Silence in Space

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Our Mrs Reynolds

First aired: The Signal: Season 8, Episode 7
Written by Helen Eaton
Read by Anna Snyder
Edited by Jutta Jordans

Of all the episodes I have so far watched without sound, Our Mrs Reynolds has been the one which I’ve enjoyed the most. This is because - for all its choice moments of dialogue - the episode contains many parts which work extremely well as silent comedy. This is particularly the case when it comes to the shots of characters reacting to the latest development in the story. Take everyone’s reactions to Saffron being discovered on board Serenity, for example. Mal’s wordless reaction and double-take when he learns that Saffron is his wife is supremely funny. The reactions of the rest of the crew do involve dialogue, but even without it, we are told essentially all we need to know through the visual medium. Zoe very much sees the funny side, as does Wash. They make half-hearted attempts to hide how funny they find Mal’s predicament by looking at the floor, but this clearly just makes them want to laugh even more. Meanwhile Jayne is true to character and leers at Saffron, even pawing at her at one point. Kaylee is openly happy and excited for Mal, taking his announcement at face value. Of course, it is Inara’s reaction which is the most interesting, since she is clearly upset and unable to use her companion training to hide this for once.

In fact, Mal and Inara’s interaction throughout the episode was one of the aspects which struck me most as I focussed on the visual information. Their first scene together, as they walk together past the dancing in the teaser, is perhaps overshadowed in the light of more significant plot developments going on elsewhere, but it provides an interesting contrast with their later scenes after Saffron disturbs the status quo. As they walk and talk, Mal and Inara appear wholly comfortable with each other, since nothing has yet happened to stir up the deeper, more complex feelings they seem to have for each other.

Saffron, who is the catalyst for stirring up these feelings, is an interesting character to watch as the episode progresses. She is wide-eyed, innocent and utterly convincing in her role as the meek, subservient wife. As viewers we are not let in on her deception until Mal also discovers it. Only after that point are we privy to looks from Saffron which other characters do not see, such as her exasperated roll of the eyes when Wash resists her advances and talks about his love for Zoe. Before Mal gets his goodnight kiss, Saffron’s facial expressions and body language match perfectly with the part she is playing and there is no hint of what’s to come.

“All is not what it seems” is something of a motto for the episode as a whole. Saffron’s deception is the most obvious manifestation of this, but Mal and Jayne are involved in their fair share of play acting too, most notably in the teaser and in their confrontation over Vera. As Jayne uses Vera to get Mal’s attention, his demeanour is menacing and deadly serious, even though what he is about to suggest is more than a little ridiculous. Another character who approaches Mal with a similar look of serious intent is Book, who puts on his best disapproving preacher look to warn Mal about the “special hell” and then pops his head back into frame to underline his point to great comic effect.

Mal’s wordless reaction to Saffron’s offer to wash his feet is another example of her leaving him lost for words, and is just as amusing as his initial reaction to discovering she is his wife. In an effort to hide from Saffron, Mal heads to Inara’s shuttle, but he is not able to find much of a refuge there. Inara initially manages a few appropriately condescending looks in Mal’s direction, but soon loses her cool. Somehow he remains largely oblivious to why this might be though.

As things between Mal and Inara are cooling down, things between Mal and Saffron are most definitely warming up, with unfortunate effects for poor Mal. Having dispensed with Mal, Saffron moves on to Wash and here we get yet another masterclass in reacting. Wash’s facial expressions are a joy to behold. Somehow he manages to convey the thought, “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I seem to be heading into dangerous waters” by the look on his face alone.

Next it is Inara’s turn to provide some silent comedy. Her fall after she kisses Mal is appropriately comic, and of course all the funnier for coming from someone normally so graceful. However, I think her rather obviously guilty looks as she tries to pretend that she “only fell is all” are the funniest part of the scene visually.

Mal and Saffron’s marriage ceremony at the start of the episode is what gets Serenity and her crew into trouble in the first place. That scene is played without dialogue and so are the moments which get Serenity and her crew out of trouble, as Jayne and Vera do the necessary. We still have time for two more wordless reactions though. First we have Saffron’s hesitation when Mal asks for her real name. It seems appropriate that a character so good at playing parts should be lost for words when she is asked to be real for once. And then we have the final shot of the episode, when the normally poised Inara is left open-mouthed at Mal’s inability to realise what was going on underneath all the play acting.

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