04 “Dead Air” (Defiance season 3) [SPOILERS]


defiance

There’s nothing I appreciate more in a TV show than a capacity to take risks. I can think of few worse things for a series to do than cling to the safe, the comfortable, and the well-trodden path of the past.

So whether it succeeds or not, a TV series which is willing to take risks and push boundaries will always win respect from me.

And that is exactly what Defiance seems to be doing with its third season. In part, I suspect its creators are just staggered to have achieved a third season. But they aren’t wasting the opportunity. Only three episodes in, and it’s already shown a brutally dark and unforgiving attitude to its storytelling.

So if anyone is wondering why I seem to have a special place for this series, there’s your answer.

With the threat of the Votanis Collective looming larger than ever over the town, Nolan and Amanda seek out a weapons cache from the Pale Wars. Meanwhile Rahm Tak’s demands of Stahma and Datak become ever more onerous. And Nolan and Irisa start to feel the consequences of being in stasis for months.

So I expected the cliffhanger of the last episode, when a furious and humiliated Rahm Tak ordered Datak and Stahma to blow up the old St Louis arch, would be the central and driving aspect of this week’s offering. How wrong I was. Before the opening credit sequence had rolled, and mere moments after an inspirational speech from Amanda from the radio broadcast station at the top, the arch crumbled in fire and smoke, and a hologram of Tak called on Votan citizens to aid his invasion.

Which sort of takes the fire out of Amanda’s “we will overcome” speech.

The imminent threat, and the fact that Tak reveals that Defiance has no weapons left, moves Amanda and Nolan to look for alternative sources. E-Rep documents left behind after New York was destroyed point the way to a weapons dump from the Pale Wars, which might still be untouched, and the pair set out to reclaim the weapons whilst leaving Berlin and Irisa to kill each other investigate the bombing.

The depot is a few hundred miles away, and is not as deserted as expected. Remember how Niles Pottinger was one of the more interesting characters last season, as we watched his descent into madness completely obsessed with Amanda? Well, he’s back, living a life of luxury in a bunker meant for the governing elite, waited on by four biomen he’s named after the Beatles.

Surprisingly, he’s willing to give the weapons up to Defiance. Unsurprisingly, his price is Amanda staying with him at the fuhrerbunker. After Nolan takes his time returning from the armoury — basically because he’s had the stuffing beaten out of him and been thrown in a cage with another poor sod, Samir — Amanda starts getting a bit suspicious, and winds up holding Pottinger at gunpoint.

Except, as Nolan finds out from Samir, as tempting as shooting him might seem, it’s actually not the most inspired solution. His fellow prisoner tells him that he was a refugee with an E-Rep group when Pottinger went mad, shot his commanding officer, and declared himself emperor of the bunker — making his prisoners wire him into a deadman sensor which will set off a bomb if he dies.

Which is generally bad news, when Amanda has discovered Pottinger’s shrine to her, including his video recordings of her and the mask and torch used by the man who raped her in New York. It is strongly hinted, and Amanda clearly believes, that Pottinger was that man. I’m not entirely convinced, but his explanation that he had been following her that night, and had chased down and killed the rapist, doesn’t hold much water. She shoots him in various limbs, joints and non-vital bodyparts, but as Nolan and Samir arrive she puts a bullet in his heart, and all three have to run as the singularity bomb eats the entire facility.

So no weapons, then.

Meanwhile, after the success of his arch-bombing, Rahm Tak discovers that there are two Omec in Defiance and an Omec ship in orbit. This, he reckons, is bad news (He’s probably not wrong -Ed), particularly that one of them seems to be the semi-legendary figure T’evgin. So his next order for Datak and Stahma is to take T’evgin out.

Neither of them seems to have much clue how they’re meant to do this, nor inclination to do so, but given that Tak is still holding Alak as hostage, they don’t have a great deal of options. Stahma decides to seduce and poison T’evgin, one suspects because she already kind of likes him. It works, to a degree, but the poison has no effect. T’evgin doesn’t seem bothered, noting that the older they get the harder his people are to kill, and he is very old.

And finally, having been plagued by headaches from the cuts in their heads from the stasis pod, both Nolan and Irisa collapse. Nolan, with Amanda and Samir, at least has the benefit of some help. Irisa collapses in the snow with only Berlin beside her, who coldly walks away and leaves her to whatever may come.

I’m torn in regards to this episode. I enjoyed Pottinger’s brand of batsh*t crazy last season, but bringing it back for a single episode felt a bit hollow. It felt like it was done just to pick at the edges of Amanda’s character.

Far more interesting was the burgeoning relationship between Stahma and T’evgin. I do like the way that T’evgin really doesn’t seem to care if she’s trying to kill him; that confidence speaks ore effectively to the threat of the Omec than all of the Votan horror stories. Whether or not he is — and smart money has to be that he will turn out not to be — T’evgin thinks himself invulnerable.

And the irreverent attitude of Defiance to its past continues, with the destruction of the arch. It’s still working hard to assure viewers — still reeling from the mass culling of McCawleys previously — that it means business.

Really I think this has been the weakest of the four episodes so far, but I think that’s more a testament to the strong start and the high quality of the previous three episodes. It was still good, it was still edgy, but whereas it has been resolutely forward-looking, this felt more a sop to the past (In the form of Niles Pottinger -Ed). If it was just Amanda putting a bullet through his chest, then fine, but I have to say I’m not sure what it was getting at.

Closing thoughts:

  • Well and truly in fanboy mode, now, but I do love that the opening credits included the ruined arch.
  • It seems strange that Stahma didn’t consider that she knew sod all about Omec physiology, when picking a poison.
  • I know she had her reasons, but Amanda has really screwed up losing those weapons.
  • To be brutally honest, the top of the arch was a terrible place for a radio station. I can‘t believe anyone had done a risk assessment.
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