One of the things that made Defiance shine in its first season was its willingness to embrace the odd on occasion. One episode in particular (“Goodbye Blue Sky”) wove plotlines of wtf and prophecy with the welcome intrusion of a perhaps scientific explanation at the very end.
In the two episodes so far of the second season that particular element has been lacking. There has been an abundance of unanswered questions, and a lot of potential winked at from a distance. But it has not had the madcap life of the series that caught my interest.
So come on “The Cord and the Axe”. The game is afoot!
Let’s start with the most trivial (for now) points amongst this episode. Yep, it’s happy families time with Stahma, Alak and Christie. And Christie’s father Rafe, for the moment. As they arrive for a “family meal” all together, Stahma sniffs her daughter-in-law (as you do) and can tell that she’s pregnant. Which is a Casti thing, I’m presuming.
There’s the expected “talk” between Rafe and Alak, about limiting Alak’s involvement in his father’s crime enterprise. It’s less, erm, violent than previous iterations, but it does prompt Alak to visit his father. As usual, he puts his foot in it, leaving on bad terms and having alerted Datak to the fact that Stahma has been running things in his absence…
When Stahma gives Alak his father’s knife, with which to protect his new family, there is a moment between the two where they recognise that for their safety, Datak can never return home.
Datak is still stuck in prison. His fantastically inept plan last episode has not seen him free, but Doctor Yewll is faring considerably better. The E-Rep have found her research, and want to release her to in order to work for them. And for some unfathomable reason, she takes Datak with her as an assistant. Datak may be many things, and he will be a spectacularly awful assistant.
In other matters minor at the moment, but likely significant before too long, Amanda is feeling the hard edge of Pottinger intervening in the drug business. She’s jonesing for a fix, and her bad temper sees her nearly beat to death a disatisfied punter at the NeedWant — not unjustified, mind. Her addiction drives her towards Pottinger, leaving her in the curiously compromised position of taking drugs with Pottinger and sleeping with Nolan. That is sure to end well.
Irisa, though, is where the meat of this episode is to be found. The ongoing question of what exactly she has been up to with the child-god only she can see is partially answered, if only in steps.
She’s still beating people to death, this time the McCawley’s servant Bertie. She’s then put in charge of the investigation into Bertie’s disappearance. Nolan, though, frustrated by his daughter’s impassive attitude, discovers Liberata blood on her gloves.
And here is where things get odd. In the woods where she buried Bertie, Irisa argues with the Irzu that only she can see, eventually putting a bullet through her head to free herself from the murderous demands. It doesn’t work, and she is left in agony as whatever force is within her conducts repairs. With half her face missing. Half. Her. Face. Missing. She also gets a glimpse of some strangeness consisting of herself having a conversation with another Irathient on a ship over Earth. From the context, we infer that this is thousands of years before the arrival of the Votan. Some sort of past life/reincarnation story afoot?
This is getting dark at any rate.
Far and away the weirdest moment of this episode, though, is when Irzu claims that Irisa’s victims are not dead but is saving them. Apparently those strange wire-like things inside her are infecting her victims, and we see the Irathient girl Irisa attacked in the first episode alive and well and doing the same to another. The infection is spreading, with Irisa and three others — including the live-and-well Bertie — that we have seen so far.
All of this dark, crazy nonsense is underscored by the final montage. Datak Tarr returns home to confront his wife and son — in the bath, of course — whereupon he attempts to drown Stahma. It’s a brutally effective moment, starting with the shadow of his approach falling on the house, to the bathwaters churned to a violent and muddy mess. When he finally releases her, there is real burning anger in her eyes. Unlike Datak, though, Stahma has always had a firm grip on her temper, and will no doubt wait for the opportune moment for revenge.
I am really liking this. Not just the out-there plot developments, but the willingness to go dark. The last season was all wild-west, and a little lighthearted, but there was always something more serious lurking under the surface — particularly with the Tarr family and Casti culture in general. And now we’re bringing it out. It doesn’t make this season an automatic success yet — there are a lot of potholes on this road in which it could break its leg — but each episode of this season has gotten successively better, and I did really enjoy this episode.
Whether it carries on that way remains to be seen, but for now, daddy’s home.