In the Firefly/Serenity universe, really the only time River appears to be sane is episode 10 "Objects in Space". After Mal lets the bounty hunter float away River comes back to the ship, where she converses with Mal:

River: Permission to come aboard sir?

Mal: Permission granted

And that's it. During that encounter she smiled and was aware of recent events and the current situation. The rest of the time (to my knowledge) she either hears everyone's thoughts and reacts strangely, sees hallucinations, or doesn't make since.

Arguably, there is a second scene in episode 11 "Trash". Simon paralyzed Jayne and then tells Jayne he will never hurt him. Then River pokes her head in:

River: Also, I can kill you with my brain

Are there other scenes where she acts "normal", however that is defined?

  • 1
    I'd consider her to be pretty normal most of the series with the exceptions of her manic episodes. Even in Serenity the whole scene from start to finish with the heist she was fairly composed and even sarcastic with the exception of when the Reavers actually landed.
    – JohnP
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 3:26

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure that it's ever realistic to call River "sane" at any point except in the flashbacks. In addition to having her mind screwed with by The Alliance, she has horrific memories embedded in her brain that she doesn't even know she has. Mostly, she goes through periods of lucidity followed by periods of disturbed behavior, which is not unusual for someone with certain kinds of mental illness. About the best I think we can say for her overall mental health is that she got much better after the events of Serenity. (Caveat: I have not read the latest Firefly graphic novel series, which AFAIK is the first to take place post-movie. Presumably that will have more information about River's current condition.)

However, if you're just concerned about those periods of when she's acting normal behavior, there are plenty of them. Usually, when she's relaxed, she seems to be a normal, pleasant teenager. For example, she is often seen playing games with Kaylee in a very much big sister/little sister way. There's a scene earlier in "Objects in Space" where they are playing jacks, I believe (just before she has an episode with the gun). There's also a scene early in "War Stories" where she's being chased around the ship by Kaylee for stealing an apple.

Another example of behavior that's sane, though incredibly creepy, comes at the end of "War Stories", the famous scene where she kills 3 of Nishka's men while firing blind. She's acting very cold and calculating, but that's not much different from what Jayne or Malcom might have done in her place.

Finally, any sane person would likely react by screaming and running away at their first glimpse of Shepard Book's real hair.

  • 1
    I'd always interpreted the "War Stories" scene as her allowing her training to take over, that she accepted her new life for a moment. I don't know if that's sane or not. Lucid? Yes. Sane? Dunno.
    – Schwern
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 18:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.