BLOG Women of Defiance #3: Iraths

This series would be completely incomplete without Irisa.

She’s quite appropriately the first character we meet on Defiance , and it was her very first scene of the show that intrigued me. Sure, it took a while for Defiance to hook me, but I was interested from the get-go because of Irisa and Nolan – because I couldn’t quite figure them out. In her voiceover, Irisa mentions her father, but it’s not clear right away if that’s Nolan. All we know as viewers is that she and this guy she’s with are close in some way. The cold shoulder routine, the casual mention of recent misadventures, and most especially the singing together prove this. (I still think the song choice, while fun, is also very odd, but that’s beside the point.) We were shown this relationship, not told about it, and I love that. Frankly, Nolan and Irisa together are one of my favorite parts of Defiance . We don’t quite know what their relationship is at that time, but we know it’s strong and real, and that’s a good thing.

As the pilot goes on, we learn more about that (though it’s not until later that we know more than the barest of details), and we get to know Irisa more. She’s one tough survivor with a knife; can handle a gun and a motorcycle fine; and at the end of the day, though she pretends to only care about herself, she tries to do the right thing. I dearly love her. But she also confuses me more than a bit.

Irisa’s one conflicted Irathient. She’s been largely raised by Nolan, a human, and her loyalty to him in the beginning is very strong. Yet later, when confronted with her Irathient heritage and possible special “gifts,” she seems to cling to Sukar. This is understandable, in that Irisa has likely always felt like she didn’t quite belong with Nolan or among humans. She probably feels like she’s holding Nolan back from the life he should have, as well. That’s not true, but that’s beside the point. Irisa likely believes it, and that’s all that matters. Plus, she’s angry at Nolan for not understanding her and her “gifts,” so she tries to return to her people.

But as much sense as this makes on one hand, on the other it just doesn’t add up. Did Irisa somehow conveniently forget that Sukar was going to kill her in the pilot? That he stole all her stuff? That she nearly died from some Irath’s gun? That her Irathient parents are responsible for her childhood being far less than stellar? Apparently. Then again, Sukar clearly no longer cares that she stabbed him, so maybe it’s just an Irath thing. No hard feelings amongst their own? To each their own until it serves them better to band together?

Perhaps. Still, I have a hard time believing Irisa would be quite so forgiving. She can certainly hold a grudge, if what she did to the Castithan who tortured her as a kid is any indication. It seems odd that she’d just forgive and forget like that with Sukar and his band. Especially when they hurt not only her, but Nolan, who, though far from flawless in the father department, did save her back in the day.

So Irisa’s a bit of a mystery to me – except where Tommy is concerned. Her relationship with him feels like the most straightforward part of her, and I’m sorry to say this, Tommy, but in case you didn’t know, you’re totally a friend with benefits right now. That might change, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Sure, Irisa saved you from the E-Rep’s merry band of murders, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. She’s far too practical to get hung up in an actual relationship.

Still, she might go down that road. Irzu knows you can never predict what that girl will do (speaking of, another contradiction with Irisa is the fact that she was clearly scarred – literally – by religion as a child, yet clings to a faith now: odd, that). Because despite her obvious level of awesome in the fighting and attitude department, Irisa doesn’t know which way to go sometimes. I like that because it makes her character seem real, but it makes her a bit enigmatic, too. I suppose that’s appropriate, though, because she’s clearly a mystery to everyone in town, including herself. Just as her character is central to the show, whatever she holds inside her is the key to everything, and we’ll just have to wait to see how all that plays out. I truly hope that Irisa as we know her isn’t gone, because personally I want to see more of her as a conflicted warrior and not as some sort of spirit-being or who knows what. (More knives, dang it!)

I also want to see more of the other main female Irathient we all know, Rynn. And I mean I really want to see more of her. I adore Rynn, who is generally not conflicted in the least. Yes, her morals are a bit different, but they work for me. Sure, she tried to kill a bunch of humans, but they deserved it. And even though she personally wouldn’t mind seeing Nolan hanging in a tree, she saved his life in the desert because he was willing to sacrifice himself to save others. He didn’t deserve to die at that time, so she didn’t allow it. Rynn also saved Irisa when she was bleeding out in the woods because Irisa isn’t Nolan and didn’t deserve to die for his later crimes against Sukar, despite her association with him. So, overall, Rynn’s alright, despite her rather murderous sense of justice at times. She has a code of honor she will not break, regardless of her personal stake in things, and I like that. I’d love to see more of her in the next season. I think she could really be fun if given a chance.

But first, there’s more Irisa for me. I’m off to Dragon*Con soon, toting along an Irisa cosplay I’ve spent the past few months making, and since Stephanie Leonidas is a guest there, I’m sure I’ll get a few more insights into everyone’s favorite Irathient. Sadly, the rest of you will just have to wait until next summer!

Laura McConnell

Read Laura’s other Women Of Defiance features