Defiance "The Bride Wore Black" Review: The Past Reaches Out

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Jun 25, 2013

Defiance S01E10 "The Bride Wore Black"

By now, I'm sure my overall ambivalence about Defiance is clear. Some weeks it's upsome week it's down, but each week, it seems like a different section of the show's viewers come forward and wonder whether I'm drinking too much while reviewing the show or not drinking enough, with their opinion of the episode in question being the deciding factor in whether my level of intoxication was optimal. The joke being, of course, that I never drink when I write my reviews; I just take decongestants instead.

Unluckily for all of you, there were no intoxicating substances involved in my viewing of "The Bride Wore Black," nor in the writing of this review. So please believe me when I tell you that I did indeed like the episode, even if I wish that a great deal of it had happened a lot sooner in the season. I'm referring, of course, to the wedding of Alak and Christie—thank goodness it finally happened!—but even more so to the flashbacks that peppered the episode. "The Bride Wore Black" was by no means perfect or without frustrations, but I'll take a likable episode when I can get it.

One of the show's key problems for me—and for some of you, based on the comments I've seen over the course of the season—is that it's very difficult to really care about anyone in Defiance. We may have some affection for Nolan and Irisa, but that feels like a given due to the amount of time we spend with them. The McCawleys as a whole are something of a mess; Kenya flits around the narrative as needed, but is pretty much always sultry; Amanda more often feels like a sidekick to Nolan than his boss; and while the scheming of the Tarrs is entertaining and bolstered by strong performances, it often just feels like antagonism for the sake of antagonism, and the show's attempts to nuance them (see: Staham) feel inconsistent at best, sudden at worst.

A good deal of this can be blamed on Defiance's refusal to consistently provide a sense of history between its characters for Nolan and Irisa—our audience surrogates—to experience. What do we know about the bad blood between Rafe and Datak? Datak wants power, and sees Rafe's mines as the way to get it. Oh, and he hates humans. Rafe is stubborn and proud, and he hates Datak, but not for xenophobic reasons. What caused all this ill will, though? Who the hell knows, but we're just supposed to roll with it since it's a big rivalry that motivates a lot of the show's plot. 

Way back at the start of the season, Datak pointed out to Nolan that Nolan needed to learn about the town and how it operated if he was going to be an effective lawkeeper. There's still an immense amount of truth to that, not only with regard to Nolan's standing as the lawkeeper, but to our understanding of Defiance as a place, with people who lived there and who had lives and histories before the show started. 

As a result, I wish that the search for the murderer of Hunter Bell (such an awesome name) had been a season-long arc for the series to explore, or heck, that his murder had happened shortly after the events of the show started. The case needn't have surfaced in every episode, but unlike Nicky's vague MacGuffin-hunting, it would have provided ways for us to learn about the town and its inhabitants in organic ways. A season full of flashbacks like this would've cast light on the past so as to illuminate the present. The very notion that Rafe and Datak were once on friendly-ish terms thrilled me, and it enriched their interactions in retrospect, but I found myself wishing it had happened sooner rather than later so it could've been a season-long process.

It's even a little more frustrating when you think about how many of the show's various standalone plots deal with portions of the characters' past coming back to haunt them: Nolan's old war buddy, Irisa's childhood torturer, the Castithan scientist who recognized Yewll and the human/Indogene astronaut, Connor's history with Amanda, the stolen Irathient lands that Rafe's mines were built on, and so forth. Defiance is clearly interested in fleshing out these details of its characters, but has struggled to pull everything together in a way that feels completely cohesive, both on a level of character motivation and on the level of show's story world.

The reveal of Nicky as a modified Indogene, and the shared bond between her and Yewll as being the ones responsible for the death of Hunter Bell, sort of demonstrates how the flashback paid off a character dividend in a short amount of time. It explained their history and Yewll's cold attitude toward Nicky, added an extra layer of pathos to Yewll's desire to start over and be an anonymous Indogene doctor in a backwater town, and, most importantly for this episode, provided weight to Yewll's murder of Nicky. It wasn't just a shocking twist for the sake of a shocking twist: It meant something, and that made all the difference.

It probably feels like I'm ragging on Defiance for doing something right, and I suppose I am. But instances like this one, where glimmers of potential peak through, hint at a show that could be more engaging than what is sometimes presented week-to-week, at a show with the capacity to create a more unified narrative universe, and a stronger ongoing story to better complement the standalone plots. It'd be one thing if Defiance was consistently middle-of-the-road, but when it hints at these little riches, it only seems to call attention to its other flaws. 



LAWKEEPER FILES

– Irisa's formal wear? AMAZING. Still not over it. Don't think I will ever be over it. Also: I'm officially on board the Irisa/Tommy 'ship. It's cute. I want more of it. Their interactions this week only strengthened my earlier notion about them having the potential for some screwball-esque antics. 

– I enjoyed the look of the flashbacks. Black and white, chiaroscuro lighting, dutch angles! The genre nerd in me salivated ever so slightly at the notion of a western sci-fi noir.

– I like Jaime Murray a lot, and I think she's good on this show show, but her transition from angry mother and wife dealing with a narrow-minded husband unable to see the bigger picture for his own vanity to coy, submissive—but still leading—mate was a thing of beauty. That shock of realization on Stahma's part that she had slipped, and her recovery with a shift in vocal tone and facial expression, was probably the most wonderfully honest moment we've seen on the show so far. More of that, please.

– "Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in a fair fight." "You are old-fashioned, right down to your choice of antique weapons." "I like to hit what I'm aiming at, and my aim isn't always too good."

– "If I can't trust you with a simple walking stick, how am I supposed to trust you with a genocidal weapon?"


What'd you think of "The Bride Wore Black"?

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  • MikeUK123 Jun 29, 2013

    What is going on here? How was this episode an improvement? It was probably the worst so far.

    Nolan immediately jumping on Datak for the crime...... That was so cliche, and so wrong for these characters. Nolan went from smart cop to stupid cop (sorry, we call them lawkeepers in this advanced, post-war society.....).

    Apparently alien and human relationships (where the alien has grown up on earth) are exactly the same as shy, nerdy teens before they've experienced a proper relationship. What trash.

    Could this be any worse????

    This is cheap soap-opera that is using sci-fi as a gimmick.

  • zsandmann Jun 26, 2013

    The show is coming more in line with the likes of Alien Nation which was a fantastic show in its day. Hopefully we get more of the "racial" interplay. And dang it I want more of the other races we've barely seen this season.

  • ToddMurray Jun 26, 2013

    I really enjoyed it. If not the best episode of the season, it might have at least been the best MADE episode of the season. I agree that they should have spent more time developing some of these back stories and relationships so that current actions have way more meaning and ramifications for us as viewers.

  • anthem47 Jun 26, 2013

    This one really felt like a step in the right direction, couldn't agree more that I wish I knew some of this information earlier. I mean Tommy in particular was a blank canvas before, even the little bit of history we got in this episode makes me see him in a different light. Most episodes so far had hovered around a 6 or 6.5 for me, this was the first one that was a real solid 7. That's faint praise admittedly, but it's a definite step up.

    I'm glad Nicky is gone to be honest. Man I love Fionulla Flanagan but something about that character irked me. Her goals were vaguely defined. The golden knot's purpose was even more vaguely defined, which makes it hard to care if she has it or not. I've said it before, an elderly woman with an oxygen mask can be an effective villain, but she needs minions (actually threatening minions, not whatshisname with the hat). She needs to be threatening via power. Maybe if she had actually stayed the mayor? That would make Defiance a much less friendly a place and make Nolan's job harder.

    Anyway, the fact I'm still watching and thinking about things is a good sign. I don't leave comments on shows like Game of Thrones because it'd just be "yep, still amazing!", so in a twisted way I think I like Defiance flawed. Also I've complained for so long that shows aren't given enough time to grow. Hungry_Homer referred to first season Deep Space Nine below, which is so true, it was a rocky start. Who knows, with Nicky out of the way and the characters solidified, I wonder if the second season might still surprise me. (Step one to hook me for season two, have Datak win the election. He better!)

  • shocker713 Jun 26, 2013

    So wait...is Doc the Big Bad now?

  • noelrk Jun 27, 2013

    Who the hell knows. I imagine the Golden Pretzel will come back to haunt everyone soon.

  • shocker713 Jun 28, 2013

    Full name: the Genocidal Golden Pretzel of Doom.

  • airizarr Jun 26, 2013

    Much better review. I felt that your explanations of your dislikes were more thorough in this review and I find myself agreeing with the gist of your assessment of the show. I also ended up wishing some of the reveals - like some of Rafe and Datak's 'friendly' past - were shown much earlier in the series.

    Ironically, after criticizing you last week for what I perceived as a pessimistic/negative outlook in your reviews, I find myself being the negative one this week. Last week I was hopeful that the addition of Yewll would finally add spark to Nicky's not well-defined agenda, but seeing how Nicky was killed off without a whimper, that made me feel like the writers wasted our time all along. I should say that overall I enjoyed the episode, but I'm left somewhat bewildered as to where the show is headed from here.

  • noelrk Jun 27, 2013

    Ups and downs. Ups and downs.

  • Kerkesh Jun 25, 2013

    Frankly, I don't think they make enough use of the science fiction tropes in this series, and really it could have been Dallas or Santa Barbara or something like that without the SF make up. The cultural differences between human and aliens are not alien enough, and the behavior of all characters of whatever races are human-centric and have no real alien nature to them either. i am watching it more as a kind of soap opera than an SF series and I don't like it one little bit. But I am watching.

  • Llostris Jun 25, 2013

    "The Bride Wore Black" was one of the best episodes so far.

    1. First of all - I loved the wedding scene. However, Irisa completly stole the ceremony. I agree with you, Noel - she looked amazing. I was so jealous of her attire. Great work Art Department!

    2. Nicky being an modified Indogene spy was a good plot twist. More of such stuff please!

    3. At this moment my favorite Defiance characters are: Irisa, Kenya and Stahma. In this episode we found out that Kenya's husband abused her. Now her life choices make more sense.

    4. I hope someone will kill Datak. I don't like him and he's blocking Stenya.

    I'm looking forward to next episode.

  • tuzem2 Jun 25, 2013

    The episode made me optimistic about the show :)

  • J_Pip Jun 25, 2013

    this show is steadily improving so I guess that's something. Still waiting for it to find its groove...

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