I never watched Firefly when it was on tv, but was a Buffy fan, and I was fairly impressed with the movie. The critic in me realizes that it didn't quite add up to a lasting piece of work, and the fan and creative voices tell me it was a hell of an effort. Lots of things I liked, a few big problems. I watched it a second time with my folks on DVD, and had more or less the same reaction; a few of the cheesier decisions were more apparent the second time through. But I noticed something that made me feel a little uncomfortable - and that makes me think slightly better of the whole thing.
When I think about the movie, "the operative" character seems almost like a good guy, and not a bad guy. I don't think this means I'm a fascist, though it's obviously something to consider. But the man who fights dirty to maintain the order of the society, who follows orders without asking why, even when it seems clearly against the stated goals...he just seemed like a dude with a really hard job, who was severely competent, and relentless in his application to his duty. Where Serenity is brilliant is how that fight between Mal (the captain) and the operative, gets blurred. Honestly, when watching, it's pretty clear, because we root for the team of scrappy heroes. But the operative is pretty appealing - his idea of order may get shot down, but he survives. He has something he believes in, a structure, and he's willing to risk his life for that. He's honest about it; not a religious nut who doesn't see the holes in his schema.
Anyway, most of us are probably more like Mal, and inasmuch as the film seems to be a story about order versus disorder, I appreciate very much the benefits of disorder in art, in life, and in social structure. It's the random twitch in the DNA replication that makes the world the fascinating place it is. ("I'm a leaf on the wind...") But I think we all probably have some desire to be the other guy, with rule to follow and a clear plan we don't second guess.
So. 24 is on again, and I'm watching and I'm loving it. I start thinking in a silly way about how many folks Jack kills during the show, and it looks like this so far (conservatively):
07:00-08:00 1 directly - the assassin
08:00-09:00 Possibly one FBI agent.
09:00-10:00 (jack is busy with paperwork and expense reports)
10:00-11:00 3 terrorists (one by vest, 2 by shooting)
11:00-12:00 1 assassin (again!)
Making it a total of at least 5 people before 1pm.
(note: i still need to go back and check the hours and the count to make this more accurate)
Which means that Jack is the scruffy version of the fascist enforcer. He'll do anything to get his man, no matter how far over the line of propriety it takes him, because he believes in the idea of the society he works for. It's not entirely articulated in the show; we know he respected the presumably democratic & african-american president palmer and doesn't respect the current nixon look-alike, but he serves respectfully. Since there is always a clear-and-present-danger, Jack's excesses seem understandable if not commendable. But of course, he's basically insane, and this rule-following, unyielding submission to an ideal ends up destroying every human relationship he has.
Which only leads me to think that maybe the actual subject of 24 is the family. It's always been a big issue on the show, and we're getting a variety of angles into that subject this time around.