Defiance "The Bride Wore Black" Review: The Past Reaches Out

Defiance S01E10 "The Bride Wore Black"

By now, I'm sure my overall ambivalence about Defiance is clear. Some weeks it's upsome week it's down, but each week, it seems like a different section of the show's viewers come forward and wonder whether I'm drinking too much while reviewing the show or not drinking enough, with their opinion of the episode in question being the deciding factor in whether my level of intoxication was optimal. The joke being, of course, that I never drink when I write my reviews; I just take decongestants instead.

Unluckily for all of you, there were no intoxicating substances involved in my viewing of "The Bride Wore Black," nor in the writing of this review. So please believe me when I tell you that I did indeed like the episode, even if I wish that a great deal of it had happened a lot sooner in the season. I'm referring, of course, to the wedding of Alak and Christie—thank goodness it finally happened!—but even more so to the flashbacks that peppered the episode. "The Bride Wore Black" was by no means perfect or without frustrations, but I'll take a likable episode when I can get it.

One of the show's key problems for me—and for some of you, based on the comments I've seen over the course of the season—is that it's very difficult to really care about anyone in Defiance. We may have some affection for Nolan and Irisa, but that feels like a given due to the amount of time we spend with them. The McCawleys as a whole are something of a mess; Kenya flits around the narrative as needed, but is pretty much always sultry; Amanda more often feels like a sidekick to Nolan than his boss; and while the scheming of the Tarrs is entertaining and bolstered by strong performances, it often just feels like antagonism for the sake of antagonism, and the show's attempts to nuance them (see: Staham) feel inconsistent at best, sudden at worst.

A good deal of this can be blamed on Defiance's refusal to consistently provide a sense of history between its characters for Nolan and Irisa—our audience surrogates—to experience. What do we know about the bad blood between Rafe and Datak? Datak wants power, and sees Rafe's mines as the way to get it. Oh, and he hates humans. Rafe is stubborn and proud, and he hates Datak, but not for xenophobic reasons. What caused all this ill will, though? Who the hell knows, but we're just supposed to roll with it since it's a big rivalry that motivates a lot of the show's plot. 

Way back at the start of the season, Datak pointed out to Nolan that Nolan needed to learn about the town and how it operated if he was going to be an effective lawkeeper. There's still an immense amount of truth to that, not only with regard to Nolan's standing as the lawkeeper, but to our understanding of Defiance as a place, with people who lived there and who had lives and histories before the show started. 

As a result, I wish that the search for the murderer of Hunter Bell (such an awesome name) had been a season-long arc for the series to explore, or heck, that his murder had happened shortly after the events of the show started. The case needn't have surfaced in every episode, but unlike Nicky's vague MacGuffin-hunting, it would have provided ways for us to learn about the town and its inhabitants in organic ways. A season full of flashbacks like this would've cast light on the past so as to illuminate the present. The very notion that Rafe and Datak were once on friendly-ish terms thrilled me, and it enriched their interactions in retrospect, but I found myself wishing it had happened sooner rather than later so it could've been a season-long process.

It's even a little more frustrating when you think about how many of the show's various standalone plots deal with portions of the characters' past coming back to haunt them: Nolan's old war buddy, Irisa's childhood torturer, the Castithan scientist who recognized Yewll and the human/Indogene astronaut, Connor's history with Amanda, the stolen Irathient lands that Rafe's mines were built on, and so forth. Defiance is clearly interested in fleshing out these details of its characters, but has struggled to pull everything together in a way that feels completely cohesive, both on a level of character motivation and on the level of show's story world.

The reveal of Nicky as a modified Indogene, and the shared bond between her and Yewll as being the ones responsible for the death of Hunter Bell, sort of demonstrates how the flashback paid off a character dividend in a short amount of time. It explained their history and Yewll's cold attitude toward Nicky, added an extra layer of pathos to Yewll's desire to start over and be an anonymous Indogene doctor in a backwater town, and, most importantly for this episode, provided weight to Yewll's murder of Nicky. It wasn't just a shocking twist for the sake of a shocking twist: It meant something, and that made all the difference.

It probably feels like I'm ragging on Defiance for doing something right, and I suppose I am. But instances like this one, where glimmers of potential peak through, hint at a show that could be more engaging than what is sometimes presented week-to-week, at a show with the capacity to create a more unified narrative universe, and a stronger ongoing story to better complement the standalone plots. It'd be one thing if Defiance was consistently middle-of-the-road, but when it hints at these little riches, it only seems to call attention to its other flaws. 



LAWKEEPER FILES

– Irisa's formal wear? AMAZING. Still not over it. Don't think I will ever be over it. Also: I'm officially on board the Irisa/Tommy 'ship. It's cute. I want more of it. Their interactions this week only strengthened my earlier notion about them having the potential for some screwball-esque antics. 

– I enjoyed the look of the flashbacks. Black and white, chiaroscuro lighting, dutch angles! The genre nerd in me salivated ever so slightly at the notion of a western sci-fi noir.

– I like Jaime Murray a lot, and I think she's good on this show show, but her transition from angry mother and wife dealing with a narrow-minded husband unable to see the bigger picture for his own vanity to coy, submissive—but still leading—mate was a thing of beauty. That shock of realization on Stahma's part that she had slipped, and her recovery with a shift in vocal tone and facial expression, was probably the most wonderfully honest moment we've seen on the show so far. More of that, please.

– "Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in a fair fight." "You are old-fashioned, right down to your choice of antique weapons." "I like to hit what I'm aiming at, and my aim isn't always too good."

– "If I can't trust you with a simple walking stick, how am I supposed to trust you with a genocidal weapon?"


What'd you think of "The Bride Wore Black"?

Comments (46)
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What is going on here? How was this episode an improvement? It was probably the worst so far.

Nolan immediately jumping on Datak for the crime...... That was so cliche, and so wrong for these characters. Nolan went from smart cop to stupid cop (sorry, we call them lawkeepers in this advanced, post-war society.....).

Apparently alien and human relationships (where the alien has grown up on earth) are exactly the same as shy, nerdy teens before they've experienced a proper relationship. What trash.

Could this be any worse????

This is cheap soap-opera that is using sci-fi as a gimmick.
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The show is coming more in line with the likes of Alien Nation which was a fantastic show in its day. Hopefully we get more of the "racial" interplay. And dang it I want more of the other races we've barely seen this season.
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I really enjoyed it. If not the best episode of the season, it might have at least been the best MADE episode of the season. I agree that they should have spent more time developing some of these back stories and relationships so that current actions have way more meaning and ramifications for us as viewers.
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This one really felt like a step in the right direction, couldn't agree more that I wish I knew some of this information earlier. I mean Tommy in particular was a blank canvas before, even the little bit of history we got in this episode makes me see him in a different light. Most episodes so far had hovered around a 6 or 6.5 for me, this was the first one that was a real solid 7. That's faint praise admittedly, but it's a definite step up.

I'm glad Nicky is gone to be honest. Man I love Fionulla Flanagan but something about that character irked me. Her goals were vaguely defined. The golden knot's purpose was even more vaguely defined, which makes it hard to care if she has it or not. I've said it before, an elderly woman with an oxygen mask can be an effective villain, but she needs minions (actually threatening minions, not whatshisname with the hat). She needs to be threatening via power. Maybe if she had actually stayed the mayor? That would make Defiance a much less friendly a place and make Nolan's job harder.

Anyway, the fact I'm still watching and thinking about things is a good sign. I don't leave comments on shows like Game of Thrones because it'd just be "yep, still amazing!", so in a twisted way I think I like Defiance flawed. Also I've complained for so long that shows aren't given enough time to grow. Hungry_Homer referred to first season Deep Space Nine below, which is so true, it was a rocky start. Who knows, with Nicky out of the way and the characters solidified, I wonder if the second season might still surprise me. (Step one to hook me for season two, have Datak win the election. He better!)
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So wait...is Doc the Big Bad now?
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Who the hell knows. I imagine the Golden Pretzel will come back to haunt everyone soon.
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Full name: the Genocidal Golden Pretzel of Doom.
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Much better review. I felt that your explanations of your dislikes were more thorough in this review and I find myself agreeing with the gist of your assessment of the show. I also ended up wishing some of the reveals - like some of Rafe and Datak's 'friendly' past - were shown much earlier in the series.

Ironically, after criticizing you last week for what I perceived as a pessimistic/negative outlook in your reviews, I find myself being the negative one this week. Last week I was hopeful that the addition of Yewll would finally add spark to Nicky's not well-defined agenda, but seeing how Nicky was killed off without a whimper, that made me feel like the writers wasted our time all along. I should say that overall I enjoyed the episode, but I'm left somewhat bewildered as to where the show is headed from here.
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Ups and downs. Ups and downs.
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Frankly, I don't think they make enough use of the science fiction tropes in this series, and really it could have been Dallas or Santa Barbara or something like that without the SF make up. The cultural differences between human and aliens are not alien enough, and the behavior of all characters of whatever races are human-centric and have no real alien nature to them either. i am watching it more as a kind of soap opera than an SF series and I don't like it one little bit. But I am watching.
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"The Bride Wore Black" was one of the best episodes so far.

1. First of all - I loved the wedding scene. However, Irisa completly stole the ceremony. I agree with you, Noel - she looked amazing. I was so jealous of her attire. Great work Art Department!

2. Nicky being an modified Indogene spy was a good plot twist. More of such stuff please!

3. At this moment my favorite Defiance characters are: Irisa, Kenya and Stahma. In this episode we found out that Kenya's husband abused her. Now her life choices make more sense.

4. I hope someone will kill Datak. I don't like him and he's blocking Stenya.

I'm looking forward to next episode.
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The episode made me optimistic about the show :)
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this show is steadily improving so I guess that's something. Still waiting for it to find its groove...
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This review really nailed it in ways I didn't realize the show was lacking.. I like this show, I WANT to love this show but until reading this review couldn't put my finger on why and there it is: total lack of backstory.. it's nice to see Nolan's old army buddy come back but with zero history it lacks a lot of the emotion that it could have had if handled correctly. It was interesting to see how hurt Irisa felt when Nolan killed her mentor, but with only a brief Father/Daughter moment in the pilot where they're looting a downed ship, it loses a lot of the gravity that moment should have had. it's easy to forget they have this history considering as soon as they hit town they went their separate ways for the most part.

It almost feels like if this is season one, they should have had a season 0 or prologue season just to establish the characters/world... even just a 4 part mini series would have helped.
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One of my biggest grudges with the series is that during reading e.g. here in the comments or on other sites, I always have the feeling that I'm missing out on a huge part of the mythology.. What is the Earth Republic, what's the history between the Votans and humans, etc, etc.. Is that all mentioned in the game, or what?

I feel like it should be the job of the show to tell me the mythology, not me having to read wiki's in order to learn about stuff that I feel have never been mentioned on the show...

Is there a good "cut-scenes-only" play-through of the game somewhere on YouTube?
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It's very much an "All there in the manual" sort of show, where exploring the show's transmedia outlets (or just its Wikipedia's page) fills in the gaps.
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I played the game for about a week, but as far as I remember there was nothing that further explored the origins of anything.
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We got to see how Doc Yewll evolved over the last couple of years. In the flashback she was portrayed as timid and-or overly polite.

As opposed to her no nonsense approach now, where she usually tells people to go F themselves.

Which seems odd... if she was some sort of grand weapon builder or something back in the war. You'd think it would slide the other way around.
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Decent episode, a step in the right direction. The women on this show are cold and calculating (Nicky - for killing numerous people for whatever she was trying to accomplish before Yewll killed her, Yewll - for killing Nicky and her mysterious unknown past which is tied to Nicky, and Stahma for portraying herself as a submissive nurturing and understanding wife, when in reality she is one of the best manipulators in the game, making Datak think he is in charge when he is really only doing what she orchestrates. Jamie Murray is the best! Can the show just focus on her as we watch her wonderful manipulations. I like Tommy and Irisa relationship. Their banter is funny and believable. Irisa's hat at the wedding reminded me of ladies at church on sundays. If Defiance can keep up with the pace and character development of this episode then I will continue to tune in. They have a lot of good ideas they just need to figure out how to better execute them - or make them work throughout the season.
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This episode was damn entertaining...and then came Irisa's "formal wear." Glorious.
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well, this was the best episode so far.
of course, problem with Defiance is that it is not a scifi but pure western.
and second problem is that is not very good.
We have aliens that terafromed Earth (and most likely committed genocide on a biblical scale) but they mostly use old earth technology and live in shacks?
Also, no spaceships ??
Also, they never made any of alien races very interesting. I mean, spirit riders , little wolf...??? If someone would exterminate them , please...its painful to watch them
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the terraformers (or exoformers) supposedly got away from them when all of their ships ass-ploded up in the sky. They ran amok. Until then it was a little more conventional.

So it's kind of like: if 2 sides were in a conventional war in the 90s or something. And one side's nukes all detonated in their subs at the same time. Uncontrolled, not fired jut boom. And poof... not only is the war over but one side lost their entire Navy and the region is kind of eff'ed. In which case both sides agree to try to survive together.

Now... what CAUSED the arc-fall (the terra/exo forming cluster eff) is unknown and it's suggested some shady group did it deliberately.
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I sat watching this show thinking, "finally some character development!" of course they killed off mayor Nicky as soon as we learned who she was... I hope that doesn't become a predictable pattern.

I think this was the best episode of Defiance so far. I still want to love this show, but I need to care about the characters more than I do. My favorite part of this episode was when the real Stahma came out. Jaime Murray hit that one out of the park.
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This jives with what I was feeling, like if this had been say the second or third episode of the season, then even the random stand alones would have made a lot more sense. I feel like they shot the pilot and one episode and planned the story out and didn't realize how much the audience would like Yewell.

Heck, any of these flashbacks (even like Kenya's, that was one of the more tasteful ways to let the audience know but also like respect the characters of Kenya and Amanda for not wanting it to really be an issue). Or like Tommy's the more he might describe and we see his penny ante criminal history, the more you see that he and Irissa are pretty close to perfect for each other.

The thing I hope is that this episode sort of cleared the board of that weird conspiracy story (but like now if it comes up again, we have a character we like in Yewell who we know is protecting it and who we know is on Defiance's side)

I was kind of bowled over by Stahma's performance tonight, that switch was amazing (and so important not to protect herself, I do believe she could destroy Datak if she wanted, but to control him and get him to do what she wants). But what I also really appreciated that even though she was all for whatever Datak and Rafe had going on, she honestly really likes Christie (and since I know next to nothing about Christie, I will go with her on that one) and authentically wants her son to be happy (is it just me or is Alak like the most normal American type kid on the whole show?)
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Does Stahma honestly like Christie? I was never really sure. Stahma is sort of "slippery" and it's difficult to determine what she's really thinking...
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I think it is both. I think she likes her as long as it will benefit her family. She loves her son but she is playing a slippery act around her husband. Stahma is my favorite character in this sub par series. Like someone said to many ups and downs and it has shown to have more downs than ups.
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This past episode was the first time I honestly thought she did and wasn't just playing her for the greater conspiracy.
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I have to agree that some of the elements in this weeks episode were pretty decent. Decent, far from good, but decent.

Jaime Murray carries this show doing a great job with an interesting character, not to say the only interesting character. And we'll forgive them the 'scared housewife' routine they made her do couple of episodes back.

Wedding/no wedding, who cares? Happy for all the die hard fans who can now have an castitient/human wedding ceremony, but I'm glad that part is behind us.

As for the case of the week. A shame they screwed it up, could have been interesting. Nolan's investigation was a joke and he didn't care, Nolan's investigation was a joke even after finding that little furry dude's body, the fact that nobody recognized the cane that belonged to Nicky (who was mayor at the time), let's arrest mayoral candidate Datak again and ruffle his feathers or maybe this time for pulling a glowy knife on a FELLOW council member, Nicky being some sort of Indogene for 5 whole minutes before killing her, accepting a suicide note explaining just about everything....

Seriously... Was that Nicky being an Indogene supposed to have any impact?? Except to provide a motive for killing HB. They could have done so much cool stuff with .... a well, guess it doesn't matter now...
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The old, "everyone had a reason to want him dead" episode. I swear the writers of this show have a list of tv tropes they are checking off one by one. That being said, I actually liked this episode. I still think they need to up their game if I'm to tune into a season 2 but that remains to be seen.
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lol, just thinking that after the "virus" episode there will be "lost baby" episode and time travel or mirror universe episode.
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Thank God that stupid Nicky plot is over. And Yewll is becoming an actually relevant character instead of just being the coolest. Good stuff this week.
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The writers of this seem to have swallowed Game of Thrones magic pill of killing off some actual or potentially substantial characters, unfortunately though it's not having the same suspenseful shock tie in. Of note, putting Sukar in a coma and then bumping off the mayor's old flame Connor and now former mayor Nicky, appear rather foolhardy when one considers that they're all decent actors and viewer draws. The latter, in particular, is odd as I expected Nicky, cancer story aside, to be a thorn in several characters sides and a developmental arc for some time yet.
This show looks determined to prematurely kill viewers chances of bonding with its characters as story lines are meted out amongst bigger arcs. This is a wild west sci fi stampede. And not for the better.
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It has been improving little by little but it is still a mess.
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This was probably my favorite episode thus far and truly did show this shows potential. The reveal of Nicky being he killer wasn't that big. Mostly because when she shows up she tended to be part of the central plot. But her being an undercover indogene was pretty good and I didn't see that coming. That being said she is now deceased, so that raises the obvious question. Now what?

One of the main problems I had with the show was that Nicky was a horrible big bad. I mean really, who is intimidated by an old woman on an O2 tank. But now that has passed and the knot is in Yewll's hand,what is she going to do with it. She seems to want to heal people. Was Nicky working alone, who,else is going to come looking for the not and for crying out loud what does it all have to do with Irisa.

One of the main problems of the show is this vast conspiracy that is always hinted at in the commercials but has never really materialized on the show. And the shows apparent need to just seek out and show the mundane. Also the lack of caring about the majority of the cast. Largely do to the emphasis of Irisa.

This episode was better, it showed a decent amount of history for the rest of the cast, but still as per usual with Defiance it still seemed to fall just shy of stepping into being a great show. I am not sure why they do that, if it intentional and they are waiting until the finale. Or if they are just incapable of making that step and really make it a great show. I have said it before, this show has all the makings of a good show, but seems to inevitably fall short.
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I think the main thing is... what happens now? We're into the last two episodes, and it seemed to wrap up everything in this one. The marriage went off, the main villain is off the board, Datak is kind of neutralized as far as his big plan to get the McCawley mines. I haven't found E-Rep that compelling a threat. Apparently Irisa will be involved in something big based on the previews, but the series doesn't seem too well-paced to finish out the season. We'll see, but it seems like anything that shows up, other than Irisa's destiny, will be kind of rushed and out of nowhere.
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They have been setting up Yewll's character as a kind of mysterious character who could easily be a threat to those around her, and had strong ties to Nicky and her conspiracy. And she did just kill Nicky. So I think we may be seeing her character get explained more, and possibly take over Nicky's role as main threat, despite her desire to have a second chance. Because, after all, how long do you think it will be before she's exposed as being Nicky's killer? On a TV show like this, I'd imagine it will happen before the end of the season.
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It took seven years for Nicky to be exposed as a killer...
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Several years off-camera. This is TV after all. :P

But seriously, I'd imagine that there would be some clue left behind, if not specifically for the murder, then at least to the connection between Nicky and Yewll, which may bring up questions about the murder. Or, perhaps the "suicide" doesn't sit right with either Nolan or Tommy for some reason, and they start investigating it.
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Well, Yewll seemed to cover her tracks pretty well (literally, in the case of needle tracks). But Nolan already suspects her. I suspect more likely that some Votan relic will trigger off the town's destruction (judging from the previews of Irisa saving the day), and Yewll will have to reveal more of whatever her and Nicky's original plans were to help save the day.
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I have to agree with your overall opinion of the show. Coming off of the pilot episode, I had some pretty high hopes for the series, and even saw some elements of some of my favorite sci-fi series. Subsequent episodes were enjoyable in their own ways (some more than others), but I've been a bit disappointed with the series so far. The inconsistent character drama is the biggest issue I have on the show, as you said.

That being said, I do still see plenty of potential for this series. After all, a few of my favorite sci-fi series (such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5) were much weaker in their first couple seasons, but managed to smooth out their wrinkles and come into their own as they developed stronger characters and stories. There are already a few promising ideas which I can see leading to great things in the future: The Rafe/Datak relationship, Stahma and Yewll's characters, a few of the outside threats that they've set up, and of course the different species they've set up, and their relationships with each other. If they handle these elements right in seasons to come, I can easily see this series becoming the next DS9/B5, but if not... It will be around the same level as something like Terra Nova.

As for this episode, I agree that it had some good elements that helped add weight to certain elements of the series. I liked the brief insight into the history of Rafe and Datak's relationship. The continued development of Stahma's character was also interesting. I like how they're giving her a more human side that she's keeping secret from Datak. And of course, I liked the further explanation of Yewll's relationship with Nicky. I'm not sure if I care for the fact that they killed Nicky off already, but I do like everything it added to Yewll's character.
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