This is both one of the greatest and most hated lines from the movie Serenity.

Caution, spoilers below!!

Let me set the scene: The crew of the good ship Serenity has, using themselves as bait, led a group of somewhat annoyed Reaver ships to the Operative and his Alliance Armada waiting for them around Mr. Universe's planetoid. The Operative's calm look of smugness and I'm-better-than-thou-ness (You should have let me see her, Captain. We should have done this as men, not with fire) is replaced with annoyance and almost-fear at the Reavers. This is the only time we see his smooth exterior crack.

A large space battle ensues, the technology of the Alliance set against the Reavers' desire for juicy, still living flesh. Through this maelstrom, little Serenity must make her way to the surface and safety. Her pilot, Hoban Washburne (Wash), achieves a sense of zen like calm, picking his way through the death and destruction, chanting his mantra: I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar. He gets the ship through the battle, but they are caught in an EMP beam from a Reaver ship. Serenity is how helpless and falling. The crew is desperate. They restore partial power, but not enough for a powered landing. Wash says something about ...gliding her in.... Someone asks if that is even possible. Wash brings the injured ship in to land; the landing feet are the first to go in the crash. Serenity finally comes to rest in some dark recess, bits and pieces of her strewn across the landscape. We wonder if she will ever fly again. If she's the second major character to die in the movie, after Book? And who wouldn't consider Serenity a major character in the the Firefly saga? They named the movie after her, right?

Then the storyteller shows us. Out of nowhere, without warning, without reason that I could think of at the time. Wash repeats his mantra, but he can't complete the sentence before the Reaver harpoon comes through the window and kills him. The air pressure in the theater dropped, so many people gasped. Zoë's first stage grief is immediate and complete, telling him he has to get up, they must retreat. Meanwhile the audience is still reeling from his death. No drawn out soliloquy, no I love you's, no goodbyes. Just the end of a life, mid sentence. When watching The Matrix: Revolutions, I was overcome by the intense need to pee during Trinity's dying speech. When I got back to my seat, she still wasn't dead.

In Timeshredder's writeup on Serenity, he mentions that he wondered if any of the characters would live through it. And it was close: Zoë's back, Kaylee getting darted in the neck, Simon getting shot. Mal almost loses his fight with the Operative. But in the end, good prevails. At least for now. Mal asks Zoë about the ship, or was he asking her about Zoë? She's tore up plenty, but she'll fly true. Maybe she was talking about both.

Why did Wash have to die? He was the most non violent character of the bunch. Can I make a suggestion that doesn't involve violence, or is this the wrong crowd for that? He was part of a strong, dynamic relationship with Zoë, one that had just overcome a sizable hurdle. I can understand Jayne, or even Zoë dying at the hands of the Reavers, but not Wash. Even Gina Torres, the actress who plays Zoë says this:

I adored Alan, and I adored him as Wash as my pretend husband. I thought we were an amazing couple. In a way, it might hurt you to hear this, but since there is no sequel to Serenity it is a relief because I can't imagine Zoë without him. I really can't.1

I think Wash's death is Whedon's way of telling us that, yes, we can have our happy, American ending to Serenity. But we are going to pay for it, and not with something that can be undone. Serenity was patched up, and sent on her way. Complete with Wash's dinosaurs still adorning the pilot's chair. But without Wash. Wash was the cost that Serenity and her crew paid for their victory over the Operative. That girl will rain destruction down on you and your ship. Book's death was different. Book died so that Mal could find his faith.

Whedon has killed characters off before and brought them back, repeatedly. But Firefly and Serenity lack the supernatural tools of the Buffy/Angel continuity that could bring Wash back from the dead. So should the story of Serenity and her crew continue, it will continue without Wash. But I hope they keep the dinosaurs.

1: Exlusive Interview: Gina Torres Makes a Stand with Standoff and Joss Whedon --

This is my first nodeshell rescue.