Defiance Season 1 Finale Review: A New Order

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Jul 09, 2013

Defiance S01E12 "Everything Is Broken"

It seems only fitting that Defiance, a show that has alternately frustrated and pleased me on an episode-by-episode basis, managed to distill that experience in its Season 1 finale. On one hand, I'm rather excited by the narrative possibilities of the ERep control of Defiance and an insurgency to win back the town. On the other, I was less than thrilled about pretty much everything else that happened in the episode. 

This probably says more about my overall opinion of the show than anything else. On the whole, "Everything is Broken" was probably a lot more satisfying to those who are more engaged in Defiance than I am. Though I think we can all agree, that the Golden Pretzel/Kelavar (its real name!) and Kaziri (the glowy orb in the chasm) plot was a waste.

Actually, I feel bad saying "waste," since it implies a lack of value. Through that story arc, we learned about Irisa, the Irathient culture, and the species' struggles to assimilate into the post-Pale Wars Earth. There's value in that, as it was tied to a character, so it made the stakes personal and still provided a sense of Defiance's story world, thus giving it a macro impact.

But I can't help but feel like the whole thing was built up, narratively, so as to provide the episode with a way to undo the major and show-changing death of Nolan via magic, while still carrying through with the less show-changing, more predictable sacrifice/apparent death of Irisa. I only suggest this because it doesn't seem like anything horrible happened as a result of Irisa jumping into the Kaziri, apart from her becoming Irzu's "weapon," whatever that may mean as the show goes forward. So the whole plot seemed built to cancel out Nolan's death, such that the finale could have the "shocking twist" of a finale without having to actually deal with said twist.

I'm griping about lost potential, I admit, as Nolan's death would've altered the face of Defiance in a way that Irisa's simply won't. Without Nolan, the series would have to find a new way to anchor itself, and the notion of Irisa or Tommy being that anchor would have opened up a whole new wealth of possibilities, especially in light of the ERep's takeover of the town. And beyond those story options, Nolan's death would've had a larger impact on the show's ensemble. There'd be a recalibration of relationships and connections as characters struggled to deal without Nolan's presence in schemes and plots. Irisa's death affects Nolan most of all, then Tommy, and then maybe Yewll for her role in the situation. It's a much smaller pebble in the larger pond that is the show, but I do hope Defiance does right by Nolan's grief next season.

I also felt this sense of "missed character moments" in the Tarr plots, but it was less of an issue for me because at least they didn't involve hand-waving a death, and were constructed on a much stronger arc than what the Golden Pretzel had.

It turns out that we were all—again!—suckered by Stahma's behavior and honeyed words, and that Datak was unaware of her use of Kenya, both sexually and politically. So it's entirely possible, and even likely, that Staham does care about Kenya, but fears the wrath that Datak, according to Castithan tradition, is allowed to bring down upon her. When the chance for the assassination plot came up, though, it was Stahma acting on her own to shore up support for her husband, and not the a plan hatched by the power couple together off screen, as I had assumed. This all resulted in the disappearing or killing of Kenya at Stahma's hands, with a cleverly poisoned flask.

Datak had his own problems, though, as Colonel Marsh moved much quicker to assume control of Defiance, and with the full intention of leaving the newly elected mayor as probably little more than a figurehead. Watching Datak's head grow heavy while wearing the puppet crown would've made for some wonderful moments next season—I'm picturing Battlestar Galactica and President Baltar-levels of ineptitude—but Marsh's death cut all that short, as I imagine that whomever assumes control of Defiance isn't going to let Marsh's death slide.

The pleasure in all of this isn't from watching both of the Tarrs scramble, however—though there is some of that. Instead, it's the realization that, when they're not working together as a unified force, they're severely weakened. Stahma provides a check on Datak's pride and impulsiveness, and Datak's patriarchal power keeps Stahma from overreaching. Forgetting both these things led to their undoing, and it's been the highlight of the show to watch all of their machinations come crashing down around them in a very entertaining but meaningful way. 

Datak's wistful "I miss home" was probably the best sentence to sum up the season. "Home" is safe, warm, and you know the nooks and crannies so as to not be afraid. On their own, the Castithan way of doing things doesn't run afoul of the human way of doing things, and the Irathient way of living doesn't buckle under the Indogene way of living. Once they're tossed all together, though, like they are in Defiance, you get this hodgepodge of new rules and cultural mores that leave things in question and produce new factors that cannot be properly anticipated. 

Defiance's first season has been tentative about exploring these ideas more fully, favoring action and spectacle—which the show does well enough—over nuanced explorations of what is, essentially, an immigration story with sci-fi and Western trappings. I don't expect that to change in Season 2, but I hope that "I miss home" echoes in the minds of the producers and the writers as a mantra of sorts to keep a steady, if not more thought-provoking, course.


– Do you think the casting log for Jonah was essentially "Must immediately call to mind a Nazi SS officer when dressed in all black and lots of straps"?

– Still no motivation as to why Yewll decided to blast the Golden Pretzel with energy last week, beyond "The show really needed it to happen, and so it did."

– "If you're lying, I will scalp that golf-ball head of yours and wear it for a hat." "What's a golf ball?"

– "It's survivable." "So is castration."

– We were spared a closing montage cover song! There was much rejoicing.

– Best episodes of the season: "Down in the Ground Where Dead Men Go," "Brothers in Arms," "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times," and "The Bride Wore Black."

What'd you think of "Everything is Broken" and the season as a whole?

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  • juliandinkins Nov 09, 2013

    Hey lets cancel Stargate Universe, Atlantis, Caprica and slow down Being Human. Lets put more ghost hunters, wrsetling and even worse this garbage show. I couldn't even make it past the 4th episode it was so horrible. There's a whole planet and they are stuck in a town.

  • MarlboroMagpi Jul 17, 2013

    This show has now turned from a SCI-FI into a magic show :-) I am betting Irisa did not die ! This is not Game of Thrones so they do not killed off major character so even after Nolan "died", I already knew he would be resurrected.

    Now I am only hoping they did not kill of Kenya which is one of my fav character. I am quite disappointed with the series. I had high hopes. The fact that I only watched it one week after the finale aired says a lot.

    I am not sure if I will be back for season 2.

  • plasmarulz Jul 13, 2013

    Is anyone else as creeped out as me when Stahma kisses her son? Her whole body language and the way she looks at him, ewwwwwww :-(

  • anthem47 Jul 11, 2013

    After picking up a little over the last few episodes, most of this episode felt like a step back down. I'll probably be back next year anyway though because I have trouble letting go =P And I keep reminding myself of Season 1s of TNG, DS9, Fringe...occasionally sci-fi shows like BSG and Lost hit the ground running but I think there's often a ramp up.

    Here's my collection of random musings. Yewll's gasps over having her jars broken were really...awkward. They felt less like "I'm threatened" and more like "hey, that was expensive!"

    Tommy: "You guys have no jurisdiction here!" You idiot. Do they look like people that care about jurisdiction? What was his plan, solo the whole platoon with harsh words?

    I instantly had an irrational hatred of that Black Jonah guy. I can't take him seriously, he's not even remotely threatening. Let's break this dialogue down: "Doctor, allow me to properly introduce myself", (nice Bond villain intro) "I'm Special Consultant Jonah Keller," (don't think "special consultant" has the ring they were going for, but all right), "informally known as Black Jonah" (1. that's ridiculous 2. no genuinely scary person eagerly coins their own nickname), "Perhaps you've heard of me?" (lazy cliche). Also I don't like his hair =) Okay, that sounds douchey, more importantly he uses phrases like "come out, come out wherever you are, sweet pea". Sweet pea!?

    ERep dude: "I miss horses, they had such dignity" Thanks for that. It's almost poetic but it was so randomly placed, I had to laugh.

    Nolan doing the ole thigh necksnap on the guard was one of his cooler moments. It's east to forget he has a military background, was good to see it in action.

    I am so happy Datak won, but I have mixed feelings about the events after that. Initially I loved the fact that he stabbed that ERep general, it said a lot about how unstable he is, about how without Stahma's guidance he's incapable of thinking more than one day in advance (and seemed very in character, that general was being quite silly really. Dude, you're insulting your crazy, unstable puppet mayor...alone.). But then that removed the potential for a season with Datak actually acting as mayor, it would seem. Aw. But then it means we get a "resistance" season, which could be fantastic. Hmm, not sure what to feel, but I'll take it!

    I really liked the Kenya/Stahma scene in the woods. Was nicely shot for one, and Kenya is really growing on me as a character, Stahma is awesome as always. And her singing lightly to her freshly poisoned love interest really was creepy. Maybe she'll start calling herself Black Stahma.

    The whole Nolan and Irisa ending. Urgh. First of all, there's nothing I hate more than characters being resurrected. Second, Irisa being told "you must become my weapon" is supremely vague. I get that cliffhangers are based on a degree of "what will happen next?" but I have no idea what the stakes are so I'm not sure if she made a huge sacrifice or not (and I'm not sure Irisa knew either). Sidenote: I am quite curious about her god having a presence though, that's interesting.

    Anyway, this sounds a little negative when laid end on end. I pick things apart generally, and I'm probably more critical of things I like. I think if I didn't like Defiance in some way, I wouldn't bother at all =P Onboard for next season, for better or worse.

  • kmanjarvis Jul 10, 2013

    I'm betting that the E-Rep woman that kept popping up this season is going to be the one pulling the strings in Defiance next season. (for as long as the E-Rep holds power)

  • Watashii Jul 10, 2013

    Defiance is one of those shows that I don't like any of the characters or the story, or anything, but still watch it. I did not like the finale mainly because I don't like this super weapon Irisa story. But it wasn't up to par with the pilot which had a overproduced battle. Speaking of which, what happened to the volge? Aren't they the big baddies of the show?

    They are trying to make Sthama into some calculating Cersei-like villain but to me, she is just so annoying. I can't believe she is the same person who plays the lovable HG Wells from Warehouse 13.

    They keep saying that the Earth reps are evil but they haven't even showed us how things are in other towns. And what about the Voltan collective? I think the biggest mistake of the show is sticking the story in one measly town. If they want to really show this expansive universe of defiance, they better bring the show to other places.

  • mgibson282 Jul 11, 2013

    I hear what you're screamin.. but here's one thing you may not be considering. Defiance is the first show to also integrate a video game where the world is supposed to be persistent... So really the story is taking place in two major areas... When Renn talks about the things she has heard about Nolan out west, its from her story arcs in the Defiance game... I agree the characters are hard to like and I truly believe the writers need to think about that nest season... its like in Tropic Thunder when Robert Downey Jr is talking to Ben Stiller about his role as "Simple Jack"... Downey called it going "Full retard" (its in the movie don't hate on me) He said you should never do it because you will never win an Oscar that way... He compared it to Forrest Gump, Rainman, etc... Well, I think they are missing a key component of truly great sci fi is that the alien races that are depicted almost always reflect back some aspect or trait of humanity or attempt to make objective observations from their cultural perspective about humanity and in that way it defines who they are as a character as well as giving the audience some admirable or lovable trait to connect to. Take Klingons, for instance, you understand they are a martial society that has a rigid code of honor and values dying in battle. The fact that they will allow their honor to even transcend their general dislike for humans or romulans helps the audience understand them. I enjoy the show Defiance, I enjoy the MMo Defiance, but I fear if they do not find a way to make at least one of these alien races likeable then this show is not going to be the crazy cult hit that even far-scape managed. I believe they are being true to the idea that the aliens are really alien and don't think like us so they act in their own way but like I said... they really need to make the audience care about what happens... When Datak won the election I wasn't upset or sad I thought to myself "Hmmm this will be interesting" It annoyed me that they seemed to have killed off Kenya, I liked the love interest story of the lawkeeper being into the hooker... I guess if I had a plea for the writers of the show it would be to spring for the cash and consult with a Ron Moore or some other established loved sci fi writer to see how to integrate likability into the aliens.. I mean hell I felt bad for Boomer in BSG and she ws a fracking cylon...

  • JohnPeterson5 Jul 10, 2013

    We're all assuming neither Kenya nor Irisa are really dead, but what about Black Jonah? Chest shot. I'm sure there's body armour under all that black leather. With Col. Blimp (or Marsh, or whatever) dead and Datak neutered, we'll need a despicable figurehead for the facist Earth Republic evil enough to challenge Irisa the ship/god.

    And BTW, if I were Irathian (?) I think I'd be a bit disappointed to discover that God was actually a snotty little kid.

  • NiyaBogomilov Jul 10, 2013

    I really loved the season finale! But so many thing were left unfinished .... and a year to wait, that is torture! I wasn't sure I would like this tv series at first but it really did grow on me. Good 1st season :)

  • ayepea Jul 10, 2013

    I love the series. It reflects society today. There is both hope and no hope. I love the microcosms in Defiance. I love Nolan and Irisa and the hope they represent for the future of Earth. I'm looking forward to the second season. I wish I didn't have to wait a year.

  • Copioli Jul 10, 2013

    I really disliked the episode, specially Nolan's death. Coming back from it makes death cheaper. I was also hoping Datak showed a little more restrain.

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