On the surface, the reasons that I am such an insitent fan of Defiance can be boiled down to two things; it was created by Rockne S. O’Bannon, and the series is scored by Bear McCreary. The former is also created my favourite science-fiction series of all time, Farscape; the latter is the genius behind the music of Battlestar Galactica.
But actually, it’s more than that. Defiance has taken it upon itself to depict a post-apocalyptic environment where the survivors of a human-alien war have to try and live together. It hasn’t always gotten it right, but one thing it has never done is shied away from boldness.
That’s an under-appreciated feature, and one which runs as a theme through all of my favourite things.
Two things that Defiance has always been particularly adventurous with has always been the sex and the violence. So it doesn’t really surprise a great deal when within the first few minutes of an episode we cut to Datak Tarr having sex with one of his household servants. It’s darkly amusing when Datak tells her to stop saying his name (literally, repeating his name over and over) as he’s not “some kind of egomaniac”. He’d much rather she insist over and over that she’s Stahma, apparently.
It’s equally no surprise when Datak wakes up the next day, and finds the servant’s (Jalina’s) corpse on his doorstep, with her eyes gouged out. Messy.
The investigation into whodunnit forms the central plank for this episode, following the by-now familiar structure of a criminal investigation as a storytelling mechanism, but not a great deal of it is done by Nolan. Rather, we see Datak and Stahma united in grief at the loss of someone who was like a daughter to them — and the fact that Datak freely admits to sleeping with her the night of her death is apparently insignificant. After disposing of the body with Rafe’s help, to avoid the finger of blame pointing at himself, Datak sets about tracking down the killer.
This ties in closely with Irisa’s story this episode, which sees Rynn (a Irathient side-character who cropped up occasionally last season) return, to go searching for a missing Sukar. This will be relevant in coming episodes, I’m sure, but at this point I flat out don’t care. Sukar has died, vanished, been possessed by gods so many times that this isn’t news.
What is news is that Rynn is accompanied by an Irathient who looks the absolute spit of the one Irisa saw in her Irzu-vision a few episodes back.
Cai, the Irathient, thinks she’s bonkers — which she basically is — but when Rynn disappears he comes to her and Nolan for help. Helpfully, Rynn has been abducted by the same mad doctor who murdered Jalina, drugged and taken off to some backstreet surgery slum. So the two investigations are now bound for the same place. Most shows would have the heroes — both sets, ambiguous as they are — burst in at the last moment to save Rynn/dole out some revenge. But though Defiance tantalisingly ekes out the shot of the knife getting closer to Rynn, it cuts to black at the last moment, without any gallant knights riding in.
It turns out that the root of all of this eyes. Some of the hardcore patrons at the “dress up like a Votan” club which Christie and Mercardo went to at the end of last episode, like to use real Votan irises as contact lenses. For the genuine effect, I guess. So we have the weirdest parallels with the fur trade, I guess, and a link to another thread (which we will come to momentarily). Nolan and Irisa burst in just as the doctor is about to go to town on Rynn’s second eye, and in the kerfuffle Irisa is “grievously injured” and the organ harvester escapes.
He doesn’t get far though, bumping into Rafe and Datak in an alleyway. And, as Datak says, he did promise the wife that he would make Jalina’s killer suffer.
The third thread in this week’s episode is Christie and Alak. After her success at the club last week, her ‘friend’, the ex-prostitute working on Alak’s radio station (DEIRDRE! Her name is Deirdre!) betrays her to her husband. Alak storms down to the club, interrupting her and Mercado (both of whom are apparently aware that the other is not Casti). He rants a bit and tries to drag her home, but really Alak has a hard time pulling off anything but sulky teenager. Their fight on the dancefloor ends with Christie calling him out (mistakenly) as head of the crime family, and (accurately) as Skevur’s killer, and her husband storming off alone.
Christie stays, and after a somewhat odd chat with Mercado about the nature of the Castithan people, she invites him to dance. I’m not sure what’s happening here with these two, but it’s clear to see what Deirdre’s game plan is.
In fact, she lays it out pretty clearly to Christie herself. She has always been about remaking herself, and has her eye on marrying someone rich who can look after her, “like your husband”. And sure enough, when Alak is sulking in the NeedWant, she is there to ‘comfort’ him, with the telling line “I don’t want your scrip [money]”.
There are now so many things just waiting to boil over, that the ending of this season is just going to be an explosion. On the plus side, with this episode of relationship difficulty, Christie and Alak (who had been previously in a contest as to who was least interesting) are now a source of intrigue. I actually care what will happen with their story.
The other thing that Defiance has gotten down to a fine art is closing montages. Just before this episode’s, Irisa and Cai share a goodbye, precipitating a joint vision of their alternates deciding to take over the Votan ship, killing the pilots (?) before absorbing that strange magic wire stuff into themselves and kissing. Bit by bit, we’re being teased the answers to some of the questions arising from the first season.
The montage itself features a strangely haunting performance from Mercado (in Casti makeup),whilst Christie watches, Alak and Deirdre get it on, and an angry and suspicious Nolan wrestles Irisa to the ground and cuts her hand, to watch it heal in front of his eyes. So now he knows.
This series is brilliant.