Defiance 1.05 "The Serpent’s Egg" TV REVIEW
Writers: David Weddle, Bradley Thompson
Director: Omar Madha
THE ONE WHERE Amanda and Nolan ride the land coach out to Calexico to finalise the deal for Defiance’s rail link. Another passenger is Rynn on the way to start her two years of hard time. Meanwhile, Irisa runs into a man she believes tortured her as a child. It doesn’t go well for either of them.
VERDICT Remember that flashback episode I’ve been speculating about? The one where we see Nolan and irisa meet for the first time?
It’s here but it’s not a flashback episode. It’s not the focus of the episode either, but that scene is the culmination of a plot that lets Stephanie Leonidas shine. She’s one of the strongest members of the cast and here, faced with the man who tortured her as a child, she’s truly outstanding. Hysterical shakes give way to cold-eyed rage and we’re with her every step of the way as she captures Daigo, tortures him and goes way over the line. Leonidas takes all the brakes off, turning Irisa from the quiet, laconic sidekick into a damaged, horrified, furious woman who wants nothing more than revenge. But, this is Defiance and revenge is rarely the best option, if usually the quickest.
There’s some really clever plotting this week and almost all of it’s in this strand. The doubt over Daigo’s identity is held just long enough that we start to buy into it before Tommy arrives, and even then we’re not sure. Leonidas does such a good job of showing the already volatile Irisa going off the rails that you’re only sure she’s right when Daigo finally confesses.
And what a confession it is. We find out that Irisa was given to him by her parents so she could be tested. She wasn’t alone, but she was the only one, it’s implied, who survived the torture. The hope was that she would be the “Alakta”, the chosen one of the Irathient. The reality was that Nolan and the rest of his regiment kicked the door in and rescued her, killing her parents and forcing Daigo to flee.
Superficially, this is interesting, but look closer and it’s downright fascinating. We know Irisa has The Sight so it carries that she’s the Alakta, but what if she isn’t ? What if Nolan interrupted the tests before they could be completed? That’s certainly what seems to happen and also weirdly in keeping with Nolan’s style of doing things. Irisa is special, that much is certain, but we don’t know how special, and why, even though she thinks she does.
By the end of the episode, Irisa has her answers (and we have our flashback! Woohoo!) but she doesn’t have peace. Although she does have Tommy, in a sex scene that’s equal parts desperate and sweet. Irisa’s chosen life, not what Daigo wanted her to. The consequences of that should be massive, and I can’t wait to see them.
Meanwhile over in the other A-plot (because you can’t really call either a B-plot), Nolan, Amanda and Rynn are on the land coach to Calexico. Amanda and Nolan are babysitting the down payment for the rail link whilst Rynn is on her way to prison for her actions in “The Devil In The Dark”. Along with them are a wide variety of eminently disposable characters, including Olfin Tennety, the Earth Republic ambassador, her trophy husbands and a priest. Clearly one of them is evil. Endearingly, basically all of them turn out to be. The trophies are a pair of entitled bigots, the Priest is a bandit and the E-Rep ambassador is the show’s new official big bad.
Nolan and Amanda not only make a good team, they know they do and the chance to have them both cut loose really pays dividends here. You can almost see Nolan relax once he’s in trouble, because this is ground he understands, somewhere he can misbehave. Likewise, for a stateswoman, Amanda is pretty comfortable standing overwatch for Nolan and the ease with which the two take down the bandits shows just how in sync they are. These two are a power couple without the couple part.
It’s discussed this week too, in a roundabout way and things have definitely kicked up a gear by the end of the episode. The Nolan/Amanda ship may not have sailed yet, but the gangplanks are up and the band’s playing it off.
Normally, this would bother me, because writers can lean on ’ships far too easily. Here though, it has my attention. They’re genuinely sweet together, in an odd, weirdly martial way and the fact Nolan and Kenya have… whatever Nolan and Kenya have, makes it more interesting. Plus, the nice bit of world-building about group marriages suggests that they may end up together without anyone else getting cut out. It’s nice to see the issue put on the table in such a smart, subtle way and I’m interested where they go with this.
Just as I am with the E-Rep plot. The reveal that the railway is being brought to town on Castithan money was well played, as was the implied cold war between the Castithan and E-Rep. The fact Defiance is in the middle is interesting too, especially given Nicolette’s plans and I can’t help but wonder whether E-Rep want Defiance broke so they can look for the same thing she’s looking for. Regardless, Olfin has a slightly lumpy introduction but she’s a fun character. Crucially, Jane Mclean and Julie Benz have great chemistry and Olfin looks like she’ll be Amanda’s nemesis, just as Datak is Nolan’s. The reveal on her “arrest” at the end was especially fun and I’m looking forward to her crossing swords with Amanda again.
Then, of course, there’s Rynn. Kaniehtiio Horn plays her excellently, using minimal movement and emotion to force you to fill in the blanks with this former Spirit Rider. The smartest thing the land coach plot does is imply Rynn’s going to be a problem, then have her be the only reason they get back to Defiance alive. The reversal is perfect, and Rynn’s code of ethics makes you look at one of her previous lines in a very different light. She’s as smart and principled as the inhabitants of Defiance, but on her terms and I hope she makes a return to the show as she’s great fun. For now, she’s heading for the Bay Area (see below).
With all this good stuff, it’s a shame then that this plot features a couple of off-key moments. The first is the trophy husbands, Caspar and Ziggy, who go from a banal, realistic piece of bigotry (“She STINKS”) to incomprehensibly child-like and stupid in seconds. Then there’s the Priest, who should be a real, credible threat but is far too amiable for that. It’s not a deal breaker, especially as this plot is more about the arc and Nolan and Amanda, but it still feels a little clanky.
That being said, this is a really strong episode. The two A-plots work well, Irisa’s in particular, and there’s a real sense of Defiance becoming a more coherent town and its world becoming much more rounded. Another strong episode in an increasingly strong run.
DEFIANT MUSIC Alak Tarr becomes 8,000% more interesting this episode as we find out he’s not just the son of the Godfather, he’s also the town DJ. Raider Radio, perched up in the arch, is a hugely fun idea and Alak’s honest, unbridled record dorking when the Land Coach comes in is really sweet. I hope this becomes a regular thing, because it’s cool and gives Alak something to do. Most importantly, it’s a perfect excuse to play music. He’s got good taste too, judging by this week:
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
The line, “Ride, captain, ride upon your mystery ship/On your way to a world that others might have missed,” seems particular appropriate.
“Lovesong” by The Cure
This plays over the closing montage of Nolan and Amanda relaxing in the NeedWant, the staff dancing, the Land Coach on its way and Irisa and Tommy happily ravishing each other on the Lawkeeper office floor. Everything’s back to normal, at least until Olfin gets to New York… ( The use of this track made me want to force Alasdair to bump the score up by another star – ed )
Alak Tarr, broadcasting from the top of the arch. Nice to see Defiance making use of its location.
The first moment Nolan and Irisa meet, and the desperate hug she gives him.
“Your husbands are lovely.” (With extreme sarcasm.)
“I was drunk.” Amanda and Olfin – It’s brutal honesty week on Defiance this week, starting with this, one of the few things Olfin says that isn’t a lie.
“Now can I trust you to be a good girl and behave yourself whilst I’m gone?”
“There’s my girl.” This charming moment of self-knowledge is brought to you by Nolan and Irisa. The hug they share is very sweet too. An she’s in trouble about… five nanoseconds later.
“I don’t know what’s going through your head, but I know what’s about to.” Again, Nolan telling it like it is, as he holds a gun to Rynn’s head.
“I need to relieve myself.”
“Go right ahead.” Irisa, graduate of the Jeb Nolan School of Perp Relations there.
“Man in the chair, SPEAK.” Tommy, currently studying at the same school and doing very well judging by this line.
“The snake brings clarity.” The moment Daigo switches is chilling, because he’s so utterly unrepentant.
“The destroyer. The creator. The revealer. The devouring mother, possessor of both womb and grave!” The definition of the Alakta, and a pretty serious insight into what people think Irisa will be.
“A man who risks his life for another, cannot be left to die.” Rynn’s a principled, interesting character and I really hope she enjoys her sojourn over on the game side of Defiance and comes back soon. She’s fun.
“We’ll let her off for time served.”
“You can do that?”
“I just did so let’s assume yes.” Amanda Rosewater, the most pragmatic mayor that Defiance has had.
“You would have killed him, after defending him all that time. Why?”
“Because you’re not the only one with nightmares.” The twin of “He killed my parents,” from the pilot. This is a beautiful line that Dewshane Williams nails. Tommy was open about how he’d been heading down a bad path but we get our first view of it here and there’s every ounce of anger and shame in him as there is in Irisa. They make a very sweet couple because of it.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMM… Daigo refers to Irisa as the “Alakta”, the devouring mother, grave and womb etc. Datak Tarr’s son is called Alak Tarr. Hmmmm…
WILDLIFE OF THE WEEK Speardogs! Well, Speardog , but still.
SMARTEST MOMENT Irisa letting Tommy go, and him immediately kicking the Schtako out of Daigo in a complete reversal from his previous position that absolutely works.
GAME TIME Rynn, and possibly her new boytoy, are in fact stopping off in the Defiance MMO. You can go find her on the game map right now and she’ll give you unique missions. This is a pretty major step, a supporting character from a TV show stepping over to its game component and I’ll be playing those missions shortly and reporting back.
Kaniehtiio Horn: A Mohawk, Horn’s first work was in Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis , a mini-series dealing with the Oka Crisis in 1990. She also appeared in Moccasin Flats: Redemption where she was nominated for a Gemini award. Genre fans may know her from the Brendan Fraser-starring Journey To The Centre Of The Earth . She also appeared as a priestess in Immortals , and most recently as Destiny Rumaneck, the local gypsy witch-prostitute on Hemlock Grove .
Jane Mclean: Mclean’s splendidly nasty turn as Olfin Tennety is the latest in a long line of credits. One of her earliest roles was on Odyssey 5 , and more recently she starred in Terminal City and ReGenesis (sob). She also played Ancient Mai on two episodes of The Dresden Files , was Tammy Okama in 2008 season of Dexter and appeared in 24 , The Time Traveller’s Wife and Flashpoint .
• If Nolan was one of the defiant few, why did he leave?
• What really happened at that battle?
• What does Nicolette want?
• Who is Mr Birch?
• Which one of them directed the Volge at Defiance?
• Why didn’t she grab it during her time as mayor?
• What does McCawley actually mine?
• 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?
• 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?
• New episodes of Defiance air in the UK on Syfy, Tuesdays at 9pm