Episode 8 has an incredibly wordy title, probably one of the longest episode titles I’ve ever seen, but it’s also one of the best episodes of Defiance ever. Maybe they should just start giving every episode a ridiculously long title?
The episode starts off with a flashback to the Votan system, before the Arks were launched. That’s something that was often discussed as a possibility, but no one ever stated that they had plans to actually do it. As most of the flashback is focused on young Datak (which that verbose title makes obvious), we don’t see a whole lot beyond the walls of their house, but these short establishing shots of Daribo (the Indogene/Castithan homeworld) are among the only views of the Votan homeworlds we’ve gotten on the show. It definitely has that Star Wars prequel vibe to it, and shows that the preference for only the purest of whites is a more universal Castithan trait and not just limited to the Tarrs’ home.
The flashback itself pulls a rather interesting trick, casting Datak’s normal actor, Tony Curran, in the place of Datak’s father while a child actor portrays the young Datak himself. I can’t help but wonder if this was a creative decision or a budgetary one, but it worked out nicely either way, since Curran is one of the best actors on the show. Datak’s father, whose name is never mentioned in the episode, seems to be a respectable man, serving as some sort of priest. It’s amazing, honestly, how much these few scenes fill in Datak’s backstory and inform his actions, even retroactively. We see him given that highly prized charge blade by his father as a parting gift, when his father chooses to remain behind and face death while carrying out his duties. We also see it stabbed through his hand as a punishment, in a manner not dissimilar to what Datak did to Alak’s hand last season. This also explains somewhat the sudden religious turn that Datak took on for a while last season; perhaps time in jail gave him a chance to contemplate his father’s life and prompted him to attempt to follow his example (for however briefly). At the same time, it was ultimately Datak’s vices that allowed him to survive, since he won his trip aboard the Arks while gambling. It makes for an interesting personal conflict and explains why he so often seems to shift between courageous and honorable and low-life crime lord. Is this all explanation after the fact, or did they have it sketched out some time last season? Doesn’t really matter if you never tell the audience, I guess.
Enough about the flashbacks though, as they aren’t even supposed to be the main focus. Rather, they’re context for his upcoming confrontation at the episode’s end. Defiance gets duped by an undercover Indogene once again (astronaut guy, former mayor, Kenya… this is seriously like the 6th time), as the team from Rahm Tak’s army emerges in the city and shoots up the Need/Want, which the Indogene saves them from and offers to help defend the city. Instead, he tricks them into taking their whole defense force into a cave and everyone is killed except for Alak, Nolan, and Irisa (although Alak gets shot and Irisa stabbed, and she’s out her healing factor these days). The thing is, Alak nearly rooted him out with that infamous Casti nose, but he dismisses it. Hopefully what this really means is that they’ll stop being able to pull that trick cause it’s kind of getting old.
As far as Stahma and the Omec go, Kindzi shows Stahma everything about their plan, assuming that will force her father to kill Stahma himself. The plan’s what you would expect: get fuel for starship, kill everybody on planet with said starship, land and live on the now-empty planet. But T’evgin won’t do that even now, declaring that the plan has changed, just as his opinion has from spending time in Defiance (and having saved a human family earlier in the show). I gotta admit this is one of those things that’s always kind of confused me about the show. Defiance the town was founded on these ideas of overcoming xenophobia and living together, highly evocative of Star Trek. And yet the town, as it’s been depicted on the show, rarely seems to actually succeed at that, since it’s a bubbling crockpot of inter-species tensions (look at Andina and other random Votans’ remarks about Rahm Tak’s appeal, the E-Rep occupation’s profiling in season 2, the conflicts with Datak running for mayor in season 1, etc.). Somehow, in spite of all that, it’s managed to convince not only Datak and Stahma, but now T’evgin as well, that there is some merit in trying to coexist. I guess it’s just hard to show that these Trek ideals are taking effect when there’s so much soap opera-style drama going on. That and the fact that the town can rarely pull itself together from all that bickering when the chips are down.
Ultimately with no soldiers left, Doc comes up with a plan to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow to turn the stasis nets into a bomb, but it’s a suicide mission. So who better to send on a suicide mission than the repentant man who received a death penalty? Lucky for the fans, Datak is far too clever to die like this, so he grovels at Rahm Tak’s feet (juxtaposing nicely with his father’s begging earlier) until he gets his charge blade back, cuts off his own arm as “penance,” and then runs off. The chip that triggered the net bomb thing was in that arm, so the whole army seems to have been fried and Datak lives to fight another day, although now with only one arm and everyone thinks he’s dead. This does beg the question: if Rahm Tak’s really gone, what’s going to happen for the next 5 episodes? Omec stuff?
I guess we’ll all find out on Friday in “Ostinato in White.”