Penultimate episodes are easy.
No, really. Well, if the series preceding them has been awful, it’s a bit late by that point to pull it out of the fire. But provided that the series has been reasonable, then any mistakes that the penultimate episode makes are the finale’s problem.
That said, with the climaxes of the previous two seasons I’ve felt that Defiance handled the pacing well. From the personal level of the first season finale, to the planet-wide catastrophe in waiting of the second, and now something which threatens, through the Omec, all the races on Earth.
What Defiance needs is a climax which balances the stakes with the characters who drive the soul of the story.
With T’evgin dead, Kindzi’s invasion of Earth begins, starting with Defiance. Nolan rallies the town’s faithful to the defence, but the odds are stacked around them. Meanwhile, Datak finds himself captive, unable to protect his family from Omec vengeance.
So we’re into full purple climax mode (That does not read fantastically… -Ed), and with T’evgin’s death last episode, the full on invasion of Earth — the “dread harvest” — which he had resolved to avoid by taking his people to Australia to eat kangaroo is underway, courtesy of his wayward daughter.
Luckily for the people of Defiance, and — more broadly — the whole planet, Kindzi doesn’t seem entirely keen on sending all of her soldiers down all at once. On the face of this that might be rather smart, since the newly awakened Omec seem a bit wobbly on their feet, in contrast to their new “All-Mother”. It looks like I was right, and the ritual where Kindzi ate daddy’s heart was more than just a metraaphorical gaining of his strength.
But the handful of Omec that Kindzi brings down make a mess enough. Those rows and rows of caged Votans and humans that Doc Yewll has been gathering for Kindzi are breakfast. An army marches on its stomach, after all. A few of the frightened captives are taken out to be eaten. Datak pleads with Yewll to send him to be eaten, unable to bear the waiting, whilst Samir is still convinced that Nolan will save him.
Nolan, though, is struggling. He’s back on form, with Kindzi having ripped the arktech out of his head last episode, but his attempted ambush of the All-Mother goes badly. A bullet to the head barely even slows her down enough for Nolan and Irisa to get away in time.
Datak eventually persuades the good doctor to send him to the slaughter next, where he puts up a better fight than anybody else so far. That’s really down to the Votanis Collective’s gift of a bionic arm, which includes a stabby blade (Of course it does -Ed) which he puts through one of the Omec’s foreheads, before running off and leading them away.
Stahma is, understandably, unhappy. Nolan and Amanda unsurprisingly don’t care much that Datak has gone missing, but given that he’s not the only missing person with some connection to Yewll, it does tweak their interest. Nolan and Amanda head off and find Yewll moving the injured — but very much still alive — Omec that Datak got hold of. She obfuscates, of course, but once Amanda yanks out the control stamp from her neck, she gleefully puts a bullet in her wounded charge.
So with Yewll back onside, the good guys can launch an attach at last on the Omec’s base of operations. It’s a slaughter, mainly because Kindzi isn’t amongst them, and Samir’s dreams of liberation by Nolan come to fruition. It’s a tearjerking moment.
Except, the reason that Kindzi isn’t with her troops is that she’s busy terrorising the Tarr family. Earlier in the episode, Stahma comes to her son with Andina, desperate to protect him from the coming Omec-pocalypse. Except, as he notes, even if he weren’t somewhat miffed at her for killing his wife, she has rather led Kindzi to his door.
Which, predictably, later happens. Just after Andina declares her love for Alak, and he tells her it’s a bit soon, Kindzi turns up. The poor Castithan servant girl tries to stop her, and ends as you’d expect. Alak’s bullets have as little effect as anyone else’s. And then Kindzi notices the baby, which she rips from his father’s arms. The perfect vengeance on the Tarrs?
This is Defiance at its very best. For one thing, the action does not let up. I like when Defiance does slow thinky pieces — such as the Nolan/Irisa flashback episode a little while back — but they’ve spent most of this season trying to convince us that the Omec threat is bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. What’s needed, then, is an episode actually capable of convincing us that this is the case.
The unleashed Omec seemed, to this viewer, a little tame, but the explanation of them being fresh out of a few thousand years’ sleep works fairly well. Of course, what is actually happening is that we are seeing a conscious avoidance of what I think of as the “Steven Moffatt conundrum”, whereby a show sets up climactic stakes far greater than it can satisfactorily resolve in the final episode.
One thing which I do really have to mention is what a wonderful character Yewll is. If, as we suspect, we are approaching her end on the show that will be a truly sad moment. She’s sardonic and detached, but very emotionally vulnerable at the same time. And her evolving friendship with Datak, really brought out in this episode is one of the delights of the series.
- “Oh, that looks like a mole on your neck. I wonder what happens if I pull it off.”
- I’m sure Andina said Alak had only two bullets left in his gun…
- I really like how the vampiric elements of Omec culture haven’t been overdone this season. They’re definitely there, but not rammed down the audience’s throat.
- I do wonder what it’s going to take to kill Kindzi, though.