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Syfy (ended 2015)


Defiance
"This Woman's Work" (S02E06)

First up: Apologies about the lack of a review last week. We've decided to forgo reviews of Defiance for a while (pageviews), and while I fully intended to do these brief, capsule reviews (a la my Elementary capsule reviews) starting with last week's episode, that night was sort of crazy for me, making me glad I did not have to write a review because it would've been a friggin' mess.

If you didn't read my Elementary capsule reviews, these posts are basically really distilled thoughts about an episode, normally a loose 3-5 paragraphs, and I'm done. Think of it like a really long comment or a discussion prompt. (I honestly thought someone would've done a post about last week's episode in the community, if only to complain/celebrate that I didn't do a review, depending on how you feel about my take on the show. ;) )

In any case, here we are with "This Woman's Work." It was a very fine episode that only reaffirmed my belief that Defiance should just become The Stahma Tarr Show because what's going on with her character and the elements of the Casti society are the most interesting aspects of the show. Nolan and Pottinger doing adventure stuff and going after a rare Votan species that's basically just pure energy? So very boring compared to watching Stahma deal with a culture trying to keep her down and in her supposed place. "In her supposed place" was a bit of a recurring element with this episode, though. Not only was Stahma navigating Casti religion, but the other plots in the episode were concerned with women disrupting things, even Pottinger and Nolan's Gulanee hunt as the Gulanee they hunted was referred to as she and the containment suit was in a humanoid female shape.

In Stahma's case, I think Defiance is doing some really delightful anti-hero stuff. We've got a woman with a strong feminist bent (provided you find that heroic, otherwise I suppose Stahma's just a villain then), trying to beat back cultural oppression ("I come from a culture that worships dicks."). All she wants to do is run her family's business, a business she runs better than any man seem capable of doing, but it's not a meritocracy the Casti's are running here, it's a patriarchy. That's commendable and I imagine to a number of viewers, perfectly reasonable for Stahma to want a seat at the table, even the seat at the head of the table.

And then she goes and kills three women who clearly weren't going to side with her to frame up the Casti holy man who was giving her trouble and you go, "...that is not how I can be okay with you advancing the cause of Castithan female empowerment, Stahma." It's sort of like, "Yes, Walter, the healthcare system is terrible...but cooking meth and selling it (not to mention murdering your competitors) may not be the best or most moral way to pay your cancer treatments...also, it went into remission." Prior to this, I don't know that the show had reached a point where we were supposed to be hugely uncomfortable with Stahma's tactics, but we may have crossed that moral event horizon here. This isn't a complaint or a critique; I'm just curious about where things go, and how things are going to escalate.

Meanwhile, in the Gulanee hunt, Mercado sent Pottinger off to retrieve it from a fallen ark vessel, and it all went to crap, resulting in Churchill's death/sacrifice (Pottinger's look of ruthless regret was pretty great) and Pottinger's dismissal as the leader of the E-Rep forces in Defiance. With the strength of the Stahma plot, this just felt like padding, action beats because Defiance is supposedly an action-y show. But as the commercials kept reminding me, it was also just a video game tie-in bit, and that sort of made it all the worse for me. At least the special effects were pretty neat! They certainly looked better than the game, that's for sure. Again, we have a "female" (presuming the Gulanee care about such things, but who knows since it never speaks, just shrieks) disrupting the plans of males, this time to be exploited as an energy source as opposed to a prop of support that sits around and cooks and knits.

Tommy spotted Irisa doing her Irzu indoctrination thing and they had some time to talk in a container while they waited for the hapless Castithan to come back to life. Irisa's having doubts about what this Irzu thing inside of her is, but still has no idea what the plan is. Either way, Tommy -- who quit being a lawkeeper because of Nolan being Nolan to him -- decided to stay in Defiance instead of heading to Texas with Berlin, and everything got mucked up, albeit because of how Tommy feels about Irisa, and not because of Irisa.

I still just can't bring myself to care about anything happening to Irisa, but that's largely because it's so opaque and mysterious that I feel like once I get my footing, it'll be pulled out from under me and I'll start over someplace else. Someone make a case for the plot's interest. I want to care. Really!

Random bits
+ Mercado likes to dress up as a Castithan in his spare time, and apparently a lot of other humans like dressing up as various Votans as well. In scenes that felt dropped from an earlier episode when this was first introduced but were included here, the hooker-slash-DJ dressed Christie up as a Castithan and sent her to the club, where Mercado totally hit on her. Oy vey. Christie has seriously faded into the background to the point where her plot can only be dealt with during the closing montage. This isn't good.

+ Nolan and Berlin hooked up. Because I guess that needed to happen.

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/28/2015

Season 3 : Episode 13

65 Comments
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I'm done with Defiance. It is not a bad show, but after one season, there is still no major story going on: I mean there is, but the thread is two weak ... A the Tarr family drama is boring ... I lost patience ...
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The show is ALL about the Tarr family drama. Anything else is boring.
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Jaime Murray is incredible and the main reason I ever started Defiance. That said, I tend to not really know the overall arcing plot and where it's all going. Just seems like a show where it's how the different people / aliens in society get by and do what they have to do. I can only imagine how the creation of Defiance was and the battles that occurred. For me at least would have been lots better but I guess I'll still try and find out the major plot.
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Thanks for the review especially since it is a labor of love. This labor of love got 43 comments which I think is even more than some other paid reviews.

Perhaps TV.com should consider making it "real" again.

This season is definitely better than last. I nearly gave up on the show.

I liked this episode except for the Irisa-Irzu stories. I never liked it at all. I just wished the writers forget about it.

Nolan-Berlin hooked up was just totally wrong.
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@noelrk: I'd point out that your "capsule review" is longer at 981 words than some reviewers "real" reviews. :) A recent one was only 779 words.

So it's not clear what is defined as a "real" review. If someone is getting paid for a smallish review, it seems that you should get paid for a larger "capsule review."
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Paid, or commissioned, or assigned, or whatever term you want to use.
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Eh. It was only 727 once you eliminate the two set-up paragraphs and the random bits. Normally they're shorter than that.
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@noelrk: So, Stahma killing Kenya last season didn't strike you as uncomfortably crossing the moral event horizon?
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Is Kenya dead?
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Coughcoughspoilerscoughcough!
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I would argue that since it happened last season it technically isn't a spoiler - unless people are watching the episodes out of sequence, and even then than that's their problem.
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Funnily enough Ianjd. I didn't realise there were spoilers until you mentioned that you were referring to comic con. I just thought Noel was genuinely asking.
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There are spoilers about Kenya's fate that emerged during Comic Con, that's what I was referring to...
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Well, quite; the family business is Protection, which is pretty immoral anyway, and it's caused a lot of spilt blood by its nature, so a few more bodies on the pile to secure her position doesn't change her much in my eyes. She's awesome, just not in in the goods way. Nice to put some character flesh on Pottinger, too, after he started out perilously close to twirling a moustache.
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I agree. The Tarr family are meant to be villains so I would argue that Stahma should be judged by a different set of values than you would for a hero - strength of character, ruthlessness, ambition, the lengths she is willing to go to, ability to overcome obstacles and get things done, fear factor etc. She's definitely ticking all the boxes as far as I can see. :-)
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Yes! That was my first thought, too.
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But there's this conversation when Stahma admits she (not her husband) got rid of her ex-boyfriend and this was a point where some people were really uncomfortable with her tactics and there's this moment when she got rid of her lover so it's nothing new in her case.
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It was creepy when she admitted killing her ex because she acts so polite and humble. Stahma kills out of expediency, whereas Datak on the other hand kills out of passion. It's cold blooded vs hot-blooded.
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I don't have Stahma's morality but as a character she doesn't creep me out either. Maybe because I enjoy the complexity of the character and can see (as Jaime Murray said at the Dallas Comic Con) that a lot of the "bad" things she does are out of fear.

She was (justifiably) afraid that Datak would end her if he found out about her affair with Kenya -- a situation that Kenya didn't fully understand or at least took lightly. Kenya, like Amanda in this ep thought that the affair might be an uncomfortable but liveable reveal -- Stahma knew the Casti possibilities (did anyone miss Datak talking about his father opening his first wife's abdomen?).

As we moved into Season Two we've gotten to see more and more of what Casti society is like for women and for low-caste people and it isn't pretty.

The tools Stahma used in Season One (also Jaime Murray's) assessment were underhanded and manipulative because as a woman there was no other way for her to get things done. She had to make Datak believe many of her ideas were his own, set up situations and control her son if she wanted to have an effect on events.

Yes, may have been power-hungry but she's also just been making sure the Tarrs didn't run aground. Datak is impulsive with anger issues and without her "guidance" would no doubt have put the whole family in harm's way many times over by now.

This season is the first time for Stahma that she's been able to act directly (albeit with from behind her son as obviously trumped up, but socially acceptable screen).

Killing the Casti women made total sense in terms of self-preservation (don't we all want to live) because both Favi Kurr's would have seen her on a shaming rack (e.g. DEAD).

She gave the high caste ladies several chances during their conversation to side with her but it was clear that they were accepting of and even complicit with the status quo that would have seen her punished with death for not knowing her place.

I also remember when looking at her as a character that Casti values are very different from human ones. Witness what we've seen of their religion and what Rayetso demands.
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I love Stahma. Jaime Murray is knocking it out of the park. I wish the show was more about her too, Noel. She's by far the most interesting character.

I did enjoy the Gulanee hunt, though. I would like to see more science fiction stuff in the show, and the Gulanee was pretty cool. Also, I wish they'd get on with Irisa's story line! It's like they are dragging that out on purpose thinking they're making it more mysterious, but it ends up making people sort of lose interest.

Ugh... Mercado seems super cheesy. Not sure where they're going with that, but I hope not too far.

In case anyone is interested Mo Ryan has posted some Defiance news from Comic Con http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/26/defiance-season-2_n_5614957.html?1406407217
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Oh gosh! Thank you for the bit from Mo Ryan... but it's:

FULL OF SPOILERS!

Beware! LOL
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I caught up with the rest of from a recommendation and I am kind of glad that I did. I think this is a better show than it was last season. The introduction to the new plots and new characters has really pushed the show forward. I am enjoying this season immensely. Jaime Murray is great in her role, I often forget that it is her. And the rest of the cast intertwine very well.

I am wondering why they chose to put Berlin and Nolan together. I get that Berlin is pissed about Tommy staying for Arisa, but damn that is cold blooded. I like her.
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I guess it's to give a Tommy an 'easy out' and pave the way for a reunion with Irrissa. I kinda hate it when they do that in tv shows - Partner B is understandable upset with Partner A for harbouring feelings for an ex. Partner B sleeps with someone else by way of revenge or pre-empting Partner A from cheating. Partner B ends up looking like the bad guy and Partner A gets back together with their ex guilt free.
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Enough of this feminist bullshit. Even on a fucking TV show they are trying to do. When will have decent SciFi, i'm curious.
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It's not feminist BS. The writers show Stahma wanting to break free and be her own woman - which is fine, but she achieves this by taking away her husband's business that HE put together, NOT HER. The fact that she is liberating herself from tradition doesn't really justify it- except she is afraid he would kill her if she went and did her own thing. We now know that is not true, as he could have when he came home.
If anything Stahma is, in a way, looking down on him for being a wimp and not killing her for what taking over the business. In the end, though, they'll come to some kind of understanding, because they are the same.
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By 'feminist bullshit' do you mean the notion that women should have equal rights to men?
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Because character development and conflict are apparently not decent SciFi?

As long as attitudes like yours are out there, "this feminist bullshit" will be necessary.

Luckily, it can make for good character drama. The Tarrs are the most interesting thing on the show.
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Stahma is a snake - she can't change the Casti culture and now she knows that; and she is NOT feminist - she cares only for herself (and her son and husband - she doesn't poison Datak - so maybe is love?)
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She may not be a feminist but that doesn't negate the fact that her society is highly hierarchical and mysogynistic.
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that's true, but she is not different from the others - Stahma is very interesting character, but her actions are opportunistic.
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I'll be shocked if this show gets another season, but I'm still gonna watch it til the end.

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I understood Stahma killing the three high caste Casti women. I thought it was very clever actually for the writers to show that (as is the case outside of science fiction) that often women are complicit in upholding their own oppression.

A real world example would be female genital mutilation -- something largely perpetuated by women. When we first meet the two Favi Kurrs you think that his wife is just an abused doormat.

But when Stahma tries to talk to her about more rights for women you see that masque (not unlike Stahma's own) come off and we that the female Favi Kurr is a proponent of the old ways and that she wields power over other women by being part of the establishment that dominates them. Up until that point, I may have been with Amanda thinking that Casti women could band together to bring about social change...

I can't say I felt bad when Stahma dispatched the three women. It was harsh perhaps but also in keeping with her character and "morals." I keep reminding myself that Casti society is highly caste based; that the religion preaches punishment and that women are low creatures as far as their society is concerned.
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I, too, loved that Stahma killed those traditional Casti women who would have undoubtedly gotten her into trouble with the Casti patriarchs! I wish the show focused on her, Amanda, Datak, Nolan, and the character Graham Greene plays (His character's name escapes me). I don't care about Irisa, Tommy, or anyone else on Defiance.
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His name is Rafe McCawley. And I agree that those five characters (and I would add Doc Yewll, and Kenya from last season to the list) are the most interesting ones. Pottinger is also growing on me this season. I could do without the younger characters, though, except for maybe Alak because of his complicated relationships with his parents.
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This is one of the shows this season that now feels completely uninteresting to me. It is not really going anywhere and instead starts new very boring stories like that pale ladys feminist movement or everybody doing drugs or whatever. Also, are those earth republic people friends or foe? Last season they were obviously not friends with the townpeople. This season had one of them dress up almost like a nazi in the first episode, which i thought implied they were even less friendly now. But then it went the other way, now Amanda is BFF with that guy and Nolan apparantly gets very friendly with the girl?

This show started with that Nolan and Iriza was on their way to the north pole and got stuck in that place. Now i really do not have a clue what it is about any longer, Just random boring stories. So i guess i do not have the same taste as everybody else.
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I like the Tarr storylines but agree with you about the disparateness of the other elements.
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For as much as I could have done away with the contrived, "bring me back the energy monster"...this was for me the best episode of Defiance yet.

There isn't anything about Stahma and that entire arc I don't love...and yes, that includes the killing of three women who were happy to stay in the old ways. "I'm glad you didn't frame me for the murders", ha! She's awesome. I find it neat that all the women have the same submissive mannerisms when speaking, especially to men. The little head tilt and nod. I'm going to enjoy seeing this little female revolution as they, Stahma in particular, begins carrying conversations with their heads high.

I'm okay with Nolan and Berlin hooking up if for no other reason than it'll add some needed tension between he and Amanda. Look, I get he is/was your pusher and told you a sad story last week, but isn't wasn't that long agao you were aware Pottinger was a complete dick who took over your town and summarily imprisoned and killed it's citizens. You wanna go over and make sure he's okay after being fired? Fine. Nolan's got better things to do. Additionally, it'll put another burr under Tommy who's acting like a twat. So, the worse things get for him the better.

The long game on Irisa's whole deal...meh. Maybe it'll start leading some place at some point, but there's just not enough groundwork laid for me to worry about it yet.
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I liked this episode a lot (though I groaned at Nolan and Berlin, seriously...). I hope that Amanda can find some suffragette literature for Stahma to read just so she could know that maybe the youngest of those women (the one whose wrist was broken) might have been her chosen acolyte. But then I understand the power move, and sort of got a kick out of how Datak is likely liking and respecting her more now.

I wish they would hurry up with Irisa's story, she is one of our POV characters and I want to care for her and root for her, but WTF?
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I just love the sh!t out of William Atherton. More please!!!! His 'kink' was kind of hilarious. Loved him. Having him strolling over to 'Christie' at the end in their Castithian get ups was so weird yet intriguing. I know it was just thrown in there at the end - now onto the explanation for it!


The only reason Nolan and 'Barbi' er Berlin hooked up b/c she realized she was completely wasting her time with the wrong cop and he was just sick of waiting for Amanda to get Pottinger out of her system. Again, WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?, but totally hot so we're just going to go with it. He's a hell of a lot more fun than Tommy. He's a good kid but he really needs some cheese with all of his constant whining. Ba dum dum. Really he and Irissa have some work to do let Berlin go solo for a while. She just reeled 'Nolan' in at the bar after 'Amanda' trotted over to 'Pottinger' - she is awesome, loved her just blowing Tommy off after his explanation for not going to Dallas - she didn't want to go there anyway. Tommy can be really stupid. Loved loved loved Nolan just not cutting him any slack anymore and then banging his girlfriend. It took 1.5 seasons but I'm finally starting to appreciate 'Joshua Nolan'.


Stahma Tarr continues to rule and lets give a round of applause to Jamie Murray. Datak and Rafe may be my favorite bromance of this season! The three of them and some scraps for the rest and I'm fine. My damn DVR cut out the scene when whatever happened to 'Churchill' happened. Liked that enormous sweater wearing fool.
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I believe the problem with this show is the scattergun approach to plotting and writing. They throw a bunch of sh** on the wall and then go with whatever sticks. Whether this comes from trying to tie in the video game or something else, I don't know; I keep watching because, if they can pull their head out, this series has a lot of promise.
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Also I'm disappointed Tommy stayed - he's turned into a petulant child and hasn't added anything to the show/

Unless they are keeping him around so he can be indoctrinated...then it fails, he turns into a hybrid mutant killing machine and dies in a horrible, horrible way.

My thinking might be affected because I just find the character annoying yet dull....
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This whole season Tommy has been all about doing the right thing (loyalty be damned), and has pissed off everybody in the process. Irisa should have told Tommy to get lost, because she seems to have no control over what is happening
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I would have noted it in the review I was going to write if staff hadn't, but it'd be nice if the show staff would quit... focusing quite so much on the Castithans. We had a fair amount of the Irathients last year, but this year we seem to have even less of the other three races (Indogenes, Sensoth, Liberata). And we didn't have a whole lot of them in season 1.

This episode seemed to be kinda vague on that vaguest of Vogan races, the Gulanee. Were they prisoners (as one reviewer seemed to think)? Or had their own ark and never made it to Earth? Or were they harnessed to power battle droids during the Cold Wars? Or prisoners harnessed to power battle droids? Or... what? Nolan seemed to know a lot about them. But the original pre-release background info made it sound like they were a mystery race that even the other six Votan races didn't know much about.

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They seem to be playing fast and loose with some of the transmedia aspects, so who knows for sure. I remember reading about the Gulanee back in Season 1, forgetting them, them and being, "Oh. Right. These aliens." last week.
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Can we get this on the episode page?
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I should ask. I didn't even think to send this to Jen until just now. I wrote it, published it, and then headed to bed...well, I tried to go to bed, but my sleeplessness has kicked in...oh, nevermind. I'll send it to Jen.
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Thanks! Since it's the central fan discussion point for the episode, if it's not on the episode page, we're going to get even less page views... :(
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Well, pageviews don't matter for these capsule reviews! I do these to keep a discussion going/make sure I remember things whenever I can circle back to the show for a paid review.
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Sure, but if we ever want to get pageviews back up to the point where we can have staff do a full review...
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I didn't see the point of the end of the episode in the club.

OK episode, but they have to cut out some of the story arcs - there's just too many
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I actually rather liked the bit at the club as it's showcasing another aspect of humans coping with the Votan integration. Plenty of the show show has dealt with the different cultures responding to one another directly, whether it be through shifting societal norms, inter-species marriages and adoptions, or discriminatory language, but it was an interesting, if potentially/probably speciesist (making up a word here, I suppose), act on the humans' behalf. Would I had rather we seen this a bit sooner? Yeah, I think so, or at least mentioned, but I'm fascinated by it all the same.

As for too many stories, this feels accurate. I'm not interested in the Irisa stuff, but it's not going away. The Christie's struggle stories are waaaaaaaaaay too much in the background for them to feel developed (maybe the actress has availability issues? She's not a series regular, I know), and, honestly, if the show reduced, if not outright scuttled the Case of the Week stuff, the show might improve a good bit.

I will say they've gotten better about the weekly adventure having some sort of larger plot impact -- i.e., Pottinger being transferred this week -- but the adventure stuff is never very interesting each week, either, which isn't an improvement from Season 1, just a "hold 'er steady" mentality.
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Well, speciesism is a word, but not speciesist (yet).
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I think its the way they introduced that plot out of nowhere is what bothers me - no build up, not even a hint, just BAM! - accept this new plotline!.

I don't mind the Irisa plot as its a constant thread through both seasons - but it could be handled better
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What I didn't like is how all of a sudden Tommy becomes aware of the Irisa plot -- so that now they are co-conspirators. I agree with everyone else who posted that his character would have been good gone. I know I felt let down when he decided to stay. I can guess at where they are going with the Irisa/Irzu plot, but right now I don't find what they've been doing with it very engaging.
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I can't understand how the Irzu plot goes on the backburner so they can give more time cases of the week which don't tie in to the bigger plots.
And Tommy finding out Irisa's secret hopefully means he will get killed off
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Aaah. No, on that point regarding the suddenness of its introduction, we're in complete agreement. Again: should've been mentioned, at least, a bit sooner.
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