A (fire)fly in Serenity's ointment

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

I have a question about the Firefly spin-off movie, Serenity.

Early on in the film, when the Operative enters the facility known as "the Academy", from which River has escaped, he scorns the facility's head. The Operative says that in years gone by a real man would have taken out his own blade and committed suicide. The head of the facility laughs this off, so the Operative forces him to fall on his blade.

Why then, when the Operative fails to stop Mal and the crew of the Serenity from leaking out some secret news - which he had been employed to stop - does he meet with Mal and confirm to him that his superiors will not be pleased, and that he will retire from the service. Why does the Operative not take his own life?

Jared Brooks

Johnny Fanboy replies:

I believe it's not the fact that River was allowed to escape that makes the Operative urge the head of the Academy to take his own life. It's the fact that the head might have been privy to information that River might have mind-read from visiting members of the Alliance leadership. Such knowledge could harm the government. That is the problem. The Operative is quite prepared to let the Academy boss live, until he learns of this fact.

Because the information that Mal leaks has already been broadcast around the galaxy, the Operative's suicide would be pointless, since it would not prevent the information from spreading. The information has already been spread to the public domain.

However, you could argue that this failure is reason enough for the Operative to offer up his own life, so perhaps he simply isn't as honourable as he would like people to believe.

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