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.


– "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"?

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