Defiance S2E6 Review: This Woman’s Work
For every step forward that Defiance takes, it then proceeds to take one step in a random direction. Sometimes that’s forward, sometimes it’s backwards, but often it’s just a lateral shift that comes out of nowhere. This episode is kind of halfway in between, with two very interesting plot threads and two serious headscratchers. Read on for more.
This week’s episode opens with Tommy and Berlin getting it on, as she films them because “there’s no internet now,” and also because we need to get the fanservice out of the way early. Tommy reluctantly goes along with it, apparently unaware that there are other ways for sex tapes to leak. Pottinger gets a visit from supreme douchebag of the Earth Republic, Viceroy Mercado, who informs him that an ark fragment’s about to crash and that Pottinger needs to personally go get it with Nolan’s help. Why? Other than setting up an interesting round of conflict for the episode, it seems like there are some ulterior motives. If Pottinger succeeds, then Mercado takes credit and is reelected. If not, then Pottinger’s out of the way and that’s also good, although exactly why isn’t clear yet. What a dick.
Nolan butts heads with Pottinger as they prepare, and then Tommy comes along with Berlin. When Nolan asks why Berlin is here and not Irisa, Tommy’s only able to reply that he wants to “minimize drama” by bringing only one. Except Irisa is an experienced Ark Hunter while Berlin is just a cameraman for the E-Rep’s propaganda division. So Nolan tells both of them to stay home, and Tommy quits in a huff. He’s been acting very childish lately and this seems to have been the peak of it. Nolan has other things to deal with right now and leaves them in the dust. If Tommy was bluffing, then Nolan just called him on it. Berlin talks him into getting reassigned to “the border” and they make plans to leave.
Meanwhile in the B plot, a Castithan priest stands outside the Tarr’s gambling establishment, railing against it. And when he spots Stahma and Christie walking by, he publicly confronts her over it. Stahma’s attempts at damage control reveal the real reason–not gambling, but her power as a woman that threatens traditional morality. So she threatens back, and makes an interesting point regarding assimilation and compromise, but it’s all in vain. Religious nuts can rarely be reasoned with.
Datak and Rafe marvel over a briefcase in Datak’s fancy new bachelor pad, if you accept “barely held together shipping container” as fancy. The logo on the briefcase features prominently in frame, which suggests it should mean something to the audience and must therefore be a game reference. We don’t get to see what’s in it, but it’s clearly impressive to both and definitely will not be the subject of Pulp Fiction jokes on Twitter. Stahma interrupts them, here to confront Datak about setting this priest against her. But nope, he really had nothing to do with it, although his newfound faith makes it seem like he’s okay with it.
A freshly unemployed Tommy spots Irisa tailing a Castithan man and catches her attacking him. About time someone finally noticed; did Nolan just drop it after Bertie came back? Tommy does the reasonable thing for once this season and points his gun at her. Casti guy is definitely dead, and she’s trying to drag him out of sight. Not looking too good, but Irisa has a disregard for bullets now, so Tommy will have to back down.
Way down the plot list, like E or something, we see Mercado visit Amanda and ask for some recommendations for his weird kinks, “getting out of his own skin.” She sends him off elsewhere and kicks off the weirdest plotline yet this season. But we’ll get to that later.
Back to more important things, Nolan, Pottinger, and Churchill tromp through the woods with a squad of soldiers in tow as Nolan expresses his prejudice against Biomen. Pottinger explains that he rescued Churchill when he was injured, going against orders to do it. Uh-oh, backstory; that can’t be good news for Churchill. Pottinger himself points out the similarity between this act and Nolan’s rescue of Irisa (as seen in the minisodes online), but Nolan doesn’t buy it, dismissing Pottinger’s act because he doesn’t view Biomen as real people. Ouch. Nolan strikes me as the kind of guy who gets the “we’re not so different” speech from bad guys a lot. They make it inside the Ark, leaving Churchill and the rest of the squad outside, only to find that the payload isn’t the energy source Nolan was promised–it was a Gulanee containment facility, and one of them has escaped. Worse, it doesn’t know the Pale Wars have ended, and they rush back outside to find the whole squad, save Churchill, dead. Pottinger radios a warning, but the entire regiment they left behind has also been wiped out. Waaaayyy more effective at making the Gulanee threatening than anything they did with the Volge in season 1.
Amanda and Stahma are drinking, as Amanda drunkenly recounts what she can remember from history books about feminism. It’s interesting, as it seems like Stahma is being very genuine here with both her frustration with the patriarchal nature of Castithan society and her fascination with the concept of feminism. Amanda’s description is also just open enough to pick up some of the subtext relating to the experiences she recounted two weeks ago and relived last week. Great acting on both accounts. Stahma decides to give this feminism thing a go, and organizes a meeting with some other Castithan wives. She tests the waters to see if they really are as fed up with male dominance as she is, and while one of the women seems receptive, the priest’s wife crushes any feelings of rebellion that might be brewing. So, Stahma pulls out a brew of her own and poisons all three of them, unwilling to risk feminist rumors harming her reputation. It’s part of what makes Stahma such a great character–you can tell she’s really trying to get through to them, but she’s also coldly determined not to do so at the cost of her status.
The Gulanee fries the last few soldiers as Nolan, Pottinger, and Churchill grab the battery out of the car and run away before it can spot them. They retreat to the Ark and try to set up a trap for it, but it’s moving too fast and they need more time. So Nolan, as the only one with the knowledge to build the trap, tells Pottinger to set up a distraction–and that can only mean one thing. Pottinger hands Churchill a sharp metal pole and tells him to attack the Gulanee head-on, then jam the spike through its faceplate. He expresses his confidence in Churchill’s abilities, and makes all kinds of promises about how they’ll celebrate upon returning to Defiance. Churchill goes to face off with the Gulanee, and Pottinger locks the door behind him, a pained expression on his face. Nolan unhelpfully points out that there’s no way Churchill will be able to win, but Pottinger sends him back to work. It’s a complex moment, certainly, and it makes for an interesting contrast with the previous scene. Whereas Stahma was unwilling to sacrifice even her reputation for the greater good, Pottinger sends a man whose life he saved and traveled with for 17 years out on a suicide mission in the hopes that they might still be able to stop the Gulanee and scavenge something useful that could help the Earth Republic. And don’t take this wrong; while there’s certainly an element of their survival to it, I don’t think it’s an act of cowardice on Pottinger’s part. If he were a coward, he’d never have come out here in the first place, as he did know they were looking for Gulanee.
I also think that Nolan’s treatment of Churchill throughout the episode is an influencing factor in this. If it were Irisa instead, then there’s no way that Nolan would have suggested this distraction plan; if he regarded everyone in the party as a real person then everyone’s safety would be essentially equal in importance. But with Nolan holding all the knowledge and experience of what to do here, Pottinger has little choice but to trust his judgment in the moment. It’s true that he could have protested more, but openly doing so would reveal the likelihood of Churchill’s death and complicate the plan. The most pragmatic action would be to send Churchill out to a certain death to increase the odds of their own survival, instead of everyone dying, and then ensure that Churchill’s death isn’t in vain by bringing tech back.
But today’s a bad day for everyone, and while Churchill fights valiantly, there’s only so much a 7 foot Bioman can do against a 10-15 foot tall Gulanee in a four-armed robosuit. Churchill gets electrified and tossed into an inexplicable bottomless pit, just to drive home there’s no coming back, all while Pottinger watches. Nolan tries to comfort him by pointing out that Churchill died a hero, but Pottinger just asks whether he’d be willing to sacrifice Irisa the same way. The trap is set, and the Gulanee breaks in, but it recognizes a bomb and disables it with its electricity. Except that was a decoy, and the Gulanee’s electrical abilities merely set off the real trap, which overloads the suit. As Nolan prepares to finish it, Pottinger stops him and does the honors himself, knocking the helmet off and crushing the faceplate, allowing the Gulanee to evaporate into nothingness. Nolan kicks the helmet for no reason except wanting to get the last hit in. Kill Stealer.
Irisa’s Castithan victim finally awakes, and she gives him a glass of water and sends him on his way. She seems to be buying into Irzu’s pitch now, which is more than a little concerning. Tommy’s shocked, and decides to trust Irisa, to help her since Nolan can’t. But this means he can’t leave with Berlin.
The Castithan priest is stretched out on “the shaming rack”, pulled apart little by little as every Casti in town drops a rock on the scale in judgment. Casti crucifixion? It turns out that Stahma framed him for the poisoning, by leaking that the dead women had been conspiring to overthrow the patriarchy. Datak points out, while standing in line with her, that she could just have easily framed him, but she didn’t. Why? The only answer is that she must still have a use for him.
Mercado is chewing out Pottinger over “failing” when in reality it’s almost entirely his fault. Pottinger protests, and Mercado tells him that he’s getting sent to Dakota as punishment. Seems like Mercado’s backup plan was to take over as Mayor of Defiance and take credit for securing the town instead. He doesn’t have time to debate, though; he has a long evening of being a creep ahead. Tommy has to break the news to Berlin that he won’t be leaving, and she knows it’s related to Irisa, so she’s pissed. They break up. At the Needwant, everyone is drowning their sorrows, and Pottinger proposes a toast to Churchill as he breaks the “bad news” of his departure to Amanda and Nolan. Berlin comes up to hit on Nolan, and he says he’s busy with Amanda, but she takes off with Pottinger to console him. So they flirt for a minute and then go rent a room so they can hate-fuck purely to spite their love interests. Wow. Seems Amanda’s hallucination wasn’t far off. Then we check in on Christie and Miss Radio Booth Bunny, the latter applying makeup to the former–to make her look like a Castithan. And then she ends up at a party full of humans pretending to be Castithans, where Mercado hits on her. Mr. Sulu, Creep Factor five.
So as you can see, the episode ramps off into crazytown in the last five minutes and it’s not clear why. I can’t help but reminded of the “Trapped by Mountain Lions” trope, where writers who are unsure of what to do with minor characters, but need to use them, arrange ridiculous and contrived situations that no one concerned with the main plot could ever be bothered to care about. That’s what this whole Casti “Whiteface” thing comes across as to me. And Nolan was already coming across like a jerk this episode; he didn’t need to cement it by sleeping with Berlin because he’s jealous of Pottinger. But that’s the writing for Nolan for you. Other than this insane ending, it’s a pretty good episode with some important ramifications for the next few weeks. Next time it looks like we’ll be getting back to Irisa’s mystery, so be sure to watch.