Watched Jaynestown again last night, and gorrammed if'n it ain't still one of my all-time favorite hours of television.
There's something about the way it all comes together -- it takes the most two-dimensional character on the show, the comic relief, and gives him more depth and humanity than we ever see in any other episode. It asks Big Questions -- and manages to approach those same questions, of the relationship between symbol and reality, in two different subplots, without it ever feeling forced. And while the Inara/Fess subplot is pretty standard Inara Being Wise stuff, the Book/River one has some of my favorite lines from the series and does a great job pairing off two characters who don't usually interact with each other.
It's a great episode -- legitimately funny, with a downer of an ending. If that's not vintage Whedon I don't know what is.
But while it's a Whedon show, the writer credit on this episode is Ben Edlund -- perhaps best known as the creator of The Tick.
And I got to thinking -- you know, there are a lot of ways Jayne and the Tick are similar.
They're simple and childlike, we don't really know anything about them other than their basic personality traits, they provide comedy rather than depth of character, and they seek simple solutions to their problems, usually consisting of violent mayhem.
And then, of course, you get to temperament, and they're polar opposites.
The Tick is pure. He wants to do the right thing, the heroic thing, the thing that helps people. Jayne is pure id; he's not actually evil (I'd say more chaotic neutral, though people with more D&D experience can feel free to correct me on that) but he has no motivations beyond his own immediate and selfish gratification. Jayne's speech to the mudders at the end of Jaynestown is like the inverse of an inspirational Tick speech -- full of anger, despair, frustration, cynicism, nihilism, and self-loathing. It's a bitter pill: "Heroes don't exist and no one is going to help you."
Needless to say, this kind of thinking is anathema to everything the Tick stands for.
I think maybe it comes down to something like this: the Tick is an overgrown 8-year-old, and Jayne is an overgrown 14-year-old.
At any rate. Damn good television, and thought-provoking -- and it's not even my favorite episode. (That'd be the one immediately following, Out of Gas.)