Defiance season 2 episode 9 review: Painted From Memory

Defiance manages to surprise Billy this week, even if it's with implausibility. Here's his review of Painted From Memory...

This review contains spoilers.

2.9 Painted From Memory

I’m not sure if I’m happy or really infuriated after watching Painted From Memory. Part of me liked that I’d got it wrong last week when I’d concluded that the masked assailant was Niles, because I’d forgotten about another missing character. But what was transplanted into its place made very little sense at times, and was as close as the show has come to a true shark-jumping moment.

It started well enough, with Kenya trying to fill the narrative holes in what happened to her, and failing miserably. Instinctively Nolan doesn’t like incomplete stories, and it soon becomes apparent that he’s not overreacting.

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Meanwhile, Kenya’s inability to stay dead sends poor Stahma into a complete tailspin, where she and Datak dig up half of the woods trying to find her grave. As the story unwinds we begin to realise that Niles isn’t the captor, but he is involved along with the good Doc. Nolan’s investigation takes him and Kenya to see Berlin for Tattoo 101, in what turns out to be the scene I most disliked this week.

That they felt it was necessary to explain the name ‘Berlin’ doesn’t suggest that the writers of Defiance think much of their audience, does it? Yet, they expect them to know who Leni Riefenstahl was, curiously. In the same scene they seem at one point to assume that people had forgotten about World War II, and in the next that they knew the director of Triumph Of The Will, and her prominence in the Third Reich. So which is it? I’d say that the nickname didn’t need explaining by numbers, although Berlin is one of the interesting new characters, and more entertaining than Tommy is at this point.

And then, when events start to spiral out of control, Quentin McCawley walks back into town wearing the same scowl that he left with nine months earlier. But his appearance in Defiance hasn’t anything to do with reliving old times with Rafe, it’s to do with Kenya indirectly. I wonder if Quentin’s mad mum will make an appearance at some point, just to prove he made the right choice to move himself and children far away from her?

The finding of Kenya’s skull really starts the unravelling of this plot, as an increasing number of people become aware that the one walking around Defiance isn’t the one who disappeared. This is the bit where they entirely lost me narratively, because it was a ridiculously complicated scheme to get sex with a women working in a brothel, who is a drug addict. Really? It’s a very imaginative notion, but patently bonkers. It also painted over whatever redemption efforts they’d been making with the Doc, as she would quite ruthlessly lobotomise fake Kenya to avoid the truth being revealed. There’s an inference here that she’s much more ruthless than Niles, and he’s probably out of his depth in utilising her services. 

Fake Kenya has only enough lifespan to live so she can return for the end of the season, and this unfortunate affair also ends with Doc Yewell’s effective banishment. That they held a memorial to the real Kenya afterwards seemed odd, because only the Tarr’s really know what happened to her, and they’re not telling. After this I’m not really sure there are any limits that Niles won’t go to bed Amanda, but he seems to have entirely missed out the part where he’s charming or sends flowers.

As a very distant side-plot it looks like Arkrise is coming sooner than I’d anticipated, and it could have serious consequences for all those living in Defiance.As I hinted at the start, what I liked most here was that this didn’t develop in the way or direction that could easily be anticipated. But, saying that, the direction it went was highly implausible.

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The trailer for episode ten hints that the DJ takes that dive from the Arch that Alak promised her, but it might not be his doing. And, I wouldn’t miss that for all the script in Defiance.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, here.

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