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Heart of Redemption

First aired: The Signal: Season 7, Episode 13.2
Written by Helen Eaton
Read by Helen Eaton
Edited by Helen Eaton

In the series Heart of Firefly, I discussed the themes I considered central to the stories and characters of Firefly and Serenity. In amongst the drama and the comedy, the same themes kept recurring. Characters were trying to make a life for themselves in the ‘verse, often finding themselves caught between the meddling oppression of the Alliance and the brutality of life on the rim. The search for a home and a family was another theme, as was the tension between characters playing parts and revealing their true selves. Another tension was between the desire for independence and freedom and the desire for the strength that comes from depending upon others and creating a family together. Whether consciously or not, the creators of Browncoats: Redemption have picked up on some of these themes and added their own twist.

Got ourselves a great crew. A medic. Fighter. Bona fide business man. And our two young geniuses that act as our mechanic and engineer. I’m proud to call ‘em family.

These words from Captain Laura Matthews are not words that we would expect to hear coming out of the mouth of Captain Mal Reynolds. The closest Mal gets to admitting he looks on his crew as family seems to be when he has just narrowly escaped death, as in Out of Gas, or arrived just in time to save others from the same fate, as with Simon and River in Safe. Laura is more vocal in her view of her crew as family and it doesn’t take a crisis for her to let her crew know how she feels. She is similar to Mal in her desire to protect the crew from outsiders though, and in her reluctance to accept newcomers, as Pete discovers.

In Our Mrs Reynolds, Mal tells Saffron that the reason he bested her was, ‘Cause I got people with me, people who trust each other, who do for each other and ain't always looking for the advantage.” Laura has learned the same lesson, and gets the better of Stevens at the end of Redemption with the help of her crew.

So? What’s that make you?
Makes me... someone who choosing her own path... I choose my family.

In Firefly, there is a lot of playing parts and keeping true selves hidden. Alongside the humorous make-believe of Mal in his pretty floral bonnet and Simon as a mud buyer, there are the more serious mysteries of the back stories of characters such as Mal, Inara and Book. Redemption has a little of both these kinds of playing parts. Firstly, we have Pete playing along with the assumption that she is a waitress and enjoying revealing that she is in fact Redemption’s new pilot. And then we have the mystery of Laura’s background:

So you mean to?
I mean to end it. Him or me, it goes no farther than this rock tonight. I refuse to live a lie one more day.

We discover that Laura used to be a dutiful Alliance soldier, fighting against the Independents at first, but later joining them, and escaping an abusive husband in the process, gaining her own personal independence.

Think I was just going to let you go? Michelle. Laura. Whatever the hell you call yourself, you belong to me!

The main story of Redemption is a smaller, more personal one than that of Serenity, the film whose events provide the backdrop to those of Redemption. Instead of the Browncoats versus the Alliance, the focus is on Laura versus Stevens, the husband she left. The same conflict is played out in minature, with Laura oppressed by Stevens as the Browncoats were – and are – by the Alliance:

Your heart doesn’t tell you that the beatings are your fault. Guys like him do it for you.

Laura was also a part of the bigger conflict and, like Mal, now that the war is over, she is reluctant to get involved again. The Browncoats are on the rise again after the events on Miranda were made known and the Browncoat leaders try to get Laura to join them in a continued fight against the Alliance. Laura tells them that “One war this lifetime was enough”. At first she doesn’t want to “aim to misbehave”, but, like Mal, circumstances change and she finds herself taking the fight to the Alliance again, in a very personal way.

In standing up to Stevens, Laura finds redemption. She shows him once and for all that she is free of him, and proves to her crew that at heart she is a true Browncoat, standing for freedom and independence:

You hear that? That’s the sound of change. I don’t belong to you anymore. I never have.

And with redemption comes serenity. Laura can be at peace, knowing that revealing her past to her crew has not broken up the family she had created.

Laura is not the only one who experiences redemption though. Redemption is all about getting something back, rescuing it against all hope, and often at great cost. The amazing achievement that is the film Browncoats: Redemption came at a cost to all involved in its creation, but all of us as fans can enjoy how it brought a little bit of Firefly back to us, against all odds. That is redemption, and it feels good.

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