So, I'm something of a fan of Firefly/Serenity. Admittedly, basically everyone is these days, so that does little to make me cool (or uncool, for that matter, phew). There are many things I like about the show, but the thing I like the most is most definitely our dear Captain Reynolds.
In the same way that Jack Sparrow made it so that Pirates of the Caribbean could never be an ensemble cast, so does Malcolm Reynolds treat Firefly. There may be eight other people on the ship, but they're only there to interact with the Captain and provide insight into his character. As far as I'm concerned.
Firefly and Serenity are truly about Mal's redemptive journey. The opening scenes of the pilot to Firefly show his world and everything he believed in crumbling apart. He is forced to not only witness the end of the war, but experience it as well. Even as him and his men are doing everything they need to do, the situation is hopeless.
And then we hear the song. The love song to Serenity and everything it represents to Mal. We just watched him lose everything, but with the help of Serenity, he believes there is still something they can never take, even if his hope is already gone.
And so the show begins. Mal is cynical and still hopeless. He's just another guy with a ship and a crew trying to get by. He's already starting to realize that maybe he's wrong, the sky is starting to get smaller and it's not really his anymore.
And so he takes on passengers. And meets the Tams.
They inspire both the best and worst in him. Simon represents everything he doesn't trust about the system and he abuses him for it. But River, she means something else entirely.
She's like him. She's been wounded deeply, but she still has the spirit he lost ages ago. So he has no choice but to agree to help them. He can never explain to the others why he does it, but he sticks by them.
Every other good deed he ever does, he finds a way to justify as meeting some self-serving ends. But these never mean anything because there is always this blatant, and wholly self-less act defining him to the others.
He helps them purely because River represents something he lost forever ago. It was for people like her that he was willing to fight a war forever ago and in the movie, he is finally able to return to being the hero that he once was. All because of her.
I love watching the journey he takes. He starts out broken, but eventually becomes whole again, because he is given a cause. He may have a song about how the only thing he needs is the freedom he can provide himself, but he truly needs so much more. And I was glad to see him get it. Can't stop the signal, indeed.
That is all.