Defiance season 2 episode 1 review: The Opposite Of Hallelujah

Billy welcomes the return of sci-fi western, Defiance. Here's his review of the season two opener...

This review contains spoilers.

2.1 The Opposite Of Hallelujah

After a first season that mixed good with not so great, probably in equal proportions, I was still glad to see the return of this quirky show. Between some weak characters and predictable narrative constructs, it managed to offer up some really memorable ideas and personas. And, unusually for this channel, it also provided some real plot twists on occasion. At its core, the show is essentially a western with alien prosthetics and a twist of mysticism thrown in.

After an eleven month hiatus, Defiance is back, and it’s no less mercurial than before.

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Calling The Opposite Of Hallelujah a story would be generally inaccurate, because almost none of what goes on is joined up in any way. What we get instead is a snapshot of the main characters, where the last nine months of Defiance time has brought them, and some subtle hints about where the second season might go.

Along with the family update, they also manage to throw in a couple of new characters, mostly to replace the ones who were eliminated last year. One of these I liked, the other impressed me less. Niles Pottinger played by Brit James Murray is now the acting Mayor, since Earth Republic turned up and occupied Defiance, and all he lacks is a villainous moustache to twirl. There is supposed to be a spark between him and Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), but I didn’t really believe it. Amanda, the eternal optimist probably assumes that E-Rep can be subverted from the inside, but I doubt that somehow.

Niles’ cohort boss in E-Rep nastiness is the wonderful William Atherton as Viceroy Mercado. Atherton has made a good career out of playing characters that everyone hates, being the obnoxious bureaucrat Walter Peck in Ghostbusters, and insensitive reporter Richard Thornburg in Die Hard and Die Hard 2. Other than sneering at the townsfolk and Niles, he wasn’t given much to do so far, but I’ve got some optimism that we’ll truly revile this character in just a few episodes.

The highlight of the first season was the Tarrs and already it looks like they’ll take centre stage again this year. With Datak living the high life behind bars in jail and Stahma taking a solid grip on the family business on the outside, sparks seem destined to fly when that odd balance is disturbed. 

The best scene in this opener was between Stahma and Alak, where she passively stomped on his ambitions and revealed her own. It’s a continuation of Stahma’s empowerment path from last year, and woe betides anyone foolish enough to stand in her way. 

I can’t mention her, without mentioning the reference to Kenya, whom Stahma probably killed, and suggests to Amanda that she should prepare for her not returning. That might be misdirection, but equally I’m confused that Stahma would ever leave enough of Kenya around to have this determined conclusively at any point. Personally, I’d like to see Kenya back. Because merging the characters of her and Amanda into one doesn’t work, and Mia Kirshner does sultry substantially better than Julie Benz. Giving Amanda a drug problem doesn’t suddenly make her a replacement Kenya, I believe.

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I’ll pass over Rafe, if you don’t mind, and finish with Joshua and Irisa, whose relationship looks destined to become strained this season. That’s probably down to the pretzel weapon that’s trying to take homicidal control over her mind. What really distracted me in their scenes was the art departments attempts to show how their CGI skills could reinvent Hollywood. I’m also curious how the Capital Records build could be on the coast when we’d just seen a long shot of the Chinese Theatre towards the Hollywood sign which was all land, and building is in-between? Terraforming is confusing isn’t it? Like how you can get from Chicago to LA by boat, I guess.

Overall, I was mildly disappointed with The Opposite Of Hallelujah, because I expected something more dramatic to happen that would grab the audience to find out what happens next, and for the most part this was business as usual experience.

As we get thirteen episodes this year, and not twelve as in the first season, I’d give them this one, but I really want to see some story arc development next week that isn’t so derivative of what went on before.

Read Billy’s review of the season one finale, Everything Is Broken, here.

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