No one is looking forward to season three of Defiance more than I am, but when I visited the Toronto set this spring, I saw a town run down by adversity. And no wonder! As I spoke with the cast and crew about where the various characters were headed this summer, they made it clear that things are not looking good for what was once a boom town. The gulanite mines are shut down, the Earth Republic is in shambles, and many of the main characters are on the run.
“When we come back to Defiance, Defiance is basically Flint, Michigan,” says executive producer and showrunner, Kevin Murphy. “Their lifeblood is no longer there. Their protectors, the Earth Republic, have been destroyed thanks to Irisa and the events of the season finale. So the question is, ‘What’s next for Defiance?’”
What indeed? The following is a little taste of what I learned about what viewers can expect to see and learn about in the upcoming season of Syfy’s flagship science-fiction series, Defiance.
Defiance is not the town it once was.
I took a tour of the outdoor set of the town of Defiance with production designer, Steve Geghan, and he assured me that the rough look was strategic and not the result of two of Toronto’s coldest winters on record. As we stood outside of the Need/Want, a structure Geghan referred to as “a marvelous building in its dotage,” he acknowledged its dilapidated appearance and says such decrepitude is reflective of the town at large this season. “Like everything else in Defiance,” he says, “it’s seen better days.”
“We’ve pulled off some of the letters, and it’s looking kind of pale,” Geghan added. “Some of the bicycles are missing; the lights of the digba tree aren’t as bright as they were. That’s what we find here is that the Need Want, which is the central meeting place, still suffers the same fate as the rest of the town.”
It’s true everywhere I look. The plants outside of the Tarr house do not look like they’ve been maintained, and Doc Yewll’s herbs are dead or dying. The Earth Republic headquarters has burned out windows and is a shade of its former self. But Geghan says there’s hope: “Season three is Defiance in distress. So you see the buildings have been let go; they’re not in as great repair. The plants are dying. It’s looking dowdy. But by the end of season three, after they’re through this, we’re hoping that we show an upsurge of the town’s fortunes and begin to repair this.”
With air travel made safe, a pair of Omec appear on the scene.
The large amounts of Arkfall wreckage in orbit around the planet has made air and space travel unsafe since the Pale Wars, but all that changes in season three. “Irisa, at the end of the season, sort of rearranged all of that shrapnel into a ring around the Earth,” Murphy reminded me, “so that means it is possible for air travel to happen, and for the first time in a very long time, there now is a working spaceship in orbit, and it belongs to these two Omec, Kindzi [pictured above] and T’evgin, who are essentially the last of their race… nomads who have the last working spaceship.”
But who are the Omec exactly? Murphy gave me a primer on the new race, which is actually the oldest civilization from the original Votan system. “The Omec developed technology and civilization before any of the other Votan races and as a result they were sort of the alpha dog.”
“Their home planet was a bit farther removed in the Votan system because of the twin suns having this conjoined orbit. They only came within proximity of the other Votan planets once every 76 years. And what the Omec would do is they would take their spaceships and they would engage in what was called ‘the dread harvest.’ They would pick up Votans and pack them up into their slave ships and take them back to the home planet. They would then be slave labor; they would be sexual playthings; and then when they were tired of them, they eventually ended up food.”
The Omec won’t be the only Votan race that will get more fully explored this summer. “We’re going to learn a lot more this season about what it means to be Indogene and the origins of the Indogene ,” Murphy teases, “and why they were able to have all those interesting lifelike human duplicates that we’ve seen since the first season; that’s all going to kind of get laid out and explained, and we’ll get into the science of that.” There is, after all, a lot more to the Votans than just the Castis and Iraths.
The Votanis Collective will be making a play!
Defiance has always excelled at mirroring very real social issues from today in the future society that the aliens have built with the humans. Season three is going to get very dark with the advent of a new enemy: the Votan political authority on Earth. “The Votanis Collective is moving into the vacuum that was left by the Earth Republic,” says Murphy, “and it creates a divide between the Votans in the town and the humans in the town, which of course is a dangerous thing to have when you’re a melting pot because as go one group of immigrants in the town, so it goes for everyone else.”
Along with the absence of the E-Rep, many of Defiance’s heavy hitters are spread out across the map when season three begins. “Rafe and Datak and Stahma have been chasing Pilar all over North America trying to track down Christie and Alak and the baby, who will be born by the time season 3 begins,” Murphy says. “They will eventually make it back to town under a very interesting and dangerous set of circumstances. It’ll be something that pits the Tarrs against all of our regular characters. It will get into a lot of espionage and covert war because the big thing for the season is the Votanis Collective.”
Grant Bowler, who plays former lawkeeper, Joshua Nolan, says his character can’t keep the peace this time around. “Season three is a tough one to judge if there is a lawkeeper at all. The lawkeeper in season three is much more a fluid, conceptual thing because you’ve got a lot of likeminded individuals going at an obvious common goal. Season three is very ‘us-versus-them,’ and it’s fantastic. There’s a very clear ‘other’ and ‘them,’ and because of that I think the lines are more clearly drawn on where everybody stands.” Bowler paused for a moment, thinking that last statement over. “In a majority of cases. There’s a couple of standouts there that don’t follow that rule.”
Instead of being hated, Irisa becomes a bit of a celebrity.
At the end of season two, Irisa was interrupted while the Kaziri tried to get her to terraform the entire planet, but she still managed to destroy New York and the E-Rep along with it. “It’s now known as ‘The Great Terraforming Disaster’,” Murphy says. “Many people at large in the world have no idea that Irisa was responsible, but the people in the town of Defiance are aware.”
Irisa feels the guilt of her actions, which included the death of the love of her life, Tommy. “It’s never without anguish with Irisa,” admits Stephanie Leonidas, who plays Irisa. “There’s always some trauma. And of course Tommy… without giving anything away, it’s huge! It was the love of her life! So there’s a lot to deal with and more in season three.”
Murphy teased, however, that not everything in Irisa’s life is terrible in season three. “She returns to Defiance in the season premiere expecting to be lynched for her crimes against humanity and instead she finds that she’s been re-marketed as a folk hero; everybody wants her autograph. And of course, since she wouldn’t be Irisa without an amazing amount of angst and inner turmoil, she feels incredibly guilty to have been given this incredible get-out-of-jail-free card and she’s suffering violence in her relationship with her violent and arguably war criminal father. And it becomes a very big lynchpin of season three.”
Bowler admits that the pain is still there between Nolan and Irisa. In fact, at the start of the season, while viewers will see Defiance after the dust has settled, they’ll meet up with the father and adoptive daughter right after the occurrences of last season’s finale. “Seven months have passed for Defiance,” Bowler explains. “A second and a half have passed for Nolan and Irisa. So it’s actually Nolan and Irisa who have got the open wounds if you like because this is all a moment ago.”
So will Nolan and Irisa ever sing Johnny Cash again? Leonidas has some reassurances. “Nolan and Irisa spend much more time together in season three,” she says. “You see a lot more of the old relationship. It was needed really. We spent the whole of season two in different places, and so it was nice to come back to that.”
In the end, Defiance is about the people that inhabit the town, whether immigrants or natives, and the show really shines when it highlights the relationships between the characters. “I think where season three kicks off is very, very interesting because it seems that they’ve each, in a very organic way, realized how profound their friendship is and their respect for one another, which is nice,” Bowler says. “It actually feels like it’s kind of in a mature and healthy place.”
Then with a wink, Bowler adds, “So we’ll see where we can mess it up from there,” nicely encapsulating the conflicts everyone in Defiance faces. Personally, I can’t wait to see how they mess it up. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait long.
Defiance season 3 begins with a two-hour premiere on Friday, June 12 at 8pm EST on Syfy.