Defiance season 2 episode 8 review: Slouching Towards Bethleham

Defiance takes a turn for the worse this week. Here's Billy's disappointed review of Slouching Towards Bethlehem...

This review contains spoilers.

2.8 Slouching Towards Bethlehem

I’ve generally enjoyed the second season, but Slouching Towards Bethlehem did rather demonstrate that the show isn’t very skilled at masking its critical plot twists. From the point that we didn’t get a definitive answer to what exactly happened to Kenya in the season opener, it was pretty much a certainty that she’d be coming back. The thing is, even by the end of this story, we’ve still not got one, even when we know she’s alive.

But, that’s a minor point, because the way that this story is constructed entirely gives away what’s going on with the mysterious masked Batman fan that she’s held captive by. The fact that when she knocks him unconscious she then fails to remove his mask was very silly, unless you’re keeping that revelation for later. But, that he wore the mask only makes sense if he intended to release Kenya, and then he’d be likely to see her again. If he’d intended to kill her, it would be pointless.

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So who could that be? It’s Niles… because there isn’t anyone else it could be, I’ve concluded.

He was the only major character that wasn’t in town, unless it’s some very minor character that they’ve decided to inject here. But that it’s Niles also makes sense on a number of other levels, because the Votanis Collective and their terrorist acts appear to be a perfect reason for E-Rep to spread their influence and consolidate their control through public support. Or, alternatively, what happened to Niles has turned him, and he’s working against E-Rep from the inside. Whatever the complete explanation, it all seems a rather contrived mystery and not a natural story progression.

My other annoyance with this story was a number of sloppy events, some of which made little or no sense. How Kenya kicked with rubber boots a metal concrete anchor and got it out was laughable. As was how the block moved, showing it was very thin and not set into the ground. The idea that you need three signals to triangulate a location is also rubbish, because that’s only if you want altitude also. Maths, they’ve heard of it. I only mention these things because in general the show doesn’t deliver such badly worked ideas or half-baked notions.

So what made it worth watching? A few things I liked, mostly the Tarrs. There was no Alak or Christie this week, who appeared to have gone on vacation, but the sections with Shahma and Datak did make up for whatever they’d have contributed. How Stahma entirely ruined Tommy’s day while being interviewed by Berlin was masterful. The Casti sense of smell is a powerful virtue, and her ability to sense the overlapping aromas of Nolan on Berlin is a nice diversion from the main story.

That the Tarrs have a stake in the game when Mahsuvus Gorath is arrested, along with the masked hostage taker also makes for a more interesting resolution. Less convincing were the elements that make up the Irzu plot arc this week. They took up a reasonable amount of time to tell us that those the technology inhabits have all been collected together to wait for ‘Arcrise’. That probably hints that the ship that Irisa sees in her visions still exists below ground, though it probably won’t stay buried indefinitely.

If you were wondering, that’s to what the title alludes. Because the phrase comes from a Yeats poem called The Second Coming, in which it says:

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And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The arc is the beast, and it’s slowly getting to the point of being re-born, presumably. That Mahsuvus Gorath knew this was going to happen was an unexpected twist and it might be that he doesn’t stay dead very long because of that.

Overall, this story was the first misstep I’ve detected this season, because Defiance has been getting progressively better as it has gone along. I’m hoping this is just an awkward chicane through which we can move on to better things that seem less designed to hold back information for no other reason than to reveal it later. The skill should be to do that without making it so bluntly obvious.

Next week we finally get to the long overdue explanation of what actually happened to Kenya, something that probably massively concerning for the Tarrs.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, If You Could See Her Through My Eyes, here.

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