04 “Beasts of Burden” (Defiance season 2) [SPOILERS]


defiance

All science-fiction is analogy. This is why, for starters, there are so many stories based on aspects of the second world war. We interpret our history — and our present — through the mirror of fiction, of stories.

Defiance, like many other SF properties before it, has headed down the Nazi occupation of France plot line. It’s a risky move, Battlestar Galactica did this and the moral grey areas it entails excellently. To its credit, Defiance has a great set-up for the idea, and has already demonstrated the flexible morality inherent in the situation.

Defiance - Pottinger at gunpoint

The episode opens with Pottinger and Berlin, on their way back to Defiance with new E-Rep mining equipment, attacked by raiders. The raiders kill all except the principle characters and take the equipment. One of them also stops long enough to force Pottinger, at gunpoint, to strip, and then, er, pisses on him.

“You like to hurt people? Piss all over them?”

To be honest, it’s surely clear at that point to everyone but Pottinger that these ‘raiders’ have something more personal against him than just wanting his stuff.

Defiance - angry Tommy

Nolan is tasked to investigate by an understandably pissed-off Pottinger. This puts Nolan and Tommy in conflict, with Nolan minded to deflect blame away from Rafe’s miners, and Tommy wanting to do the investigation properly. It is, of course, some of the miners behind it — including Rafe’s godson — worried that the new equipment will lead to unsafe mining. They’re also not too keen on the E-Rep generally.

Nolan protects the young miner responsible, out of a debt to Rafe from the season’s end, and returns the equipment under the guise of having found it in a known raider-cave. But rather than fleeing Defiance, the miner kid kidnaps Berlin — whose camera caught his face in the attack — further enraging Tommy.

Which is the final straw really. The lawmen come for him, and despite ostensibly smuggling him out the back, Rafe tells his godson to run before gunning him down. Here is your dubious morality. What does Rafe do? Protecting his will put everything he has achieved in jeopardy, as well as the other miners he is trying to protect.

Defiance - Rafe resigned

In the end it’s a non-choice. Pottinger is spoiling for revenge, and Rafe is fine as the subject. The old miner is prepared. When the E-Rep mayor turns up with an immediate eviction notice, his bags are already packed.

Defiance - high amanda and pottinger

Meanwhile, Amanda’s position is becoming even more weathered. Her attempts to use her influence over Pottinger to protect Rafe showed just how tenuous that influence is. Her drug use, too, is well on its way to being a major problem. But we do get a look into her vulnerable side, a vicious attack in her past, and a look back at the terminated pregnancy referenced in the previous season — which it turns out was the result of a rape.

I think we can expect this to reappear later in the season.

Defiance - Datak is home

The most interesting part of this week’s episode, though, isn’t anything to do with the investigation. As we saw at the end of last week, Datak is out of prison, and eager to reassert his control over his criminal enterpise. This starts by humbling his men, for having obeyed Stahma in his absence rather than his orders from prison. He gives Alak the choice of who he should blame, and Alak actually steps up and offers himself. Of course, it’s a peon whose throat he does slit, but he burns Alak’s hand in punishment later.

Defiance - Stahma vs Datak

Surprisingly, it is Christie as well as Stahma who seems most incensed with this. Datak seems to think that now that everybody has been “humbled” that they can go back to how things used to be. I cannot get over just how naive Datak is. After Stahma’s attempt to force her husband to lose his temper by paying E-Rep soldiers to humiliate him fails, she goes the obvious route and turns his men against him. After they have beaten him, and thrown him out into the street, Stahma pointedly tells him that he should have made her a partner.

Well, yeah. He should.

This was a very strong episode. The investigation was a neat tool to explore the sociology of occupied Defiance — a tool which is becoming a staple — and the drawing of battle lines between ostensibly friends is a palpably emotional development.

We’re still none the wiser as to the Irisa/Irzu weirdness, but this episode showed how much trouble Nolan is going to have walking the line between the E-Rep and Defiance. So too, Datak’s attempts to regain his control see him comprehensively out-maneovred. The various power plays which are defining this season are redrawing alliances, and making the whole set up more interesting.

More please!

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