Captain Malcolm Reynolds

The lyrics of the theme song give us a perfect insight into the soul of Captain Malcolm Reynolds, the main character of the cult series Firefly and the follow-up movie Serenity.

"Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand. I don't care I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me. Take me out to the black, tell them I ain't coming back. Burn the land and boil the sea, you can't take the sky from me......There's no place I can be since I found Serenity, you can't take the sky from me."

Malcolm Reynolds

What do you do when you've got nothing left to lose?

Malcolm Mal Reynolds is the answer to that.

Malcolm Reynolds grew up on a farm raised by mother and "about forty farm hands". Later he fought in the War of Unification against the Alliance and in support of the Independents, or more popularly known as Browncoats. He happened to be on the losing side though, as he himself puts it, "he is still not convinced that it was the wrong one."

His formative experience was undoubtedly the Battle of Serenity Valley. Despite Malcolm's efforts at rallying troops, the Rebels' High Command decided to retreat from the battle and call for truce.

When Malcolm later decides to name his newly bought ship he calls her Serenity. This is a strong statement and it tells us much about Malcolm – he would rather be reminded of his traumatic experience than choose to bury it and move on.

But Malcolm does not wallow in self-pity or lives in the past. He acknowledges the harsh realities, and tries to make the most of them, although he is not exactly a hard-bitten survivor either. He is a crippled individual, though not in any physical sense. His wound is the mental, or rather the emotional trauma of defeat and betrayal.

That is what makes him so complex, so much at odds with himself. Deeply caring and selfless he can also be crotchety and gruff. Never trigger-happy, he will resort to violence if his cargo and his crew, especially his crew, are in danger.

First and foremost, he is a competent leader. He keeps his head about him even in the direst of circumstances. As he lives in a turbulent world where many conflicting interests meet, he often finds himself in trouble. Luckily, his gutsy resilience and clarity of vision always get him through. Well, almost always.

He has a prickly sense of humor. His quips are hilarious and memorable, and yet for all their brash charm they exhibit a tragic undercurrent. We can't help but think that Malcolm is punishing himself for something that was beyond his control, and in the process he will, albeit unintentionally, hurt others too.

Malcolm Reynolds

Nowhere is that more true than in the case of Inara. He will tease the beautiful companion (not to be mistaken for a common prostitute!) to the point of intimidation because he will not find it in him to own up to his feelings. The most she can hope for is his loyalty and friendship but love… Malcolm will shun even the thought of it! That is a tragic situation and ultimately it will be resolved the only way it can be resolved – leaving both characters shaken and embittered.

What makes Malcolm go on? As he himself puts it: "If the wind blows Northerly, I fly North." So drifting it is. Staying under the radar of the Alliance, and "occasionally makin a buck off it."

But that is not all! There is his crew and the devotion he has for each of them, even a lowly mercenary such as Jayne Cobb, is admirable. Few characters live for his buddies so much as Malcolm Reynolds. Yet it is always a strenuous relationship.

Nathan Fllion, the actor who brought the character of Malcolm Reynolds to life, puts it very succinctly:"In Wash, he has a lust for life and a sense of humor he's lost. In Jayne, he has selfishness. In Book, he has spirituality. In Kaylee, he has innocence. Everybody represents a facet of himself that he has lost and that's why he keeps them close and safe, and yet at arm's length."

What is most remarkable about Malcolm Reynolds is that, though the odds are stacked against him, he keeps fighting a losing battle with the same unwavering chivalry and spirit.

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