Defiance season 3 episodes 1 & 2 review: The World We Seize & The Last Unicorns

Defiance returns for season 3 with an arresting two-part opener, but will it continue to improve on season 2's uninspiring arc?

This review contains spoilers.

3.1 The World We Seize & 3.2 The Last Unicorns

For this TV reviewer, Defiance is very much like a favourite meal that’s been made with the odd ingredient that I really don’t care for. For as much as I like the predominant flavour, picking through the contents impairs the overall culinary experience.

Parts of season 2 certainly left a slightly bad taste in the mouth. While many characters and situations were set up as being massively threatening, such as Pottinger and E-Rep, none delivered even a tenth of their hyped potential. It also suffered from an inclination to try to weave a worlds-collide epic narrative with mostly rather ordinary characters, even if some of them are well formed.

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If those behind Defiance consider that their inspiration is largely the Western, they should know that very few of those rely on a world-ending subplot to drive the bigger antagonists/story.

What was evident from season three’s double opening episode salvo, The World We Seize and The Last Unicorns, was that those behind the show really want to write a science fiction epic. This, I’d argue, isn’t their strength. Defiance works best when it gets under the skin of each character, rather than trying to better Arthur C. Clarke in a destiny face-off.

However, clearly inspired by the take-no-prisoners ethics of Game Of Thrones, they did soon get down to the business of culling what characters they consider to be dead wood going forward.

First in the firing line are the McCawleys, most of whom are wiped out in short order when they encounter part of the Votanis Collective and their top xenophobic sociopath the Castithan General Rahm Tak (Lee Tergesen). We know he’s bad from the outset, because he’s got a big scar on his face, demonstrating that somebody didn’t care for him previously.

Most of what he does and says is pure cliché, but he’s got the measure of Datak and Stahma, which is a new experience for them at least.

Technically it’s Stahma who kills Christie, but at the behest of Rahm. He’s more directly responsible for the deaths of Quentin and Rafe, leaving the fruitcake Pilar and her grandchild as the only McCawley survivors.

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Alak is also alive, for the moment, but Pilar decides to dump him, realising that he’s not clever enough to walk in the right direction. She’s correct on this point, as he walks straight into the Votanis Collective like a moth to the flame.

Meanwhile back in Defiance, the second major threat to the town’s existence has arrived in the form of father and daughter team, T’evgin (Conrad Coates) and Kindzi (Nichole Galicia).

They’re from an ancient, highly aggressive race, the Omecs, whom everyone who didn’t originate on Earth agrees need to die as soon as possible. Being impossible optimists, Amanda and Nolan decide that they can work with these people despite having some graphic demonstrations as to how strong and violent they can be, and the sophisticated technology at their disposal.

If there is an overriding theme of these two episodes it’s about doing not what is right but necessary at the time, taking characters to places they wouldn’t normally choose to go.

It’s also about setting up a double threat, with Defiance neatly caught in a pincer movement between the enemies on the outside, and the others on the inside, with Datak, Stahma and Doc Yewll trapped somewhere in the middle.

I’ve always considered the Doc to be one of the jewels in the Defiance crown, and I’m really interested to see how she reacts to the way she’s treated in this story. She’s got a dark past with more than a yearning for redemption, but she’s also battling her inner demons about the true purpose of her race. Her story this season could be the really interesting one, where others are at this stage less inviting. Frankly, I think they should have killed Amanda too, but perhaps they’ve got an exit for her planned out for later in the season?

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What I can’t complain about is that they managed to make the running time go reasonably quickly, and didn’t let any character they didn’t need hang around any longer than was necessary.

I’m really not convinced about presenting all the Omecs in suspended animation in orbit as the conclusion, because I’m not at all convinced that they’re the real threat here. That’s the VC, and I’d put money on the spacecraft blowing up before any more Omecs get a wake-up call.

Okay Defiance. you’ve got my attention. But can you do anything more inspired with this season than the previously disappointing one? I really hope so, because this show needs to be at least the sum of its parts, if not actually a bit more than that.

Read Billy’s review of the season two finale, All Things Must Pass & I Almost Prayed, here.

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