Defiance: Beasts of Burden Review

The latest episode of Defiance could signal in the the start of a intricate sci-fi classic. Here's our review...

Wow, where were these writers last year? The last couple of episodes of Defiance have masterfully woven simple crimes, easily solved, with deep explorations of character motivations and faction maneuvers. First it was Skeever’s car bomb, then Bertie’s disappearance, and now the stolen E-Rep supplies; these investigations served merely as a backdrop for the political waves tearing through Defiance this season. Game of Thrones would be proud!

Actually, the most enjoyable thread was completely separate from the supply heist, and that was the return of Datak to the family business. Despite the fact that he was released to protect Doc Yewll, a condition of his parole that seems to have been ignored, I thought I would be cheering him on because of the way Stahma manipulated Alak in weeks past. But I was elated to find my sympathies utterly flipped by Datak’s brutality and misogyny. The fact that I should switch to Stahma’s camp so completely is a credit to the writing in this episode.

That’s not to say I don’t think Alak is weak or that I don’t detest the idea of him running a record business. The thought of him and Christie becoming an insipid inter-species couple parroting Romeo and Juliet themes is deplorable to me. But what if he were to come to power with his father-in-law, Rafe, the Capulet to Datak’s Montague, perhaps leading the impending miner revolution? Now THAT would be a transformation I could get behind!

And poor Rafe, utterly powerless and without his sons this season, needs a break. His godson struck a misguided blow to the Earth Republic forces by stealing superior Votan mining equipment and humiliating Mayor Pottinger in the process. The masks were pretty cool, and certainly the miners’ cause is just. But when the godson didn’t take the bus ticket out of town, I lost all sympathy for him, as apparently did Rafe and Nolan. And now Rafe has been evicted, poor guy.

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It’s as though everyone except Nolan is using punitive measures to maintain their power. Datak and Pottinger should take a lesson! Nolan not only counsels against searching the Badlands willy-nilly, he puts his own ass on the line by allowing Rafe’s godson to get out of town. And as drug-addled as Amanda has become, she, too, attempts fruitlessly to advise Pottinger against going off half-cocked.

Speaking of which, Amanda’s backstory, although attentive viewers were vaguely aware of it before, was brilliantly placed in the narrative alongside Pottinger’s genuinely pitiable childhood tale. It’s continues to amaze me how Pottinger and Berlin have garnered audience sympathy even as we root against the E-Rep. Heck, even the Berlin-Tommy romance is growing on me! Irisa has receded into the background in that relationship and in this episode altogether, and I’m surprisingly okay with that even though her enslavement to Irzu persists, unaddressed this week.

If Defiance keeps this up and the ratings remain respectable (in the 1.5 to 2 million viewer range), this could be the start of a long, wonderfully intricate, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi classic.

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5 out of 5