Defiance S3E1&2 Premiere Review: The World We Seize/The Last Unicorns
Defiance is back for season 3, and it certainly came roaring back like few others. It certainly put the Season 1 and Season 2 premieres to shame. But that level of excitement comes at a cost, and as is so often the case for this show, I don’t know if the direction we’re headed is a good one.
If you’re a Defiance fan who hasn’t popped onto the site in a while, we’re taking a different approach to reviews, with more focus on criticism and less recap. So proceed only if you’re caught up!
We started off the episodes by bringing Nolan and Irisa out of the stasis balls they were left in following the season 2 finale. But friendly faces aren’t the ones doing it; instead, this is our first glimpse of the fabled precursors of the Votan races, the Omec (if you want the run down, the old aliens post has been updated). As such, there’s a good chunk of these two episodes dedicated to establishing just who they are and what their deal is. After all, we were explicitly told before that there are 7 Votan races (Casti, Irath, Indogene, Gulanee, Liberata, Sensoth, and Volge) so revealing yet another species seemed unnecessary and hard to justify. But it’s done fairly well, and there’s sufficient justification for leaving them to fend for themselves. What’s more interesting is what the existence of this precursor race means for the other Votan. The Indogene are specifically stated to be artificially created here. So they aren’t just transhumanist-style cyborgs; they’re full on AI, it seems. And the Volge–Omec was always listed as their homeworld. How are these two undesirable races connected? Are the Volge another artificial race, or perhaps an evolved (or devolved) form of the Omec? Only time will tell, I suppose.
More specifically, there are two Omec main characters now: T’evgin, “the king of the Omec” as he was described online, and Kindzi, his fierce daughter. While T’evgin tries to play nice with the humans, it’s pretty clear that the superiority complex their species was said to possess is alive and well, and this is only an alliance of convenience. T’evgin does seem intelligent and pragmatic, but neither character does much to disprove the rumors about them. Their goal is strictly to revive their people, who are waiting in orbit, and that can’t possibly be a good thing. And this being Defiance, I wouldn’t count on either of them making the old heel-face turn; every time one bad group shows up, another comes along and sends them scurrying, leaving our characters longing for the good old days where they only had to deal with the Tarr family mafia. First it was the E-Rep, and now the VC, who I’ll get to in a moment. What the hell more can happen to poor Earth after an alien invasion that follows on the heels of an earlier alien invasion? By season 5 the Omec might very well be Earth’s last hope against some awful planet-killer or something. Man, life sucks in the Defiance universe.
But you know who it sucks to be the most? Alak. As if getting roughed up by Rafe in season 1 and getting his hand burnt and then kidnapped at the end of last season weren’t bad enough, he’s left to deal with some pretty heavy shit after tonight. In order, he’s still being kidnapped; he witnesses crazy VC guy kill his father-in-law, then sees his mother slit his wife’s throat. And as if that’s not bad enough, being left with just the mad woman that kidnapped him to count on, she runs off with his newborn baby after proving she’s willing to kill anyone and anything. THEN he gets taken in by the same VC guy who’s already killed 3 characters this episode to be used as leverage against his parents. That is a lot of shit for a poor guy who just wants to live a happy life in a small town while working as a DJ.
It’s the deaths of these three characters that are the big deal this week. It’s not often that you see main characters killed off in the premiere, after all. Basically the entire McCawley family dies here–Quentin, who I’m surprised even lasted as long as he did; Rafe, who even Datak felt deserved better; and Christie, whom Stahma was forced to kill. Now we’ve seen Stahma kill many times before, but never with something as… inelegant as a blade. It wasn’t a bad way for Rafe to go out, as he’s always been fiercely defensive of his family, and it was his actions that allowed the baby to survive, so sacrificing himself for their benefit was a fine way for his character to die. And he’s given enough of a cap to his character arc, fully accepting Alak and his half-Casti grandson as family, that I’m okay with it. Christie, on the other hand… well, there’s this trope called “women in refrigerators.” I feel like if Christie actually did die here, then that’s what happened. It was done just to motivate Alak’s behavior and growth from here on, and not because it made sense for her character. I specify “if she actually died” because Defiance LOVES bringing back characters we all thought were dead. Like Quentin. And Pilar. And Kenya. And Connor Lang… hell, Tommy didn’t even wait a single episode after dying before he showed up again. so while the characters may or may not die, odds are good we’ll see these actors again somehow, at the very least.
As far as our other characters go, it’s a mixed bag. Pottinger up and disappeared with the E-Rep between seasons, but Amanda seems almost unaffected by it. The town itself is falling apart, having lost access to the mines. Doc Yewll’s trying to get out of there as fast as she can, and after these two episodes, I’m betting she wishes she’d done it sooner. Stahma and Datak are being forced into doing things, which is way outside what either of them would typically tolerate. Berlin opted to stay behind after the E-Rep put her in front of a firing squad, and is acting as the new lawkeeper in Nolan and Irisa’s absence. Back in the season 2 finale I was wishing we’d gotten to see more of her and how she was dealing with everything, and luckily we did finally get that here. Irisa’s become some kind of pulp/folk hero in the last 7 months, apparently via a book written by Kai, so I guess he survived after all. Somehow there’s a thriving publishing industry in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and after the largest city in North America was destroyed? In reality, Irisa’s got some kind of PTSD after being possessed and can’t seem to bring herself to violence any more. Which, as usual, means friction with Nolan. In other shows, characters gradually overcome their differences and start getting along (Farscape, Stargate Universe, Voyager, etc.), but not so in Defiance. Instead we get new conflicts after new conflicts that maintain the same dynamics. Or one of them dies, like with Datak and Rafe.
All in all, it’s a great start to the season. But I worry, as I did with season 2, about the direction it’s headed; will we just keep one-upping the previous evil every season? Will our new Votanis Collective representative, Rahm Tak, develop some nuances, or just keep being a psychopath? Will any of our female characters retain the agency that basically held up the rest of the show throughout the first two seasons? And will any of our characters ever be able to band together for the common good? Can we even stay invested with killing them off so fast? The season’s only just getting started, so be sure to come back next week for “The Broken Bough.” Remember, it’s at 8PM from here on out!