This review contains spoilers.
2.12 All Things Must Pass & 2.13 I Almost Prayed
With undue haste Syfy rushed to the end of Defiance, showing the final four stories in just two weeks. I’m not sure why, but it probably doesn’t bode well for a third season, I’d suggest. Episode twelve splices directly into the previous story, where Irisa has stabbed Tommy, and poor Nolan is dragging him through the winter woodland that surrounds Defiance.
I’ve had issues with Tommy’s character all season, and here it all came to a head. Because a large amount of All Things Must Pass was occupied with making him seem a more sympathetic character, back-filing unseen events only then to let him die seemed like a waste. It felt like that three week homework project that a child gets up thirty minutes early to complete on the day they’re meant to hand it in, and left this reviewer wondering why they bothered.
Not that I didn’t like the shots of Tommy being dragged past important people from his past, which was very Fargo-like at times in the snow, but like Nolan’s best efforts it was all for nothing.
That wasn’t especially gratifying, and neither was the continuing soap-inspired relationship between Niles and Amanda. Is there anything he won’t do to get Amanda? Well, apparently no, there isn’t. Abducting the Tarrs and then leaving them like a cat leaves something small it caught for Amanda to finish off was bizarre on so many levels. But, that was nothing compared with how she ultimately reacted, forgetting that episode entirely after he produced a rose. What?
In many ways the dead-end that the writers eventually drove Niles into was representative of a bigger one to which they sent the whole Earth Republic threat. In the opening episodes they presented them as the archetypal totalitarian regime and the danger this revealed was layered on thickly. However, by the final episodes it was like it wasn’t even an inconvenience for most living in Defiance, or even a topic of conversation. Niles was declawed in the same process, going from major protagonist to love-sick idiot without passing Go or collecting $200.
But thankfully it wasn’t all dire soap-opera moments. They’ve been strong all season, and Jaime Murray and Tony Curran delivered once more as the wonderfully convoluted Tarrs. They got some of the best dialogue chained up, and their possible cessation of hostilities makes them a powerful force. If these two were written out of the future narrative, then without them, Defiance might not be watchable. However, as good as they are, I must mention the horrible continuity problem of how they escaped from being chained up, something that just wasn’t explained.
Another great performance came from Linda Hamilton, as the nightmare ex-wife of Rafe, Pilar. Apart from possibly Lena Headey, she’s your go-to actress for unhinged, and she was given a couple of really chewy scenes to show why they hired her here. The exchange with Graham Greene (Rafe) was especially nice, with both selling the complicated emotions of their past extremely well.
It’s these things that Defiance does well, and the epic science fiction story arc that it fails to deliver convincingly. While I loved the visual symbolism of the rocks circling Irisa being activated spacecraft in orbit, it was hard to care about New York, as none of the main characters lived there. It needed a make-over, I say.
Where All Things Must Pass had diversions and weaknesses, I Almost Prayed was a struggle from the outset, and became increasingly rocky the further along this road it went. Part of the problem it created was that very early in the narrative the resolution was outlined (or more than one), and it was merely a matter of getting to that destination.
The best parts of this episode were undoubtedly those scenes with Doc Yewll, who was my favourite character in season two. She’s dry and funny, and even when she’s talking to herself her character never seems forced or contrived. Her arrival back in town sets in motion the solution to the terraforming catastrophe that is about to befall Earth, even if the writers want to divert us with Berlin and Pilar subplots. If Berlin thought so much of Tommy, why did she sleep with Nolan? I had no sympathy, and what initially seemed like a really interesting character ended up drunk in the bar. She should run the Need Want, and turn it into a pastiche of the club in Cabaret, for good measure. Wunderbar!
The season end didn’t exactly offer resolution, but new story threads that, depending on the intentions of Syfy, could end up being explored or not. Nolan and Irisa, along with a bunch of other minor characters are entombed deep underground. Pilar abducted Christie and Alak for no obvious good reason, and the Tarrs finally combined with Rafe to pursue them. This is all set-up for future stories, should we ever see them. And, Niles eventually gets Amanda into bed, as a demonstration that life is all about perseverance, if nothing else.
It wasn’t a very satisfying end, and felt distinctly like a cake baked from ingredients that normally wouldn’t be combined by anyone with the most modest cooking skills.
Overall, season two lacked focus and demonstrated an inability to follow an idea through to eventual resolution. While I’ve always enjoyed some of the characters – who are undoubtedly the show’s strength – those behind it seem to struggle with giving them something meaningful to do.
If it does come back I’d prefer that they concentrated on what works, and avoid the big science fiction themes, which generally haven’t. There’s a great show still bubbling away under the surface here, if only it can eventually break surface.
Read Billy’s review of the previous double-bill, here.
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