FIREFLY EPISODE DISCUSSIONS

Hard choices: Mal, Inara, and Zoe

POSTED BY: BYTEMITE
UPDATED: Thursday, January 3, 2013 04:49
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012 7:29 AM

BYTEMITE


So some of our fanfic writers have already been dealing with the plot reveals about Zoe and Inara. EBFiddler comes to mind, among others.

Will there come a time eventually that those subplots will become so serious that Mal will have to choose between Inara and Zoe's needs? We've seen Zoe have to chose between Mal and Wash, and maybe that was setting us up to explore this theme.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012 2:32 PM

EBFIDDLER


I think a story that deals with Mal having to make a choice between the needs of differing crew members is right in keeping with the spirit of Firefly. In War Stories, Zoe had to choose between Wash and Mal, but ultimately, she made the choice that was best for the "family" as a whole -- hard on Mal, perhaps, but he was better equipped than Wash to handle being left behind, and Zoe knew that, and so did Mal. There's a tremendously good essay on Zoe's choice in "Finding Serenity" or "Serenity Found" -- I forget which one. Zoe made her choice, and Mal knew she would make that choice, and accepted it. I think that if Mal were faced with a similar choice to make about Zoe or Inara, Zoe would expect him to make a choice in like fashion. If he were to choose her, for reasons that Zoe thought did not make sense for the good of the whole "family," Zoe would protest his decision.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012 5:44 PM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

There's a tremendously good essay on Zoe's choice in "Finding Serenity" or "Serenity Found" -- I forget which one.


I need to read those.

In general I agree with you, but one of the things I'm wondering is if Mal has a responsibility to not show favouritism regardless of his wants or needs. Because of his role in what happened to Wash, and because he owes something to Zoe due to his history that he doesn't owe to the crew (and he owes even less to Inara), and because as the leader it falls on him to make those sacrifices.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012 9:47 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


I think Zoe made the right choice, Mal could handle torture better so it made sense on all fronts, it helped her relationship with Wash, Mal could handle it, and the audience approved of it.

As a general rule though I don't like stories where people have to choose between loved ones of differing connections, they're problematic.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 4:40 AM

BYTEMITE


Yeah, but at the same time, that kinda looks like where this might be going. Complications could arise in either Zoe's condition or Inara's, and on Serenity they don't have the resources to address that. That might mean that splitting the crew will become necessary - the most likely possibility I see there is that Inara might leave for doctors in the core. And she'd also probably try to go alone. I doubt the crew or Mal would allow that to happen, but I'm not sure what their alternatives might be.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 5:03 AM

MARKOMI

Some people juggle geese!


I have to admit I don't really see that Zoë/Inara conflict coming. The captain might feel torn between them, but if so I don't think Zoë would ever force Mal to make a choice. She'd do it for him and leave if she had to. There might be an Inara/Mal's-way-of-life conflict coming, though.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 5:18 AM

BYTEMITE


The thing is, I actually think Zoe and Inara would get along well, it's just Mal's loyalties would be split. I don't imagine either Zoe or Inara fighting over MAL of all people, that would be just a colossal waste of everyone's time. There's simply not enough there to be worth fighting over.

Zoe forcing Mal to make a choice: hmm. No, not outright, verbally, or deliberately, but he might be forced all the same. And I think Mal's the kind of guy who'd choose obligations over love, and everyone would think he's the biggest idiot, and he'd wreck his relationship with Inara in the process. But that's kinda how I see it going.

Quote:

There might be an Inara/Mal's-way-of-life conflict coming, though.


I actually don't think so. I think the big issue between them isn't actually their different life-ways, but the constant awareness of death they both have. I mean it's not like Mal had a problem with Nandi, so his problems along those lines with Inara really seem like a put on.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 5:33 AM

EBFIDDLER


Mal's issues with Inara's way of life have just a very little to do with her actual way of life, and a lot more to do with his avoidance of intimate relationships. Her way of life is the excuse he uses to distance himself from intimacy. He was able to hook up with Nandi because it didn't involve a truly intimate relationship, just a physically intimate one. Anything he tried with Inara would involve a boatload of true intimacy issues, which is why he's so skittish and has a pile of excuses for not engaging.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 5:41 AM

BYTEMITE


Yeah, that too. Though I suspect the concerns about death and ruination kinda outweigh everything else. Because, I mean, I don't want to generalize, but he's a guy and he's got hormones, and he's into women.

From my understanding whatever inhibitions and hangups he might have really kinda pale in comparison to that driving factor - that's why the most repressed guys act out the most whenever they have the chance, because all that repression just makes everything worse. So it seems to me if something is stopping him, it has to be just a little more than intimacy problems.

I guess I could question whether he really is repressed, since he doesn't act out (too much). But I think he is, the show all but outright says he is, and if he's not acting out then I suppose he's found himself some kind of acceptable outlet. Perhaps in one-night stands, like you suggest, and avoiding actual attachment, but that seems like a futile gesture if he's already developed that attachment and admits it to himself. And I don't think he's actually in denial about how he feels, it's more he thinks it would be wrong to express that.

Plus, in six months he's only had two one night stands (or rather a single one night stand and an almost-but-no-just-kidding-ima-steal-your-ship-now), which doesn't strike me as he's having to use other women to distract himself from genuine feelings.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 10:16 AM

MARKOMI

Some people juggle geese!


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:

Quote:

There might be an Inara/Mal's-way-of-life conflict coming, though.


I actually don't think so. I think the big issue between them isn't actually their different life-ways, but the constant awareness of death they both have. I mean it's not like Mal had a problem with Nandi, so his problems along those lines with Inara really seem like a put on.



That's not what I meant. I meant her need to go to the Core for treatment conflicted with his need to stay out of it, though of course, if he truly loves her, he'll bring her there. I was under the impression that Inara's condition - whatever it is - is untreatable, at least not curable, so maybe there won't have to be a choice. Then again, Mal and Inara happily together for their few remaining weeks/months/years do sound a little boring ;-)

I have my plans for Inara in my future fics, I'm sticking with those, but this is a pretty interesting discussion.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 11:28 AM

BYTEMITE


Ah, then that's actually the issue I meant too. I agree completely. I don't think Simon will be able to help her even as a top three percent trauma surgeon. It's not his field and they don't have the resources. I think he's been advising her in the role of a general practicioner for the ship, but more than that he simply doesn't have the expertise.

So there will be a serious question about whether Inara will go back to the core.

As for the discussion, no problem. I find discussions like these always sort out story ideas or generate new ones.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 2:09 PM

PLATONIST


Isn’t the notion of Inara returning to the core for treatment or a cure somewhat counter intuitive to what we’ve seen in canon so far? She leaves the core to rent a shuttle from Mal, and she doesn’t return to the core when she leaves to teach at the Training House.

For some strange reason, I’m not feeling the “cure” of the core.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 2:34 PM

BYTEMITE


Maybe. She has her own reasons to not want to return to the core, but when whatever she has progresses enough, she might not have a choice.

And another thought is, if she doesn't go to the core, when will we as the viewers learn about whatever it was that chased her out of the core, and when will she confront that?

All I know is, I think Simon might be set up to reveal her secret, but I don't think Simon is being set up to be the cure.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 6:56 PM

EBFIDDLER


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
I guess I could question whether he really is repressed, since he doesn't act out (too much). But I think he is, the show all but outright says he is, and if he's not acting out then I suppose he's found himself some kind of acceptable outlet. Perhaps in one-night stands, like you suggest, and avoiding actual attachment, but that seems like a futile gesture if he's already developed that attachment and admits it to himself. And I don't think he's actually in denial about how he feels, it's more he thinks it would be wrong to express that.

Plus, in six months he's only had two one night stands (or rather a single one night stand and an almost-but-no-just-kidding-ima-steal-your-ship-now), which doesn't strike me as he's having to use other women to distract himself from genuine feelings.



I wasn't actually suggesting that he acts out and has lots of one-night stands -- because we know he doesn't. Vide your quote, above. Nandi and Saffron both had to work at it, to get him to cave, and Saffron didn't really succeed. I think, in Inara's case in particular, he uses her profession as an excuse for not engaging, like I said. But he clearly has more issues with intimacy than what's related to Inara -- otherwise wouldn't we see him with a girlfriend on some planet somewhere? Or at least meeting up with an ex-girlfriend at some point? But we don't see that, which suggests he didn't have them, which begs the question of why. Not, apparently, because he was uninterested -- he says to Saffron and Nandi pretty plainly that he's interested, just that he won't. He has made a decision not to engage, not only with Inara, but with other women as well. Worth exploring why it is he thinks he can't have an ordinary relationship with a woman, what is inhibiting him.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 8:04 PM

BYTEMITE


Hmmm. I just assumed he never really thought about the long term future before Inara, he figured that his prospects for normalcy and a family life died with Shadow.

Then after Inara it was because he thinks he could die any time and he would expose that girl to risks and because he's a penniless smuggler with bravado compensating for deepseated feelings of loss, bitterness, and inadequacy. And maybe a little bit of him thinking God's out to punish him.

What are your thoughts?

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Thursday, January 3, 2013 4:49 AM

BYTEMITE


I came up with another option recently.

Looking at this another way, I wondered why am I so sure that Zoe would think she needs Mal's help? We're talking about Zoe here, who is a majorly tough cookie, and we're also talking about MAL here.

There's pretty much no situation I can think of involving Mal trying to help with or manage Zoe's kid that doesn't end with Zoe rolling her eyes at Mal's bumbling. It's like how Mal panics at the pregnancy in Heart of Gold and thereafter they pretty much keep him away from the birth. Mal probably isn't BAD with kids, he's probably fun with them and probably even likes kids, but at the same time, he'd be at a loss with a truly unruly or crying kid, and he also sometimes lacks common sense.

Listen. I am asking you to imagine Mal, looking entirely frazzled, exhausted, and bewildered, with a squalling baby and full diaper in front of him on a table, bottle of talcum powder in one hand and a cloud of it all over his face. Then imagine it happening any different. You can't.

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