Defiance episode 4 review: A Well Respected Man

Review Billy Grifter 8 May 2013 - 07:29

Billy notes an improvement in this week's Defiance, which is steadily getting better. Here's his review of episode four...

This review contains spoilers.

1.4 A Well Respected Man

Someone in the talkback for the last episode asked, not unreasonably, if I get all the "crap TV shows" to watch? In short, yes, that would be me. But the blame is entirely mine, because I commit to review shows based on the information I have before the pilot is screened, rather than direct experience of seeing it beforehand. With Defiance my choice was driven by those creatively behind the show, who all have some really excellent productions in their résumés. That's not a guarantee, by any stretch, but you throw your hand up, and occasionally it comes back down with fingers missing.

I'm not willing to give up entirely on Defiance yet, it's a long way from Revolution-bad, and is showing some signs of improvement. Was it me, or was this a markedly better episode than the three that preceded it? Maybe it's wishful thinking, but the character work done this week made for a much more interesting running time, and a more unified experience.

The plot, about some Franken-geek abducting people to drain their adrenalin was pretty cheesy and not entirely believable, but what did work as a by-product were the extra layers that many of the characters received in the telling.

Until now, Kenya has been a pretty thinly drawn persona of being the sister of the Soccer Mom, with the decidedly alternative career path. She was one of the few I really didn't like in the pilot, because the notion of the whore with a heart has been done to death. In A Well Respected Man we were given some explanation of the relationship between her and more respected sister, and it was the 'respect' part that was the rather blatantly themed backdrop to all the character interactions this week.

The council doesn't respect Amanda, because she's up for re-election soon, so they don't tell her that they've given Datak money to buy illegal arms, and that sets Nolan off to show him no respect either. It's a chain reaction, where everyone gets bitten, and feels no esteem. As the peacemaker, it's up to Amanda to break the chain and show Datak respect that he probably doesn't deserve, and make things right. Most of the political stuff worked very well, and they even managed to get the McCawley's showing each other respect, though an unrelated subplot.

There were, however, some bits that didn't really fit together as well as I'd have wanted, and they mostly related to the flashback sequence that aimed to explain the relationship between Kenya and Amanda, and what happened to their mother. The final reveal on this was that their mother didn't come back, but what blew my mind was that Kenya wasn't angry that Amanda hadn't told her this previously, on the basis that she may be alive. I'd put good money on her turning up at some point in the season, now we've seen no concrete evidence that she's dead.

The other part which was odd was the respect that Amanda showed Kenya by saying that she always knew what to say to people, backed up by a somewhat creepy statement made by Stahma Tarr made about what Kenya said to her. If she was so good at this, how did the interaction in the street with the furious wife go so wrong then?

What's working better for me is the wonderful Jaime Murray, who is inhabiting the personality of Stahma Tarr in a way that I think only she could. It's a marvellously nuanced performance, and her reaction to Nolan, when he said "You know, I've had my eye on the wrong snake. You're the dangerous one", and she replied "You're very sweet." was the highlight of series so far for me.
No, this show isn't Farscape out of the shotgun, but it's trying hard and getting better, which is all one can ask.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, The Devil in the Dark, here.

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If you think about the first series of most sci-fi shows they don't tend to be great, with the possible exceptions of battlestar galactica and firefly, there is lots of world building and exposition to get through. Farscape took about a season to get really good, Babylon 5s first season was a really tough watch, Stargate's was very ropey.

Give Defiance time.

I agree, It takes time to deliver a world (especially one as diverse as defiance) in a few episodes all the while giving us a broad view of all the major characters and their story in which we are currently focused on the present. Firefly had a great season but didnt need to explain as many characters (all human) and a why our world changed the way it did. Battlestar Gallactica did a fantastic job as well but that story is one that in recent years has been repeated so much (terminator 1,2,3,4) 2001,2010 space odysseys) And they had a large audience that watched the original, me included. (and just so its known im 20 not some old back and the day nerd, though i am a nerd) Almost all scifi struggles through the first 1-3 seasons. But the potential is there and im along for the ride. Night

Why are you such a sucker for character development? Don't you think characters can develop through action? If you don't, I feel so sorry for you. In real life, most people's character develop through conflict and hardship. What you do need for a good show though is likeable characters. Defiance certainly has that! Look at Stargate Universe! Character development bombed on that show because there was no action at all and there weren't any likeable characters. Farscape only had three actors, so of course the characters developed faster, but Farscape wasn't superior to Defiance. Not in my book anyway! Everything happened on that damn ship!! Got repetitive! I think you complain because you are pessimistic in nature. For you not to see the greatness of this show is dumbfounding! If all shows listened to your advice they would be canceled because they would be awfully boring. A great sci-fi show is like a great speech. The introductory episodes need to 'hook' you in and then the 'body' of the speech develops the stories and characters. Why do you think James Bond has been so successful? The intro 'hooks' you and then you want to stick around. Anyway, I am disappointed with your reviews! I think they are stacko!! Lighten up and don't be so critical! Enjoy the world and the stories that are unfolding in front of us!

Yup - I liked the pilot warts and all, and ep 2 was nice primer for the sorts of issues this sci-fi format is suited to exploring (culture clashes, power and ethics). Agree episode 3 was a misfire, a standalone episode, but episode 4 has made a lot of ground. So long as they don't tie themselves up in continuity knots and get carried away with dumb repetitive plot driven scripts written on the back on an envelope (e.g. Falling Skies, Revolution or Terra Nova) and stick to world building and character development the show has definite potential.

Oh, you had to mention Farscape. Now, I've got this mind-connection thing with the character of Stahma and Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan, played by Virginia Hey. Aargh!

it's definitely a slow burner, but I thought the pilot was ok so I'm sticking with it, partly to see what that stupid gold thing is. oh and to see more of The Vulge.
what I don't get is why the humans in the prog aren't a leeetle bit more annoyed that these aliens showed up, had a war with them (regardless of who fired the first shot), terraformed the planet and ruined Dominos delivery times forever

I think the series is pretty decent. it's not the best sci-fi ever, far from it in fact, but I do get the feeling the quality of the show, and then especially the writing hs been increasing over the first four episodes.

As said, with any Sci-Fi, the first bunch of episodes is all about setting up the context and world building.

I liked this episode. The Nolan character is growing on me as any Indiana Jones/Wyat Earp combo would.

Jaime Murray seems on a fasttrack to become a break-out character on the show. Or maybe Blue man Ulysses. I enjoyed both very much.

Nah, it's not the best, but pickings for Sci Fi fans have been slim these last few years, and I'll take what I can get. Even without that mindset, I think Defiance has been decent so far.

I'll be tuning in to watch the next episode.

Really can't believe science fiction shows like Star Gate-Destiny get cancelled and

tripe like Defiance gets a chance. IT'S ALL WRONG, the characters reactions are wrong, the alien interaction/assimilation are wrong, the dialogs are corny. The only good thing about the show is the germ of an ideal that earth would be terraform to create interesting environments. Now the show is letting my down building story plots to cover those situations. Is the fourth episode the best one, maybe but the show

has a long way to go. But, I'm not waiting for it.

Nolan is pretty much an a**hole Neanderthal. He "thinks" with his fist, and then have to rely on other people to clean up the mess he creates. In this episode, he just roughed Datak out of the blue, and Amanda had to give up a Council seat to get help to get Kenya rescued. After all that, he isn't even aware that it's his fault Datak gets a position of power; he blames Stahma for this.

Stahma may have plans, but Datak the councilman might have been something in the far, far future if not for Nolan's actions.

Nolan has got to grow a brain to make him an interesting character. Otherwise the series is going to be the equivalent of a cute 3-year old inadvertently destroying the living room while the adults hastily try to fix the damage he leaves behind.

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