Defiance "In My Secret Life" Review: The More Things Change

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Jun 27, 2014

Defiance S02E02: "In My Secret Life"

"In My Secret Life" kept up some of the place-setting of Defiance's Season 2 premiere, continuing to establish Pottinger as a force to be reckoned with, and more fully introducing Jessica "Berlin" Rainier (Anna Hopkins)—a character who existed on the fringes of a few scenes in last week's episode but received her showcase this week. It also returned the show to its case-of-the-week plotting within a more serialized framework as Nolan and Irisa made their way back to the frontier town.

Cases of the week were never Defiance's most consistent strength in Season 1, and episode quality often rode rather heavily on whether or not the case was interesting. While some of the ongoing storylines—Nicky and the Kelavar and Irisa and the cult—never really grabbed hold of me, it was easy enough to anticipate them and temper my expectations accordingly; whatever standalone story an episode had in store was always more of a question mark, which may explain why my opinion of show varied as much as it did.

Much like the break between seasons triggered a soft reset of my feelings toward Defiance, the case of the week in "In My Secret Life," which centered on the "search" for a bomber and a bomb-maker, also served as a bit of a reset. While Defiance can't just do away with the E-Rep presence—and nor should it, because Pottinger is already adding a lot to the show, as I'll discuss in just a few moments—it needs to make sure Nolan has something to do in Defiance. In this episode, that meant making him the Lawkeeper again and ensuring that the citizenry doesn't still really hate him for killing a Castithan kid with a paintball gun.

And that's why I put "search" in quotation marks up above, because there wasn't much of a search. Nolan visited the mines, got the name of a suspect out of Joseph (the survivor of the hellbug set-up from last week), went to the NeedWant and waited for the possible perpetrator while getting his flirt on with Amanda, teamed up with Berlin to do some video scanning, beat up the perpetrator and Skevur, saved Stahma and a crowded street form another bomb, and that was it—case closed and reputation salvaged. Outside of knocking Skevur around, Nolan hardly broke a sweat. And for all his ballyhooed tracker skills, this case was likely one that Tommy could've handled once he knew where those little bugs originated. Well, except for maybe the bomb-disarming part, which might make all the difference.

The mechanics of the bombing plot essentially served to ensure that Nolan got to be Lawkeeper again, and that Berlin got some screen time. Yes, the story also primed some of the rebellious feelings from the miners, but the bombs seemed to be more about the Tarrs than the E-Rep, and, well, who in Defiance doesn't want to kill the Tarrs? That line has to be fairly long. So, narratively, the arc ended up being a halfhearted attempt to do what needed to be done to keep the show moving.

The big upside of it all was Berlin—who, like Pottinger, is nice addition to the show's cast of characters. Her political bent already gives her more personality than Tommy was ever really granted last season, and the generational gap between her and most of the rest of Defiance's human denizens provides a unique perspective on the post-Pale Wars Earth, as it seems likely that it's the only Earth she's ever really known. She provided a jaded reading of Nolan with the whole Han Solo and Star Wars diatribe, one that incorporated criticism of the character into the show's internal perception of Nolan, which is something I kind of love. While Defiance had long focused on culture clashes between the different species, it has yet to explore an internal culture clash between generations, and I hope it's something the show continues to do with Berlin.

The other, smaller upside of the bombing plot was that we got Nolan and Amanda flirty times, flirty times that I do generally enjoy. That they were followed by Pottinger creepy times as he watched the two reunited love birds start to get it on via his spy camera in Amanda's room adds more of an ick factor to Pottinger, but two scenes in the episode really helped to solidify Pottinger for me, and they both involved the Tarrs.

Having Pottinger essentially outwit and call out Stahma and Datak—Defiance's primary schemers—provided the necessary oomph to make him a proper antagonist. He blackmailed Stahma into shutting down her drug operation by threatening to let Datak out of prison, preying on her ambition and distaste for having to manipulate Datak into doing things her way. In doing so, he acquired all the Blue Devil he needed to presumably lure Amanda into something later on while also making sure Stahma was unable to assume too much power in Defiance. Clever boy.

Yewll and Datak's escape attempt went awry after Pottinger cut off one of Yewll's fingers for failing to disclose why, exactly, Marsh was so interested in Irisa—leaving Datak to take matters into his own hands. The pair motivated a religious fanatic in the camp to try to assassinate Pottinger, allowing Datak to intervene and save Pottinger's life in an obvious attempt to get his sentence commuted. But while Datak spun a nice, indirect tale about his potential value as Pottinger's lackey and/or advisor, Pottinger's response essentially boiled down to "Don't bullshit a bullshitter," and he left Datak to continue to rot. Plus, he needs Datak locked up, or he loses his leverage against Stahma.

So Pottinger can co-opt Amanda by sending two boys to be killed and maintaining his deniability in the matter, he can outmaneuver Stahma, and he can see Datak's flimsier schemes for what they are. In a matter of two episodes, Defiance has crafted a very worthy foe, one who poses an actual threat to other characters (even if it's not in a violent way),  and that's something I can really get behind, especially after seeing how long the whole Nicky thing was drawn out last season.

With Pottinger and Berlin established and Nolan back in the Lawkeeper headquarters, I expect that the story may begin to speed up a bit, though I'm not quite sure of its direction quite yet. I suspect we'll get a Rafe episode sooner rather than later, since he's the last main regular who hasn't had much screen time, and I have to imagine it'll have something to do with his conflicting impulses regarding not wanting to end up in Camp Reverie while also loathing the E-Rep.


– I love the E-Rep propaganda posters in the market square, and that they're even printed in different versions. "A piece of POW in every pot!" is in English, with a human woman, and then it's redone for a Castithan audience; that's just the kind of world-building through production design that I really respond to.

– Along those lines, Defiance Season 2 feels more visually interesting, at least as of these first two episodes, than the show ever was in Season 1. There were a couple of nice shots in the premiere, and then this episode contained some interesting blocking, like in the picture above with Amanda, Tommy, and Pottinger, that gave scenes some visual depth. While I don't care for an over-abundance of Dutch angles (Fay Grim being the exception), they generally worked for me this week.

– Tommy has moved on from Irisa and her fierce formal wear, and is now involved with Berlin, which... okay? I mean, I liked Irisa and Tommy as a couple, but we never spent a lot of time with them, so I'm not too broken up about their split. I'm honestly more interested in Tommy's wounded professionalism, and how that that'll play out as the season progresses, as well as how he'll pick sides when the time comes.

– Oh! Christie! Right! Gosh, I almost forgot about her. She's dealing with awkward communal bathing with her husband and mother-in-law in traditional Castithan garb while also needling Alak about the Tarrs' criminal activities (activities he's still under the impression he can handle, but not so much). It's almost as if she didn't understand the family she was marrying into. I'm shocked.

– Closing montage song: "On Every Street" from Dire Straits, and it didn't sound like a cover to me, but I admit to having a lousy ear.

What did you think of "In My Secret Life"?

  • Comments (51)
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  • marcusj1973 Jul 07, 2014

    She provided a jaded reading of Nolan with the whole Han Solo and Star Wars diatribe

    Might be one of my favourite character assessments of any show ever. In part for it's accuracy, in part for it's simplicity, in part for it's perfect pop culture metaphore...but mostly for the "hot Chewbaca" line

  • ReallyNow Jul 02, 2014

    Defiance is not making any sense.
    What is Nolan the Lawkeeper for. What is he lawkeeping?

    Defiance is run by two criminal enterprises.

    1) A criminal business, extortion etc. (The Tarr family) and drug dealing.
    2) A lesser Drug dealing/Drug distribution syndicate and prostitution (Amanda Rosewater)

    Are the mines legitimate.

    What is Amanda talking about reclaiming the town to do!!?
    Amanda is now in the worst situation to be.
    Amanda Rosewater is now a drug using/drug dealing/pimp and hooker.
    Amanda is now like the lowest of lowlifes.

    It seems they wish to take back the town to simply run it as an ongoing
    criminal concern, without outside interference.

    Let's say the E-reps are thrown out. Will Amanda stop being a drug addict/drug dealer pimp and hooker. Remember she is selling drugs to whomever, including kids.

    It is a welcome change for the E-reps to come in and clean up Defiance.
    But the show presents the E-reps as bad guys or Nazis.

    Let's fact it. Nolan is hired to protect the criminal enterprises and drug dealing from outside interference and to keep the peace on the streets.

    Why the hell did he save Stahma the criminal queen of Defiance.

    This show makes no sense.

  • anthem47 Jul 03, 2014

    "Nolan is hired to protect the criminal enterprises and drug dealing from outside interference"
    Prostitution is legal in Defiance. In fact the show took great pains early on to point out the staff work there voluntarily. It's so legal that your vaunted E-Rep haven't shut it down either.
    Mining is legal in Defiance. Why wouldn't it be? Have the mines ever appeared to be slave labour camps, the only thing I can possibly imagine you mean? Unless by legitimate you mean does Rafe have permits.
    Alcohol is legal in Defiance. I can only assume your reference to Amanda as a drug dealer is a reference to alcohol.
    How did you get this far into the show without noticing these things?

  • ReallyNow Jul 03, 2014

    Defiance still makes no sense, What is Nolan lawkeeping?

    Prostitution is indeed legal. Apparently so are drugs. So why the
    mixed messages. Amanda dissaproving of Kenya's profession and now the
    surreptitious passing of drugs (Stahma and Amanda). This is a big writer's fail.

    Amanda as drug addict/dealer/hooker/pimp is a laughable mix to create
    an edgy character. You simply need your wits about you to survive and cut it in Defiance, and being a drug addict is not part of being a success.

    In the first season we had Kenya portrayed as a hardnosed businesswoman/pimp. Then a big writer's fail had her falling in love with customers (Nolan and Stahma), andnot charging for sex. Stahma had to insist she take money for sex. What a ridiculous portrayal. Not making sense at all.

    Like I said either the characters are believeable or laughable.

    Nolan the "Lawkeeper" who saves the criminal queen Stahma is laughable.

  • Joedouard Jul 02, 2014

    It's like Deadwood in the future!

  • Joedouard Jul 02, 2014

    The end-montage-with-a-commercial-track is getting very old. Raiding your old record collection isn't clever and is some of the laziest television I've ever seen. I was hoping they'd drop it for season two in favour of some real program making.

  • CherokeeRose4 Jul 02, 2014

    I don't know if the song necessarily fit the episode but its definitely a gorgeous song. Thank you for mentioning it, I haven't heard it before and thought I was going to have to search.

  • Gislef Jun 30, 2014

    And the recap is up.

  • lr2jules Jun 29, 2014

    The perfect show for summer! Cheesy a times, clichéd at times but fun. Despite the criticism, I loved it last year and so far loving it even more this year! Thanks for the review.

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Jun 29, 2014

    Couldn't stop laughing when Nolan tried to frog leap over Berlin and fell. Datak's plan backfired tough shtako!!

  • aktarian Jun 29, 2014

    The story would be much better if E-rep weren't such caricatures. The only more obvious way to call them Nazis would be to have them wear swastika armbands and call themselves Nazis.

    Show missed a great chance to have some ambiguity thrown in. Are they really that bad? Is defiance better off under them because they provide order and integrate city into rest of society rather than being outside of it and rampant organised crime. How much of bad rep they have is simply people refusing to be part of wider society and prefering to be big boss in outlaw town.

  • Joedouard Jul 02, 2014

    Caricatures? Surely not.

  • bluemorphotat Jun 29, 2014

    Well I liked this episode much more than the 1st. The 1st got me worried because I felt it booooring.

    "Well, except for maybe the bomb-disarming part, which might make all the difference." Oh definitely, that and running around bumping into everybody like a headless chicken LOL.

    Yes! Pottinger & Berlin very interesting additions! Was it me or Berlin had like a coup de foudre for Nolan after he disarmed the bomb? Pottinger seems to be really drooling for Amanda! Poor thing! That will be his fall... calling it now! :-P

    And... was Nolan really that flirty with Amanda? I do not remember (getting old I guess!) wasn't he more into her (RIP) sister?

    Also, Yewll: Ouch! :-(

    Stahma is like a Castithan Machiavelli, right? Absolutely adore her!

  • udobald Jun 28, 2014

    Still the best current science fiction show.

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