fox would tell the producers that they would not be needing the “back nine” installments that would have gone into production in early 2003 – one of the biggest disappointments is that we’d never get a television resolution to the story of these two dudes with the blue gloves, played by Jeff Ricketts and Dennis Cockrum. They appeared briefly in “The Train Job” but were never seen again after this story. They are hunting for River and murder anybody – even Alliance police – who have talked to her, using a device that causes painful and almost immediately lethal hemorrhaging of the blood vessels in people’s skulls. They ended up getting an entirely unsatisfying sendoff in an issue of the Firefly comic in 2005. If they could have made just one more installment of this series, I wish they’d have done one more with these guys.