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While the use of that weapon does a good job establishing these are seriously evil people, it seems to have nothing but disadvantages compared to something mundane like a silenced pistol:

  • The victims scream, very loudly. In fact, this seems to be the only reason Jayne started listening to River and ran away in time.
  • The "massive bleeding from every orifice" (as the wikia puts it) makes it very obvious a non-conventional weapon was used to anyone who stumbles across the bodies later, so you don't gain any secrecy from using it.
  • It seems to take several seconds to kill anyone with it.
  • It's not clear what the weapon's range is, but considering how closely they held it to their victims I doubt it's that long.

The dialogue seems to imply that their killings are intended to destroy anyone's memories of interacting with River, but surely a simple bullet to the head would accomplish that as well? As far as I know there wasn't any evidence in the series that the Alliance could extract memories from dead bodies or anything like that.

  • 4
    This is just speculation but they seemed to want to wipe out the entire floor just to make sure they got anyone who had spoken with Simon and River, and their sonic weapon is way more efficient and foolproof for that than a gun would be. – Torisuda May 28 '16 at 0:15
  • Plausible deniability. It looks like the person suffered some sort of aneurysm whereas shooting them is clearly murder. – Valorum May 28 '16 at 0:16
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    @Valorum - I'm not sure. They killed a bunch of feds. That's a lot of aneurysms. – Adamant May 28 '16 at 0:26
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    Because a sonic device to unlock doors was already taken. – Rogue Jedi May 28 '16 at 0:53
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    In the movie, River picked up on memories of people who had died by conventional means years before, apparently from their ghosts or something. I don't remember dialogue about destroying memories, but I guess ghost-mind-reading could be what such an unusual weapon would prevent? – Izkata May 28 '16 at 7:43
7

It probably can kill multiple people

From the original script for Ariel:

The SOUND OF SCREAMING.

INT. HOSPITAL - SECURITY SUBSTATION - HOLDING AREA

Jayne, Simon and River react to the continued SCREAMING... what the hell was that?

RIVER Hell is coming to breakfast.

Simon looks at River, not certain what that means, but certain he doesn't like the sound of it.

SCREAMS come from beyond the door. First, just the one. Then more -- all in the same agony as McGinnis when he died.

Later:

INT. HOSPITAL - SECURITY SUBSTATION - RECEPTION

ON MC GINNIS

As we left him, very much dead. Then, CAMERA DRIFTS through the reception area... FINDING another Fed. Also dead, also bleeding out of many orifices. CAMERA CONTINUES TO DRIFT... finding another Fed. Same thing. And another. And another. Every Fed we've seen lies dead in a pool of blood.

CAMERA CONTINUES TO DRIFT... finding the Blue Gloved men walking through the carnage, completely unaffected. They walk up to the separator door, walk through

The phrase "first, just the one, and then more" suggests that multiple people were screaming at once, which is consistent with the sonic weapon affecting an area, with people nearby being affected first. Note that

They killed several Feds (at least six). With only two Hands of Blue and one device, unless they could somehow restrain the Feds, they might find it difficult to kill them with the sonic Device one at a time, if it had a short range. This suggests that they were able to kill multiple people at once with the Device.

From the sequence of events in the episode, it would seem that the person nearest to the Device was affected first (i.e. McGinnis), and that the other Feds were affected later.

They probably didn't need to hold it near their victims for it to work; it's simply that it took effect most rapidly in that case (as evidenced by McGinnis being the first to die). As indicated here, their odd movements and unusual affect makes it quite likely they were not at all biologically typical (i.e. cyborgs or robots). An area weapon that the user is immune to makes a very effective tool.

Note that the script dialogue has some differences from the actual filmed version.

  • In addition to the area affects it is a good psychological weapon. A weapon that causes gruesome deaths without an obvious cause has great intimidation value. – Erik Sep 30 '16 at 18:43

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