"The Serpent's Egg" was a solid enough episode. It didn't move the needle of like/dislike much for me—I'm still pretty much exactly where I was last week—but at the end of the season, it end up being the episode where Defiance started to transition to its "bigger" plots.
I put "bigger" in quotes because it's not as if the scheming of the Tarrs, the interpersonal conflict of the McCawleys, whatever case of the week Nolan is dealing with at any given time, and Amanda's struggles to govern the town aren't big stories. They can be, and they have been at times. But those plots are the stuff of melodrama and procedurals, two things that I enjoy but that don't necessarily scream high-stakes storytelling. It's tough to do melodrama without stronger, more interesting characters—only Datak, Stahma, Irisa, and occasionally Nolan really grab me—and the show's more procedural plots have been hit or miss so far.
So it can benefit Defiance to work in some threats that are located outside or just around the edges of the town. Already there's whatever Nicky and Birch have been planning, and how the golden knot that the McCawleys posses fits into it, but now we have the Earth Republic's Ambassador Olfin Tennety (Jane McLean) and Irisa's position as the prophesied "devouring mother."
Let's discuss Olfin and the "stagecoach" hijacking first, since it's more in the case-of-the-week vein. It was an old Western plot that I was happy to see the show utilize because it never fails to entertain, though I did miss seeing people climb on top of or under the coach to have to do something, like jump to the bandits' vehicle or fix a wheel or something silly and fun like that. However, the standoff and the double-crossing bits were fine enough that I didn't mind too much.
I'm mildly excited about Olfin, though, and the potential that she represents to disrupt the status quo of the series. Similar to the Volge in the pilot, the Earth Republic as a whole is an external threat to Defiance that can likely unite all the otherwise opposing factions in the town in order to keep Defiance operating as it has been. Its independence streak, like the stagecoach plot, fits snugly into traditions of the Western genre, and frontier cities' disinterest in a larger government entity having a say in local governance and economics. So while Defiance may need that railroad to prosper, and likely survive, they'll do it on their own, if you don't mind, Earth Republic.
What's more, Olfin as an individual character provided Amanda with a new rival, something I think Amanda will need as the show goes forward. Keeping Datak and the town council in line plus being up for election soon will be challenging enough, but an Earth Republic campaign against her will offer not only an interesting challenge, but also a way for her to prove herself a capable leader in defending the town against all sorts of threats.
Irisa's plot, as she confronted the man who tortured her as a child, ended up serving a couple of different purposes, though I admit that one's only a theory at this point. First and foremost, it served to flesh out Irisa some more following the events of "The Devil in the Dark" as we learned about when Nolan killed her parents and why she hated them so much. I would hate my parents too if they willingly subjected me to various forms of torture in the name of some particular brand of religious zealotry.
There never seemed to be much doubt regarding whether or not the Castithan was the one who tortured Irisa, though the plot tried its damnedest to sow seeds of uncertainty about his identity. Really, I don't know that it it wouldn't have mattered much either way, as it was just a vehicle to learn about Irisa, and she let him go in the end. Killing him without knowing would've been a little bolder, and that sureness robbed the scenes of a lot of tension, narratively-speaking. Visually, the choices in direction and lighting design at least gave the sequences a little extra flair, and I particularly dug some early shots that had Irisa and her prisoner illuminated only by one lamp. A dangerous degree of intimacy.
I will admit that I was sort of fuzzy on why a Castithan would be in charge of this training/rite of passage, but perhaps this devouring mother is a figure common to a particular religion within the Votans? Or perhaps it appears in all of them in some shape, hence all the various life and death connections associated with it? It's not a huge concern, but it kept niggling in the back of my brain during the flashbacks.
Connected to that that is my theory idea. Of course it's that Irisa being this devouring mother will somehow tie into the stuff Nicky is planning, and is connected to the golden knot and the glyphs the McCawley boys found in the mine shaft last week. I don't think it's really that much of a stretch, and if it doesn't play out this way, I'd be very surprised. It's just when any bit of media tosses out a phrase like "the chosen one" that you can sort of predict the show's destination in some ways. In any case, it it was character development that will likely end up serving a larger purpose on down the road, likely resulting in Irisa's visions becoming clearer and/or more immediate in their value.
One thing to really like about this entire plot is that it ended up not dragging out both Irisa's past, pre-Nolan, and it went ahead and resolved that sexual tension between her and Tommy. I'll admit that I'm more interested in seeing the latter develop than the former as Irisa and Tommy could supply some enjoyable screwball antics, or as screwball as Defiance is likely to get. Hopefully now that the pre-Nolan Irisa stuff is done we'll get some post-Nolan Irisa stuff, which I think would be significantly more interesting, especially as Nolan appeared to be still be in the military at the time.
– Vegas has become a prison. Was that this week's game tie-in reference?
– Rynn is still in play as a wild card plot element for the show, so I'm sure she'll be back. I'm just sort of hoping she'll have left Olfin's other husband somewhere.
– "Frankly, Reverend, I prefer Scotch, but thank you." Between the Castithan penance rack, Irisa's torture, and a faux-reverend, religion is not doing too well on Defiance.
– Closing montage cover song: The Cure's "Lovesong." The fact that it wasn't A Flock of Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song" is a travesty. It was probably a rights issue more than anything else BUT I STILL SAY IT WAS A TRAVESTY.
What'd you think of "The Serpent's Egg"?