Serenity. In the 26th century, humanity has left an overpopulated Earth to colonize a new solar system. The central planets formed the Alliance and won a war against the outer planet Independents—those who resisted joining the Alliance.
River Tam (Summer Glau) is conditioned by Alliance scientists into becoming a psychic and an assassin. She is rescued by her brother Simon (Sean Maher). During her training, River inadvertently read the minds of several top government officials and learned their secrets. Consequently, a top Alliance agent known only as the Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is tasked with recapturing her.
The siblings have found refuge aboard the transport spaceship Serenity with Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), first mate Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), mercenary Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), and mechanic Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite).
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Despite Simon’s objections, Mal brings River on a bank robbery. River warns them that savage and cannibalistic Reavers are coming. They escape, but Simon decides he and River will leave Serenity at the next port. Once there, however, a subliminal message in a television commercial causes River to attack numerous bar patrons, and Mal takes the siblings back aboard the ship. The crew contacts reclusive hacker Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz), who discovers the message. It is designed to trigger River’s mental conditioning. He notes River whispered “Miranda” before attacking and warns that someone else saw the footage.
Mal receives an invitation to visit from Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), a former Serenity occupant. Despite knowing it is a trap (Inara did not argue with him), Mal goes to rescue her. The Operative confronts Mal, promising to let him go free if he turns River over. Mal refuses and, with Inara’s help, barely escapes. River reveals that Miranda is a planet located beyond a region of space swarming with Reavers. The crew flies to the planet Haven to ponder their next move. They find Haven devastated and their old friend, Shepherd Book(Ron Glass), mortally wounded. The Operative claims responsibility for the killings. He promises to keep pursuing them and killing anyone who assists them until he gets River.