Defiance season 2 episode 4 review: Beasts Of Burden

Defiance slows its pace for this week's patchy episode. Here's Billy's review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.4 Beasts Of Burden

After a very strong episode last week, it seemed inevitable that the pace might slow somewhat in Beasts Of Burden. And it did to a degree, but not so much that it took away what momentum the season two threads have been generating.

As per usual, the stars of this show are undoubtedly the Tarrs, and how their changing family dynamic has fallout in numerous directions. What’s great about Datak, Stahma and Alak is that they’re all pretty stubborn and determined to get their way, so there are bound to be substantial sparks.

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The scene where Datak kills one of his crew in an – ultimately vain – attempt to wrestle control back was pure theatre, if a little borrowed from a long history of gangster movies and TV. He ends up badly miscalculating that, though he’s not the only one. Stahma makes the comment that he picked a fine time to develop self-control, just before he impulsively kills someone. Nolan doesn’t investigate Castithan disappearances, it appears. I predict now that Alak might end up killing him, possibly unintentionally. If I have criticism of this plotline, it’s that Datak was released for the purpose of protecting the good Doc Yewll, and he’s yet to turn up at her place of work since his release. Considering he’s all about ‘taking care of business’, one might reasonably think that staying out of jail might be a priority?

If Alak does kill Datak, they’ll be able to track him down quickly, because instead of fingerprints, he leaves the distinctive grooves of Barry White’s Greatest Hits instead.

The flipside of the Tarrs narrative is Niles Pottinger and his Machiavellian game in controlling the critical chess pieces at the heart of Defiance. What happened to him in the robber sequence at the start of the episode mirrored the humiliation that Datak suffers at the hands of Stahma’s paid abusers. Except this also is the start of bringing Rafe back into the Defiance story, something that’s been brewing from the season opener.

Not much about the mine equipment subplot made sense to me. Eventually I concluded that Josef was terminally stupid, because that’s the only way to explain why he left anyone alive after the robbery, and brought the equipment back to Rafe’s house afterwards. And, out of curiosity, how did they know that the mining tech would be on that convoy? 

By the time Josef has compounded things by abducting Berlin, he’s made just about every wrong decision he’s been given to make, and Rafe shooting him in the back was probably the best outcome for everyone.

It didn’t help much that the preceding scene where Berlin was rescued was badly staged, as it required the total cooperation of Josef for Rafe to get his right hand cuffed. Rafe’s a good shot, it seems.

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Whatever I thought of the motivations of Josef, at least these parts moved with some pace, where the sections that dragged somewhat for this reviewer were those involving Niles and Amada were glacial in places. I don’t buy his sob story, which seemed designed to elicit some emotional sharing between them. And, for all his scheming and surveillance, he’s actually not doing very well in terms of convincing the good people of Defiance to be good citizens. Maybe if he spent slightly less time on Amanda, and more on the likes of Rafe and Nolan, he’d be in a stronger position. I’m really not sure what throwing Rafe out of his home would accomplish, unless he wants to live there?

The trademark ending of something significant happening overlaid with contemporary music (available exclusively from Tarr Tracks) was a repeat of the one last week. Just this time it was Datak getting beaten up by Stahma for a change of pace. Her line ‘you should have made me a partner’ will come back for an encore at some point, I’m sure. 

What we didn’t get in this story was any development in the Irisa plot, or appearances of psychopathic god entities. That didn’t bother me much, but the whole love triangle guff between Irisa, Tommy and Berlin is soap opera icky.

Tommy is rapidly becoming the character I’ve the most interest in seeing caught by razor rain, because I can’t even remember why he dislikes Nolan so much. It’s telling that Berlin is a much more interesting character, and she’s only just been introduced. I hope Berlin and Irisa team up, and leave sulky Tommy to his own devices.

According to the trailer, next week Datak decides to join forces with a person who he knows from the outset hates him unreservedly, Rafe. That combination can only end badly for both of them, one might reasonably guess.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, The Cord And The Ax, here.

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