This Defiance review contains spoilers.
There are no heroes in Defiance; there are only those who occasionally overcome their flaws in glorious fashion. This series has always found a way, especially last year, to make even its most conniving characters likable, but in this two-hour season 3 premiere, the audience finally gets its first look at a genuinely despicable villain – perhaps even more than one! And with the fearless abandon that comes with killing off beloved characters, the groundwork laid in this initial story promises big changes for the show, including complex conflicts and tough choices for everyone.
I particularly enjoyed the unpopular decision Amanda and Nolan made to help the father-daughter pair of Omecs, who just appeared in orbit in need of gulanite for their ship. Their cooperation with a clearly dangerous new race of alien beings is for the time being mutually beneficial, and it’s admirable that everyone involved sees the big picture. The town needs to protect itself from the approaching Votanis Collective more than from two predatory but solitary aliens, and the Omec need to continue their work undisturbed despite being greatly outnumbered. It works because the audience knows it won’t last; the human leaders know it won’t last; and the Omec know it won’t last. But still they must cooperate to survive.
Similarly, Datak and Stahma Tarr have entered into an untenable alliance with the most evil antagonist to date, General Rahm Tahk. I’m so glad the writers chose to have this completely unsympathetic character have absolutely no illusions about what he was getting himself into when he brought the Tarrs into his gang of enforcers. Like the humans and Omec, the Tarrs have no choice but to play along in order to survive, even if it means killing Christie.
And what masterful punctuation the death of the McCawley family was throughout all this! Although the deaths of Quentin, Christie, and Rafe feel a bit like the writers were callously removing characters that they could no longer use in the stories they were creating, the audience certainly didn’t think of them as superfluous, and each one was like an increasingly painful punch in the gut.
Plenty of peripheral characters died as well, making the body count for these two episodes quite high. Pilar, the one remaining McCawley, is the most ruthlessly protective grandmother around, and I can’t wait to see where her character goes this season. On the flip side of that coin is Irisa, who last season was an instrument of death but who now can’t take out a disgusting would-be rapist and balks at Nolan’s execution of a gun-toting, revenge-seeking father. Going against audience expectation is a great way to surprise and entice, and it’s done very effectively here.
Moral decisions have always been center stage in Defiance, and my favorite moment of shame for our heroes was the skinning of Doc Yewll. Although it might not be fair to say Amanda and Nolan didn’t hesitate to take their “pound of flesh,” they certainly didn’t equivocate for long. The doc is sure to hold a grudge, and because she was already thinking of leaving town, I think an Indogene sub-plot is in store very soon.
In fact, many potential future story arcs are hinted at in the two-hour premiere, making it a praiseworthy first step for the new season. Clearly, the Omec will have to play a part in Defiance’s fight with the Votanis Collective, even though an army of “purple people eaters” lies in wait in space. Without a doubt, the Tarrs will be forced to bob and weave to avoid Rahm Tahk’s unwavering scrutiny. Nolan and his daughter’s matching head wounds promise a mind link of some kind in the episodes to come, and Irisa’s newfound fame and gun-shy attitude is almost certainly going to cause her much distress over the next twelve weeks.
With this sort of promise, the third season of Defiance is off to a roaring start. Although we will miss the dear departed, the new characters are all welcome additions to this large ensemble cast. The villains are strong from the very start, and with the town down on its luck, I can’t wait for the underdog humans to fight back as they always have. Who knows? Berlin and Irisa might even work together for once!