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TV REVIEW Defiance 1.09 "If I Ever Leave This World Alive"

Alasdair Stuart reviews the latest episode of Defiance

Defiance 1.09 “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” TV REVIEW

Episode 1.09
Writer: Clark Perry
Director: Alan Kroeker

THE ONE WHERE The fever comes to town and so do the E-Rep. Connor and Nolan talk their way through the barricades to retrieve a vaccine drop sent from the Bay Area (thanks Defiance MMO players!), Quentin discovers the truth about his mother, everything’s resolved and…whhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!

VERDICT I need to stop making assumptions about this show. The first ten minutes of this episode, I was convinced it was going to be a tedious Connor spotlight, and that he and Nolan would bond over their shared laconic badassitude. It certainly opens that way, and there’s good work done with Connor here. He’s been a slightly weird addition to the show, but the last couple of episodes have finally given us an idea of why he’s there. Connor is what the E-Rep could be; a touch dictatorial, overly cautious but basically decent. His face off with the quarantine forces (And Ambassador Tennety) was really smartly handled and it was fun to see Nolan play off a new sparring partner. I found myself thinking he might be put in as an E-Rep mayoral candidate, someone who on the one hand would run the town for them but on the other might be able to actually work with the people there. Plus it’d give Amanda something new to worry about and kick start the slightly stalled romantic tension between her and Nolan.

And then Connor saves Datak’s life.

And Datak kills him.

It’s a stunning moment, followed by two more which we’ll get to shortly. This one though is the culmination of an episode filled with an ever rising tide of panic. The plague isn’t so much a plot as a canvas for the plot to happen across and it leads to some surprising moments for a lot of characters.

Rafe throws his principles out of the window to sign off on quarantining the Irathients and seems to have no problem with siding with Datak. It’s a smartly realized moment as we see Rafe panic in a way that Nolan would understand but not especially like. The two men, both relics of the old world, have similar views and both have come within sight of full on bigotry regarding the Votanic races more than once. Here, Rafe steps over that line without blinking and the standoff with Nolan is a moment I hope the show doesn’t soon row back from. The plague makes everyone look at their true colours and where the aliens are concerned, Rafe’s true colours are far from pleasant.

Irisa fares better, holding the moral high ground long enough to see her new family murdered out from under her. Look at the serene expression on her face in the opening scene with the Spirit Riders and compare it to her feral rage when one is killed by a miner. The interesting thing is that she doesn’t seem to react that way about the Spirit Riders killed retrieving the vaccine. Part of that is, of course, that Datak will have spun it to make himself look as good as possible but the rest is all Irisa’s own morals. She’s increasingly at peace in both worlds, and the Spirit Riders who stole the vaccine crossed lines Irisa can’t forgive. That being said, once she finds out what Datak did, she may be the biggest threat to the future Mayor Tarr living to seek re-election.

Then there’s Quentin who is so numbed by the constant presence of his "brother" at this point that he just wants it to stop. Coupled with Nikki’s bombshell about Quentin’s mother in episode 7, that leads to him not only giving her the artefact, but leaving town to find his mom. Quentin’s a good man pushed far past his limits and whilst I severely doubt he’ll find any peace (And may not find his mother), it’s admirable that he’s trying. It also, crucially, weakens Rafe so significantly that you almost wonder whether Nikki and the Tarrs are working together.

Speaking of everyone’s favourite amoral social climbers, there’s some amazing work done with them this week. Everybody, even Alak, uses the plague to their advantage with Stahma manoeuvring Datak into a position of power, Alak manoeuvring Amanda into silence during the closing radio address and Datak finally getting an excuse to hit people very, very hard. The way this plot is handled may be the best thing the show’s done to date, starting with an offhand, almost blackly funny comment from a delirious Amanda and building through Stahma taking control of the situation to Datak losing control of himself. There’s a crucial shift in power here, especially when Datak hears about events at the mine; he freezes and it’s Stahma who tells him what to do. She’s as much in charge, if not more, than he is. I’d argue it’s Stahma who orchestrates the plan with the vaccine too but the violence is far more Datak’s style. Just as Rafe has got cuddlier this season, Datak has got more dangerous and you honestly don’t know if he’s turned on the humans or not when he first shows up. That makes the events that follow even more shocking and Tony Curran nails the feral, almost frantic rage that Datak finally lets loose. It’s unclear as yet whether he feels affronted that Connor saw him ‘soiled’ by the Irathient’s touch, it’s part of the plan or he just felt like killing someone. Regardless, it’s a chilling moment and a fitting ending to any episode this good.

Here though, it’s just one ending of three. The scene with the Tarrs and Amanda in the arch is chilling, and perfectly paced. You figure out what’s going on just about the same time she does and you don’t know whether to recoil or applaud. All three Tarrs are the most amoral, ambitious people in town and no one has paid them enough mind up until now. Defiance’s re-election plotline has been one of the places where the show has wobbled constantly but here it finally coaesleces into something that looks set to drive the final few episodes. It’s a hugely tense, unpleasant moment that would be another fine way to close out the episode.

Except the actual ending is Nikki, now with the artefact, talking to her other contact in town who is…Doc Yewl. The revelation that Nikki, Birch and the Doc used to be the oddest looking gang in the world is nicely handled but the really chilling thing here is the reveal that the Doc has seen through each of Nikki’s plans and not told anyone about them. Defiance has worked quite hard on making its aliens alien and this episode really saw that hit a peak, finishing with an insight into the Indogene through the Doc. She’s known about, and not cared about, Nikki’s schemes from the beginning. It’s a jarring, cold scene, especially the Doc begging Nikki to destroy the artefact and it closes the episode exactly how it should be; tense and with something bad on the horizon.

Defiance never takes the easy path or, perhaps, never takes it where you’d expect it to go. The show consistently surprises me and this episode was no exception. Connor, we will, to my mild surprise, miss you, but what a way to go out, as part of one of the strongest first seasons in years.


Irisa climbing the fence, screaming in silent, absolute rage as the sun sets.


“Are you sweating?”

“…It’s hot.”

Nolan, proving that the Lawkeeper Office in Defiance is conveniently located near a certain river in Egypt.

"In the meantime, let’s groove to some einer kleiner plague music."

Alak was the single least interesting element of the show in the first few episodes. I would now be completely happy with an entire Pontypool-style show centred around him in the studio.

“There’s always hope. And it’s our job to remind them of that.”

The Amanda Rosewater School of Mayoring, summed up in one neat sentence.

“Well, weren’t you stupid letting that one get away.”

The Josh Nolan School of Relationship Counselling, summed in another neat sentence.

"Go to your homes before you’re infected!"

“We’re immune to your disease!”

“Not if I bite you.”

Irisa, negotiating with the usual family tact and charm.

"I’d appreciate your cooperation. I don’t require it."

Rafe going for the direct approach when it comes to negotiation.

“Not going to let you down. Not again.”

Nolan has had a rough few weeks and this episode is no exception. His patent refusal to quit is both endearingly stupid (driving feverish when there’s a perfectly good co-pilot springs to mind) and straight up endearing. Nolan’s a good guy and where everyone else seizes the plague as a chance to push their own agenda, Nolan uses it to help other people out.

“Quentin, you’ve lost so many nights with your mother. Don’t you dare squander another one.”

Nikki doesn’t so much manipulate Quentin as wrap him around her finger this week. This line is the start of it.

“Oh, we were having an affair at the time.”

Whilst this is just flat out cruel. Also, how much of the old witch’s story is true? Given the fact Rafe doesn’t deny it, I suspect a good amount.

“Release the Irathients. All of them. Trust me.”

Stahma Tarr, Mayor of Defiance there, telling her mouthpiece Datak what to do.

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“I know.”

And a sweet callback to the first episode to finish. It’s nice to see Nolan and Irisa back on the same page. They’re both going to need all the friends they can get soon enough.

SMARTEST MOMENT Datak forcing a vote on whether or not the Irathients will be sent to the mines.
Connor, finally, doing something to earn his pay by suggesting they retrieve the medicine drop under the E-Rep snipers was nice. Nolan’s follow up, pointing out that the only hope of Defiance working with the E-Rep rested on them being let through, was even better.

BADASS MOMENT OF THE WEEK Amanda, halfway dead, seeing through Stahma’s attempt to make Datak ‘interim’ mayor was gutsy as all hell.

THE "WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY" MOMENT OF THE WEEK Everything Datak does in the last ten minutes.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMM… Really, Connor? Really? You get dropped into the middle of a town of vital strategic importance run by your mostly ex-girlfriend and your first thought is to go all ‘We’re all going to die?’ This is not the sort of character we expect from our morally ambiguous political fixers.

Datak, possibly, arranging for his rival’s daughter to be addicted to Irathient opiates was going to the nastiest thing he’s done in the show so far. Then he killed Connor and slaughtered the Spirit Riders. Regardless, I wonder if we’ll see the consequences of the pill Christie’s given in future episodes.


MONTAGE OF THE WEEK A particularly nasty one this week. Amanda watches the bodies get put in mass graves and burnt, Rafe fails to stop Quentin leaving and Amanda tearfully throws away the flowers Connor gave her a few episodes ago.

DEFIANT MUSIC Two standouts this week; firstly the "eine kleiner plague music" Alak plays is We Were Sick by The Thermals:

The second is Gone Again , an old Patti Smith song covered by Bear Mcreary, featuring Brendan Mcreary. It’s a great, stompy, nasty blues number to close out a stompy, nasty bluesy episode.

GAME TIME The plague started in the game a couple of weeks ago and that plot recently culminated in a mission to protect the ICBM Nolan and Connor went out to recover.

• If Nolan was one of the defiant few, why did he leave?
• What really happened at that battle?
• What does Nicolette want?
• Why didn’t she grab it during her time as mayor?
• Who directed the Volge at Defiance?
• Why did Ben kill himself?
• What was Luke doing?
• Why did he meet Ben in the woods?
• Where did Luke get the artefact?
• What IS the artefact?
• Who terraformed the region around St Louis?
• Did they leave Old St Louis underground on purpose?
• Who was Niko selling the Adreno to outside the town?
• What benefit would a monorail have for the town?
• Was Mr Birch at the bottom of the mine? (Well he certainly is now!)
• What startled him away, given he left his glasses?
• How old are those cave paintings?
• What does the E-Rep want with Defiance?
• Is it the same thing Nicolette is looking for?
• Why is the bike rack at the NeedWant on the first floor? Is it a visual metaphor?
• Why was Nolan so infamously bloodthirsty during the war?
• Why did he need Tommy’s help to get Irisa out?
• Is Quentin insane?
• If so, for how long?
• If not, how is he seeing Luke?
• Why does the artefact seem to want to be with Quentin?
• If the Nanites were the only thing keeping Sukar alive, how did he see Irisa in a vision? And how did she see him die?
• When’s the election?
• Is Sukar going to wake up?
• Was anyone else hit with the Nanites?
• What else are they programmed to do?
• Just how many REM albums does Amanda own?
• What else did the Doc do during the war?
• What other Sleepers are still active?
• What’s Stahma planning? (Everything is an acceptable answer here)
• What other classic works of English literature will Irisa lend Tommy?
• What’s Stahma’s endgame?
• Whose side is Alak on?
• Whose side is the Doc on?
• Why is the Doc so worried about Nikki getting the artefact?
• Will Nikki now have the visions Quentin had?


• What does Nicolette want?
The artefact that Quentin had been hiding, which is one of a pair, apparently of Votan origin.

• What does the E-Rep want with Defiance?
Access to the motherlode of Gulanite at the bottom of the McCawley mines. The town is a very optional extra.

• Is Quentin insane?
No, he seems to be having visions projected from the artefact.

• What else did the Doc do during the war?
During the war isn’t clear. After the war she ran with Nikki and Birch for a while and clearly did very unpleasant things.

• What’s Stahma planning? (Everything is an acceptable answer here)
Manipulating Datak into the exact position she wants him; as mayor of Defiance.

Alasdair Stuart

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