So Defiance is back for a third season, and enters that select club of series not put down after the second.
As regular readers will recall, I’ve quite enjoyed the first couple of seasons. They haven’t been flawless, but any series which blends Farscape with Fallout is onto a winner from the start.
Where it runs into a slight problem here is that at the end of season 2, the grand threat and story arc which had sustained it over the first 25 episodes came to something of a conclusion. The question, then, which this presents is how to move forward. Bringing back the original big bad seems shortsighted and lazy, so I would hope that Defiance wouldn’t choose that point. But then does it craft out of what it had already mentioned but not explored, or does it introduce something completely new.
See, I’m getting into it already.
After being entombed in McCawley Mines at the end of last season, Irisa and Nolan are dug up by a pair of strange new alien arrivals, who quickly cause a stir in a Defiance which has suffered in the wake of the Earth Republic’s withdrawal. Meanwhile Datak, Stahma and Rafe follow Rafe’s wife Pilar and the kidnapped Christie and Alak — only to run straight into a Votanis Collective army.
Okay, so it seems Defiance is going the “And now for something completely different” route. The Omec, the bogeymen of Votan culture. Apparently back before they came to Earth, the Omec were the scariest thing out there, once every few decades harvesting their fellow Votan races for slaves — and food.
And now two of them have appeared at Defiance, T’evgin and his daughter Kindzi. They want the gulanite to power their ship, they claim, but things don’t go so well with their first introduction to humanity. Kindzi and gets into a fight with Nolan, Irisa and Amanda, which ends with a few bullets in her. Keen to avert a protracted conflict, Amanda forces a very reluctant Doc Yewell to treat her.
There’s already an atmosphere of fear in Defiance, what with the E-Rep having pulled out and what looks like a bitter winter setting in. So the arrival of an Omec, presumed dead in the cataclysm they fled, whips the Votan population of Defiance into a fury. Nolan has to protect the Omecs whilst Amanda strikes a deal to share the gulanite trapped beneath the rock.
The McCawley and Tarr families, meanwhile, are having a much less fun time of it. After Quentin and Pilar kidnapped Alak and the pregnant Christie, Datak, Stahma and Rafe have finally tracked them down. But before they can make any sort of rescue move, the Votanis Collective ambushes them. Led by the famous General Rahm Tak, who means to attack Defiance.
When the VC come across where Pilar is holed up with her hostages, the new bad guy wastes no time in establishing himself as serious business. First, he shoots Quentin through the head. Then, when Rafe tries to free what’s left of his family, he’s gunned down in front of Christie. Whom Tak then forces Stahma to kill. So in basically a heartbeat, Defiance has wiped out the McCawley family, at least two of whom could be said to have been central characters through day one.
It shows that the VC threat is one that the show wants us to take seriously.
Tak’s plan is for Datak to go and spy ahead of his attack — holding Stahma as a prisoner. It adapts slightly, when the pair fail in attempt to kill the VC general, and he allows them both to return to Defiance as spies. The reason for his change of heart: he has captured their son Alak, who will take Stahma’s position as hostage.
From the beginning, Defiance has always been a very bold show. Honestly, it’s up there with Game of Thrones as far as mercilessness to its characters goes. Even so, I was a bit shocked at quite how many established characters it decided to wipe out in the season debut.
That said, there is a lot of new groundwork laid here. The appearance of the Omec, leaving aside the question of why we’ve never heard of them before, is a nice move, giving the Votan characters something to fear even as the humans just stand around going, “Huh?”. They look a bit cartoon villain-ish, but that hopefully will lessen with a bit of characterisation. The final shot of an ark full of sleeping Omec also reveals a lot more Omecs than had been suggested. Unsurprisingly.
We also have the arrival of the Votanis Collective as an actual force. So far they’ve been off-camera, referred to. Now, with the apparent collapse of the E-Rep, they’re moving in with an eye to crush Defiance. They don’t look like a well-oiled army, exactly, but the number of human heads on spokes around the place certainly made an impact. And so does General Tak.
The duplicity of the Tarrs, also, isn’t exactly a new element, but it gives them something interesting to do. It wouldn’t, though, be the worst thing in the world if this particular story arc ended up with Alak dead. I’ve never much cared for him.
One of the things I am really pleased about, is Irisa. After the events of last season, where she became the vessel for a vengeful AI, she seems to be suffering from a massive amount of PTSD. First she couldn’t shoot the VC scout who was going to kill her, and then her reaction when Nolan gunned down a grief-maddened Castithan.
She’s not exactly welcomed back with open arms by Defiance, either. Berlin beats the shit out of her — unsurprising, after what she did to Tommy — and there’s a rather overegged book about her exploits with a cover like something from a Conan rip-off. I think she’s definitely going to have some interesting times this season
So a good start. A promising start. I have a soft spot for Defiance, but even so I’m impressed with the sheer balls of the direction it has elected for. Whether it can make it work remains to be seen, but fortune favours the bold.
- Seriously, though, if the Omec are so terrifying then why are we only hearing about them now?
- Poor Doc Yewell. She always gets the raw end of the deal. Now she’s literally having her skin ripped off.
- I’ve said it before, but I love that the intro sequence view of Defiance changes with the seasons, weather, etc.
- Why do people continue to trust Pilar?
- So is Berlin now the Lawkeeper? And will Nolan’s return mean he usurps her? That pissed Tommy off something awful last season.
- Berlin is, though, more likely to be upset about Irisa than Nolan.