I've decided that Defiance is just better when its episodes are driven by a single plot as opposed to having multiple subplots sprinkled around an A-plot. Lots of shows can balance the demands of that practice, but as last week's "Good Bye Blue Sky" proved, Defiance doesn't exactly excel at time and character management when it has to divide its attention. So from a structural and character standpoint, "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" (and that's the last time I'm typing out the episode's title because, well, good grief) was probably one of the show's better episodes. I have some quibbles with it, but they're really more personal response issues rather than actual flaws.
The quandary of Gordon McClintock—a man out of time and out of place—is a familiar-enough tale in science-fiction, and normally it involves someone trying to cope with with the changes around him. Life as he knew it no longer exists, everyone he once knew and loved is dead and gone, and it's frustrating to try to integrate into the new society . Indeed, unlike a lot of Defiance's plots so far, this one was the most overtly science-fiction-y; the show has made a habit of borrowing from the Western and grafting on some sci-fi elements, so even in its genre approach, this episode was a bit of a departure for the series.
Unlike a lot of those stories, however, McClintock awoke in a future that wasn't so far-flung that he couldn't completely recognize it and, more importantly, one where people knew who he was. There'd been an important book and an influential film made about McClintock and the crew aboard the destroyed International Space Station, and there was something wonderfully grand and hopeful about the hero worship he experienced as he walked out of the Lawkeeper's building and into a mob of as many humans as Defiance's casting department could afford.
My favorite part of the episode—and probably of the series thus far—was his night of drinking and reminiscing with Nolan, Amanda, and Rafe. Yes, it was an extension of the celebrity gawking he'd enjoyed only a scene prior, but those scenes in Rafe's house were so deeply personal and intimate that they felt like they were part of a different Defiance than the one we've been watching. There was a looseness in everyone's performances, and in the characters' interactions with one another, as McClintock learned about what'd happened after he supposedly died and the others waxed nostalgic. Defiance has been light on this sort of thing, so it was very delightful to see talk of the past be affectionately portrayed, with happiness instead of heavy-handed remorse. These surviving characters have been through a war, but they never seem to recall anything that happened before it very fondly, and so to see that was a rush of fresh air, and a real character-building moment.
Defiance hasn't spent much time dealing with this sort of thing—life just before the Votan arrival—and instead allowing its various transmedia avenues to sort of fill in a few of those gaps, and I loved that the show took a moment to let it all breathe. I needed it, and I certainly think that the show needed it, too.
Where I quibbled with the episode was that McClintock turned out to be an Indogene who had been surgically altered and implanted with the real McClintock's memories. It was a layer of science-fiction that I don't think the episode really needed. It did sort of up the emotional stakes for McClintock, but I'm not convinced it was in a way that the episode couldn't have addressed something beyond him not being able to deal with the world around him having changed.
Ultimately, the episode felt like a vehicle to expand our general understanding of the Indogenes and to provide a bit more insight into Yewll's work during the Pale Wars specifically, a door that was opened in "Brothers in Arms." I understand the need for this, especially as Indogenes are in short supply in Defiance—I imagine that most of them are with the Votan Collective, and a few are probably working with ERep, plus that makeup work makes them time-consuming and costly from a production standpoint—and so the show needed a way to offer insight into the Indogenes the same way it did for the Castithans and Irathient. I'm not opposed to this by any means, but I felt like it sort of undercut McClintock's story by throwing two different identities—it didn't help that I kept wondering about how the Indogene part of McClintock felt about all this, if it felt at all—into the stew when one would've been enough.
But as I said above, that was more of a gut response to first aspect of McClintock's story. Ultimately, the Indogenes bit worked well enough that it didn't seriously damage the episode, or its effectiveness, all that much. Sure, I'd love to know what happened as McClintock found his wife, but it also doesn't really matter. What matters is that he, like the rest of the folks in Defiance, figured out that he could still belong somewhere, and where that place was.
– Oh, hey, I didn't talk about the whole Kenya-Stahma-Datak thing. You guys have fun with that in the comments; it feels like filler to me.
– "Stop reading Moby-Dick." "It's enriching." "It's annoying." I was planning on reading Bleak House once I finish the self-published YA novel Amazon offered me fat a steeply discounted price, but I think I'll just re-read Moby-Dick instead. We can turn the comments section into a book club! Everyone have seven chapters read by next Monday, okay?
– I have no idea whether Brian J. Smith's appearance pleased or annoyed SGU fans, as I didn't watch the Stargate TV shows after the mothership departed from Showtime. Let me know in the comments; I rather enjoyed him here. Smith was also on Gossip Girl, so I guess I'll have to ask Cory about that... xoxo.
– The Killing had Jewel Staite make a quick Serenity joke during its Season 3 premiere, and now Defiance had Rafe not knowing whether Robert Pattinson was a vampire or a werewolf in the Twilight movies. Of course, Graham Greene was in a few of those movies.
– I fully expect to see Jamie Murray completely naked by the end of the series, if not by the end of this season, at the rate we're going.
– Closing montage cover song: Elvis Costello's "Man Out of Time," though it wasn't really a montage this week.
– Please note: I'm not serious about the book club thing.
What'd you think of "I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times"?