Defiance episode 2 review: Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go

Billy returns to Defiance, but is disappointed to find this week's episode retreading well-worn sci-fi ground. Here's his review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.2 Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go

The second episode of Defiance tried desperately to fix a major flaw of the pilot story, by providing some not-so-subtle character development for those it’s decided are worthy of attention. And squeezed between back story corner, we had some token amounts of larger story arc progression, and a rather tame little morality tale about accepting different cultures. In general it was marginally more attention-grabbing than the first Defiance helping, but not especially gripping or nominally exciting.

The writers went some way to make the Castithans villains from the outset, and much of what went on in this story rammed that home for those who weren’t paying attention last time. Part of their culture is honour-based, and by running from battle one of them must be tortured to death in public. Seems entirely reasonable, no?

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Well, we’re given the line that the town accepts cultural differences, which gives the Castithans the right to do whatever they’ve decided is right, in the sort of illogical way that only science fiction stories can try to present. I can’t recall how many times we’ve seen this plot, but Star Trek in its various forms must have covered this territory at least ten times, if not more. Aliens do terrible things, humans object to them, they gain greater understanding of the alien culture, and they of ours. Yawn.

The only diversion from that well-trodden path is that in this case, the humans were right to object, because the ‘culture’ is just dressing for a mafia-like enforcement. What worried me about this was that if the Mayor would go along with this, what else would she sanction to keep the peace? Eventually she’s pushed into acting, but I kept on thinking that we’re being presented with a series of events that better explains how the old Mayor became so utterly corrupt.

Datak and Stahma scheme away in what can only be interpreted as a homage to Game Of Thrones, and they threw a spa scene with the almost naked Jaime Murray in an attempt to distract us from the almost soap-opera quality dialogue. Given that Game of Thrones is not on Syfy and can push whatever sexual boundaries HBO deems fit, I just don’t see the network-friendly version cutting much ice.

Jaime Murray did have a much better scene in the diner, where she talked with Christie about how she got the man she wanted, probably by arranging the untimely death of another. Those that missed the previous hints, she’s the real architect of what goes on in Defiance, and Datak is her willing accomplice. She had one great line, “He’s kind of a jackass. Most men are. It’s a characteristic that transcends species.”, which made up a little for the cringingly awful “penny for your thoughts” opening gambit. Datak and Stahma are mildly amusing and interesting, much else of what went on wasn’t.

The search for the escaped Ben in an implausibly entombed old St. Louis, placed inexplicably in a giant cave by previous terra-forming. There’s something down there that Nicky wants, that she was prepared to bury with a nuclear explosion to keep from being found. The only upside to this rather tedious expedition were a few choice parts where Rafe, i.e. Graham Greene (II), got to show he can act. Having given his best in these parts he was rewarded in the closing sequence by finding his son’s secret stash, resplendent with a super piece of alien tech. When I say ‘super’, what I actually mean is something that looked complicated, but was very easy to make on a 3D printer that the props people then made gold with a can of spray paint.

Overall, Defiance isn’t lighting many fires in this reviewer’s soul, and they need to work on this being more gripping than it’s been so far. After two stories both with the idea that something could happen that will make everyone leave Defiance, and them not leaving, I’ll be disappointed if we return to this idea next week. And, surely someone might start asking why they’re so keen to get everyone out of there?

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Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, here.

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