In “The Train Job” — the first episode that aired but the second episode in chronological order (thanks Fox) — Mal and the crew take a job from Adelai Niska (Michael Fairman), a crime boss with an Eastern European accent who is a hobbyist torturer. The job involves a delicate heist from a moving train. Niska takes pains to demonstrate that double-crossing him is a no-no. To drive home that point, Crow (Andrew Bryniarski), the number one sadist on Niska’s payroll, opens a sliding door to reveal a dead man hanging upside-down by his feet. It’s Niska’s nephew, by marriage (as if that makes it okay).
Mal tries to return the money once he sees who they’re stealing from. Crow isn’t having it — he promises painful vengeance. What ensues next is textbook “Firefly,” a special blend of highly comedic action, and the reason the show is so beloved.
For a brief moment, Mal looks disappointed, then he abruptly kicks Crow into one of Serenity’s turbine engines. The big man is instantly pulverized. Without skipping a beat, Crow’s number two is pushed to his knees and Mal starts giving him the exact same speech. The goon interrupts, enthusiastically accepting, and agreeing it’s best for everyone. The whole scene takes less than a minute (landing it at the bottom), but is a great microcosm for the show as a whole: witty exchanges, abrupt reversals in fortune, and a casual disregard for violence. And, in a word — hilarious.