Episode 201 “The Opposite of Hallelujah”
[Editor’s Note: please welcome new contributor Craig Hart! He’ll be working on recaps and will be part of our newly-gestating comic book team. Be gentle, good readers.]
The first episode of SyFy’s original series Defiance, “The Opposite of Hallelujah”, lets us get reacquainted with our main characters since the traumatic end of season 1. Whereas the first season of “Defiance” stuck fairly close to its space-western roots, introducing the hard scrabble frontier town of Defiance (known to you and me as St. Louis), its various denizens and newcomers as they continue to find their place in a post-apocalyptic America, season 2 gives a glimpse of the wider world only spoken about previously, including the first glimpses of other cities in the world of Defiance.
The Earth Republic is now in control of Defiance and life as we know it isn’t all that good for most of the familiar faces. Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), former mayor of Defiance, has taken over as the madam and host of her sister’s brothel, NeedWant. While removed from the mayor’s office, she finds herself coming into frequent contact with the new Earth Republic provisional mayor, Niles Pottinger (new cast member James Murray), installed after her replacement, the newly-elected Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) murdered an Earth Republic colonel in last season’s finale. Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) is also back, working in the town’s gulanite mine he previously controlled. The Earth Republic is running the mine 24 hours a day to unbury the Votan weapon revealed at the end of last season.
Meanwhile, Stahma Tarr (Jaime Murray), Datak’s wife, continues her Lady Macbeth-like ways, usurping control of her husband’s business interests from her son Alak (Jesse Rath). Meanwhile, Datak is imprisoned at Camp Reverie outside of Defiance, alongside Doc Yewll (Trenna Keating), both of them having run afoul of the E-Rep for different reasons (Datak for murder, Yewll for her knowledge of the Votan weapon).
Against that backdrop, Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), no longer lawkeeper of Defiance, has left the town on a cross-country journey to find his missing daughter, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), who vanished after the events of last season’s finale. His trip takes him to both New Chicago and Angel Arc, built on what’s left of southern California. He is reunited with Irisa in Angel Arc, but she quite clearly not the same girl he used to know and forces them to return to Defiance for reasons she doesn’t share.
This first episode was competent, setting the stage for future conflicts without delving too deeply into any of them. There are crumbs here and there, but nothing substantial to gnaw on thus far. The new cast additions, including character actor William Atherton as Earth Republic viceroy Berto Mercado, seem like a good fit at this juncture. It was also nice to finally see more of the post-Arkfall world.
The plot leaves a bit to be desired. With the hour-long time constraint, there isn’t enough room to catch up with everyone and there are several old characters we see only in passing, including Rafe’s children and deputy lawkeeper Tommy Lasalle (Dewshane Williams). In addition, Nolan’s reunion with Irisa feels rushed and insincere after the time and effort it took him to find her. What, he crossed the country for her and they reconcile in seconds? Still, for all of that, it is a good set-up episode for things to come.
On an interesting side note – this episode keeps the series tradition alive of using contemporary music over their ending wrap-up montages. This time around, however, we get an original tune by country artist Trace Adkins, “Across the Storm Divide,” that isn’t half bad.