What happened to the Firefly characters after the series ended?
On the show's 15th anniversary, we reveal how the characters of the short-lived sci-fi saga’s series developed after the film Serenity, according to the comics
It’s been 15 years since Firefly first aired and we first travelled the 'verse with Mal Reynolds and his crew of renegades on the Serenity – and a whole decade and a half since Joss Whedon's sci-fi and western fusion was introduced to what would become one of the most loyal fandoms in TV.
But despite its rapidly-growing popularity, the show was soon was killed off. After only one season, Fox infamously cut Firefly from the network, leaving Browncoats across the globe begging for more. And although Whedon eventually obliged with a cinematic sequel in 2005 – Serenity, named after Mal's Firefly-class ship – not all ends were tied up.
What actually happened to the crew after the events of the Firefly film? Did the gang of misfits aboard the Serenity escape the clutches of the Alliance? Had psychic River finally found peace with herself?
Fortunately, we have some answers. And not simply from the gorram load of Firefly fan fiction orbiting the web.
To address Browncoats' questions and discover what really happened to the characters after the Firefly film, Zack Whedon, brother of Joss, penned the comic book series Serenity: Leaves on the Wind (2014), set nine months after the events of the Serenity movie.
Here's all you ned to know...
Zoe has a baby
And yes, it’s Wash’s. Although her pilot husband (Star Wars’ Alan Tudyk) died during the events of Serenity, the comics reveal that the ship’s warrior woman Zoe (Gina Torres) was actually pregnant during the film. Actually, that’s why the comics start nine months afterwards: in the first issue of Leaves on the Wind Zoe gives birth to a baby girl named Emma.
But Zoe’s joy is short-lived. During birth she suffers complications, and she must be taken to a hospital to survive. The closest one? On a system controlled by the feared Alliance.
The good news: Zoe undergoes a successful operation and lives to fight another day. The bad: the crew has to abandon her on the planet to avoid capture by the Alliance. The Serenity escapes, but Zoe herself falls into enemy hands and is imprisoned on a labour camp planet.
Fortunately, the crew of the Serenity eventually storm the jail world to rescue their second-in-command. Zoe is reunited with daughter Emma and then raises her without Wash, but with all the members of the Firefly family.
Mal and Inara (finally) get together
Yes, this is not a drill, people! Maybe they couldn’t hide their feelings any longer, or perhaps the two were inspired by the romance that sparked between Kaylee and Simon in the Serenity movie (don’t worry, that couple stays solid in the comics). Whatever the reason, we don’t care: the cap’n (Nathan Fillon on screen) and the Serenity’s resident companion (Morena Baccarin) finally, ahem, have relations in the comics.
But their relationship is not easygoing. The two still constantly bicker and Inara is forced to stay aboard the ship after losing her companion license. Then comes the big twist: Inara finally reveals why she left House Madrassa to travel the outer rim with the Serenity, a secret that was never revealed in the Firefly TV series.
Turns out that before the events of Firefly, Inara broke the Companion Guild's strict confidentiality rules – she passed on information that she had heard from a client to the Alliance authorities. That information? The location of a secret Independent military station, Fiddlers Green. This intel led to an Alliance raid on the base, where they slaughtered soldiers and refugees alike in one of the worst atrocities of the war.
House Madrassa let Inara keep her companion status due to her previous high standing, but she was still forced to leave their organisation. And that’s a lot less forgiving than Mal becomes when Inara tells him the truth in the No Power in the 'Verse comic (released late 2016) – he storms off and her confession prevents their relationship from blossoming. So close, yet so so far.
River becomes the pilot of Serenity – and becomes reasonably stable
For a while, anyway. It’s hinted at the end of the 2005 movie that the psychic and sleeper assassin becomes Wash’s successor as the Serenity's helmsman. The comics not only confirm River Tam's new position, but for several issues her character appears much more level-headed than we see her in the Firefly series (as portrayed by Summer Glau).
“River is doing well,” explained Zack Whedon to CBR.com at the time of the comic’s release. “She is much more together, psychologically speaking. She’s still an odd duck, but she has been stable and no one on board wants to compromise that stability in any way.”
However, it doesn’t last. In the comic No Power in the 'Verse, The Alliance trigger River into an unexpected violent rage. The crew aren't hurt, but they're left wondering again whether River is more of a hazard than a help – Zoe even warns River to stay away from her daughter.
Well, you weren’t actually expecting a fairytale ending for her character, were you?
We discover River isn’t the only psychic on the loose
Remember how River gained all her powers after The Alliance experimented on her brain? Well, she wasn’t the only test subject. The comics reveal many others were forced into the human enhancement programme, all of whom now bare horrible cross-hatched scars on their scalps and a penchant for violence.
The group of assassins are led by an Alliance lieutenant known as Kalista, who soon becomes the antagonist of the saga after it's revealed that she is also a test subject determined to bring down the Serenity.
Jayne Cobb leaves Serenity
Nine months after the events of the Serenity movie, Adam Baldwin’s strong and secretly sensitive mercenary has left Mal and the crew to settle with his mother in parts unknown. But, the Hero of Canton isn’t gone for long.
A new character called Bea, a member of a New Resistance rebel movement against The Alliance, approaches Cobb. Her proposal: help her find Mal and his crew in exchange for a huge payday. Cobb obliges and easily locates his old ship.
After Mal initially accuses him of compromising the crew’s safety by giving away their location to Bea, he allows Cobb back on the crew. Then – you might want to sit down for this – in an emotional outburst, Cobb finally admits the Serenity is like home for him. Because sometimes dreams do come true.
Jubal Early returns to haunt the crew...
In the finale of Firefly, we're introduced to Jubal Early – the deadly bounty hunter modelled on Star Wars’ Boba Fett – jettisoned into space. But like Boba Fett, Early doesn’t actually die during his last screen appearance.
In Leaves on the Wind, Early once again boards the Serenity, and once again knocks out its entire crew – except Kaylee, who gives him a huge knock on the head with a wrench. After Early wakes, the usually chirpy mechanic threatens to tweezer his eyeballs if he harms the crew again.
The Serenity crew then dump the bounty hunter on a snowy planet alongside the ship’s trash, assuming that would finally be his end. It's not. He's rescued by Kalista and once again lives to terrorise the ‘verse once more.
...As does The Operative
Yes, the deadly assassin played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the film returns to the saga – this time fighting on the Serenity’s side. Although the crew can’t forgive The Operative's role in killing Shepherd Book and Wash, they require his help to locate the labour camp Zoe finds herself on. The Operative happily agrees and effectively becomes a member of the crew – for a while.
After the Serenity rescues her, Zoe challenges The Operative to a duel to the death (he did kill her husband after all). The exact outcome of the fight isn't shown in the comics, but Zoe returns from the battle alone. When Mal asks if she is okay, she simply replies “Getting there, Sir”. It's ambiguous, but brilliantly so.
Shepherd’s backstory is revealed
Okay, technically Shepherd Book’s history doesn’t fit into what happened after Serenity – remember, The Operative killed him during the events in the film. However, these revelations are too big to leave out.
Remember how Book’s past was shrouded in mystery? How it was never explained why Shepherd carried an Alliance identity card and was knowledgeable about their military tactics? How a seeming man of God also was a Kung Fu expert? 2007 comic The Shepherd's Tale answered all.
Shepherd Book was actually born Henry Evans and at a young age fled from home to escape his abusive father. Forced out on the streets, he soon strayed on the wrong side of the law, gaining a taste for violence, alongside a lengthy criminal record. It’s this that got him noticed by the Independents, who trained Book up as a spy (just go with this). To keep tabs on him, the Browncoats even rip out one of his eyes, replacing it with a camera.
It’s here that Evans joins the Alliance as a double agent, taking the identity of Derrial Book, a recruit that he killed. Evans (now Book) quickly rises through the Alliance ranks until he is in a position to mastermind the Alliance’s biggest defeat, in which 4000 of its men warere killed. Rather than executing him with a bullet to the head, The Alliance leave Book to starve on a seemingly abandoned desert planet.
Of course, it wasn’t completely empty and Book survived, finding God in a remote abbey. It's here he reforms and decides to take God wherever the ‘Verse takes him.
Later he’s wondering the shipyards of Persephone, where he crosses paths with Serenity mechanic Kaylee, thus kicking off the start of the first Firefly episode.