After a somewhat wooden opening episode, I have to say that the second season of Defiance has been pretty strong. A format has emerged whereby a central “investigation” forms the vessel for explorations of the social issues in the occupied town. It’s pretty effective general method.
But what is making this shine really comes down to the writing. There are so many easy traps into which it could have fallen, the most notable to me being launching immediately into a resistance story. That hasn’t happened, instead we’ve seen a subtle raising of tensions, played out by strong cast of characters.
And, of course, the odd dollop of what the hell.
As I predicted last week, Amanda’s rape and abortion story which appeared out of nowhere is central to this week’s episode. That sort of mechanism grates a little, but the story compensates with pace. As she is attacked in her home by someone looking a lot like her description of her previous attacker. The fact that she was taking drugs just prior adds a question mark over the whole thing.
And as Nolan investigates, it starts to look like that she did just the hallucinate the whole thing. And when, with Irisa and Tommy babysitting her, the lights go out and she is attacked again. And predictably when the lights go up Tommy and Irisa are lying on the floor shot.
There’s an interesting bit here where Irisa’s WTF powers heal her bullet wound, and she has to try and covince Nolan and everyone that she was never shot at all. And is it bad that I’m not unhappy Tommy got shot? That grumpy sod is getting on my nerves.
Nolan’s first conclusion, understandably, that Pottinger gave her spiked drugs. He goes all macho on the mayor, who attempts to fire the lawkeeper before getting distracted by, er, his own hallucination. Pottinger has a strange exchange in the rain with Amanda’s former lover Conor Lang. Who died in season 1. Apparently Pottinger had some sort of unrequited love for Lang. Or something. It’s not terribly clear, apart from the E-Rep occupation leader sobbing in the rain.
Pottinger isn’t the only one being visited by ghosts of his past. Yewll is visited by a former partner and probably lover, who is dying from some sort of disease they created to kill humans… I don’t know. We established in the last season that her past was basically lots of bad stuff. Here we get to see a conscience side, I guess, but it doesn’t feel like anything new.
It does personalise her a bit more, and is a neat way to keep her out of the way of Nolan and Amanda’s plottline. Which means…
…amateur surgery with Nolan and Irisa!
Basically, the hallucinations are the result of a malfunctioning cyber implant doohickey in the back of Amanda’s neck. And it will kill her immediately unless Nolan cuts it out. Which he does, with a red wire/blue wire sort of situation being resolved by the timely arrival of Yewll, having maybe conquered her demons. It’s a bit of a deus ex machina ending, but as with most Defiance,the point isn’t the episodic storyline itself, but how it advances the overall story.
And a final expositionary scene shows a traumatised Pottinger and an in-control Yewll revealing that they replaced Amanda’s implant with a dodgy one, which in turn infected them. The aim of this was to be able to download Amanda’s memories, for purposes yet unknown. But Pottinger is up to no good, and it’s safe to say that once again the good doctor is on the wrong side.
The other main storyline this episode is Datak Tarr. After his beating and expulsion from the family last episode, he is all about getting back in. Which is where Rafe is, having been taken in after Pottinger kicked him out. One suspects that this is all ploy on Stahma’s part — gaining some of Rafe’s credibility at the same time as thumbing her nose at Datak. She reassures him that Alak is, indeed, not running the family business. She means to take permanent control of the criminal enterprise.
Rafe, of course, is unnerved by the Castithan lifestyle, but perhaps the look on Datak’s face when he sees him is compensation enough.
Datak, though, does another of those weird rituals where he basically begs to be accepted back. Not back back, but to be allowed to visit his family. This doesn’t much impress Christie, who is still furious for what he did to her husband, but no one else seems much bothered. Christie heads up to the arch, to hang out with the junkie who runs Alak’s radio station now — no, I don’t recall her name either.
Probably the most interesting development, though, is the tilt at a new alliance between Datak and Rafe. Datak has apparently secured weapons and promises of help from the Votanis Collective to remove the E-Rep, and approaches Rafe to help. Rafe agrees, of course, wanting to hurt Pottinger. But if this is going to become a serious resistance, then there is definitely going to be a theme of Defiance trapped between the two powers.