There’s one scene in “Firefly” that makes almost every fan of the series intensely uncomfortable. In the episode “Objects In Space,” bounty hunter Jubal Early (Richard Brooks) surprises each crew member, subduing them and making them feel powerless so he can stealthily take control of the ship. When he confronts Kaylee (Jewel Staite), he surprises her.

Being the ship’s mechanic, Kaylee’s the character who always has faith in Serenity, and knows she can keep the ship flying. She works in the engine room – the heart of the ship, as Early notes – and says machines have a way of talking to her. That bright, irrepressible personality is something that Kaylee undoubtedly shares with the ship, and when Early comes to visit, he makes the analogy quite clear.

“I like this ship. Serenity. She’s good looking.”

(The following triggers are mentioned below the cut: rape, violence)

The first time I watched this, I started to get the feeling that he was going to threaten her with rape – or actually rape her, but I wasn’t sure. That will he/won’t he feeling, as a viewer who relates to Kaylee, made me feel powerless, and I feel that way each time I watch the scene.

Early goes on to make Kaylee say, “There’s nobody can help me,” and tells her if she makes a sound, her body “is forfeit.”

I’ve met many “Firefly” fans (and have converted more than a few), and inevitably this episode always comes up. I wish I could speak freely with fellow Browncoats about the brilliantly executed existential nature of this episode, but everyone’s always uncomfortable with the episode as a whole. Some say it’s because it was the last episode, its ending bittersweet; others think the episode is ‘too deep.’ Ultimately, almost everyone is uncomfortable with talking about the ‘Early threatened Kaylee with rape’ scene. Why?

Aside from the obvious (it’s a trigger, it’s an unpleasant topic), what bothers fans about this scene more than, say, a rape taking place in a novel being discussed in a collegiate literature class?

It’s because the scene is effective. It’s supposed to make us uncomfortable. After an entire season of admiring Kaylee, relating to her, crushing on her, or even feeling protective over the character and just wanting the best for her, it’s awful to think about what might happen to her. And knowing that it’s the last episode in the series just enhances the feeling of desperate, helpless emphasis only initiated by the scene.

The threatened rape of this fictional character is entirely more gut-wrenching than the actual untimely demise of the show. More than Early’s nonchalant mention of rape and the anger we feel as a result, the scene plays heavily with the existential overtones of the episode. Is a room your room when you aren’t there? In this fashion, Early is capable of doing incredible and horrific things. If an act is just an act and a body is just a body, he can get the job done, even if it’s gruesome  violent, and immoral.

The fact that such a capability exists is the most disturbing thought of all, and in this way, the horror of the potential rape and all that the scene entails relates directly to the theme of the episode.

Further reading: Objects In Space Review | The Existential Joss Whedon Discussion

What are your thoughts on the “Objects in Space” episode? Please leave your comments below.