* Part FOUR of EIGHT * From a breakout session/presentation at Doxacon 2013
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6
So far, the Beatitudes have focused on spiritual blessedness when you are “without”: 1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit”: without anything to offer of yourself, you see your sinfulness. 2. “Blessed are those who mourn”: grieving a loss, your heart is broken by your sinfulness and how your sins have hurt others. and 3. “Blessed are the meek”: without pride, you are meek, and able to bless others. These next Beatitudes focus on good things we are meant to have in fullness: righteousness, mercy, and peace.
I think it’s safe to say that Mal Reynolds hungers & thirsts for righteousness. He may not agree to that, but the truth of it shows in his behavior towards others, especially Alliance Commander Harken in the episode Bushwhacked. Harken scorns Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds (“For some, the war will never be over.”) and scoffs at the Captain of Serenity (“SNIFF. That’s a very loyal crew you have there.”). [LOVE Harken’s (Actor, Doug Savant’s) *sniff*!]
Harken is not wrong: Mal does live with conflict over the war, but it’s due to his deep respect for individual man being wrongly treated, not because he’s a brute and likes power-mongering. His concern for others leads to that “very loyal crew.” Mal is so far from brute, in fact, that he speaks in a kind and fatherly way to Harken, almost as if the roles are reversed and Mal is making an effort to talk the officer out of his bad choice working for the Alliance. I half-expect Mal to say to Harken, “It’s not too late, you know – you could be free, like us.” Harken pushes forward with his Alliance agenda, not really listening to Malcolm speak to him as a man (from the episode BUSHWHACKED, written & directed by Tim Minear):
HARKEN Seems odd that you would name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.
MAL May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.
Still not wrong
Honesty can be impolite and cheeky. But it can also beget respect. And Mal is certainly honest about his motivations, and he’s not standing in awe of the Alliance officer’s status. While the inexperienced officer makes power postures, Mal the war veteran & ship’s captain shows that he owns himself and his ideas. I wonder if Mal could’ve won Harken over as a friend, if Harken hadn’t had an audience of other Alliance troops. Could Mal’s unspoken motto be: “Scorn the federations of men, but love the man?”
Mal’s respect for his fellow man is what fueled his fighting for The Independents. It is not unlike a hunger for righteousness in the way the Beatitude means. The Beatitude tells us to hunger for God’s truth, to be filled with a yearning for Him. Mal is unable to respect The Alliance, a sort of stand-in for God, but he extends professional kindness to the man, in this instance, Commander Harken. Mal may have lost his faith in God, but his love for his fellow man is something he cannot subdue even for the sake of his livelihood (see Train Job). Mal’s life is a great example of living for a greater truth. He is NOT living for God, and yet his life shows what a consuming hunger for something righteous looks like. This hunger for God’s Truth should consume us, as Mal’s desire leads him.
If Mal is a righteous man, then Jubal Early the Bounty Hunter not a bounty hunter, is consumed with an UNrighteous hunger: he is full of a passion, a focused energy on being righteous as he sees it. It’s self-righteousness, so it’s a wrong righteousness. As River says to Early, “You’re not right. You’re not righteous. You’ve got issues.” (from Objects in Space, written & Directed by Joss Whedon):
SIMON Are you Alliance?
EARLY Am I a lion?
EARLY I don’t think of myself as a lion. (tickled) You might as well, though. I have a mighty roar.
SIMON I said Alliance.
EARLY Oh. I thought…
SIMON No, I was…
EARLY That’s weird. (beat) Where’s your sister?
This scene is pure enjoyment for me. Played to focused perfection by Actor Richard Brooks, Jubal Early is amusing in his obsession with himself while also terrifying because his transitions from philosopher to brutal instrument are so smooth. Full of himself, he is ultimately empty. Does that seem right to you? His existential ponderings and wonderings about the state of River’s room while we know that Kaylee quivers in terror in the engine room prove that he is disconnected with the pain of being human. He is separate from the reality of “other” since he lives alone in his mind. His closing words, the final words of the series, are comical in his acceptance of his situation, and as they reflect Firefly‘s status as a cancelled show, adrift (more double entendre!!!):
“Well…here I am…” [floating into empty space]
As I watch him float off, I hear the words, “and he was sent empty away,” from Luke 1:53. What a difference between Mal, giving fatherly advice to Commander Harken, his enemy, and Jubal Early, threatening and terrifying for personal gain. Mal earns a family because of his righteous living; he helps offer stability and healing to River, who sends Jubal Early away empty.
“He has filled the (righteously?) hungry with good things but has sent the rich (those full of themselves?) away empty.” Luke 1:53
1. from episode BUSHWHACKED, written & directed by Tim Minear; guest starring Doug Savant as Commander Harken, Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds NOTICE: how Mal, the prisoner, owns the interrogation with his confidence.
2. from episode: OBJECTS IN SPACE, written & directed by Joss Whedon; guest starring Richard Brooks as Jubal Early, Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam NOTICE: how seamlessly Early shifts back and forth from philosopher to hunter.