Defiance "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" Review: Boring Sickness

Defiance S01E09 "If I Ever Leave This World Alive"

After a comparatively strong episode last week, I was hoping for the momentum to carry through with "If I Ever Leave This World Alive." But there we were, thirty-five minutes into the hour this week, and I was struggling to keep myself engaged.

It's too bad, too, because this episode should've been catnip for me. The internment/quarantine of a race of people and the ethics of such things? Sign me up. Political power plays and throwdowns? I'm so there. But somehow it managed to make all of that not very interesting? Seriously, I was checking the clock, wondering how much longer it would be until I could watch the episode of The Bob Newhart Show that was sitting on my DVR.

A good chunk of the problem stemmed from the fact that, at least regarding the quarantine of the Irathients, the three primary characters who were most opposed to the situation/concerned about it were rendered incapacitated throughout the episode. Irisa was locked up, Amanda came down with the plague, and Nolan was sick, too, but he was also running around attempting to find the cure. With them occupied, there was no one left to have the ethical debate of whether or not Defiance should do this, let alone the ramifications of doing so.

However, what little debate we got on the matter was kind of useful from a world-building perspective. Even among the Votan, the Irathients are not well-regarded, thanks to their apparent ability to carry disease without becoming ill. Of course, it was Datak and some other Castithan who explained as much. But given their very different societal and cultural structures, it's not much of a surprise that neither of those races get along, and so it's situations like the one council meeting that make me wish for a more inclusive organization. Do the Sensoth and Liberata feel the same about the Irathients? How would they feel about this quarantine? I have no idea, because the show hasn't told us, and the Castithans don't seem like the most reliable source regarding race relations among the Votan.

Of course, incapacitating Amanda and Nolan wasn't really done in an effort to short-circuit a debate about the Irathients. That's just me being bitter. It was really to allow Datak and Stahma the necessary space to seize the opportunity to shore up some good political press, and indeed they did. Datak's murder of a few Irathients—and a staged murder of an ERep ambassador (poor Connor)—to retrieve the cure vials makes him a hero to the humans, giving him the political clout he needs run against Amanda. I just wish I knew what his narrative was for that situation. He freed the Irathients at the mines, sure, but a few more died as a result, making me wonder how he'd spin all that, especially when he talked about an administration more concerned with Votan needs. Though I suppose the Irathients aren't a huge voting bloc, so it might not really matter all that much.

At least the campaign is now ready to begin, and I will admit to being excited about that. I can only imagine Datak and Stahma's corrupt political tactics, but I'm also hoping that, like the above point about the council, they'll bring some of the other races of the Votan forward a bit more, to see how their needs need to be addressed. The humans and the Castithans are obviously the most represented races in Defiance, so the smaller populations would represent the swing votes.

If there's one thing I can get behind from this episode, it's that the show isn't even having Nicky pretend not to be a villain any longer. She was in full-on manipulative mode this week, getting Quentin to surrender MacGuffin's Golden Pretzel in exchange for some information about the still-alive-but-also-bipolar Mrs. McCawley, and then she flipped to full-on super villain mode as she talked with Yewll, who used to be in on whatever this conspiracy is: "Together, we can reshape this world." "Reshape, or destroy?" "Can't reshape without destroying." I mean, they might as well've been plotting the destruction of the Justice League in the Legion of Doom headquarters.

I still don't really care about this plot, and the Yewll reveal—as much as I love her—didn't draw me into it. But like Datak and Stahma, I can appreciate that Nicky is taking advantage of her opportunities as best she can, not to mention the fact that she's become increasingly desperate since the loss of Birch. Maybe if we knew Nicky better, beyond the old lady plotting things in the dining car restaurant, I'd care more—but as it stands, she's just some vaguely antagonistic force in the show, albeit a well-acted one.



LAWKEEPER FILES

– "She's wrong about the hope thing. We're all going to be dead very soon. So, wanna get drunk?" Oh, Connor, I'm actually going to miss you a little bit.

– It was too much to hope that Christie would've died from the plague, thus ending the marriage plot, wasn't it? Still, my fingers were crossed.

– Alak unplugging Amanda's microphone may've been the one thing that he's done in nine episodes that actually made me, at the very least, smile at the character.

– Closing montage cover song: Patti Smith's "Gone Again." I'm on record as not being a huge fan of these closers overall, but this particular cover was probably my least favorite.

– Did you read your seven chapters of Moby-Dick? I ended up reading 34 chapters because I had forgotten how much Melville's prose washes over you like seawater. You can practically smell the salt, taste the chowder, and, of course, feel the impending doom. Then you get to the chapter about the types of whales and then you want to throw the book at a wall. 


What'd you think of "If I Ever Leave This World Alive"?

Comments (72)
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What was the point in having a blind voting system in the council if you are watching the order they vote in, AND the white/black balls are stacked single file in a tube...?
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This episode was so boring! I might as well watch Dallas.
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Spot on concerning Moby-Dick! I love the book and having read it more than a few times, I can completely back up your description. It draws you in and you can't help but feel your heart leap when you read the words: "Call me Ishmael." I often find myself at 4 in the morning reading just one more chapter... and then you hit the never ending whale descriptions and you have no difficulty putting the book down and going to sleep. Of course the minute you skip those chapters you are drawn back into a world of salt, sea, and obsessed insanity. Ahhh, good times!
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This show seems like it doesn't want to get out of its own way. I think it has all of the things there to be a great series. But something inevitably always seems off. I can't put my finger on it but there is always just something that prevents me from really liking it. I guess I will wait to see if the finale is any good. But I am not sure without one I am going to watch it next season.
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I still like the show and and I wasn't bored while watching this episode. But it needed all excitement in it. It was way too predictable.
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How hard is it to make a really good serialized high concept sci-fi show?
Almost as hard as an EDIT BUTTON for the comment section on a website.
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I know I'm late to this, but I'm seeing the similarities to Terra Nova now. I feel like I should be seeing more similarities to Babylon 5, not that I was a huge Babylon 5 fan, but still. This has ended up better than Revolution and better than Falling Skies maybe, but I'm calling it, some exec is having buyer's remorse right now and season 2 will be the reluctantly made last season. I only hope they realize it's coming so they can go out with a bang like V.
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I take it you're being sarcastic about the "V" comparison. "V" ended on a major cliff-hanger that would lead into a pretty solid next-season.

I'm all for an epic series finale, but I prefer to not go out on a cliff-hanger.
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I'm referring to how they just threw caution to the wind, alien tail, and yes, the set up for a good next season or movie. Wow me with kick-ass finale and I'll watch a TV movie to wrap up the cliff-hanger.
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You know I waited for this show to start airing, and I have tried with all my might to like this thing, since I waited so long for it to come on tv. And I watch every show but I have come to the conclusion that it just isn't all that good. I have started half watching the episodes. I just don't like it. I really look for it to not last too many seasons. I have decided to just not invest any more of my time on this hack of a show. Sad too, because it had so much promise.
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I was typing a lot of words before I read your post. You just about sum it all up! I feel the same exact way.
How can someone take an idea like that and make it so boring ... I'll never understand.
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Much like with my reaction to all the Falling Skies criticism: I hope this show lasts 8 thousand seasons. That's a lot of seasons.
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Maybe my last episode. So boring.
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The biggest problem with this show has been the decision to go with a case of the week/problem of the week format. It doesn't allow viewers to truly get to know characters or their motives. How many times must we all watch one of these "disease episodes" in a sci-fi show? It's been done to death.
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Huh. I'm surprised by all the criticism. I thought this was another solid episode, mostly because some of the performances had real gravitas.
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I agree, a bit of a jaw drop from me by Noel's critique of this ep. The whole Nicky thing as slow as it progresses, is intriguing. The plague no doubt was a means to advance agendas but there is definitely movement. So I felt this ep. to be pretty good.
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Sometimes I think that we share the same brain Noel. It's scaring me how much I actually agree with you. So far everything you've said about Defiance I agree with completely.

1. Alak and Christie are boring, Enough said.

2. Stahma and Nicky are played by great actors but their storyline needs and upgrade for it to not seem so out of place to the rest of the episode.

3. Nolan, Irisa and Datak are the most "complete" characters.

4. The Mayor and her sister really needs a better and more compelling past. The episode about them was one of the absolute worst of the season.

5. Rafe is alright but his spawn are all potrayed by bad actors who can't convince you of anything AT ALL, and the side-story of the gold-thingy is getting old.

6. Defiance needs to change it's priorities and include more Votans that aren't sunburned or in desperate need of some sunburn. Hopefully it will happen during the campaign but I seriously doubt it. It feels like they are saving that for season 2.

7. Too many side-stories hasn't worked, so either Defiance needs to get better at it or focus on 2-3 stories at most per episode.

8. Often we have lost characters we haven't gotten the chance to care much about, like Luke, Roan, Sukar (if only temporarily), Connor and Rynn (I got a feeling she may return, but who knows?)

9. Some characters Defiance shouldn't even have wasted a second on. Tirra is an excellent example but Quentin is a even better example. Horrible acting just rubs me the wrong way. Personally I think it's not a good sign when you realize that the good actors and the great actors can't compensate for the many, MANY, not so good and not so great actors. Shame really.

10. Defiance has used well-known story-tools like storms and disease outbreaks, but not used them correctly because they focus on someone running of somewhere to save the day or other unnecessary stuff. I think it would be smarter for Defiance to just focus on growing the characters and basically taking it more easy so the scenes become more intimate.

Don't know if you agreed with all this per say, but I look forward to more of your opions Noel either way. Keep up the good work!
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I agree on almost all you said, except I hate Irisa, that nutjob. Her alone has made me dislike this show even more than I do.
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I don't like Irisa AT ALL. I said she's one of the more complete characters because the show focuses too much on her. I had enough of her in the beginning of the season.
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Hey gang, I just scored two badges for Comic-Con 2013, for Friday the 19th. How cool is that? Got them on the cancellation resale this morning--Defiance, here I come...
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I was hoping a Warehouse 13 review would be up today.

Because I wanted to scream "WEAK" at the product placement. Pete going on about his low Testosterone count all episode... at one point talking about how it can cause ED.

And what's the first commercial in one of their breaks? An ED commercial.
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Never saw the commercials so I was spared. :P
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Lol, I totally missed the commercial. I laughed at the ED comment though because it sounded very commercial-y.

Also, apologies on being late. I try to write reviews as soon as an episode ends, but it's hard with the 10 o' clockers because they end so late and this week, I've been fighting off plague, so I just didn't have it in me last night to stay up. Also I was loopy on like, four different decongestants, so it probably would have been gibberish anyway. :/
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Hey, no problem on the delay.

Being sick sucks, we've all been there.
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Also: I hope your plague is less horrible than the plague on Defiance, which includes massive sweating and eyelid bleeding(????). (Feel better!)
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Reviews written while under the influence of decongestants are better than reviews written under the influence of alcohol. I think two or three of my Arrow reviews were written this way...
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Only two or three???
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Oh ha ha.
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Maybe if you had just been a bit more patient...? ;)

http://www.tv.com/news/warehouse-13-what-matters-most-review-reality-bites-137156907276/
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I am still trying really hard to love this show, but at most I only love bits of it. I have the same problem with Falling Skies. The premise of these shows is probably my favorite. I love post-apocalyptic science fiction. The writing and acting are just not great. Defiance is written like a procedural with a new calamity every week. Things happen just to give the characters a reason to react. I think I would like Defiance a lot more if they spent some time on character development. The season is nearly over and I don't feel like I know what motivates any of the characters.
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So true MandySCG! Defiance likes to make up hardships for the main character so that Nolan and Irisa are constantly running around. It's repetitive and unnecessary. Character developement is lost in all the storylines Defiance throws at us. Still like you, I can't stop watching Defiance or Faling Skies because I really love post-apocalyptic shows and Sci-fi. Both FS and D would be a lot better with better actors, but unfortunately for us, they can't afford it so we get some bad and REALLY bad actors.
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I think thats a great point. I feel the same way about a few shows, and I think a lot of other people do too and just don't realize it. I actually stopped watching Falling Skies because I love the premise, but the execution is mediocre at best. I'm still watching Continuum, because I love the premise, but the acting is so wooden I don't care about any of the characters. I think I'm still watching Defiance because I'm currently playing the game and I'd like some background on the things the game doesn't mention. Unfortunately, neither does the show. They made this huge deal about the 8 races of the Votan, but we've only really met 3. The others are just weird looking aliens in the back of the cantina, so to speak.

I'd love to get a reason to care about some of these people, and some of the overall narrative at some point.
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Is that a Starbuck avatar???

But in all fairness after BSG most science fiction, both tv and movies, just feel like badly written and poorly executed LARP scripts with an abundance of unnecessary special effects or tech talk. Playing dress up and strange languages are no longer enough for science fiction, it's was when the original Star Trek aired and in some ways Stargate executed it nicely, but we need and deserve more nowadays. Viewers are no longer impressed with crazy costumes, weird words, traditions and facepaint.

BSG transcended the genre by focussing on the most important thing in any story: the characters. Their strengths, weaknesses, emotions, motivations, etcetera. The pilot did such a good job of defining these characters and making them feel like real people it felt like a journey alongside these characters (yes even the cylons).

Compare this to Defiance. I don't know any of the characters, races or the social structures of Defiance. Characters act differently each week depending on the script and what is convenient. Races? 9 Episodes in and only now we learn that Irathients are disease carrying social outcasts? And what are the other races about? And their weekly apocalyptic adventures, honestly, I could care less.
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There was mention of the Irathient flu very early in the season, either in the premiere or the episode that followed. The specifics weren't given, but the town did have a problem with it at one point, early in its founding. Provided I'm remembering correctly...
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Oh ok, that makes it a lot better.... Still... Irathient flu or Irathients being immune plague and disease carrying hosts is a huge difference. A pretty big deal actually, something that could explain social status of the race amongst the other races. In other words, they could have made a real story about it, but with Irathients coming in and out of Defiance ever since the big battle of boring and who gives a damn, it's still a first we hear of this wonderful racial trait. People didn't like them because they were a bunch of rude a'holes, but besides that nobody had a problem with them. And the way Datak went full blown psycho on the Irathients would suggest there is a lot of racial hate between Irathient and Casthitan... Also the first thing we see of that.

I'll stick to my statement that it seems that the writing team is making stuff up as they go along without any logic, background information, build up or continuity.

Also the stuff they leave hanging...

Seriously your town doctor admits she was the space age variation of Dr Mengele and because 'it was war, we all did stuff' nobody makes a fuss about it??

Nolan had no reaction to seeing that erep bitch in charge instead of in supermax??

And they leave so many chances to give the characters some character. Wouldn't it be cool if Nolan decked Rafe at the end of the episode for putting a gun to Irisa's head and telling him the next time he so much flinches at her he will shoot him without hesitation.

It's cool... Reese, Raylan and Malcolm Reynolds would do it, so it must be cool....
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I am watching it right now.. at 16 mins mark and I am sooo bored that I came to check out what's up with tv.com.. :D
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You DVR Bob Newhart?

Do you play "Hi, Bob" when you watch it?
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Yeah, I get some random channel that shows older TV, you know, like TV Land used to do. So I'm recording Bob Newhart, Newhart, and MTM right now.

I do not, however, play "Hi, Bob."
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That's too bad. "Hi, Bob" is probably my second favorite TV-related drinking game after Iron Chef (in which you watch an original Japanese episode of Iron Chef, and drink every time Shinichiro Ohta says, "Fukui-san!").
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I gave up the moment the astrounaut wakes up decades in an alien-invaded future and still acts like a jock, instead of going seriously nuts for a moment. Realism aside, I was desperately waiting for this show since the announcement and 8 episodes in I just gave up, 'cause life's short and time is precious. Maybe I'll come back to it when I have some strong reason to, like Falling Skies, which I always despised for it's dreadful 1st season but then found out David "Da Man" Eick will be running the show (and as a BSG fanatic I couldn't help but get my hopes high). Caught up with the surprisingly great second season and am enjoying season 3 so far. Miles better than Defiance (both are average ordinary escapism. the difference is that one of them is doing it right), and much, MUCH cooler aliens.
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PS.: I didn't give up because of this single episode. Actually there's not a Defiance episode that I found more than "average" at best. Except "The Serpent's Egg".
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I didn't mind this.
I never took Defiance as the new Firefly or Farscape (I hoped for sure, but didn't let it get me down when it wasn't).
It's still much more desirable TV to me, than most of the procedurals on TV currently. Maybe it's the alien element, something that we are lacking tons of on the tube.

It's becoming a theme that reviewers on TV.Com are no fans of the shows they review. That's a little unfortunate because it ruins the neutrality button. Sure, being a fan tends to do the same, but lets be honest it does the show more service to lean slightly positively towards it, than negatively.
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Since when is a review meant to be of service to the show? Perhaps you're confused about the difference between flacks and reviewers.
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tl;dr version of this thread:

Side 1) only positively biased opinions have value because positive people are more neutral than negative ones [insert favorite wtf synonym here]
Side 2) that's a daft thing to say because of counterexamples and the converse would be just as valid a thing to say.

You may all stop reading until the next thread now. You're welcome.
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There's no such thing as a "neutrality button" when it comes to giving an opinion about media. Why? Because it's an opinion.
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Such wasted potential.
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This show wasn't ever that good and now that the flash of Aliens has warn off I fell that the bad writing and boring side plots(which one is the main one, Ive lost track) I kinda wish that the E republic guys would just level this city to get the minerals and end the show.
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Thing is it is not the minerals that are drawing ERP to Defiance. Defiance aka St. Louis is the starting point of it all. It is where the Terraforming began. Much like the cradle of civilization. The tech is still underground waiting to be reactivated or salvaged. Control the tech, control the universe. They could even terraform Mars!

Also, the reason Earth was targetted and not Mars or some other planet wasn't some random guess by an AI. It was because the Indogenes had been carrying out experiments on Earth for some time. Of all the planets in the solar systems, Earth would fit the bill for emergency inhabitation aka conquest.
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TL;DR: Everybody wants Defiance because it is Ground Zero.
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Noel having read your reviews weekly between this show and Arrow's season 1, I can say that you have a tendency to have a pessimistic/negative outlook on things. Cheer up! Both shows have flaws, but Defiance's flaws aren't anywhere near as bad NBC's Revolution (renewed) or The Event; and Arrow is a much better than Smallville. I'm under the impression that you are rating these shows on the same scale that you would measure Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Lost, or The Wire .

Back to Defiance.... many of us have asked for it to be more than a stand alone epi show, so why not celebrate the fact that Nicky's plot is starting to gain traction and bringing in one of the more interesting character of the show along (Yewll)?

I've never been a fan of the destruction plot (and I'm not quite a fan of it yet), but at least I am curious about it now and I'm glad that it's starting to move along at a faster pace than in earlier episodes. I felt the whole point of the plague was to give little more screen time to secondary characters and story threads, and I'm fine with that. None of that likely happens if Nolan, Irisa, Amanda got their normal screen time... these are the kinds of episodes that pay dividends later in the season.

(SPOILER) Another positive was Connor's death, which I didn't see coming. While Connor's death did not carry as much significance as the deaths of other secondary characters in other better written shows (The Americans, Dexter, Continuum), he was also clearly not a 'nobody'. The rescue scene was nicely handled and added more weight to Datak's character.
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On the subject of Revolution vs Defiance, I have to say that Revolution is worse but I'm more amused by a Revolution episode than a Defiance one. Revolution is so very much unlogical that it amuses me, Defiance is more logical and is not making its stories really interesting; that's a deadly combination. I was wondering this episode if I would like to watch the next one and that's a bit strange coming from a die hard SF-fan.
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Shows are rated along the measurement of whether or not I'm entertained and/or engaged, not compared to other shows. A show can benefit from learning and emulating from other shows, sure, and sometimes a compare & contrast can be illustrative, but I when I sit down to write, I don't say, "Hm. I bet The Wire would've done a plague plot better. Let's frame it that way."

"Later in the season": There's only 3 episodes left. The entire episode could be viewed as place-setting.

I'd be little surprised if Connor's death actually carried much weight with anyone beyond Amanda. The Irathients will be blamed for it, so ERep doesn't have a huge reason to be upset with the town for it, especially given circumstances.
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Noel, my friend, you should really consider reviewing Banshee's season two as it will definetely engage you more, promise.
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Will you be paying for my Cinemax subscription...?
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From what I understand there are free ways to stream these shows. I am sure you must know some of these better than I.However, if you don't want to,that's that.
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Many premium cable shows normally aren't available for streaming/digital purchase until after the DVD release. If then.
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legal ways, edit button, please.
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They are also 2 very different shows in all honesty.
Is like asking someone to stop reviewing New Girl and start on Californication :)
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Agreed Banshee is way better and would be much more fun to review, err read a review of I mean.
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Did they even use the Flogging Molly song that shares the same name? Haven't seen it yet, but seems that would have been the better closing song choice.
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