Malcom Reynolds is the main character of the TV series Firefly and the movie Serenity. He is played by Nathan Fillion.
Malcom Reynolds was the captain of the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity. During the Unification War, Mal fought for the Independents and was the highest ranking Browncoat to survive the Battle of Serenity.
Mal was born on September 20, 2486 and was brought up on a ranch on the planet Shadow. Raised by his mother and "about 40 hands," Mal apparently received a fairly decent education growing up. Though Mal usually seems more practical than intellectual, he occasionally surprised his friends by displaying familiarity in a wide range of literature varying from the works of Shan Yu, a psychotic dictator, to poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he does, however, have no idea "who" Mona Lisa was.
Mal volunteered for the Independents army during the Unification War against the Alliance, gaining the rank ofsergeant during that time. His loyal second-in-command Zoë Alleyne Washburne was by his side for most of the war, surviving many dangerous conflicts with him, such as the Battle of Du-Khang in 2510 and a long winter campaign in New Kasmir where he commanded a platoon. Mal was also involved in the ground campaign during the Battle of Sturges, which according to Badger was the "bloodiest and shortest battle in all the war," although Mal considered it a distant second. Mal fought in many more battles, but the turning point for him and the Independents came with their physical and emotional defeat at the Battle of Serenity Valley on the planet Hera.
After the war, Mal acquired his own ship, an old, broken and not flight-worthy 03-K64 Firefly-class transport whose previous owner was a man named Captain Harbatkin (and he never got around to changing the registration papers). He promptly named the ship Serenity. On board Serenity and during his various travels, Mal continued to wear his brown coat and wielded a standard issue officer's pistol, a Liberty Hammer, as his weapon of choice, a gun which he had since the war and which he had modified extensively.
- "You're welcome on my boat. God ain't."
- ―Malcolm Reynolds to Derrial Book
It seemed that the war, and particularly the Battle of Serenity Valley destroyed Mal's religious beliefs. He spoke of God when rallying his troops, and kissed a cross hanging from his neck before going into battle during the Battle of Serenity Valley. Later, however, he was uncomfortable having Shepherd Book on his ship, and the difference of opinion on the matter of religion was a constant source of (usually friendly) conflict between the two.
Though Mal lost faith in God and religion, he retained a strong faith in humanity; he mentioned to River Tam that he had risked the lives of his crew on the theory that River was human and not just a living weapon as the Operative claimed. Though wary in his personal dealings, he put great stock in the fundamental goodness of people in general. This faith in an individuals' abilities to do the right thing manifested strongly in his very negative view of governmental institutions. "Governments," he said, are for "getting in a man's way. The Alliance, whose government seemed particularly fond of interference and regulation, was thus his logical nemesis. His contempt for the Alliance never completely disappeared (although he once said that he "wouldn't mind makin' a buck off 'em", and was shown in multiple episodes willing to steal Alliance supplies for a job, as long as it doesn't effect the people), and, although he was on the losing side of the Unification War, years later he still wasn't convinced it was the wrong one. Mal expressed what seemed to be his manifesto—"The Alliance will swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." His anti-government attitude was reflected in his choice to live on a spaceship, drifting from world to world, as far away from Alliance interference as possible.
The ship was a means of escaping the loss of the war and the resulting Alliance dominance over the systems, and Mal's attempts to get by in a Universe that had forsaken him. He took whatever jobs he could get, turning a blind eye if he could to the legality of the job, but never doing the wrong thing in terms of morality (he will happily steal medicine supplies from Ariel for sale on the black market as none of it will be missed on a central planet, but in the episode The Train Job, he returns the medicine he discovers is stolen as he knows the Alliance won't get another shipment to them in time). He was a man of compassion (refusing jobs that would involve him in slavery, for instance), with a strong sense of nobility. He was, however an anti-hero (or perhaps more specifically, a partial moral relativist) and would kill those who threatened him with a philosophy that, "If someone tries to kill you, you try and kill 'em right back." He was not above joking with his crew or picking bar fights, but he retained his honor in the face of adversity. What separated him from typical heroes was that Mal was the type of person who was willing to shoot first and skip the question; oftentimes not even bothering with a "fair fight." He was not above petty theft, smuggling, or even killing, but often rationalized such behavior to make it appear more noble or valiant, such as stealing from Slavers.
He was very protective of his crew and fiercely loyal. He retained the idea that you never left someone behind and, once you are a part of his crew, you are assured his protection. He treated an attack on a member of his crew as being tantamount to a direct assault on him and would not stand for it. He was also a natural leader, inspiring loyalty that was reciprocated as was shown in both his war experiences and in his relationship to his crew. It was hinted that Mal and Inara Serra, a courtesan or Companion, had strong feelings for one another. Both seemed to try to hide their true feelings, however, and could seem to only release the tension by quarreling most of the time.
During the Serenity novelization, River states that, next to Simon, Mal is the one she feels closest to, as they are both, in their own way, damaged. He was the only person she knew who lived in as much pain as she did.