“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. “
Sorry, it just doesn’t feel right to start off something related to Firefly without including those lyrics, especially when we're talking about Firefly fan theories. Like its theme song, every aspect of the beloved, but short-lived, television show has burrowed its way into the hearts of its fans, and the fandom is still strong more than a decade after Firefly left the air.
As in any serious fandom, supporters of Firefly have filled the Internet with wild speculation and theorization about the lives of their favorite characters. In fact, Firefly – and its follow-up movie Serenity – lend themselves particularly well to theory-crafting, due to the level of world-building and mystery Joss Whedon puts into his shows.
Whether it's speculation about the personal history of River Tam, or the far-flung past of the war that sent Captain Mal Reynolds on his path to skullduggery, fans of Firefly are bursting with ideas about what’s really going down on board the Serenity. In fact, some of the most intense fan speculation surrounds real-life Firefly conspiracy theories, about how and why the great show was cancelled in the first place. Let's see if we can get to the bottom of these Firefly mysteries.
Most fan theories are more off-the-mark than Jayne’s social commentary, but a select few actually end up coming true. Firefly’s concluding film, Serenity, featured some unspeakable tragedies, including the sudden and shocking demise of everyone’s favorite pilot, Wash.
This incident was sad enough as is, but many fans speculated that, due to some foreshadowy conversations, Wash’s wife, Zoe Washburne, was pregnant. The extended universe of comic books later confirmed that, yup, Zoe is pregnant and a widow at the same time. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel good to be right.
If Shepherd Book isn’t the most mysterious character on Firefly, then River Tam definitely is. She arrives on the Serenity naked and in a crate, and her story only gets crazier from there. We know that River was kidnapped and experimented on by some sort of group within the Alliance, likely due to her latent psychic abilities. River was eventually rescued by her brother, Simon, and the show only gave hints as to the full story from there on out.
River’s powers didn’t get the chance to become fully developed before the show was cruelly cancelled, but Reddit user Ishdakitty believes one scene in particular hinted River was gaining telepathic abilities. The scene appears to show River speaking directly into Kaylee’s head, which isn’t a huge stretch given her already existing psychic abilities.
Sometimes, fan theories do come true. The character of Inara Serra always seemed to be carrying a deep and dark secret with her, and it wasn’t just her unspoken affection for Captain Mal. Inara makes plenty of vague, hinting remarks about mortality, and that led to fans speculating she was dying of some sort of terminal illness.
After the show was cancelled and the movie released, Joss Whedon revealed the fans were absolutely correct, and Inara was dying the entire time. The show just never got the chance to follow through on that particular storyline, so happily Inara can live forever in our minds.
In a show full of mysterious characters, Shepherd Book might be the most enigmatic of all. He presents himself as a humble holy man, but soon demonstrates knowledge and abilities they just don’t teach you in a seminary. The extended universe comic books eventually revealed that Book had a past with the Alliance, as most fans had guessed, but some still say the comics didn’t tell the whole story.
There are fans who believe Book was once an Alliance Operative, just like Chiwetel Ejiofor’s memorable antagonist in Serenity, which means Book likely did some terrible things. Others, like Reddit user ThereisnoTruth, believe Book was not a former Alliance member at all, but a current and undercover secret agent, and perhaps one who was trying to uncover the illegal experiments that had empowered River Tam.