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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