This review contains spoilers.
1.11 Past Is Prologue
In general, penultimate episodes to show seasons fall into two categories. They’re either a story that clears the way for a finale, or the first part of a double episode. Past Is Prologue falls neatly into the second of those options, because very little is resolved or defined, it’s mostly setup for the season end next week.
That’s not to say it was bad. There were some very interesting sequences in which we saw what the Tarr tribe is like when they smell an opportunity to advance themselves. The particular prize they’re after is the mine, via Datak becoming Mayor and selling the good townsfolk out to the Earth Republic.
Earlier in the season we were sold the notion that Stahma was more complicated than her husband, but the reality of that very minor difference is now rather abruptly exposed. How she uses Kenya to plant the seeds of Nolan’s downfall, and even duping poor Alak to get his own pal killed was all pretty ruthless. She’s the key to the next story part, because she’s the only person who can manipulate Datak from executing their devious plan, for whatever reason.
This is also priming is a major revolt by Alak at some point, who is clearly unhappy about being an accessory to events and just another lever that the Tarrs push when it serves their purpose. The question it asks, to be answered later no doubt, is how can Datak not become Mayor and get the mine without losing honour, if that’s possible. Sci-Fi writers always like their races with a strong honour-based identity, and down the years we’ve seen plenty of them, from the Klingons to the Narn. Having characters that act for reasons other than personal gain or in fear is usually more interesting, and so far the Tarrs have been the best thing in Defiance.
Their marvellously Machiavellian plan was good entertainment, but also the interaction between the golden pretzel and Irisa provided further distractions. I really like what the costume departments has organised for Doctor Yewill these days, especially with the goggles. There’s a definite cyberpunk vibe going on here, and combined with the textured skin prosthetics, she looks much more alien than most of the other Defiance species. I just wish she had more personality, though I accept acting under that much makeup must be a real test.
Yewill’s messing around with the pretzel revealed the location of its silver counterpart, which as I recall was painted in the cave painting in episode four. Her subsequent attempt to remove it from inside Irisa seemed destined to fail, and bridged to an untidy ending with the return of Rynn. What the doctor was up to needs some explanation, and we also need to know if Stahma has really overstepped her authority in the Tarr household with Kenya. I suspect she has, because there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do to succeed, where Datak is limited by his own concept of honour. I wouldn’t really call this story now finely poised, but I’m curious to see how the second part of this narrative expands.
That last 42 minutes of the first season is going to be quite busy, because not only have they to resolve the election, get Nolan reinstated, and deal with Rynn. But they also need to offer up some reasons for watching season two, for those who have stuck with this somewhat lumpy first one.
Next week, the show writers have the chance to really set the story on fire, because however you look at it, so far it’s been a long, slow burn.
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