DEFIANCE: This is the Way the World Ends

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Defiance 213: “I Almost Prayed”

[photos: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy]

We pick up right where the last episode left off.  New York City is being destroyed by the terraspires and terraspheres that Kaziri unleashed upon it.  Lasers shoot fire from the sky, purple smoke billows, and…new flora and fauna immediately start to take root (against the background of some very cheesy-looking CGI effects).  In very short order, New York City ceases to be as it once was.

With New York City now gone, E-Rep officials set up shop in Defiance in damage control mode.  We learn that Kaziri also struck a Votan stronghold in Belize, as well, so it isn’t playing favorites and anyone not “saved” is fair game.

Defiance - Season 2

Nolan arrives at the command center, with Cai in tow, to discuss his plan to separate Irisa from Kaziri. Doc Yewll also arrives back in Defiance with her own plan to stop Irisa, in exchange for a pardon.  As Yewll’s plan involves likely killing Irisa (by causing the pieces of Ark-brain within her to explode, unleashing a virus back into Kaziri), Nolan understandably has reservations about it. Amanda recommends that he be jailed because he will prevent them from completing Yewll’s plan. With him out of the way, Yewll shares with Amanda an edited version of the project to create the fake Kenya that doesn’t implicate the real proponent of the plan, Pottinger.  Pottinger plays along, realizing that Yewll is saving his bacon and that he’s now in debt to her.

The E-rep soldiers barely have time to get Nolan back to the jail before he frees himself.  They even taser him but he manages to walk through that (because he’s a badass).  Cai comes to his rescue by taking out the last E-rep soldier and Nolan passes out from the effects of the taser.

Defiance - Season 2

Meanwhile, Kaziri/Irisa continues to launch terraforming units down to earth.  Pottinger, Amanda, and Yewll make it out to the pilgrimage site with the goal of putting a bullet in Irisa.  Nolan and Cai arrive to stop them and in the process, they disrupt Kaziri’s control of the Ark debris cloud and terraforming units, which go into a holding pattern.  Nolan handcuffs Amanda to the roller and knocks out both Pottinger and Yewll.  Then he and Cai go after Irisa.

She and Cai do a mind-meld and she passes part of the Kelavar (called a Kelovan) to Cai.  Irisa returns to normal after the mind-meld and is overcome with grief for what she’s done, including the death of Tommy.  She begs Nolan to kill her but he refuses until she can help them stop what Kaziri has set in motion. She, Nolan, and Cai head into the mine to stop Kaziri.

Once inside Kaziri, it starts to play mind games with Irisa, appearing as Tommy, who tells her that he didn’t deserve to die and that she should have killed Nolan instead. Nolan helps her fight back and Kaziri reacts poorly to her choice. Turns out Cai was also given the whammy by Kaziri (he encountered his dead parents who accused him of abandoning them).

They make it to the control room of Kaziri and activate their respective halves of the Kelavar.  Just as their ancestors did, they lie down to take control of Kaziri.  They manage to re-route the terraforming lasers so that they shoot into space, targeting the Arkship debris field, destroying large sections of it and saving the planet (or at least the parts of it that haven’t been terraformed yet).  Kaziri starts to collapse around them.  Cai flees, but Nolan and Irisa are trapped by rubble and are unable to escape…

Defiance - Season 2

On the Tarr front, unbeknownst to anyone but Stahma, Datak returns to the family home. He arrives home in time to see Stahma and Pilar McCawley having a pissing contest about where Christie gets to live. Pilar wants her, Alak, and the forthcoming baby to live with her. The Tarrs, to the surprise of no one, disagree. Pilar pulls out the big guns, insulting both Stahma and Datak, throwing out remembrances of who the two of them used to be back in the day (Datak a cheap street hustler, Stahma a handmaiden and housemaid who may or may not have given oral favors to Rafe McCawley). She clearly gets under their skin, so they tell her to shove off…permanently.

Pilar then goes to work on Alak and Christie, selling them on the Votanis Collective for the safety of their forthcoming mixed-species baby. Pilar talks about a Votanis commune south of Defiance where she wants them to go. Alak is more put out when Pilar mentions that her father is back home, a circumstance he was not aware of. Alak and Christie are disappointed (to put it mildly) that Datak is back at the home given his past transgressions, but Datak has a nice touche’ moment when Christie throws his past violence in his face and he mentions that she “dropped a whore from the top of the Gateway Arch”. That goes over about as well as you would expect.

When they start to push back on her plans, Pilar and Quentin kidnap Alak and Christie at gunpoint and flee Defiance, their destination unknown (the commune Pilar mentioned doesn’t exist). The Tarrs’ new handmaiden Andina witnesses the kidnapping and informs them both. That sends Stahma and Datak on the warpath to save them.  Their first stop is to get Rafe McCawley.

At Camp Reverie, the E-Rep is cleaning house, with summary executions of the prisoners led by the staff in charge of the site. Berlin stumbles upon them shooting prisoners and attempts to stop it. The sergeant in charge assaults her and adds her to the next round of victims, which also includes Rafe McCawley. The Tarrs arrive in the nick of time, killing all the E-Rep soldiers before they can kill Rafe and Berlin.  Then Rafe and the Tarrs head off in pursuit of Pilar, as the remaining Camp Reverie prisoners flee into the night.

Defiance - Season 2

So as the season draws to a close, Pilar and Quentin are on the run with Alak and Christie in tow and Stahma, Datak, and Rafe in hot pursuit. Pottinger and Amanda get their groove on, Yewll returns to her lab, and Berlin leads the carousing patrons of the Need/Want in a toast for Tommy. We glimpse Nolan and Irisa cocooned together in Kaziri alongside the rest of the “saved”, buried deep under old St. Louis.

And with that, we have the end of the episode and season 2.

Couple thoughts on the episode –

Overall, a good episode. There is a lot going on here and everyone gets a touch, with some having more compelling bits than others. The weakest is probably the most predictable – Amanda and Pottinger hooking up after their season-long collision course. I’m more interested in what happens to the Tarrs chasing Pilar and company and even Berlin, who went into a drunken grief spiral chock-full of disillusionment in the last episode alone, where/how will she end up in Defiance in the future? Possibly as a deputy lawkeeper in Tommy’s place? At the end of the day, it left me wanting more, which is ideally what any well put together season finale should do.

Defiance - Season 2

Pilar is apparently still just as wacky as she used to be, with the added cult member undertone to make it really fun.

Flipping the off switch on Kaziri seems like too tidy an ending.  It cheapens what has happened up to this point (and doesn’t answer a lot of questions, like what happens to the rest of the “saved”?). Cai and Irisa lie down, Irisa tells Kaziri to go away, annnnnnnnd…we’re done. That’s it? That’s all it took? The most powerful weapon the planet Earth has arguably ever seen…and it just needs to be told to go away?!

And you would think Irisa’s response towards Kaziri would be slightly more emotional than it was. Here she was manipulated by alien technology for over a season (and possibly half her life), and rather than respond with stronger rejection and condemnation, she just turns Kaziri off. As pay-offs go, that’s a bland one.

Some of the alien contact lenses look out of whack this episode. Cai and Yewll’s eyes just don’t look right like their contacts slid out of place in some scenes.

Thoughts on the season –

As I expressed in my last recap, the show’s ability to deal with exposition continues to be disappointing.  When explanations of the flashback sections of the plot are treated as quick asides between Cai and Nolan (if either Ashi and Reimlu actually says the words “we can’t kill all these humans because Irzu values life” anywhere in the last season, I never saw it), that still leaves a lot of ‘splaining to do. I’d even settle for touchbacks to previous references. For example, in the last three episodes or so, Irisa has referred to herself as the “devouring mother” (aka Alaktra), which is what she was called by the cult that her parents belonged to when she was a child who believed her to be a messiah. This was the same cult that implanted part of the Kelavar into her many moons ago, as referenced last season. Do we get any references to that at all this season? Not a one. It was important enough that she was hunting people down to torture them last season…but this season, nary a peep.

I’m not saying show all your goodies, because it’s one way to keep people coming back to see what is revealed over time. But when you resolve the large overarching plot complication of the season without taking the time to explain how the complication came to be, you’re not teasing for greater returns down the road, you’re short-changing your story.

This deficiency really needs to be fixed for season 3 because when the show requires more work than the enjoyment it provides, it’s a goner, regardless of how much dough Syfy has sunk into it (some $70 million alone just for the game). For a TV property to survive, the show is the tentpole, the games and apps aren’t, and the sooner Syfy plays to that, the better off it will be. And this feels like something a little market research would illuminate very quickly.

The finale left us with some juicy bits to go on, while ignoring the largest plot point – the ramifications of what Irisa did. She’s conveniently sealed in a bubble, hidden away from the victims of her actions. The city of New York was destroyed and its inhabitants killed…and the can is kicked farther down the curb to deal with later, if at all.

We only got one new character of any substance this season in Mordecai/Cai. Hopefully we’ll see more of him because he’s a breath of fresh air with the other fairly high-strung Irathien introduced thus far.  Also, the re-appearance of Kenya, while a red herring of sorts, was still a nice surprise. Tommy remained the sole major casualty of the season, with Deirdre as the only secondary character to bite it. That’s a smaller body count than last season, where at least 4 named characters were killed off. As with Falling Skies (which we also recap), that’s also indicative of safe storytelling with low stakes for the characters involved, particularly when minor characters are killed in Defiance weekly.

Will we get another season? I don’t know. Its ratings are higher than Sanctuary before it was cancelled.  Higher than Warehouse 13 in its last couple of seasons, too.  Better than Alphas. About the same as Eureka (and that show had 5 seasons). So it is likely it will be back, but hardly a given.

What would I like to see in a future season? More flashbacks. More details about Nolan’s life in the military as part of his unit, the Iron Demons (who were kinda important for ending the Pale Wars, an act that is mentioned in passing but never in detail). More of Doc Yewll and the Biodyne Project would also be welcome. Hell, anything involving the Pale Wars so we can see where many of these people came from would be nice. There is a rich back-story to the property that it’s failing to translate across all media.

Woodchuck sez, “That’s all for now!”

[Defiance web site at Syfy]     [Previous Recap – “All Things Must Pass”]

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