This review contains spoilers.
2.10 & 2.11 Bottom Of The World & Doll Parts
I’m not sure why, but a bunch of shows this week decided to double-down on episodes, like sprinters diving for the seasonal finish lines. Defiance was one of these, so my review covers both Bottom Of The World and Doll Parts, episodes ten and eleven respectively.
Last week was a low point for the season because of the way that the main story arcs appear to be being ignored. But it’s not just that, it’s the way that Nolan realises what a threat the engineered creature inside Irisa is, but crosses his fingers and hopes that she’ll work it out herself. Luckily in these two stories he eventually works out that being an optimist isn’t sufficient to fight Ark-brain tech, and it might ultimately kill everyone on Earth.
Bottom Of The World starts with Irisa sneaking past corrupt and useless E-Rep troops to try to steal a terraforming artefact, and being caught by Nolan, who then drags her around like the child who refused to play nice with other children. Their relationship is on the rocks, so it seems entirely appropriate that it soon heads underground.
Why, when corrupt dignitaries turn up, would they take them to the mine? I’ve no idea, but that’s exactly what they do when the nasty Ambassador Kennedy (who previously appeared in episode four of this season, Patriot Games), turns up. The most fun in this reintroduction was the wholesale bitchiness when she meets Amanda again, and how Niles feels inclined to side with her and not the E-Rep representative. It’s not much of a reprise for the Kennedy character is very short-lived, as within minutes of her admiring the mine she’s buried in a carefully orchestrated rock fall. Niles and Amanda survive, but it’s a race against time…
There was unfortunately a point where creating some immediacy in proceedings resulted in a typical TV show fudge regarding Amanda and Niles running out of air. Just after the collapse Rafe tells them with all his old miner certainty that they have twenty minutes of air, adjusting Nolan’s merely amateur-night assessment of thirty minutes. Really? They can work out the cubic amount of breathable air in a space they can’t see, with a number of people they don’t know, in an unknown physical condition, and put a time to when the build-up of CO2 will likely kill them? Bullshit, I say.
But then they might not live long enough to die of that, because Amanda’s somewhat wonky survival instinct has one of her first acts to be to pick up a piece of masonry and attack the only structure that’s stopping them being crushed by the millions of tons of rock above. Rapid fire WTFs always seems to come along with any trip to the mine in Defiance, and they came like machine gun bursts here.
I’d also like to say for the record that some people can wear hard hats and not look silly, and the actress who plays Berlin (Anna Hopkins) isn’t one of them.It might be flawed but the mine rescue scene was important to setting up two plot threads, one involving the McCawley’s and another in regard to Amanda and Niles.
Taking the latter first; Defiance has always been a Western at heart, and this brings in the oft-repeated theme of the love triangle in which the female owner of the bar is torn between the sturdy, dependably boring Sheriff and the bad-boy gunslinger who hides his virtues well. With 1950s moral sensibilities she can’t have both, so in the Western the gunslinger usually gets killed in an uncharacteristically selfless act allowing her to settle for what’s left. This could lay down a plan for how this all works out, but that entirely depends on who you think Niles and Nolan are in each of those archetypes, and how the writers might fancy paying with it.
The mine is also the pivot for the realisation that Rafe and Quentin’s relationship is actually much worse than it looks on the surface, when Quentin uses his own father as a way to avoid responsibility for the mine attack. This is part of the bigger theme about what sacrifices parents make for their own children that becomes more apparent in the next story in reference to the Tarrs.
Episode ten ends with two points of interest, the first being the arrival of Linda Hamilton as Pilar McCawley, the bi-polar wife of Rafe. She appears much more rational than her reputation would have suggested, though perhaps that’s why she’s potentially so dangerous. The other climatic event is that Irisa takes the opportunity to unleash the terra sphere on those Irzu followers waiting above the Ark ship, sending them to be mounted on it like Christmas decorations.
We’ve been told that the ship is going to rise and create Votan Rapture, which could easily be an alien version of bluegrass hip-hop. Who knows? But to me it looks like the ship is reassembling its original crew contingent, for a journey elsewhere, which is why there aren’t any humans.
Doll Parts starts with the event that we’d known was coming from the point Alak threatened Deidre earlier in the season. Previously Alak had made a choice to disconnect from her, and her fall from the Arch was indirectly connected with that choice and how she reacted to it. While Nolan goes off to find out how deep the Irzu rabbit holes goes it’s left to Amanda (really?) to sleuth out who killed the charming Deidre, with blame widely spread around. The only good aspect of this subplot is the fun in seeing both Datak and Stahma assuming that each other did it, until the penny drops for her, and she realises that her daughter in-law is 100% Tarr, and actually a much tougher cookie than Alak.
The problem with all of this is that Deidre wasn’t a likeable character, and then trying to airbrush her persona after her plan to kill Christie’s baby backfires horribly seemed entirely pointless. That Amanda ended up taking some responsibility for what went on by encouraging her to fight for what she wanted was just plain silly. This season has had some very soap opera plotlines on occasions, and this was the antithesis of that trend, and not one I’ve welcomed.
On the positive side Alak’s character has grown up, and Christie isn’t the rather twee girl-next-door (who’s married to an alien) any more. The way Stahma steps in and ultimately makes things right is classic Tarr-economics, and shows that she can be both brutal and caring in making the same gesture.
The other part of this episode concentrates on the ongoing Irzu project, where Irisa and the spare people left on the surface are waiting for rapture. Yawn.For a reason left unexplained Tommy manages to puke his Ark-brain infusion out, and he and Nolan set about a plan to scupper Irzu once and for all. Except it doesn’t entirely work, and lovely Irisa stabs the now redeemed Tommy before escaping once more. I really hope that along the path that Nolan is dragging the dying Tommy is Doc Yewll. Because I didn’t notice anyone else in Defiance who knew how to apply a plaster, never mind deal with traumatic blood loss.
We’re now two episodes from the season end, and almost none of the key threats as presented by the early stories have materialised. The E-Rep is about as dangerous a Boy Scout troop, and would probably forget Defiance existed for a free pass to the cross-dressing Casti Club and more stylish uniforms. The Votanis Collective appears to be idiots, who employ other idiots, to do idiotic things. With the possible implications of Arkrise notwithstanding, the greatest menace to the good people of Defiance is being dumb enough to work in the mine, or picking up some unfortunate disease from the Need Want. And, what happened to Datak and Rafe working together? Nothing is the answer.
The bet here from the production people is that Defiance will get a third outing, but that is a big assumption from where I’m sat.
Next week the second season ends with another double episode, and they better make it a good ending!
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