Firefly: Browncoats & the Beatitudes PART TWO: “Blessed are those who mourn.”

* Part TWO of EIGHT * From a breakout session/presentation at Doxacon 2013

If, as in the first “Browncoats & the Beatitudes” entry, we’re looking for spiritual transformation within each beatitude, then I’d take this second beatitude, “blessed are those who mourn” to mean: accept grief as an unintended consequence of this broken world, and expect it to offer a doorway to God’s promised comfort. C.S. Lewis said it this way:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Spiritual grief is not the same thing as mortal loss, but I argue that pain is pain, and I believe God promises to meet us in the midst of our pain, whether due to a spiritual need or because you grieve for a child fighting cancer. Using a “megaphone” seems to say that God wants very much to reach us with a message – perhaps with the “be comforted” part of this beatitude…? I do not want pain, but I trust that when I experience it, God will go through it with me and bring me to the other side of it. What might this beatitude look like (to me) in the Firefly ‘verse?

The Second Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

EPISODE: Serenity (Pilot)

You might say Firefly begins with an alternate ending to Star Wars: A New Hope, where instead of a glorious and against-all-odds victory, the underdogs lose. Han Solo doesn’t return to help Luke get that important shot fired which amazingly blows up the Death Star and saves all of the good guys. The Force seems to be with them, but then they get word that they’re supposed to lay down arms and surrender. The bad guys are still big, and still bad. Joss goes where no one has gone before, in terms of making his world closer to ours than either Star Wars or Star Trek (I’m a big fan of both of them, BTW) because he tenderly keeps the humanity in his characters. I’ve heard it said that Mal is the long-lost son of Han Solo (BTW: do you want a really fun Han vs. Mal debate? Of course you do.). Part of the reason why we relate to the characters is because we know about Star Wars, the scifi parent of the Firefly ‘verse, so we’re all the more ready to step into this new world offered by Joss Whedon. We already relate to Luke Skywalker’s “farm boy come to town” underdog, so it helped prep us to love Mal’s lost-hope Captain, because he’s experiencing a massive failure almost the moment we meet him. Setbacks are easier to relate to than success, unfortunately. Joss says in the “here’s how it was” making-of documentary that the Firefly story is meant to be about things anybody can relate to, “like getting a job, getting out of trouble.”

This Beatitude speaks of grief, but as a spiritual lament for the brokenness in our relationship with God. In this state of blessedness, we are acutely aware of the gulf between what God intended for this world and what sin has done to us instead. But “you will be comforted,” the beatitude promises; you have been redeemed by Christ, who “became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). In the recently-published Entertainment Weekly interview with Joss, @James_Hibberd asks him about Fox’s cancellation of Firefly:

Hibberd: Of all the setbacks, you’ve said Fox cancelling Firefly was the hardest, that for a while you were incapable of thinking about doing TV afterward. How frustrated did you get?

Joss: I wasn’t frustrated; I was heartbroken.

HEARTBROKEN. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I hope Joss knows how much we treasure this show, savoring every aspect of these lovely television moments. I hope he knows that we want him to be comforted by our fan love that will not let this show die.

Episode Clips

Watch Mal’s enthusiasm as he rallies his men and gives them hope. Here is a courageous, hopeful man. When he hears Zöe say that the command has ordered a surrender, you can see the disbelief and devastation on his face and in his uncharacteristic silence. These five minutes and two seconds of prologue won me over to the show before I’d seen anything else, and it can make me cry every time I watch it.

Every.

Time.

Greg Edmondson’s musical score draws out the grief and loss as you see the stunned look on this man’s face. What does this loss mean for this character? We wonder about that through the rest of the series. I think it’s safe to say that, though known for killing off favorite characters, Joss kills Mal’s spirit in this scene, and faster than he’s knocked-off any other main character. Joss made us love this guy and grieve for his loss. And may I remind you that he does that in the span of five minutes, two seconds?

EPISODE: The Message

In “The MESSAGE”, Tracey’s funeral is a true mourning for the loss of the entire show. Not only has Tracey died needlessly in the story, but as you probably know thanks to fandom and the Firefly DVD extras, during the production of this episode the crew received word that Firefly was cancelled; you can almost hear Zöe’s voice speaking from that Pilot episode: “Command says it’s too hot…they’re pulling out. We’re to lay down arms.” For the rest of time, this show will be lauded and lamented for being lost. I’m grateful for this story and that Joss worked so hard to give us a big damn movie, but I regret not being able to see all the places the show could’ve gone. I am so very thankful to you, Joss, for this beautiful show. I will always be grieved for this loss.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

All commentary is my own; video material the property of 21st Century Fox Television, used here as reference only.

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