Defiance 206: “This Woman’s Work”
[photos: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy]
To lead off the episode, another Votan arkship, this one called Orbital Object AL-29, falls out of its decaying orbit and crashes in the Bad Lands.
Because of this, Viceroy Mercado makes a surprise return to Defiance and commands Pottinger to salvage an endlessly renewable power source of clean energy (called a “Serilian core”) from the arkfall wreckage and to personally oversee the work in the field. With a healthy regard for his own safety and with knowledge of Nolan’s previous experience as an ark hunter, Pottinger presses him into service to help. Tommy and Nolan have a falling out before they go, with Tommy quitting as lawkeeper. Then Nolan and Pottinger, along with Churchill the bio-man and a contingent of E-Rep soldiers, head out to the ark.
The only problem is that the ark isn’t uninhabited and very quickly, our intrepid band realize that they’ve been directed there under false pretenses. There is no “Serilian core” – the ark housed Gulanee containment cells. The Gulanee are the sixth Votan race and the only one we have not seen in the series prior to this episode. Their bodies are compromised mostly of energy and they wear “encapsulation suits” to interact with others. In the case of this particular ship, the one surviving Gulanee has been in stasis for 17 years, back when the Votan were waging the Pale Wars against humanity. When she awakens (the encapsulation suit has boobs and a feminine bearing, so I’m assuming she’s a “she”), she’s primed for war, which isn’t good news for Nolan, Pottinger, and their men. While Nolan and Pottinger work on jury-rigging a trap for the Gulanee, she dispatches an entire regiment of Pottinger’s E-Rep troops single-handedly, hunting them down and blasting them with electricity-like energy.
Pottinger grudgingly sacrifices Churchill to buy Nolan more time to complete their trap, a pulse rebounder, which works by ensnaring the Gulanee in a feedback loop created by her own energy powers. This holds long enough for Pottinger to destroy its encapsulation suit. Pottinger and Nolan return to Defiance and for his failure, the Viceroy sends Pottinger to the Dakota Reach as punishment.
Meanwhile, the Irisa-Tommy-Berlin triangle comes to a head. Tommy catches Irisa doing her thing (attacking people for Irzu) and she begs him for his silence, promising that the random Castithan man she attacked will recover. While waiting for that to occur, Tommy mentions that he quit and he and Berlin are moving to Texas. After the Castithan does indeed recover like everyone else Irisa has attacked this season, Tommy realizes there is something bigger going on here and that he can’t leave Defiance. He tells Berlin he’s not leaving with her; she, of course, takes it poorly, and then she shacks up with Nolan, town man-whore, almost immediately.
Stahma Tarr, having defied Castithan convention that puts her husband as the head of the household after throwing Datak out, is condemned publicly by Favi Kurr, a Castithan holy man. Seems the standard punishment for a disobedient wife is time spent on the shaming rack, a communal Castithan form of torture that functions like a variation of the medieval torture rack. Believing Datak responsible for siccing Kurr on her (which he didn’t, but still seems to take no small delight in), she confronts him and he denies his involvement. Stahma (aka “Lady Macbeth”) then sets a plan in motion to accomplish either one of two goals: a.) Empowering other Castithan women to stand up for themselves and defy tradition; or b.) Removing Favi Kurr from the picture in a definitive way. She even attends a sewing circle of Castithan women, including Kurr’s wife, to persuade them to her cause. Failing that, she goes with what she knows and murders them with poisoned tea and frames Favi Kurr for the crime. In the end, he winds up on the shaming rack instead, as Stahma cements her position as the most murderous single individual in the show thus far (her body count is now 4, all by poisoning). The message here is, if Stahma Tarr offers you tea…DECLINE.
Meanwhile, Datak and Rafe continue their as yet-undefined plan including an appearance of the old briefcase-with-glowing-contents-the-audience-can’t-see (I’m sure it’s the soul of Marcellus Wallace).
In the wrap-up montage, we learn Mercado’s kink of choice that is alluded to earlier in the show – he dresses up as a Castithan to go prowling for tail at Votan parties. And he’s not the only human we know in disguise at the party either…Oh, and we get no clue as to whether Amanda is still using Blue Devil after last week’s episode (she appears sparingly, while the other focus from last episode, Doc Yewll, appears not at all)
Overall, this feels like the most complete of the episodes so far.
So the Gulanee have arrived in the show and make quite the first impression. Here is hoping they aren’t consigned to the shelf like the Volge who have yet to make any additional appearances in the series after their attack on Defiance last season. There are six Votan races and thus far, they’ve spent only minimal time developing 4 of them – Indogene, Liberata, Sensoth, and Gulanee are the red-headed stepchildren of the Votan.
Irisa and Stahma get screen time this week, with both of them pursuing their specific goals (obviously, Irisa’s is significantly less defined, with Stahma’s significantly more murderous). Stahma is the most interesting female character bar none in this show. The journey her character has taken these first two seasons is easily the most interesting (it also happens to be the most political, as well as the most classically structured; I joke about Lady Macbeth, but she could very well appear in a Shakespeare play).
And again this week, we get more fleshing-out of the Pottinger character. He has a nice vignette where he compares himself to Nolan, both of them having rescued victims of the war (Nolan raising Irisa, Pottinger saving Churchill after the Copenhagen Slaughter). Pottinger drops the conversation, but shows real emotion when he asks the simpleton bio-man to sacrifice himself fighting the Gulanee, watching his death through the porthole of an ark door. So while Nolan seems to be turning into an action hero caricature, Pottinger, for all his flaws, feels more human. Hopefully his exile to the Dakota Reach is short-lived.
Great to see William Atherton again. He plays off-kilter so well (he’s most famous as Peck in Ghostbusters), and his Mercado looks to be all kinds of strange as Mercado. I was hoping we would see him sooner rather than later.
Woodchuck sez, “Check it out.”