Defiance: Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go, Review

Defiance continues to make us cheer, smile, laugh, and want more.

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Now that Joshua Nolan and his “traveling companion” Irisa have decided to stay in the town of Defiance, let’s see what kind of trouble they get into this week.

A lot happened in the two hour pilot:  Tension between rival families, a murder mystery, a secret romance revealed, an attack on the town.  During the attack, one Castithan, Elah, started to fight the Volge but lost his nerve and took off.  Castithans don’t look favorably upon deserters, so when Elah is caught, he is taken into town for a brutal “cleansing ceremony” reminiscent of the scene in Braveheart where William Wallace gets his limbs pulled in all different directions as a form of torture.  It’s just getting started when Nolan tries to intervene.This violent tradition seems a little out of sorts for the Castithans, who are the more scheming, plotting, sneaky type of alien species.  I’m not sure how the victim is supposed to be cleansed before getting their arms and legs ripped out of their sockets.  Anyway, even though Nolan tries to stop it, he gets pulled aside by Mayor Amanda Rosewater, who gives him a quick lesson in the history of the town’s agreement to honor the alien cultures and traditions.  Irisa is visibly upset…so upset, in fact, that when deputy Tommy tries to comfort her, she is so startled that she whirls around and nearly takes him out.  (As Amanda explained to Nolan, Irathients are fighters who don’t like to be told what to do…which is why Irisa is my favorite character.)Ben (who did not die in the pilot, as I originally thought) is being held in custody while he recovers, but is revived by the old mayor’s cohort, who basically tells Ben that he has to try to destroy the town again, since the Volge were unexpectedly defeated.  Ben seemingly panics and runs into the mines.Speaking of which, mine-owner Rafe McCawley is now at odds with daughter Christie over her upcoming wedding to Alak Tarr, son of the rival Tarr family.  He’s also pretty upset about Ben  getting into the mine that leads down to Old St. Louis, covered up during the time when Earth was terraformed, and setting off explosions to block the way behind him.  Nolan insists on finding a quick route down, resulting in a verbal pissing match with Rafe, but Nolan wins out, leaving Irisa with instructions to stay far, far away from the tormented Elah.Remember what I said a little while ago about Irathients not liking to be told what to do?  Remember that?During their bath time ritual, Stahma and Datak argue about how the humans perceive their traditions, with Stahma taking the more moderate (i.e. sneaky) route.  She wants the humans to like the Castithans, so that she and Datak can get control of the mines.  However, when she presses his buttons about his past and rubs his face in the fact that he came from the lowest caste possible in their society, he is incensed.  Defiance has given him the chance to become a powerful figure in the town, and he revels in it.  Unfortunately, they are interrupted by Alak, who is afraid he will have to call off the wedding to Christie.  Ok, I realize these guys are aliens, but what teenage guy wants to walk in on his parents taking their bath?  Weird.Ex-Mayor Nicky returns to clear out her office, debating with Amanda about how much Defiance has changed in the last five years and whether or not old cultural traditions should still be tolerated.  Elah is still hanging, seemingly unconscious, while his fellow Castithans keep dumping rocks into the device that stretches him out.  Irisa (or, the Irathi bitch, as they call her) has had enough and cuts Elah down, snarling at the crowd like an animal as they throw stones at her until Tommy comes to her rescue again.  Before she gets hit with too many rocks, he fires off his gun and places Elah under arrest for…loitering.  Heh.Being a natural charmer, Nolan tries to bond with Rafe by talking about St. Louis before the Arkfall.  When he tells Rafe that Ben needs to be brought in alive, Rafe resists.  Ben did kill his older son, after all, but with Nolan the new lawman in town, Nolan knows that he has to try to be diplomatic and keep Defiance’s safety the first priority.  He wants to know why someone sent the Volge and only Ben has the answers.  When they finally find him, Ben makes a weak attempt to fight back, but is over-powered.One of my favorite scenes, that sent chills up my spine, involves a conversation between Christie (working as a waitress) and Stahma, who shows up at the restaurant to talk to her about the wedding.  Whenever I see Stahma, I half expect her to turn into a vampire with enormous teeth, ready to take a bite out of someone.  When she tells the story of her original, arranged marriage, and how everything ended up when she met Datak, you start to realize just how dangerous she and her spouse are.  I won’t spill the details of the conversation, but if you watch it, tell me it doesn’t completely creep you out.  It obviously creeps Christie out too, and the future of her wedding to Alak is definitely in question.The bomb Ben tries to set off in the mine is defused, but he commits “suicide by lawkeeper” when he first tries to push Rafe far enough to kill him, then attacks him instead, getting shot and killed in the scuffle.  He does ask Rafe to tell Amanda he’s sorry.  Nolan delivers the message just after Amanda has arrived at the jail to pardon Elah during a standoff between…well, pretty much everyone. Datak backs down, claiming that he and Amanda should “revisit their cultural differences” later on, and kisses her hand… the same thing Stahma did to Christie at the restaurant.  Castithans seem to have a habit of appearing to be charming, but all they do is make your skin crawl.After the funeral for the forty one people who died in the Volge attack, Rafe searches Luke’s room and finds wads of money and a strange gold object hidden in a drawer.  Elah is shown at home with his family, until Datak pays him a visit.  Knowing that the alien tradition must be carried out, Elah allows Datak to kill him, and the body is left on the front step of the lawkeeper office.Final review:  Defiance may be a town built on new beginnings, but old traditions are going to be a sticking point in how its residents deal with each other.  It’s survived for eight years, but are the new tensions going to create even more conflict?  Are all the different species going to be able to live together peacefully, or will the whole place implode?  It’s a complicated, multi-layered story, and I’m getting sucked in pretty quickly.  The characters are vivid, and their internal conflicts are as plain as the external ones.  This is going to be an interesting ride.Best bits:  Christie saying that her dad is “sort of a jackass,” to which Stahma replies, “Most men are.  It’s a characteristic that transcends most species.”  Also, Ben finally got up the nerve, in his last moments, to really stick it to Rafe.  I didn’t think he had it in him.  And even though Irisa did exactly what Nolan told her not to do, she did it because it was the right thing.Worst bits:  A cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” was used in the burial scene, which was odd.  Not sure that was the best choice, but…okay.  And what was up with Alak hugging his near naked mom in the bathing room?  “Mother will take care of everything,” she tells him.  It’s not sexual in any way, really, but…ew.