This episode marks the midpoint of Defiance‘s second season, and it’s safe to say that it has found its stride. I enjoyed the first season a lot, and I think I’m set to enjoy the second even more.
The reasons for that, in my opinion, is that it has mixed up its storylines well, and hasn’t been afraid of its own zaniness. Which is good, because that has always been where it has shone.
At this stage, though, we need to start seeing some weighty movement on the story front. And please less of Tommy sulking, or at least do something with it.
Aliens aside, it can sometimes be a little too easy to forget just how SF Defiance is. A timely reminder, here, then, as a Votan ark falls to earth not far from Defiance. And the E-Rep have apparently been monitoring it for a long while, after an apparent inexhaustible energy supply. So its off ark-hunting for Nolan, Pottinger, his bio-man bodyguard Churchill, and a platoon of soldiers.
Trouble is, there’s a nasty sort-of-surprise lurking in the downed arc — a Gulanee, which is an apparently a Votan made of pure energy, in some sort of robotic suit. Sounds like Thor. This, naturally, is the E-Rep’s “inexhaustible power source”. Figures. It makes short work of the soliders, leaving only Nolan, Pottinger and Churchill left alive to kill it, as it zaps to death anything human-shaped.
Getting to see Nolan in guerilla fighter mode is something which the show has used sparingly, and frankly who knows what he is McGyvering out of car parts. But the emotional core is with Pottinger and Churchill. Needing to buy Nolan more time, Pottinger convinces his bodyguard that he can take the Gulanee, and sends him out to fight. The bioman is slaughtered, of course, but it seems to genuinely grieve the Mayor, which shows in the ferocity with which he eventually destroys the enemy.
This was a very action-y storyline, but two things beg a mention. Firstly, the CGI. Generally Defiance hasn’t used much, and honestly I put it down to budgetary constraints. I was kind of glad, too — better no CGI than bad CGI. But this episode uses it comparatively copiously, and I have to say it ain’t too shoddy.
Secondly, the parallels drawn between Nolan and Pottinger are some heavy foreshadowing, particularly the similarities between Churchill and Irisa. Both men saved people from the Pale Wars, and kept them as friends and sometimes servants. “Would you have sacrificed your Irathient girl?” Pottinger asks, after Nolan declares Churchill a hero. Nolan wouldn’t, we hope, but it does underscore that he knows that some part of Irisa is out of his control.
Speaking of, Tommy! When Nolan sets out on his arc-adventure, his deputy has ordered Irisa to stay behind. Still smarting from their ruckus over Irisa last week, Nolan grounds Tommy, who promptly quits. And makes plans with Berlin to join up with the E-Rep and head off to Texas, or some such… Huzzah!
Except, sadly, it’s not to be. Tommy catches sight of Irisa in the marketplace and rather than walking off when she blanks him, follows as she stalks a Casti.
And yes, he catches her doing her weird infection thing. When she comes to from her Irzu trance, she somehow manages to convince him not to throw her in a cell. Instead they find somewhere to wait for the Casthi to come back to life. And in the meantime, we talk. I don’t care about how Tommy met Berlin, if I’m honest. Their cute story of noodles, screwdrivers and complete surveillance is just a bit too run of the mill, even with Defiance-style highlights.
What does interest me is that Tommy obviously still has feelings for Irisa. How else to explain the fact that he sits and waits with her for a dead man to come back to life. When he tells Berlin that he has changed his mind, and is staying in Defiance, she calls it for what it is and breaks up with him on the spot.
So good on her.
In the world of the Castithans, Stahma is feeling more fallout from her taking over the business from Datak. This time from the long arm of Casti tradition. When Belatok Kurr (him with the funky mask, above) damns her and her establishment for her breaking with tradition, she starts to worry that her interests are at risk. Datak agrees, lingering over the threat of his wife on a shaming rack: “You’ll look pretty.”
Amanda advises Stahma to reach out to other wives, and form some kind of Casti women’s lib. It doesn’t seem much like her style, but she does go to a sewing bee of sorts with a bunch of them. When her “radical ideas” are roundly rejected she takes the sensible option and, ah, poisons them all. With tea. As you do.
Season two is, I have to say, handling the ugly side of Casthi culture a lot better that the first season. Stahma is challenging the sexism in her own particular — murdery — way. The banter between her and Datak is sharp and poisonous, as they queue up to place rocks on Hurr’s shaming rack. There’s something rather nice about her framing the head man of Casthi patriarchy for her own killings. These characters are at the most interesting they’ve been since the series started.
So we finish up this episode with a host of weird scenes. In a montage. Because this is Defiance. Firstly, Pottinger returns home to be unceremoniously re-assigned by Viceroy Mercado, as punishment for failing to bring back a Gulanee. A bit harsh. Mercado will apparently take over as mayor, and Pottinger goes to the NeedWant to drown his sorrows with Amanda. Whilst Nolan flirts with a drunken Berlin, because… I don’t even know. They presumably end up in bed together because their bizarre romances weren’t mad enough.
But hands down the weirdest moment award goes to the end. Chrissy and the former prostitute whose name I still can’t recall, dress her up in makeup to look like a Casti, and she goes to a club. In order to understand Cashi culture, I guess. Except, the Casthi that she bumps into there is actually not a Casthi — it’s Viceroy Mercado in make up.
Bloody hell, Defiance. I just don’t…yeah… Roll on next week.