Stephen Jacob (mavjop) wrote,
Stephen Jacob

An 'essay' on "The Operative"

Some time ago, there was a discussion of what happened with respect to The Operative at the end of Serenity (the movie) on one of the Browncoat mailing lists I'm on. Lots of people had interesting (and surprisingly varied) ideas on this. Some were dissatisfied with how it ended with respect to his character; others (including me) were not. I wrote a response which turned, unintentionally, into somewhat of an essay. I rather liked what I wrote, so here it is:
    The Operative was always a paradoxical mixture of good and evil --
    evil, but only because it was for a cause which he thought good -- in
    his own mind.

    The vid that he was forced to watch pulled the bottom out of his
    world, in that it told him that all the good he had been striving to
    achieve for others was a false dream, and so it was meaningless for
    him to commit any further evil acts ... and had been meaningless when
    he committed evil acts in the past.

    I don't at all buy into the suggestion that his "there is nothing left
    to see" line meant that he was going off camera to commit hara-kiri. I
    instead interpret it as "everything which defined who I was has been
    taken away, so the person you would kill no longer exists"; "I am a
    blank slate, no longer a person".

    At the end of the movie, The Operative had happen to him very much
    what Mal had happen to him in Serenity Valley. He lost all his faith.
    In Mal's case, he lost faith in the people who were meant to be
    championing his cause, and in god. In The Operative's case he lost
    faith in the very cause.

    Mal had to find himself a new cause which he was prepared to fight
    for. The Operative may well go on to find a new cause to believe in or
    fight for, hopefully in a less horrific manner. It's the sort of life-
    altering change that could well cause him to go and join a monastery
    and swear off violence, since he will probably never again believe
    that evil violence is justified for any cause.

    The symmetry in the movie was not Operative urges someone else to
    commit hara-kiri ==> Operative commits hara-kiri. It was that Mal went
    from lacking belief to having belief in a cause ... whereas The
    Operative went from having belief in a cause to lacking belief.

    I think it's worth pointing out that The Operative never enjoyed doing
    evil acts. He was prepared to sacrifice his goodness to support a
    greater good as he saw it. This is as opposed to Jubal Early who had
    no cause, claimed it was not personal and was all about the job / the
    bounty, and actually enjoyed violence against others.

    Oh. One more thing: I do not really think Serenity was about Mal's
    redemption, though he was in somewhat of a moral downward spiral and
    he was somewhat obliquely redeemed of that. It was about Mal regaining
    belief. Faith. In something. Anything.

    On a related note, I disagree with the poster who said this was
    evidenced by the fact that he didn't kill The Operative at the end of
    the movie but would have killed him earlier. I do not believe that
    changed one bit. For one, Mal wouldn't either at the start or at the
    end of the movie kill someone who was no longer a threat to him. For
    another, Book's words about belief (for Mal and regarding The
    Operative) had clearly got through to him. He wanted The Operative to
    see that he had done these horrifying things for an unjust cause. He
    wanted him to see that he had been wrong, and to be a broken man.
Tags: firefly, joss, review

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