This review contains spoilers.
2.6 This Woman’s Work
So many shows these days are predictable, possibly because the people writing them are broiled in the same history of TV drama, and any good idea is often worth a rehash. Yet that serves only to make a totally unexpected turn of events sweeter when they turn up. This episode of Defiance has one of those, so if you’ve not watched it I’d skip this review until you’ve experienced it.
I mention that part last, but from the outset This Woman’s Work moved up a gear from the previous stories in this season, and immediately became my season favourite. It didn’t look that way when it started with Tommy, a character I’ve not cared for much this season, and his more-than-he-can-handle partner Berlin. Their bed scene was pretty raunchy stuff for Syfy, but didn’t distract me from how uninteresting Tommy’s become, even with Berlin bouncing all over him.
More satisfying was the welcome return of William Atherton as demanding Viceroy Berto Mercado. He’s returned to Defiance to rattle Pottinger’s cage, and send him on a mission to recover technology from a soon-to-be-downed arc ship. At first sight, this seems remarkably like a downed ship episode from season one. It also makes me wonder why everything that falls from orbit heads directly to this town?
The Gulanee that’s actually on the ship provides an effective foe, even if it’s not given much time to become something more interesting. This is mostly about painting Pottinger in a modestly different light, when he’s forced to sacrifice his sidekick Churchill to give Nolan extra time to fashion a Gulanee trap. I was marginally surprised that Churchill didn’t survive to turn up later, but perhaps Irisa can kiss him back to life.
Of the subplots covered this week, it was the Irisa one that really didn’t work. Tommy catches her in full Irzu mode, and then sits with her until the victim recovers. This clearly isn’t normal activity and neither of them has any real idea what she’s doing to these people, so it would seem crazy to keep this secret. But that’s exactly what Tommy choses to do. A decision that has wonderful implications for Nolan’s sex life and a less marvellous one for his.
But these are as nothing to the real meat in this narrative sandwich, the family Tarr. In season one the Tarr escapades were the best parts, and in season two they’ve become an unstoppable force of Casti nature. Stahma is quite without comparison, as she reacts in full-on Sopranos mode when threatened by a Castithan High Priest Kurr for her progressive position on female empowerment. What was really wonderful about this was having exacted her not insignificant revenge there was clearly some pleasure and pride from Datak in having a wife so utterly ruthless. There’s a way ahead for Datak and Stahma, who are the undoubted stars of this show. Even if we know that they’re going to pay the price at some point, undoubtedly.
Okay. I’ve put it off long enough, I need to now talk about the full meaning of ‘living in their skin’, which was alluded to in the previous story. When this was first mentioned I wondered if a drug existed that could make you appear Castithan or some ritual. But the explanation is much simpler, and really quite odd. The emergence of this human sub-culture where people dress, act and even speak the language of the Castithan was pretty bizarre. It sort of reminded me of Japanese kids who dress like Elvis, but probably a few more notches up that scale of weirdness.
That Mercado is into this stuff explained more about how his character is going to fit into events, but what really threw me as the appearance of Christie as a Castithan prostitute. This development threw me massively. When did she go from the girl-next-door, to fluently speaking Casti hooker? Maybe I’m reading more into this than was presented, but this is a pretty extreme redirection for this character, and I can see Alak being less than pleased at this revelation when it comes. This might be an empowerment step too far even for Stahma. Is there another club in town where the Castithan’s hang out as humans, or Voltans?
This is an odd direction to take the show, but anything unexpected is generally good, if it all makes sense.
Based on the trailer, next week we return to the Irisa story, where more people try to ignore that she’s going around implanting alien technology in people without their permission. How could this not work out?
Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, Put The Damage On, here.
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