08 “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” (Defiance season 2) [SPOILERS]


I’m presently at the point where I’m more than happy to wax lyrical to anyone about how brilliant this season of Defiance has been, and as we wind our way towards the climax the anticipation is getting pretty damn tense. Syfy have really raised their game lately with original SF series, and Defiance is, for my money, leading the pack.

At this stage, after “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”, there are another five episodes still to go. And that is plenty of time for anything to happen here.

Defiance - father and daughter

So after last week’s episode, Nolan finally know the nature of what’s wrong with Irisa. This episode opens with her telling him the details, including her botched suicide attempt. He, of course, chastises her for letting the gun slip, but is pretty damn determined that he’s going to find a way to fix this. You’ve got to think he’s onto something with not trusting Doc Yewll, but I don’t know that threatening the alien superweapon is the best course of action.

Before they can decide on any more concrete course of action, though, Nolan gets a call. From the plot of this week’s episode.

Defiance - traitor and spy

Remember that brilliant moment a few episodes back, where Datak pretended to get off with a male Irathient prostitute in the NeedWant — casual as you like — but was actually speaking with a Votanis Collective spy about procuring weapons. Well, that prostitute/spy, Mahsuvus Gorath, is back, and is unceremoniously hauled out of the NeedWant by Nolan and a squad of E-Rep soldiers. Turns out that there’s a Votanis Collective bomb somewhere in New York, and they need to know where.

The VC has been the lingering threat in the background throughout the show so far, not really explored except in so much as antagonism with the E-Rep. Hopefully this means we’re going to be seeing more of the tension between the two forces.

Defiance - Kenya alive

The plot is already set up as a gritty 24 style against-the-clock race, when Amanda receives a call from a masked, croaky voiced man claiming that he has her little sister Kenya hostage, and will kill her if she doesn’t get Gorath free. Since the last we saw of Kenya was in the first season finale, being poisoned by Stahma this seems unlikely, but she does indeed appear to be alive…

So Amanda has a dilemma. How, even, does she free a VC spy from E-Rep lockdown, before they break him? And without telling anyone, though the claims of omniscience of a masked man with a voice distorter don’t immediately lend themselves to believability.

Defiance - until the arkrise

Torture duties fall to Joshua “No Man” Nolan, because of course they do. Between striking up a rapport with his victim over their children, Nolan uses some sort of nasty looking bug which burrows its way through Gorath’s body — non-fatally, but extremely painfully. This feels more like we’re seeing the Nolan of the Pale Wars. Calm and in control, and very capable of committing very dark acts of violence.

One thing which stands out is what Gorath screams when tortured. “So it shall be until the Arkrise!” I don’t know about you, but it seems like it might be significant

Anyway, Nolan reaches the conclusion that Gorath won’t break, so with time running out Mercado calls Pottinger back from whatever hell-hole he is languishing in, and orders some brain-extraction process to be used to suck the information out of his head. Faced with this, Amanda goes to Nolan — who rebuffs her — before taking matters into her own hands and breaking Gorath out.

Defiance - failed escape

There’s a nice little exchange between the two of them as to their motivations for their actions; Gorath seems something of an unwilling agent, with the VC holding his family hostage. The Votanis Collective, then, are just as morally grubby as the E-Rep.

It goes predictable tits up when Nolan, smarting from a blow to the back of the head courtesy of Amanda, catches up with them. Gorath holds Amanda at gunpoint, in a stand-off only broken when Datak Tarr blows the Irathient away, to prevent himself — and Stahma — from being betrayed to the E-Rep.

Amanda is distraught, and Nolan little happier, but as he slips away he gives up the information; the location of the bomb in New York.

Defiance - very welcome reunion

Having little choice left, Amanda and Nolan dress Nolan up as an Irathient — with a bag on his head, so basically a big guy. Is that racist? That feels racist.

There’s a pretty needless fake out, where after it all turns to gunfire, the boot of the car is opened and Kenya is nowhere to be found. Only for her to wander out of the shadows for a tearful reunion with her sister.

Now, at the end of the last season I would have expected something like this. But the second season so far has made it seem like she’s dead dead, so I’m not sure this isn’t a bit of clumsy writing rearing its head. Nevertheless, with Kenya back, there’s going to be some interesting moments ahead for Stahma.

Defiance - Casti reconciliation

Speaking of, Stahma receives a visit from Berlin and the newly E-Repped Tommy, who accuse her of being a VC collaborator. She bluffs off her previous meetings with Gorath as being purely recreational in nature, but it spooks her enough to pay a visit to Datak. The two of them are in danger of being found out if Gorath breaks.

Their relationship being the quagmire it is, the tension boils over and they have some rough sex on a countertop. Thereafter Stahma is warned by one of her enforcers that Datak’s crew took a big risk by siding with her. She shoots him down, but I’m pretty confident that she’s only after keeping Datak on her side. Which clearly works, when he guns Gorath down.

Defiance - unwelcome reunion

The real point of interest for this story, though, is Irisa. Nolan knows her secret now, but with him busy she is alone when one of her victims — the Iriathient woman from the Angelark in the season 2 première — tracks her down. Together they try to figure out what the deal is, with Irisa also revealing that the Irzu she sees is herself as a child (did anyone else get that?).

Things don’t really heat up until Sukar shows up (I told you he’d be fine) along with a whole army of Irisa’s other victims emerging through the mist. Says maybe-Irzu, “This is where it will begin… Arkrise”.
Defiance - Arkrise coming

Okay, a few closing points:

  • I already like Tommy better as an E-Rep goon. And even I thought that Berlin’s reveal (forced, as it was, by Stahma) that she and Nolan are having sex was cold.
  • A few episodes without Pottinger was, apparently, enough. Expect him back next week, though I’m not sure what the point of his absence will have been.
  • The masked Kenya-napper escaped, so that’s a mystery for another day.
  • The title of this episode comes from the W.B. Yeats poem “The Second Coming”, one of my personal favourites, and it may well give a little more insight to what’s going on with Irisa. The full poem is pretty apocalyptic, and is worth a look, but the full line the title is lifted from goes: And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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