I reviewed this show earlier this season, after two episodes. My take on the show at the time was that he show was very ambitious. They had a lot of backstory and new races to explain as well as introduce a huge cast of characters, each with intertwining stories and motivations. I didn’t think the lawman character was working at all, but this held true for many of the characters in the show.
I’m a sucker for a post-apocalyspe story, and with the advent of on-demand TV I don’t have to watch at the same time each week, so I decided to stick with the show for a few more episodes. This is my review after 10 episodes.
Again, this show is really ambitious. There is a lot here for a sci-fi geek to chew on. Different races, different cultures, advanced tech raining from the sky,… they could make a show that spends three seasons introducing us to aspects of this world without ever really advancing the story if they wanted to. The good part is that they haven’t done that or turned this into a monster of the week show. They are being pretty good about introducing a couple of big story arcs and then setting up a few smaller character arcs. There are two major political arcs (Earth Republic moving to take over Defiance, and the Mayoral race between Amanda and Datak), and one major mystery arc (what is the object from the mines and what does it do) that promise to keep the story moving along nicely.
A couple of the characters are developing nicely. Stahma, Datak’s wife, is showing herself to not only be a manipulator on a grand master level, but possibly also one on the tactical level. She is shaping up to be the most dangerous character in the show. Doc Yewll’s backstory and how it is effecting current events is also a pleasant surprise. Good to see a healer get to be interesting.
Weak Characters – The lawman is still not interesting. Datak has more than one note, but he has not quite made it to two notes yet, and for a savy guy he is awfully blind to his wife’s manipulations. The Irisa character, along with most of the Iraths, are lame imitations of Native American stereotypes. Irisa has no emotional range. She is a shut down person, I get that, but she still needs to have more than one emotion at some point. The Earth Republic representatives have been nearly mustache twirling bad guys, with the exception of Amanda’s former love interest, and he got killed by the end of that episode. The choice of putting them in Gestapo-esque clothing was a bit heavy handed. Finally, Rafe McCawley. In the matter of a few months he has buried one son, had another leave to find his mother, and his daughter is marrying the son of his rival. He should be breaking up by now, but he seems to be just fine. Also, it seems that running the mine is pretty easy since he is always at the house.
Odd Elements – one episode featured “hell bugs” as a plot element, and it is understood that this world has all sorts of different flora and fauna now, but it really plays no role in the life of Defiance. It seems to me that if critters like this exist, they would be more of a problem for the town rather than a plot tool. A different episode used nanotech as an explanation for an Irath coming back from the dead. It was such a duex ex machina that it ruined the episode for me, one which could have worked to develop the lawman and daughter characters but failed to do that either. Nano tech would have likely survived much of the arkfall and be a persistent problem for the planet, much like any form of microbe, it should not be a surprise like it was.
Fan Service – The lesbian relationship between the Kenya and Stahma really seems to be put in for no other purpose than to titillate. It may prove to be a larger part of Stahma’s master plan, and if so I will cut it some slack, but until then it make no sense that Stahma would risk Datak’s wrath for this when she is otherwise so smart. (Before anyone calls me a homophobe, it is not that fact that the relationship is between two women, it is the fact that I don’t believe it would happen and it does not seem to serve the story that bothers me).
The town really doesn’t have a character yet – its more like a refugee camp setting for the character stories rather than a living breathing entity. The mines should be a bigger part of town life, assuming they are the major employer that is. There also seems to be very little city administration other than the mayor and the lawman, the mayor (like the mine owner) seems to have a lot of free time on her hands. So, who is doing the work? A place like this would also need have regular contact with the rest of the world in order for an economy to run. The mines are a source of export, but how do the materials get to market? We have seen that travel is dangerous, so how do these important goods flow? Right now the town just a setting, when it could be a vibrant character.
Well, since this is the second one, it’s really not so final is it?
I am enjoying the show enough to stick with it. I read that it has been picked up for another season which is encouraging. There are enough interesting story elements going on to keep me watching, but without better characters it is going to be really easy for them to make a story mistake and loose me as their audience. I am hoping that the Stahma character can maintain this level of manipulation without becoming too powerful that it kills the other stories. I really want the Artifact story to play out, but his is also the one with the most risk. My pipe dream is that Datak does rise to power and actually wants to make things better for Defiance but he gets caught between his ego, his wife, and his new allies in the process then has to make friends with his former enemies.
So, in summary, the show isn’t Game of Thrones/Downtown Abby/Breaking Bad for the Sci-Fi geeks, yet. I really don’t think it will ever be either, but it is showing some promise in the story telling and in the background elements. I recommend it to other sci-fi geeks seeking some TV entertainment.