All descriptions of Reavers seem to be these monsters that have no regard for anything but themselves. However, in some episodes (and the movie Serenity) they hunt together and almost seem tribal (e.g., the first episode - "Serenity").

With this in mind are they respectful of each other and did they have any sort of hierarchy? If not, how did they hunt together and fly spaceships?

  • Seems dupey; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/179645/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 15:18
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    @Valorum I'd disagree - Their question was more related to how the Reavers are capable of flying a spaceship in terms of intelligence. Mine is more intended as why don't they just kill each other as well?
    – Tom
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 15:21
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    The answer (or clues to the answer) to the question, I believe, lie in the episode "Bushwacked" of the TV show, and in the final reveal (Miranda) during the movie Firefly. The Reavers are not just mindless monsters. Indescribably hostile to anything but their own kind, certainly. But not mindless. The episode Bushwacked provides direct evidence that being a Reaver (or becoming one) is a condition, as the lone survivor of a Reaver attack eventually becomes one himself. I'm not able to look into this further right now but I believe this is a clue to the answer.
    – Mike B
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 17:01
  • In addition to Mike B'S points, I believe much of the backstory and details were consciously left vague (open to fan speculation and conjecture on purpose, kind of a Wheadon thing). There likely is some as well as some communication, but its not explicity stated , discussed, or described in any detail. Jane Epson talks about this in her 'Finding Serenity'.
    – wcullen
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


To a degree, this is just an unanswered trope, similar to why zombies aren't interested in eating other zombies. This is listed as the No Zombie Cannibals trope.

And yet... isn't there still human flesh all around you? After all, the zombies are "human", just a slightly hungrier type of human, and most of the capacity for reason is gone. You still have to eat. Meat is meat. So what's to stop this horde from feeding on itself?

Ultimately, there is no reason; it just plain doesn't happen, and is left at that. We can only say for sure that there are No Zombie Cannibals. When The Virus creates zombies that are still technically alive, there's no perfectly sensible explanation. Additionally, no matter how ravenous, the zombies will cooperate, instead of fighting over the scraps.

Emphasis mine. The short answer is because it wouldn't make for an interesting plot.

The linked tropes page lists some in-universe justifications for zombie cannibalism, but it's fairly quick to see that most justifications are offhand mentions and not deeply studied.

In the case of the Reavers, it's never really explained. From the encounters we've seen (the heist in the Serenity movie is the best source afaik), Reavers seem to be able to work together towards their common goal. No hierarchy is ever discussed, the Reavers are shown to be interchangeable baddies.

  • Thanks for your answer. I agree with all your points - I'm guessing this is the closest I'll get to an answer due to the cancellation of it so will accept it as the right answer
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 8:52
  • I hope you don't mind if I try to make a canon-based answer. There's no reason it's better than yours, but I always feel like there should be an attempt.
    – LevenTrek
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 10:02

We never see it directly, but there must be a hierarchy.

The command structure is probably very chaotic, but Reavers perform complex tasks that could only be accomplished with a societal structure.

Most notably, Reavers are able to operate spaceships. And not just little shuttles that could be operated by a single person. In the movie Serenity, we see them operating massive spaceships and battling an entire Alliance fleet.

Another piece of evidence is the survivor in the episode Bushwhacked. If Reavers operated completely independently, one of them would have been raped and eaten him. He could only have survived if all the Reavers were following some kind of instructions.

  • Thanks for the addition - few more good points
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 10:44
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    Imo, the ability to cooperate does not inherently prove that a layered hierarchy exists. We've seen Reavers cooperating (e.g. the bank heist in Serenity, and all the Reaver ships following Serenity when they are discovered) so we don't need to theorize about it, but that doesn't mean that these Reavers must be deferring to a leader of sorts.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 11:06

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