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Defiance Season 1, Episode 2

Defiance Season 1, Episode 2

Defiance-episode-2-‘Down The Ground Where The Dead Men Go’

Jeb Nolan, former renegade and Ark scavenger, now newly Mayor-appointed ‘Lawkeeper’ of Defiance, has his work cut out for him. The Castithan deserter from the battle against the Volge has been captured and sentenced to a ritual punishment by the rest of his kinsmen, a form of torture justified as part of their religious belief. Elsewhere the Mayor’s traitorous civil servant, Ben, is woken by last week’s mystery man and escapes custody, causing an explosion at Rafe McCawley’s mine, which prompts a search exploration underground (led by Nolan) to find him.

The closing battle of Defiance’s pilot episode showcased the ambitious scale this show could reach; a wonderfully executed combat scene that thrilled equally well with its heart-stopping guns-blazing mayhem and its simply-wrought emotional beats. Amid the action, the town’s population were shown worthy of their settlement’s name, and Nolan proved his qualities as one of the ‘Defiant Few’ – as a leader and a hero that Defiance sorely needed in its time of crisis.

This episode shifts the focus away from Nolan, instead focusing on interactions between the various characters inhabiting Defiance. The Castithan storyline acts as a deft introduction to the way this show can explore the myriad cultures and religions existing in this interspecies metropolis. The Mayor’s handling of the deserter’s situation – to simply “keep it confined to the Hollows” – shows how, despite the cohabitation of these disparate species, each clan is still isolated by their separate beliefs. Despite the community spirit inspired against the Volge, peace is still a fragile ideal in Defiance.

The show follows a conventional narrative of heroes and villains in a path well-suited to its sci-fi western feel (I’m having Firefly flashbacks!), yet the writers weave ambiguity into the mix. The relationship between Datak and Stahma Tarr is fascinating to watch. Jaime Murray is perfectly cast as the languid, ethereal Stahma, effortlessly portraying the character’s subtle machinations and powerful influence on her husband and his more directly aggressive scheming. Her oblique confession that she pushed a former paramour out of an airlock is a wonderfully scripted and gleefully acted moment. The angelic white brightness of the Tarr’s bathing scene midway through the episode is a perfect illustration of their façade, where their radiant appearance conceals a more malicious depth. Datak’s violent solution to the problem of the Castithan coward in the episode’s denouement leaves little doubt in viewers minds of his evil nature.

Stephanie Leonidas as Irisa has less to do this episode, besides look angry and defy Nolan’s orders (which she does extremely well, I might add), and Mia Kirshner’s Kenya is absent altogether. Understandably as with any ensemble show, Game of Thrones for instance, it is tough to juggle multiple character arcs every single episode, so the occasional omission here can be overlooked.  Despite not being entirely enamoured with Grant Bowler’s portrayal of Nolan last time round, this episode managed to alter that opinion. Though his roguishness lacks a certain edge, Bowler’s charming personality shines through – and his companionship/father-daughter chemistry with Irisa is a continued joy to watch.

Defiance continues to excite with its blend of impressive visuals (the shots of underground St. Louis are pretty awe-inspiring) and intelligent storytelling. The overarching conspiracy of the Ex-Mayor’s plans to destroy Defiance is captivating viewing, but it is the little touches that continue to enhance the storyline beyond generic sci-fi fare. A particular favourite this episode was Nolan’s discovery of the worn and battered edition of H.G.Wells’s War of the Worlds, a classic alien invasion story, in the mines of old St. Louis. Defiance is a modern sci-fi show going beyond the worn trope of alien vs. human alluded to by the image of Wells’s book. In this new Earth, Voltan and Human are trying to retain the traditions and beliefs lost following Arkfall – a desire that conflicts with the need to evolve in this new cultural and environmental landscape.

★★★★

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