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Defiance S01E11 "Past Is Prologue"

We're back in the present this week, and it's election time! Hurrah! I'd been looking forward to this, as you all know, and I was pretty happy with how all the schemes played out in "Past Is Prologue."

I do feel sort of foolish for being suckered into the Stahma/Kenya plot that began in the razor rain episode without stopping to think that it was probably a long con played by the Tarrs.  It's obvious in hindsight, sure, but I think I was looking for ways in which Stahma was perhaps attempting to throw off Datak and strike out on her own. Plus, it played into the plot's favor that it wasn't associated with an "explain it all to the audience" bathtime scene in the Tarr abode, as was wont to happen with the their scheming earlier in the season. The lack of that particular narrative tick helped to sell the twist, both of the plot and of the knife in Kenya's back. It was really the first time that the Tarrs felt like master manipulators, thanks to the showing up front and then the telling later—as opposed to the other way around.

However, the depths of the scheme, were what really sold it for me. Using Alak to in turn convince a friend to take a shot at Amanda with a paintball rifle during the debate was something of a small masterstroke, and it made feel a tiny bit of sympathy for Alak. He's always been a pawn in his parents' game to gain control of Rafe's mines, but to use him as they did, and then congratulate him for being bold enough to question their schemes, was pretty cold-blooded and awful. If I had more than that just that tiny bit of sympathy, I'd be worried about what Alak might do now that's he trapped between Machiavellian parents and a father-in-law who's pretty much ready to kill him, but alas, that's all the sympathy I have, and I wouldn't actually mind too much if Rafe snuffed him out and ended up escalating the situation with the Tarrs. 


Using Nolan's ERep file was probably just a cherry on top, of course. Shooting an innocent Castithan with a paintball rifle would've been bad enough for Nolan and Amanda, but Nolan's past, and that recorded testimony, were pretty damning from a PR perspective. It's all sorts of ridiculous that Amanda would stick by Nolan after that, but she is loyal to a fault, and she isn't wrong about Nolan being different now than he was during the Pale Wars.

While having Irisa as a daughter likely softened him up some, the timeline on the Yosemite Massacre, the trial, and when he rescued Irisa is admittedly spotty, so who knows. Like with last week's episode where the past came forward to inform the present, I would've liked Nolan's record to have been put forth a little sooner in the season so as to complement Yewll's shady past during the war. Both of them have done things they aren't proud of and are (apparently) trying to get past, and a richer thematic connection between those two characters—especially since they're so entwined with the Pale Wars—would've been welcome.

Speaking of Yewll, I have absolutely zero idea why he was fiddling around with the Golden Pretzel. It is, in her own words, a "genocidal weapon" that she wanted nothing do with. She just wanted to be a doctor in Defiance, so why she decided to blast it with energy beams is beyond me. 

There's no apparent motivation for it beyond the show's writers saying, "Well, guys, we spent 10 episodes building up to this, and we need to fire Chekov's Golden Pretzel. We thought killing Nicky would be pretty cool, but we weren't sure how to keep that going. Ah well!" I'm thinking that we'll get an explanation for Yewll's behavior in next week's season finale since I imagine Nolan will have questions for her, but even something like taking notes on a recording device of some sort might've helped to illuminate her thinking process here.

Putting that rather glaring issue aside, as it was pretty obvious from the get-go, Irisa and the Golden Pretzel were intimately connected as she seemed to have a counterpart implanted near her spine. I'm still interested in knowing why Irisa was chosen for this, even with the backstory episodes from earlier in the season that've attempted to provide some answers. If it's just a matter of religious zealotry on the behalf of some shadowy cabal of Votan, I can probably get behind that, as it's as good a reason as any. Though I can wait for any larger motivations to be unearthed next season, as the whole thing does need to be wrapped up, and the town saved from whatever is about to happen. 



LAWKEEPER FILES

– Tommy was reading the final paragraph of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations during the cold open. I still have 100 pages of Moby-Dick to finish. 

– I wonder who is still manufacturing umbrellas on this post-Pale Wars Earth. Maybe it was explained in the video game!

– Sort of sad to see that Kenya no longer had the duct-tape bra. Maybe Stahma rates the nicer undergarments.

– Closing montage cover song: Cyndi Lauper's classic "Time After Time."


What'd you think of "Past is Prologue"?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/28/2015

Season 3 : Episode 13

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First my impression straight after watching the ep:

Finally a good ep with depth and character development!
Although the B story is a bit complicated (what's with the thingy on Irisa's back? )

Jaime Murray's character is amazing! She is sooo underutilized in Warehouse 13, it is almost criminal!

-------------- off to read the review-----

Back!

Pretty much agree with you Noel!

The B story seems to have been written/developed by a team that is not taking into consideration the depth of the other characters & storylines... don't know... and the way those storylines intermingle is rather clumsy...

It could be that some writers do better with the Castithan and the ones that write for the Irathient suck... do not want to insult any of the writing staff though... :-S
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I thought this episode was stupid. Whether the kid had a paintball rifle or not is irrelevant, of course Nolan had to shoot him. It was easy to argue he had no other choice. Plus after the kid had fall to his death the paintball rifle happens to shot Nolan, that was so ridiculous.
The maire would just need to remind them that Nolan is no longer the man he was, that he saved them all from the volge attack.

However I agree that characters are improving.

The season finale will probably be the last episode I'll watch !
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I'm incredibly interested to see where Stahma and Datak go from here and how that fits into the entire season's trajectory, including the outcome of the election. It's a credit to both the writing and the acting that I can't quite figure out Stahma's motivations. Perhaps she wanted to have her Kenya and eat it, too, and now that's all caught up with her. It will be interesting to see what she does in a bind.

Also interested to note exactly what sort of trick Kenya managed to share with her during their gaylien sex that would so please Datak... ;)

Great review Noel, thanks a ton!
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I'm almost confused by how much I like this episode. It feels like an episode or two ago they had a big writers meeting and said "we need to sort this show out", and overnight all the characters got twice as interesting as they used to be. Maybe they always planned for Nicky to die, I don't know, but it feels like the show changed paths a little bit half way (and for the better).

But it's hard to put my finger on what changed. Tommy reading to Irisa and her tickling him out of boredom (!) could be so cheesy but actually felt earnest and real. The golden pretzel is still a mystery (and not in a good way, it's hard to care about it when I don't really know what it is), but Yewll tinkering with it is infinitely more interesting than anyone else who has had it.

The Stahma/Kenya reveal was actually kind of brilliant, it turned what felt like a pandering "hey guys, hot sci-fi lesbians!" pairing into a proper plot point (and I almost want to believe the writers cloaked it in that because they knew it would look like pandering). I was hoping we might get a real relationship going, but this is actually better, haha. Also Kenya's "why, Stahma?" bit in that scene I really liked. I love the idea of a character actually just asking "what the hell, what is your malfunction, why are you like this?" And Stahma's reasoning really holds up. There probably are people who would meet a man like Datak and say "yes, this is a man who gets shit done, I want him on my side".

And Alak, now that his wedding is done, was suddenly interesting...although if my dad was practically a mob boss and he said "hey, get one of your friends to shoot my political rival with a paint ball gun, it'll be hilarious!", I'd be a touch suspicious.

Datak's Sensoth bodyguard saying "hey man" to Alak was a tiny but interesting touch, I hope there's some sort of cool relationship to be explored there (and really I just want the Sensoth to play some part).

Rafe's scene with Alak reminded me how much I've ended up liking his character. I like that he's quite loyal and honourable in many ways, but he definitely has a shady air about him. He's the sort of character who might just kill Alak as he threatened to, I could see him doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and then regretting it later. And this scene reminded me how much of a pawn Alak is and, while a bit of an idiot, he has a pretty sucky family life let's be honest (and I love a show that has a scene like this and gets me feeling for both people at the same time).

Barring an awful finale, I think I will come back for Season 2.
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For a penultimate episode it did what it had to do in a good way: it really made me want to see next weeks episode. Finally I was a bit excited about the characters and what was happening. Hope they will keep it up next week.

Probably she was still a bit sore from taking off the duct-tape bra last time, that's why she was using so much easy wear underwear.
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This episode sure raised many questions, mainly about Yewll, the Golden Pretzel and Irisa.

What is the Golden Pretzel? Are there more than just the golden and silver ones? Why does Yewll know about them, and what was she doing with Nicky? Is whatever Yewll did during the war connected to the object? Was the Pretzel implanted in Irisa because she has special powers, or is the object the thing that is giving her the powers? How are the Pretzel and the mines connected to Irisa, is it because they were previously Irathient land? Why did the Irathients have the Silver Pretzel in the first place? Is the golden one also theirs? Does the Earth Republic know about the secrets in the mines? Just a few of many questions...

About the final closing musical montage: what's up with that? Or should I say "what's up with them", considering that all episodes have one. They are the opposite of subtle. Having people stare into the distance while music is playing sometimes works as an artistic gimmick. But why does this show insist on having a musical montage in every episode? Just having one doesn't mean anything, doesn't add anything to our knowledge of the characters, or make the episode better. Also, the musical selections are sometimes really cheesy, as with this week's "Time After Time". It would have been much better if Irisa had been running without any music, only surrounded by spooky sounds of the forest.
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When Kenya was confronting Stahma, I kind of felt like Stahma was bluffing like no one's business.
Also, at the beginning of the episode, at first I thought that maybe that Doc was trying to destroy the golden pretzel with blue energy stuff. But now I'm not sure what she was doing...
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So, long story short...Doc has the Genocidal Golden Pretzel of Doom, and whenever she zaps it, Irisa's Internal Silver Pretzel goes all wonky.

Also, I'm still not quite sure who the villain of the piece is.
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I just want to see scenes from the Pale Wars.
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This episode reminded me of The South Park episode where the massive alien satellite dish comes our of Cartmans butt.
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Definitely one of their better episodes. They actually managed to weave the threads together this time rather than just string them out side-by-side.

I think Alak will be a more interesting character when the moral dilemnas get REAL. Until now he's just been bland and annoying as a human hipster wannabe. The next step is to give Christie McCawley some sort of personality. Sure, she's pretty, but she might as well be Snow White for all the depth of character. Nicole Muñoz has some acting chops that are going to waste here. I need to know what Alak see's in her character. And vice versa. It's hard to get all "Romeo and Juliet" like angst-ridden without SOME agonizing and renting of robes.

Oh, and it was nice to see the (ex) Lawman beat the Tarr out of Datak. I'm getting annoyed with that character. If he drags on forever like J.R. in Dallas, well ... my loyalty to Defiance isn't that deep.

Now, about the music. I don't think I've ever seen a show that uses the soundtrack in such an intrusive and painfully obvious way. Those montages go on forever! They might as well just break into song and make it a musical. Some subtlety please!
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I thought this was a strong episode. Perhaps the strongest of the season thus far.

The long con was pretty well executed, it might have been Stahma's idea from the get go. She has always seemed to be the more capable of the two. Only taking a second seat because of her culture. Tarr is well a moron, he can't fight, he needs his body gaurd and he isn't overly intelligent. But she is. Kudos to her.

Yewll is a scientist, scientist push the boundaries to figure things out. Plus I think we are assuming that they, being Yewll and the old Mayor, knew about Irisa, which we really didn't see any acknowledgment of knowing her in regards to the pretzel. Her discovery of Irisa's pretzel could have led her to act. Lets look at this philosophically. Their is a balance to everything, good/ evil, light/dark, hard/soft, ying/yang. Lets say the golden pretzel destroys as Yewll says. And the silver one that was in Irisa creates. Both together does something of which we don't know yet. So upon Yewll figuring out that the other was in Irisa she goes for broke and sees what it does. She didn't know that the golden one was going to mix with the silver one. You could see it on her face. It still was mediocre writing because we didn't get any articulable motivation from Yewll. But I am going with this until they tell us why.

Notes
Really, it has taken you this long to read Moby Dick.

No idea, they can't be that difficult to make.

Yea, it was.
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I took a break from Moby-Dick to read The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Factor in that I only tend to read during commutes which, daily, is between 40 minutes (20 to, 20 from), so I think I had a pretty solid pace going for a 600 page novel. (Admittedly, about a third of the book was read in an immediate care waiting room.)

Your read on Yewll seems likely, though the first experiment she was unaware of any effects it would have Irisa until Tommy brought her to the hospital. The second time around, I can get with your explanation (which mirrors kanniballl's below), but considering her opposition to the device, it just seemed wildly unmotivated.
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Also, Rynn sighting! Yay! I don't know why, but I really dig that particular Irathient. I wish she were a series regular.
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She blasted the golden pretzel to see if it would get a reaction out of Irisa. She probably noticed from those new scanner/x-ray prints that the silver one was inside. And if the two were connected that she get "injure" Irisa again and be able to extract it (or whatever).

Better that someone has it that knows what it is and (supposedly) doesn't want to use it then let Irisa leave and the Earth Federation find it.
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I really liked this episode, and I'm really glad they didn't have another calamity to deal with.. well besides Nolan shooting the paintball kid. I hope the show keeps going in this direction. After last week and this week, I finally feel like I'm getting to know the characters.
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All this talk of pretzels made me hungry and now I am eating a pretzel while reading all the pretzel comments.
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I am getting really annoyed with the music on this show. The alien music especially, they dont really add to the show. And now every episode has a cover version as well. They are probably trying to make some money out of itunes as well
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Good episode. Defiance really stepped it up this week. Stahma playing Kenya was a brilliant move, and one I can honestly say I didn't see coming. She played her like pied piper plays the fiddle, and the wonderful set up lead to the release of Nolan's military background. I got to say the Tarrs really proved how low they are willing to go to come out on top and I love it. Exposing Nolan's past, trying to force the Mayor into a corner, using their own kid...vicious, but brilliant to watch. The fistfight between Nolan and Datak was long in the making, and fun to watch - loved that Irisa kicked the shit out of him. I am puzzled as to what the doctor is trying to do with that golden pretzel, and I know Nolan is not going to go easy on her after what she did to his daughter. Loved Rafe having his guys beat the crap out of Alak - his threats were hilarious, and believable, don't fuck with Rafe! I knew the mayor would back Nolan, that's just her personality, she sees the good in people, and besides since he has been in Defiance he has done a lot of good and helped out, so I can see why she would stick by him even if it was political suicide. Another solid episode, and next week's finale looks good. Don't fuck it up Defiance and Stop with the cover songs - they aren't good.
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As for the golden and silver pretzels, it's probably like the Genesis Device from Star Trek 2: only with the option to "just create" instead of clean-slate. Like it COULD wipe out millions, or could just fix the massive cluster-**** from the terraformers / exoformers running amok.
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I can buy that. But why install it in Irisa's body...?
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From the cave paintings a couple episodes ago, it looks like either Irisa was prophecized for using it, or her race has some connection to it.

They seem to be either symbiotes or parasites so perhaps they need to be in a body to work.

To ME it looked like Doc Yewl was trying to *extract* the one from Irisa's body hence she kept the golden one elsewhere. But the golden one had other desires and wanted to be with the silver one, or just with Irisa in general.
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Another good episode.

1. Stahma you cruel, alien lady. You broke my heart. I can't believe Stenya was just an evil trick. Poor Kenya. Poor me.

2. Am the only one who thinks Golden Pretzel wanted to impregnate Irisa and her Silver Pretzel? Did he succeed? Will Irisa have tiny little White Gold Pretzels? So many Pretzel related questions!

3. Suddenly Nolan became 100 % more interesting. I want a Pale Wars flashback episode!

4. Defiance stop making covers! What you did with "Time After Time" was sacrilege.
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The show starts to show signs of improving quality.I'm just hoping they won't destroy it with some confusing season finale.
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Amen to that.
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I'm glad the mythology of the show is finally getting cranked up, and I'm really enjoying the run up to the finale, but please, no more chuffing 'Time after time' bunk to wrap up the episodes. Had to mute the last two minutes!
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ME TOO...the Cindy Louper version is ok but the remakes UGH!!!
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At least the fistfight finally happened. It seems like there's an unfortunate precedent starting, where a show has so little selling points, it has to keep using one that doesn't happen until 3 or 4 episodes down the line.

I was fooled partially by Stahma for a while. I'd assumed Kenya was stupid as soon as she turned down Datak, and that part was right, but I thought Stahma was actually with Kenya on her own for a bit. I didn't think it was because she actually liked Kenya; I thought Stahma wanted to understand Kenya better, maybe to see what Datak saw in her so Stahma could understand him better, even though she's at least half-smarter than he is. It was obvious that it was a scam for me only when Stahma confided in Kenya about something Datak was about to do, but that was way too late. Honestly, I like it better this way. Kenya looked like a fool, which I didn't want, but Stahma and Datak once again look brilliant, which is something this show could always use. The prostitute sister really shouldn't also be the young and naive one. It's just...silly.

I like how The Americans tried out a couple annoying songs early in their season...and then stopped doing that. I wish this show would learn from that.
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I'm getting really tired of shows doing the episode-ending montage, often using lame music. And especially when it's done pretty much every episode. The Wire usually had montages towards at the end of the season, as they were wrapping up the season-long theme and story arc, and it was effective there, because they used it so sparingly. Here, and on other shows, it just gets annoying and cheesy. Also, these shows need to learn to pick better, and more fitting songs.
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My main issue with montages is that they date the series, if not the episode. Even if they use older songs. Nothing jolts me out of the atmosphere of a show than already-known music. SoA is (or was, I dunno) good at picking songs, but I don't care. When I go back to watch an older episode, it's almost always a drag to remember "*this* is that episode that had this one song."
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I have less an issue with the choice of songs (though they tend to be really heavy-handed) than I do with the fact that they just tend to be fairly lousy covers.

Closing episodes out with a montage and some music, however, has been around for a while now, it's just a stylistic choice that producers and/or execs like to make. It's not always effective, and here it's becoming something of a tic.
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This seems to be another thing they're doing more lately: playing cheap, crappy covers of well-known songs. They do that a lot with shows like Lost Girl, where at least you could argue that a female version of a male vocal song would fit better...even though they still suck.

I get that cheaper is cheaper, but I'd prefer it if they just throw in some kind of innocuous ambient themes. This show isn't BSG, so it's not like it demands that kind of music, but something similar to the theme song. It's a good song. Irisa could've had her own theme song by now, along with one for Stahma and Datak's scheming, and probably some barely-deserved heroic theme for the main guy (suddenly can't remember his name).
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It's funny, but the same guy that composed the BSG music (and the Eureka theme song, of all things) made the theme song for Defiance. If they could pay him for that, they really should've kept giving him money.
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Yeah, the poor covers do make an annoying part of the show even worse.
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I really liked this episode. The story improves as the characters do.
The white "doctor" (don´t know her name) seems most intriguing to me, I think the past of her, as well as of all the other alien will be very interesting for most Sci-Fi fans!

and what uct-tape bras ? did I miss something?
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Duct tape bra was in Episode 4: http://www.defiance.com/en/series/photos/episode-4-what-we-learned
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Thanks, dude ;)
I think I have to rewatch something...
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That was not a good cover.
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Why you been holding out on us, Defiance?!
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For me there's just been too much wondering how the pieces fall into place. Now Irisa is bonded with the so called "golden pretzel" but then I wonder why the McCauley boys held on so tightly to it? I'm leaning to not caring anymore since I finally realize the creation story of Defiance would have been way way better. Not much has happened for me to continue so I doubt I'll watch season 2. A few interesting things here and there over the season but really doesn't grab me. So a lot will have to happen during the season finale for things to come to an understanding for me.
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The quality of the show has really improved over the last few episodes, and I'm cautiously optimistic for a strong finale.
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I thought this was a really good episode overall, and helped get me more interested in a few stories. Most specifically, I enjoyed the whole mayoral debate, and Datak and Stahma's scheming with that. Like you, I am kicking myself for not even considering the possibility that Stahma was using Kenya, and even though it got rid of the development of her human side which I've been liking, I thought it was handled well and helps to sell Stahma and her Datak a manipulative threats. I'm also curious to see how the relationship between Datak and E-Rep develops in future episodes.

Another thing I liked was the brief, but no less awesome development with Rafe, when he threatened Alak. And of course, there's the progression with Yewell and the weapon. I am curious to see why she was using it, and what it's doing to Irisa.

All of these characters I mentioned are the ones I think they've done the best job with this season, and the ones that have the most potential to become my favorites. They can certainly benefit from having their histories fleshed out by the writers, which I hope will happen in season 2, but I'm already liking what they bring to the series. One other thing that I hope they explore more (and they almost certainly will, especially given the ending of this episode) is Irisa's past, her powers, and as I said, her connection with the weapon and why her body reacted that way.
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