For the sake of being simple I'm going to count both parts of Serenity as one episode. So welcome to episode 2, The Train Job. Written by Joss Whedon and Tim Minear as a second pilot because Fox couldn't understand what they had with the first one.
This episode starts off with Mal, Zoe and Jayne in a bar on the the 6 year anniversary of the Alliance winning the war. Mal provokes one of them so that Zoe has to step in and start a fight that erupts the entire bar. It seems our dear captain does this every year. Jayne, who didn't fight in the war just relaxes and watches as Mal gets tossed out on his ass and all Wash for a ride. Jayne finally joins the fight, kicking far more ass than Mal. Our three heroes are at the edge of cliff with the Alliance supports holding them at gun point. Wash shows up with Serenity and threatens them with guns he doesn't have. Mal and co get on board.
River is having trouble dealing with her dreams. Dreams of what happened with at the Alliance's academy. The school that messed with her head. A great deal of the early parts of this episode is force feeding us exposition, catching us up on what we missed in the last episode. It is done very artfully, if you didn't know that that was what they were doing you would probably miss it.
They keep talking about a compression coil. In both the pilot and this episode. It is something that will keep coming up, leading to my favorite episode Out of Gas. Mal gets a job from an old creepy man who owns a space station. He makes it clear that he means business and that reputation means nothing to him. All he cares about is action. He wants them to rob a train and he expects them to do it.
Mal and Zoe enter the train and try to get to work bu quickly come across a department full of Alliance soldiers. Mal and Zoe just walk through and try not to draw attention to themselves. The fact that Alliance soldiers are on the ship excites Mal far more than Zoe is comfortable with.
We start to see a bit more of Kaylee's crush on Simon before Jayne puts him in his place and "takes charge" of the ship. The heist goes bad and Jayne gets shot while Mal and Zoe get stuck on the train. Now they are being questioned by the locals. Mal and Zoe also find out that what they stole was the meds for the town. That doesn't sit well with them.
The Alliance finds out about the meds being stolen and orders their men to leave the town to itself. It isn't their problem. Sounds like something our government would do. Jayne orders Serenity of the ground but Wash refuses to leave his wife and River mentions the two men with blue hands who play a big part later. Book points out to Jayne that if they don't have the captain when dealing with the old man things won't go well for them. They need to find a way to get them back.
Simon drugs Jayne so that he can't force them to leave. Inara shows up at the camp and tells the sheriff that Mal is her servant and gets him and Zoe out of there. She came in the nick of time because the sheriff didn't buy their story. Mal and Zoe would have taken the fall if it wasn't for her.
Mal gets the goods ready to return to the town. He can't keep it anymore. It's just then that the old man's enforcers show up to get the goods from them. Mal tells him he will return the money and call it a day but the enforcers didn't want to hear that. A firefight breaks out and a drugged up Jayne shoots the guy in his leg.
Mal and Zoe get caught by the sheriff as they attempt to return the goods. He understands what happens and lets them go, just taking back the medication. Mal tells the head enforcer that he is to return the money to the old man and that's that, but the enforcer says no so Mal kicks him into the exhaust port. Far too funny. The next enforcer says yes and takes the money and runs.
The Alliance officer who ignored the planet's call for help gets a visit by the men with blue hands looking for River. And thus ends the second episode of the greatest show ever made. It was a fun ride that helped us get to know the characters even better and see what kind of people they really were. It could serve equally as a 1st or 2nd episode and that is not easy to do. But Joss whedon and Tim Minear were up for the challenge.