08 “My Name Is Datak Tarr and I Have Come to Kill You” (Defiance season 3) [SPOILERS]


defiance

Why is nobody watching this show?

I mean, it’s a mystery. You can’t blame that on it being a SyFy show. Battlestar Galactica was SyFy, and that was massive. But Defiance is a hugely original and innovative snow, not a remake, not derivative, but something new. It’s exactly what should have a mass audience. So why do I feel like I’m basically talking to myself with these reviews?

In a very real sense, we get the TV and film we deserve. If we aren’t prepared the back the innovative, we don’t really have a leg to stand on when we moan about the derivative. So if anyone wondered why I’m persisting with these reviews, there’s your answer. Because when I complain about all the sh*te, Defiance is the counter-example I point to.

After an attack by the Votanis Collective in Defiance itself, Nolan and Amanda step up their defensive plans, unaware that they have a spy in their midst. Datak Tarr, meanwhile, is presented with a different path of absolution than that he set out on.

So, after cutting away from Datak before he died last episode, it was pretty clear that despite its bloodthirsty approach to established characters, everyone’s favourite Casti kingpin was not going to die off-camera. Actually, surprising nobody, he’s not going to die at all, just yet.

But more about that a bit later.

With Bebe and a group of VC soldiers in Defiance as of the last episode, now we see what they’ve got planned. And at first it looks like an attempt to chop off Defiance’s head. They attack the NeedWant, where Nolan and Amanda are chilling out. The VC round up the humans, and threaten to kill everyone unless Amanda agrees to surrender and to a dubious free passage agreement for the humans.

Amanda, of course, refuses, and Nolan manages to gun down the hostage-takers, with a little help from the humanised Bebe. But an awful lot of people are lying dead at the end.

Bebe, though, has infiltrated the Defiance militia as a capable mercenary who Nolan takes a shine to. When the rest of the infiltrators start shooting up the town, he helps with the defence. So does a more unlikely ally; T’evgin leaps to the defence of a human mother and her children threatened by a VC soldier, tearing out the Irathient’s throat with his teeth. He still refuses to help Defiance, though.

Nolan’s great plan, once they discover the tunnel that the VC dug under the stasis net is to launch a counter-attack. Which doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but his troops are very green. The Irathient boy from last week joins the attack against his father’s orders, and Irisa insists on going too.

Of course, the real reason it’s a disastrous decision is Bebe. When Alak scouts the path as clear, Nolan and Irisa go through, leaving Bebe with the others in the tunnel. Until, of course, he wades out, shoots Alak, knocks Nolan down, and puts a knife in Irisa, and brings down the tunnel on the militiamen with a grenade.

It’s a testament to how well Defiance has played the VC threat, and the story development this season, that it’s hard not to take this like a punch to the gut. Nolan’s pain at leading his men into an ambush is palpable, and even the “return” of Irisa as she plunges her knife into Bebe again and again is a saddening moment.

Fortunately, Yewll has been sitting on a solution. They can weaponise the stasis net (Apparently… -Ed), and turn it into a blast to wipe out Rahm Tak’s camp, now helpfully stationed just in front of it. The only downside is that somebody has to walk into Tak’s camp with a device to channel the energy that way. And it’s a suicide mission.¬†Nolan and Amanda squabble over who should do it, but as Alak points out, there’s only one person who could actually do it without being shot down immediately.

Fortunately, Datak Tarr is taking his sweet time dying. He hangs on the shaming rack, with memories of his father — some sort of Casthi librarian-cum-holy man — trying to teach his son the value of honour.¬†When Amanda pulls him off the rack, she offers him a posthumous pardon if he undertakes the mission, and a pardon for Stahma if she ever reappears. He agrees, and Yewll puts the device into his forearm. And, it actually works. Tak doesn’t gun down Datak, who is bringing a false terms of surrender from Defiance. He begs to join Tak’s army, buying time for the plan and himself. As a show of attrition, he takes his charge blade and cuts off his arm — containing the stasis net detonator.

So when the stasis net blows, Datak is safely far away, and we are treated to the satisfying sight of Rahm and his men being burnt to nothing by the blast, as Datak lies chuckling in a ditch.

This was an excellent episode, and a brilliant climax to the VC threat. The mixture of despair and joy is potent, and in the end the victory feels neither easy not without cost. I am slightly surprised at the defeat of Tak coming in episode 8 of 13, but presumably Defiance will still need to be saved from itself. There were those who were sympathetic to the VC ideas, recall.

This is probably one of my favourite episodes of the series as a whole. It uses the characters and the setting to excellent effect, with an exciting and emotionally heavy story. More like this, please.

Closing thoughts:

  • I told you the Irathient kid would die.
  • Alak has had quite the character transformation. He’s pretty much shed that capacity for irritation.
  • So when Stahma challenges him, T’evgin claims that he has changed his mind about a new dread harvest. Kandzi is not impressed, but his behaviour in the attack bears him out to a degree.
  • Introducing: one armed Datak Tarr!
  • Unless the Omec can regrow limbs. Which they probably can.
  • I’m all for seeing more of the Votan home worlds, after the glimpses we got of Casti here.
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