Defiance: Pilot, Review

The first episode of the newest idea: the show that is linked to a video game. Read more...

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The minds behind SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica are back with Defiance.  Developed for television by Rockne S. O’Bannon, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Taylor, and produced by Universal Cable Productions, it just might be the perfect new show for the network.  Defiance‘s Facebook fan page already has people expressing their excitement for something to fill the void left by Battlestar‘s departure in 2009.  The show even has a companion video game, with each one implementing and influencing the other with every episode (which is pretty awesome, if you think about it).

Naturally, there’s been a lot of social media buzz about both the game and the show.  There are lots of extended trailers on the fan page, and one link lets you watch the entire first fourteen minutes without commercial interruption.  The story begins in the year 2046, thirty three years after the Votans arrived on Earth when their own star system was destroyed.  The Votans aren’t just one species of alien, though…there are seven (possibly eight) different races that vary in appearance and ideologies, but have managed to coexist peacefully for the most part on their former planets.  They travel to Earth in spaceships known as Arks, thinking that our planet is uninhabited.  Whoops!  Needless to say, this created a few problems that resulted in the Pale Wars, which literally transformed the face of Earth.

Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) is a futuristic Indiana Jones type of guy, scruffy with a penchant for getting into trouble, making his way around the new world with his adopted Irathient alien daughter, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas).  The landscape is bleak, and Nolan is an Ark hunter, looking for the ships that have fallen to Earth and harvesting their alien technology for big bucks.  He was ten years old when the Votans arrived (in an eerie opening scene, where the Arks descend on a group of people enjoying a nice sunny day in the park).  When an Ark crashes up ahead of them, he and Irisa find it and score an important piece called a terrasphere that looks like a giant Dungeons and Dragons die, only to have some of their stash (and their vehicle) taken by a roving band of Irathients.  (Alien languages in Defiance come courtesy of David J. Peterson, who has also done work for Game of Thrones).Nolan and Irisa flee into the woods, but Irisa’s been injured, and they meet up with some (what I think are) Hellbugs.  They come in all shapes and sizes, but these evil bastards are about the size of a rhinoceros and look like a cross between a wolf and a spider.  Nolan buries the terrasphere and runs out of ammunition, but they are saved by a group of humans who take them to the city of Defiance, which is the former St. Louis, Missouri, and only recognizable by its large metal arch.Defiance is a city built on second chances and new beginnings.  After the Pale Wars, aliens and humans are trying to coexist within its borders.  Problem is, it’s also a city that represents the world at large, and there is going to be conflict inside those borders.  When Nolan arrives, Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), who has only been in power for three weeks, is holding an Armistice Day festival.  There is obvious tension between the two biggest rival families, one alien, the other human.  Datak and Stahma Tarr (Tony Curran and Jaime Murray) are pale eyed, pale skinned Castithians; Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) is a wealthy miner looking out for his family.  Seems like there’s a little Romeo and Juliet action going on between their kids, but it’s only hinted at in the ceremony.  We see more later on when Christie McCawley (Nicole Muñoz) and Alak Tarr (Jesse Rath) meet up at a party, only to get in a fight with her older brother Luke.Nolan gets invited to Amanda’s office, where he makes it clear that he does not intend to put down roots in the town.  Irisa is being cared for in the hospital by Dr. Yewll (Trenna Keating), and the mayor suggests that Nolan leave as soon as she’s better, also agreeing to give him back his weapon.  He ends up at the Need / Want, a brothel/store run by Kenya (Mia Kershner).  When Nolan tells her he needs to make some money, fast, she directs him to the Hollows, which is basically an underground fighting ring overseen by Datak (surprise, surprise, since we’ve already found out that he’s a slumlord who rules his section of town with threats and violence).  Nolan manages to beat a foe much larger than he is, and Datak is intrigued.  Or perturbed.  He always looks angry so I can’t really tell.Back at the McCawley household, everyone is settling in for dinner until Mayor Rosewater shows up to tell Rafe that his older son has been murdered.  Rafe goes to confront Alak, who has no clue what’s happened, even though he and Luke fought earlier.  Nolan tries to make the best of a bad situation, but things get heated, and the lead detective ends up dead.  I’m starting to get the feeling that Nolan is going to stay in Defiance a lot longer than he planned, either because he’s starting trouble, or trying to prevent it.  And I must admit that I love seeing Irisa roll her eyes at him repeatedly, knowing he’s kind of an idiot.  Seems like he’s found himself a new job, since he’s a tracker by trade and is willing to find Luke’s killer…for the right price.  Irisa is held by the deputy as “bounty” until Nolan completes the job.

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Back in the Tarr household, Stahma and Datak are trying to enjoy a hot, sexy bath, but end up discussing marriage between the families, which amounts to getting Christie inside and then eliminating the rest of the McCawleys.  Datak might be violent, but perhaps Stahma is the more dangerous of the two?  Women always seem to have the more devious minds.  They’re also better at all that wedding stuff anyway.Speaking of which, Irisa is making conversation with deputy Tommy LaSalle (Dewshane Williams) while she’s in custody.  She backs up Nolan’s story that he saved her when she was a child, and Tommy confesses that detective Clancy gave him a second chance as well.  Maybe there’s some sort of connection forming, but Irisa’s a tough little redhead who could probably break him in half, so we’ll see what happens.Nolan starts tracking down the killer, concluding that the mayor’s assistant, Ben, is the one who killed Luke.  Amanda tells him that Ben had a limp in his left leg, which confirms Nolan’s theory.  Ben is an Indogene (read cyborg / robotic race) like Dr. Yewll  (I know, there are lots of alien race names in a short amount of time…stay with me), so he wouldn’t have bled (also indicated by Nolan).  When Amanda confronts him on the phone, it ends up in a shootout, with Ben’s car getting blown up by Rafe.  Before he dies, Ben tells everyone that the town is going to come under attack.  No one understands what’s going on, but the protective net around the town falls, and…well, I’m guessing that things are going to get ugly.The town waits for Amanda to give her speech as they are being attacked, and is paid a visit by Kenya…who is her sister (much to Nolan’s surprise, since he’s, uh, had his way with Kenya already).  The speech turns into a disaster as the crowd calls for the former mayor to step in, but Amanda takes control and gets the citizens of Defiance to rally around each other, pulling together to face the new threat.  Even the Tarrs and McCawleys come together…for now.Irisa is anxious to leave, since they have a new roller, so they head back to the place where Nolan buried the terrasphere, but he is hesitant to go on, resulting in an argument that has Irisa leaving him behind, even though we all know she really does care about what happens to Defiance.  (After all, it was named after a battle in the Pale Wars, which Nolan fought in himself.)  He brings the terrasphere back to town so that Doc Yewll can pinpoint a blast point.  Amanda thanks Nolan for coming back, but since he has no vehicle and no Irisa, I guess it’s not like he had a choice…Everyone prepares for the arrival of the Volge, who are marching up on Defiance, so everyone (even the ladies) are ready with their weapons…and Nolan takes charge.  The Volge are like the Transformers…big, robotic, metallic.  The attack scene is reminiscent of attack scenes in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy of movies, with a few ragtag fighters battling a huge army.  And there are guns this time.
Irisa rejoins the group, having banded with the very group of Irathients who robbed her in the first place.  They’ve had a few losses of their own and are hungry for revenge.  The terrasphere explosion does its job, wiping out the attackers.  Defiance is victorious!  Everyone is cheering but Amanda is hurt…curse those who want to send women into battle! (or at least those who don’t know how to wield a gun very well)The mayor is fine, but wants Nolan to find out who tried to wipe Defiance out.  He has a chance for real employment in a real job as lawman of the town…and takes it.Alak and Christie get engaged (wow, that was fast), with the Tarr parents looking on and plotting for the future.  Despite Irisa’s dislike of towns in general, she agrees to stay because of the human notion of “fate”.  Rafe mourns his oldest son.  In the last few minutes, it is revealed that the former mayor is the one behind the attack on the town, believing that “one day, the survivors will thank us.”
Say what??
Final review:  Okay, so it seems that the former mayor set up the new mayor for failure.  I get it.  I review Haven on SyFy as well, and the name of the town in the title is usually a big clue as to its purpose.  Is Haven really a safe place for the Troubled?  No.  Is Defiance a place that rises up against the rest of the world by having aliens and humans live together?  Perhaps, but that peace between the races is very, very tentative.  There is going to be conflict, no doubt, and it’s been made very clear in the series premiere.  I say fasten your seatbelts because this is going to be a rough ride.Best moments:  By far, my favorite is watching Nolan and Irisa sing “Jackson” while rolling around the new Earth.  Nice to know that Johnny and June Cash‘s music survived into 2046.  It’s a peace-making moment between the two that shows the strength of their relationship.  I’m also loving Doc Yewll, who is brash, bitchy and right to the point.  Even though she is an Indogene who is known for rationality, she’s really, really funny.Worst moments:  I can’t say that there were any moments I particularly didn’t like.  For some reason, I’m just not a fan of Datak Tarr.  The Castithian men seem unruly while the women are much more refined and sophisticated.  He seems like a cretin, while she is a slick, composed planner who knows exactly how to get what she wants through manipulation.  I like that.  And I can’t wait to see more.  Plus, does it look like the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis got blown up and turned into a black market?