- "I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin."
- ―The Operative[src]
The Operative was an agent of the Union of Allied Planets government. Similar to a black ops agent, the Operative's work was not acknowledged by the government. He didn't officially exist; he gave up his name upon becoming an operative, and he did not hold an official rank in the Alliance.
However, his status as an operative could get him access to most (possibly all) Alliance facilities as well as respect from those who knew what an operative was. He had been highly trained in close armed and unarmed combat. Until he had his faith broken, he was unswervingly devoted to his cause.
After Hands of Blue failed to secure River Tam, the Operative was called in personally to hunt her down. He first visited the facility where River was held before her brother Simon broke her out, reviewing a holographic recording of the escape. When Dr. Mathias found him and asked to see his security clearance, the Operative showed his position. Though the Operative could understand that Simon was acting out of love for his sister, he was more concerned in keeping whatever secrets River gleaned from the minds of key members of Alliance Parliament during her training, which Mathias mentioned to Simon on record. For this, the Operative killed Mathias' bodyguards with his sword before paralyzing Mathias with a nerve jab, letting Mathias fall on the Operative's upturned sword.
To locate River, the Operative began broadcasting subliminal messages in advertisements all over the Alliance. Eventually, he finds her on Beaumonde, having gone on a rampage through a bar, the Maidenhead, before her brother subdues her with a Russian safe word. Noticing on camera another man picking River up, the Operative runs a search and identifies the man as Malcolm Reynolds, a former Browncoat and captain of Serenity. Tracing leads to any of Mal's associates, the Operative locates Inara Serra and uses her to lure Mal into a trap. He tries convincing Mal that River would "rain destruction upon [him and his] ship" and would be better off returned to the Alliance. His threats to fire on Serenity via its pulse beacon prove futile as Mal had already removed it and continues to insult the Operative, who proves resistant to his taunts. Mal then shoots the Operative in the chest, unaware that he is wearing body armor, enabling him to gain the element of surprise when Mal's back is turned. However, once the Operative had Mal beaten, he was thrown back by a flash bomb prepared by Inara, enabling the two to escape. Once he regained his senses, he called his ship in orbit to track Serenity via NAVSAT but his quarry had deployed several decoys.
The Operative soon ordered simultaneous attacks on any ports that once harbored Serenity, including Haven, to give his quarry no place to hide. He then contacted Mal, promising more of the same until River is handed over. In response, Mal has his ship modified to look like a Reaver vessel to bypass Reaver lines blockading the planet Miranda, where they attempted to locate whatever secret the Alliance was hiding. The Operative suspected that Mal would try and broadcast this secret to the Verse and tracked down Mr. Universe, the reclusive hacker who had a transmitter capable of overriding all Cortex channels. Once he forced Mr. Universe into luring Serenity into a trap, the Operative killed him, destroyed his transmitter and called in an entire fleet to intercept Serenity.
However, what the Operative didn't expect was Serenity luring an entire Reaver fleet to Mr. Universe's planet, forcing him to order his fleet to focus fire on the Reaver. During the battle, a large Reaver ship rammed into the Operative's, splitting it in half. Grabbing a stun gun from a fallen soldier, the Operative took an escape pod and followed Serenity to the surface. Making his way back into Mr. Universe's complex, the Operative came across Mr. Universe's love-bot, Lenore, who had left a message for Mal, directing him to a secondary transmitter he missed. Confronting Mal, who smugly notes that he's finally made him angry, the Operative reminds him that he's responsible the deaths of innocent people in bringing the Reavers. Mal stated that he doesn't know how true that is and he explains that he knows the secret the Alliance was intent on keeping hidden and intends on exposing it. He then outdrew the Operative, shooting the gun out of his hand and forcing him to take cover. The Operative then chased Mal to the transmitter before fighting him, only to be defeated when his traditional nerve cluster strike failed due to an old war wound having resulted in the cluster being moved. Mal then punched the Operative's throat, leaving him gasping for air, before dislocating his arms. Instead of finishing him off, Mal decides to show the Operative his "world without sin" by forcing him to watch a report by another Alliance officer, Caron, revealing that it was the Alliance itself that had been responsible for accidentally creating the Reavers during their attempt to calm the population of Miranda. His faith in the Union of Allied Planets shattered, the Operative orders his troops, poised to kill River, to stand down.
The Operative soon arranged for repairs to Serenity on Persephone and called off the search for the Tams. He then faced Mal one last time, telling him that exposing the truth about Miranda may have weakened the Alliance regime, but he can't guarantee that they won't come after him. As for himself, the Operative confesses that he will be leaving the Alliance. Mal promises to kill the Operative if he sees him again, which the Operative assures him will not happen.
Serenity: Leaves on the WindEdit
At some point, the Operative exiles himself to a snowy planet, where his cabin is later visited by Mal. The Operative assumed the Browncoat was going to kill him but Mal corrected that he needed his help, which the former was willing to do.
Working directly for the Alliance Parliament of the Alliance, the Operative single-mindedly hunted down River Tam because he believed that his actions "make the world a better place." He was shown to have little problem with killing as part of his job, ruthlessly murdering several people using his sword, and also ordering the attacks that were responsible for the death of, among others, Derrial Book. While the Operative may have found the killing of innocents wrong, he believed that he was serving a greater good in the end, and thus the killings were necessary. He dreamed of "a world without sin," and the only way to attain that world was by doing whatever the Alliance asked him to do.
The Operative's weapon of choice was a sword. He saw it as being more of a civilized and classic method of killing in contrast to firearms, though during the Universe battle he took a laser pistol from a dead soldier as a last resort. His preferred method of killing his primary targets was to paralyze them by taking out a nerve cluster near their waist, and then having them fall forward on to his sword, much like disgraced Roman generals used to do. In addition to his weapon and hand-to-hand combat training, the Operative was dangerous due to his resolve, that he would stop at nothing to accomplish his mission, even though that means killing innocent people. He truly believed that what he was doing was ultimately for the greater good, and yet he had no delusions about the evils of his actions in his own lifetime. He admitted to Malcolm Reynolds that he was a monster and he could never live in the ideal world he was helping to create.
The Operative was courteous and soft-spoken in manner and had an ethical code of sorts. He had a strong, albeit obviously flawed, sense of justice and only sought to do things in order to create a better world for people to live in. He usually tried to negotiate with people, rather than resorting to force despite his formidable skills in combat, preferring to get his way without shedding blood if he can help it. When necessary, he tried to give his opponents an honorable, shameless death.
Skills and abilitiesEdit
The Operative was highly skilled in martial arts; he was a proficient swordsman, an expert at hand-to-hand fighting, and demonstrated some proficiency with firearms. Using his sword, the Operative easily defeated two armed guards in a secure alliance facility before murdering Dr. Mathias. Through deception and surprise, he was able to lure Mal into a meeting with him, and was more than a match for he and Inara, easily able to outmatch both at once in unarmed combat; the two only survived the fight due to a prescient precautionary measure by the Companion before the fight. On the second encounter between the Operative and Mal, a recently stunned Captain Reynolds proved to be a faster draw, shooting the Operative's sidearm from his hand. Fast reflexes and bullet-resistant body armor saved the Operative's life, and he maintained the upper hand in hand-to-hand and armed fighting with the combat-hardened captain. Reynold's life was only spared by the fortunate coincidence of a war injury having nullified the Operative's attempt to paralyze him, allowing the Captain to temporarily incapacitate him.
An intelligent and meticulous investigator, the Operative used his unrestricted access to Alliance records to identify Mal and trace his connections to Inara, Haven, Mr. Universe, and many of the Captain's other underworld associates. The Operative had also been granted unrestricted command access to the vast Alliance fleet that was forced to take part in the Universe battle.
The Operative had only one known weakness. Though it was not mentioned in the film, it is noted in both the novelization, and discussed in the commentary, that because his combat skills are so high, it is rare for him to meet an opponent that can fight him on an equal level, and thus he is completely unaccustomed to being struck, and has a rather low tolerance to pain. Put simply, he has no idea how to take a hit, putting him at a severe disadvantage on the few occasions that he faces an enemy that can land a strike.
Behind the scenesEdit
The Operative was portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor.
In one of the deleted scenes from the film, the Operative puts on a pair of eyeglasses. The character was originally intended to wear them regularly.
In another deleted scene of the film at the end, the Operative remarks on Serenity's name and asks Mal how he moved on after the Battle of Serenity Valley. Mal told him to figure that out for himself and muttered to himself, "What a whiner."