Defiance S2E5 Review: Putting the Damage On
After the revelations about both Pottinger and Amanda’s characters last week, the preview for this episode had me a little concerned. I think the problem was dealt with well, however; at this rate, I may have to start giving Defiance the benefit of the doubt. Look at you, winning back respect with season 2! Instead, we ended up with a great character episode for all three in the spotlight this week, including some long-awaited backstory on Doc Yewll. Big spoilers ahead.
The episode doesn’t waste any time getting straight to that flashlight scene from the preview, which was almost a relief to not have to worry about it coming up. A badly shaken Amanda reports the incident to Nolan, who sets off to find the culprit.
Doc Yewll, meanwhile, is patching up Datak’s wounds from the epic beatdown he received last week, while telling him what an idiot he’s been as of late. See, this is why Doc Yewll has turned out to be the Ensemble Darkhorse–she’s got the blunt truth, regardless of who she’s talking to. For a moment, Datak seems earnestly regretful, and the Doc reassures him as well as her deadpan demeanor allows. On her way out, she runs into another Indogene, who calls her by her first name. Yeah, she has one. Who knew? And it turns out that this particular Indogene, another female named Lev, happens to have been the old Doc’s ex. And she’s dying, too, come looking for forgiveness. Not the most original thread ever, but it does lead somewhere interesting. As Lev tries a trip down memory lane, it becomes apparent that Doc Yewll is really not at all interested in digging up the past. Too bad, Doc: you’re in the wrong episode.
Amanda walks through the city when Nolan suddenly appears behind her, acting strangely aggressive. Not just regular season 1 overaggressive, but overtly hostile and dangerous. Then he starts accosting her, insulting her, until she’s pushed up against the wall… and then she manages to escape, only to see Nolan heading off from across the street with Irisa and Tommy. Perhaps Amanda’s drug addiction is catching up with her? It’s a supremely unsettling moment, one that had me taking brief refuge in Twitter until it became clear it wasn’t real. I think part of the reason it’s so effective is that we have seen Nolan be needlessly aggressive so many times, so while this particular act seems way outside his character, there’s still that lingering doubt. It accomplishes what it needs to and makes good use of previous characterization to do it. Still, not the most fun scene in the episode. Amanda finds Pottinger and asks if there’s any way his Adreno supply could be contaminated. Nope. Hmm…
He sends her off to Rafe’s house, where Irisa and Tommy are tasked with babysitting. Rafe got kicked out at the end of last week, if you’ll recall. Tommy’s being a jerk, which gives Irisa a chance to remind everyone that yes, she actually does care about Nolan. Aww. Nolan confronts Amanda about the complete lack of evidence of the attack, which causes her to realize that it, too, was a hallucination. He found her drug paraphernalia, but somehow missed all those cameras Pottinger set up, apparently.
Speaking of Rafe, he’s left to move in with the in-laws. He goes off to bathe, only to realize just what exactly that entails for a Castithan family. And then Stahma joins him, explaining a bit of their culture before going on to emphasize how little Alak has to do with the business and how she’d so much like to get along with Rafe and Christie, as family. There’s definitely no chance of ulterior motives here. But it seems, at least for the moment, that Rafe is buying it. Or maybe he’s just too befuddled by her appearance to argue.
Datak decides he wants to try apologizing again, but Raiga won’t let him in, going so far as to hit him. Aww, look, he brought flowers! I’m guessing Stahma used the last nine months while Datak was in jail to take hold of Raiga’s loyalties. They finally let him inside, just in time to see Rafe walking out in a robe. Rafe baits him a little, but Datak’s on a mission–to regain visitation rights, at the very least. Christie seems to be the one who’s most upset here, still angry about that whole hand-burning thing. Alak wishes she’d just “let it go” in a hilariously blase manner. But it’s clear that Datak won’t be relaxing at home any time soon.
Back to Amanda at Rafe’s old house, where another hallucination occurs and she ends up pistol-whipping Tommy with the gun he just gave her. Oops. That’s gonna sting a little in the morning. She also manages to shoot Irisa. Almost impressive, for someone with a loose grip on reality. There’s another scene of Lev and Doc Yewll, arguing over how the former can’t really be dying. Then her communicator goes off, presumably for Tommy, but she ignores it. What with no medical help coming, Nolan arrives to deal with it himself, and inquires about Irisa’s injuries too, although it’s healed due to her Irzu powers.
Christie goes to the radio station looking for Alak and meets his DJ-Booth bunny, who ends up having a long talk with her about Alak and even tries to get her to “play” with her. It’s not clear what Alak’s up to at the moment, but I feel it might become relevant soon.
Datak heads to the Needwant, but it seems he’s looking for male company this time, continuing this week’s unintended theme of surprise sexuality. I guess the producers are really taking this “#Gayliens” thing to heart, eh? Except it seems that this particular Irathient is a Votanis Collective contact (although Datak does continue ogling him long after they’re out of public).
Next up is Pottinger and Nolan, who have an escalating argument while searching for Amanda, until Pottinger spots someone and runs off after him. With both Pottinger and Amanda suffering from this, it seems like it might have something to do with the Adreno after all, but no. Still, things keep getting worse, and as Amanda wanders back into the Needwant, frothing at the mouth.
Pottinger’s chase leads him to the deceased Connor Lang, a recurring character from season 1. It turns out that they had a past together, a one-sided childhood crush that Pottinger held (surprise sexuality, part 4!) and what led him to New York, where his tragic encounter with the Votanis Collective occurred… and Connor Lang was there to comfort him with lies. As Pottinger speculates that this incident may be what caused him to become the brutal man he is today, Lang’s image immediately rejects this, claiming that some people “just come out wrong”. It’s a fascinating look into his character, giving him a level of awareness of what he’s doing and the evidence of some guilt on his conscience. Do I smell a redemption arc coming?
Nolan spots a glowing device embedded in Amanda’s neck. He recognizes it as an “Ego Implant” from the wars, so they take her to Doc Yewll’s office right away.
Except Doc Yewll isn’t there. Instead, she’s up on the roof with her ex, having an existential crisis. What makes Lev and Yewll’s interactions so great is how much of a foil she is for the Doc; she’s artsy and poetic, in contrast to Yewll’s blunt matter-of-fact nature, and implies that Yewll was once like that, too. They share their differing philosophies on the state of the world–Lev claiming that they came to change it, and succeeded, while Yewll says they came to destroy it, and succeeded at that. Both are true, to some extent, and soon we realize why: Lev didn’t run off, but instead commit suicide over the guilt of what they’d done (and incidentally giving the first glimpse on screen of the Indogene’s cybernetic nature). And now she tries to convince Yewll to do it, too; to jump from the roof so that they might be together in the afterlife. It turns out that Yewll’s been hallucinating all along. Everyone is this week.
Nolan and Irisa, too impatient to actually look for the Doc or even send one to search while the other stays with Amanda, decide it’s time to perform surgery themselves. Nolan claims he’s removed one of these Ego-things before, but it wasn’t so much “removed one” as it was “half-remembers the general guidelines about what to do to when it malfunctions.” Right as he’s about to ruin the device and kill Amanda, Yewll returns and does it properly herself. Yewll’s response when inquired as to her whereabouts is both hilarious and heartbreaking in that “technically true” kind of way. Amanda will be fine now. Except for the addiction thing. That’s still a problem.
Datak, sits down at a table and makes a proposition to Rafe: it’s time to run the E-rep out of town. Shockingly, Rafe accepts. Unlikely allies, to say the least, especially after the earlier scene between them. Doc Yewll removes Pottinger’s chip, and reveals that she is the one who placed the chip into Amanda, at his behest, although it didn’t work as intended. The malfunction spread to the Doc and Pottinger, creating entirely new chips that then caused similar hallucinations. Doc decides not to remove hers just yet. But why did they place the chip in Amanda? It’s apparently been there for weeks; could it have something to do with Doc’s Kaziri plans, which Pottinger freed her over? What could she possibly know about that? The questions are piling up again.
The ego things kinda come out of left field, and that usually means it’s a game tie-in that they didn’t bother explaining to the TV audience. These tie-ins can be beneficial, and yet so often it feels like they tend to just bog things down. But, all in all, the episode is an excellent character piece, giving us some great insight into Amanda and Pottinger, as well as the badly needed backstory that makes Doc Yewll a more three-dimensional character. It’s exciting to see the wider cast of Defiance finally get some attention, and this week has kept up the streak of giving just about everyone something to do. There’s so much character insight that I may have to write a separate analysis later about what this look shows us. Keep an eye out for it!
UPDATE: My character analysis of Pottinger, Amanda, and Yewll’s hallucinations in this episode is now up here. Be warned that it includes some extensive discussion of rape as it relates to the characters.