"Know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed." As said by Zoe. Could this have been foreshadowing Wash and Book's demise, seeing as how both Mal and Zoe are heroes and survivors along with the rest of the crew? Knowing that Mal and Zoe fought in the civil war between the Alliance, and lost, there could've been some symbolism in this statement -- this also questions Jayne's argumentative attitude confronting Mal with the Battle Of Serenity; he asks if anyone on their platoon made it out alive. You could see the pain, hurt, and frustration in Zoe's expression as the camera slowly fades in on her face. Also, remember when Wash in the very beginning was saying, "Oh God, oh God, we're all gonna die"? That could've been some foreshadowing, too.
Fruity Oaty Bars triggering River's spontaneous outburst of super!ninja skills. Oddly interesting as it was with the little Asian cartoon during the bar scene that strangely reminded me of Furbies combined with Teletubbies and those creepifying Boombas, the sekkrit Alliance hiding behind giving our poor mentally corrupted River cryptic messages was, indeed, very clever. The entire sequence was unbelievable. I loved how she seemed so entranced (almost like a child would be with a cartoon), then it turned into a big massive bar brawl. River wasn't exactly herself at this moment, because of the brainwashing message that triggered the memory that wasn't hers (it was the Pax-woman, but I'll get to that later), which allowed her to hilariously beat the crap out of Jayne (still snickering from that moment) and almost shoot Mal with the gun -- note the almost, because her expression when she faced him was a mixture of surprise and confusion -- which brings me to another observation that came thereafter....
The Safe-Word. Since this is definitely new information that was hardly mentioned in the series, it makes the film much more interesting. Though the confrontation between Simon and Mal when Simon reveals that he could've used it before if something happened made it seem that, after eight months being on Serenity, it could've been useful in the future of Firefly if the series had been continued. This "safe word", spoken in Chinese, makes River fall down and go sleepy-by. From Simon's words, the Alliance had some behavioral testing used on her and on other subjects. Again, with the brainwashing methods and making River their lab rat; testing her to see if she would react (and in this case, tracking her exact location). So River is indeed a weapon to the Alliance, and without the "safe word" she would be invincible and unstoppable.
The differences of relationships and personalities between certain characters. There's the undeniable connection between Mal and Inara, especially learning that Inara had left sometime after the series finale like she'd planned to, and there's the Kaylee and Simon attraction. Two on the verge relationships on the same spectrum, but there's a difference between one particular one. Kaylee shows signs of affection towards Simon and is continuously flirtatious with him in the film -- Simon, however, doesn't take notice to this, or is pretending to not take notice. In Firefly, both Simon and Kaylee are playfully flirting with each other, not knowing how to approach the other without it being quite obvious. Simon was fumbling, nervous, and overly proper in the series; always saying the wrong things at the wrong time (which Kaylee got easily offended by). But it seemed very clear that they mutually liked each other. In Serenity, the audience is given the impression that it is only Kaylee that is crushing over Simon. Whereas Simon is more aggressive in his attitude and not very Firefly!Simon-ish. I found it quite interesting that Joss would introduce them in this manner, but I guess it's for the best. However, in a review from a non-Firefly fan they announced that Inara was Mal's ex-girlfriend, hence why she'd left. Ha! If only they'd gone that far in their relationship -- which, by the way, in the series was a strictly business one even though it was clear they both took a liking to one another. It was the conflict of chosen occupations that made them too argumentative to go farther than that.
Introduction of Sihnon, home planet of the Companions. One thing I absolutely loved about Serenity was the introduction to Inara's home planet, which was her training academy to becoming a registered Companion. Those familiar with the series know that Inara left Sihnon for a reason. This reason is not specified in the film, unfortunately. Because there are subtle hints that Inara had left for something that she couldn't say -- something hidden that was a form of secrecy, even to Kaylee. On the map of all the planets runned by the Alliance, Sihnon was the largest planet I saw planned out. If Inara was running from something, it had to have been completely oblivious to the Alliance for them not to ask her personal or endearing questions when being taken into questioning in the episode "Bushwhacked", or extremely personal. In the end of the film, Mal announces to Inara that she should have to go back to "her girls" (meaning the other Companions) -- she smiles and replies that she is uncertain that she'll be going back to Sihnon. This indicates either two things: Inara is planning on still being part of the crew and being with those she cares about, and possibly try to have a proper relationship with Mal if she can, or she's running once again from that unknown reason she'd disappeared before. Of course, Inara's plain reason for traveling with Mal in the first place could've been to expand her client base -- but that reason, to me at least, seems unlikely.
Pax, Reavers, and the Alliance's reasoning for civilized human life. I so totally loved this storyline and was completely blown away by all the information revealed about how the Reavers first origined from, being the Pax. The Alliance had wanted all planets in their solar system that were to be terraformed for human life to survive without causing any trouble, meaning to be completely civilized. No crimes, no anger, and no disobedience to their order of ruling. However, this Act of Civilization backfired and nearly all the lifeforms on the planet of Miranda had gradually shut down to doing nothing to stop themselves from dying. The small percentage of people had the opposite effect, which was the creation of Reavers -- raping, murdering, killing and eating everyone they sought out. Because the Alliance had screwed up, they kept this a secret. Leaving all Reavers in their own territory, feeding off of the outer-planet folks which, quite obviously, the Alliance weren't so much concerned about (because they weren't part of their solar system of alligned planets, therefore why should they care?). Though in the series, more specifically in the episode "Bushwhacked", the Alliance had dismissed the mentioning of Reavers without hestitation, because they believed them to be stories, like nearly everyone else near and around the Core planets. This is where rugged heroes and civilized folk differentiate in their manners of these kinds of situations, from what I've observed -- the Alliance tries to hide their knowledge of the Reavers which was their creation from the getgo, however when regular ole' heroes like Mal and his crew find out this information they want ALL of the universe to know the truth. Alliance had used River for their own research, but when they'd discovered that River tapped into this secret -- though she was uncertain of this information at first, which was making her literally insane, for both the series and the film -- they wanted to destory her completely. Because if she ever figured out what this information was, what the government had actually done, then their corporation would be finished.
Ballerina!Fighter, River Tam to the rescue! After recovering from the Pax information that was making her crazy and less rational, River had started to regain control over her reactions and emotions, even though she is still psychic and can feel the pain of others. But once Simon had gotten shot (which I started to bawl and literally choking on my tears during that point), River was ultimately affected by this. She knew that she couldn't live without her brother, just like Simon couldn't live with her. "It's my turn," River states as she rises up and runs off into the Reaver pit to retrieve the medicine that would save her wounded brother and companions -- then she got sucked back into the pit of Reavers. This, my friends, is where Slayer!River comes into play. She does ballerina moves that knocks out the Reavers, and slices and dices the Reavers with their own weapons. That last shot, after Mal had returned from completing the mission, is pure GOLD. River proves her dedication to saving those that she cares about, more importantly the crew of Serenity and most of all, protecting her brother that had protected her. That last shot though, that SO seriously needs to be an icon.
Two by two, hands of blue....where are you? My only disappointment is that River's constant chatting of the Hands of Blue Alliance men from the series hardly appeared in the film. Though it is understandable, considering that the film and series take on different timelines and such. Could it be that, in the series, they knew that she held that secret knowledge inside her head about the Pax? They were an interesting duo, and I liked how River seemed constantly frightened of them. Perhaps they were the ones that had been performing experiments on her while she was away at the Alliance academy, and that is why she was scared about going back.