Defiance Season 1 Finale Review: A New Order
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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