Defiance 1.10 "The Bride Wore Black" REVIEW
Writers: Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer
Director: Todd Slavkin
THE ONE WHERE Alak’s stag night leads to the discovery of the body of Hunter Bell, the previous owner of the Need/Want. As the wedding nears, the investigation looks at every major figure in town including Amanda, Kenya, Datak and Rafe.
VERDICT This week’s wedding, much like the plague last week, is actually just the background for other events to play out against. The discovery of Hunter Bell’s body, complete with a fantastic "GET IT OFF ME!" facial expression from Alak sends us deep into Flashback City, and the results are, for the most part, really successful.
Let’s talk about the thing that doesn’t work first; at no point does the show give either Kenya or Amanda enough attention to make them viable suspects. It’s a shame too, firstly because Hunter Bell was clearly an abject scumbag that they had motive to kill and secondly because it would give both of them a welcome moral complexity. We get that moral complexity (BOY do we get it) but not with the Rosewater sisters and that weakens the episode a little.
That being said, the flashbacks give us a raft of clever insights into the big players in town. Kershner does great work as a brittle, quietly desperate version of Kenya but the real standout here is the Rafe and Datak Show. The fact that the two men started as sort-of friends, and that Rafe rescued Datak both emphasises the Castithan’s ruthlessness and neatly expands his character. We saw last week that the one thing Datak hates more than losing is being seen to be losing. What for Rafe was a moment of kindness, for Datak, was a moment of weakness and may well have been the seed of their rivalry. It’s a smart way of showing the Castithan mindset and it’s backed up by Datak’s present day confrontation with Alak.
All is increasingly not well in the House of Tarr and Datak. Even as he’s making a run for the Mayor’s office, he's becoming more isolated from his family. Look at how Stahma first hides whatever she’s reading from him and then actually pushes back for the first time in the show. She corrects, instantly, but it’s the first time we’ve seen her stand up to Datak and it won’t be the last. He’s a product of the old world and his wife and son are far more comfortable in the new one. The change in power is beautifully illustrated by how the Tarrs come into the wedding; Stahma and Alak, with Datak behind them. Let’s hope he enjoys being Mayor. I suspect it’ll be the only thing he has by that point.
The wedding, and the murder, both show us the Lawkeepers of Defiance in a very new light, especially Tommy. Dewshane Williams has been one of the strongest elements of the cast from the start and here he’s given something to get his teeth into. Tommy’s interaction with Hunter Bell is the only positive one we see and it gives welcome depth to both their characters. For Bell, it’s maybe the one chance he ever had to do something right. For Tommy it’s the start of a new life and Williams does great work as Tommy doggedly runs his suspects down and tries to close the case. He doesn’t like what he finds, but, at least, he gets closure.
Nolan and Irisa also has a very good week and it’s nice to see Nolan stretching deductive muscles he didn’t have at the start of the season. He plays Datak, effortlessly, and that’s a world away from the event surrounding the death of Elah Bandik back in episode two. It’s taken him a while to figure out the lay of the land but Nolan’s finally in the game. Based on the events of this week’s last plot, he’s going to need to be. Irisa, meanwhile, gets a light relief plot after weeks of dramatic heavy-lifting and it’s a huge relief. She’s still grim and taciturn but enjoying her job again and her relationship with Tommy has definitely thawed. Her arrival at the wedding is really sweet, even if she is still carrying weapons. Beats a fascinator I suppose.
Finally, this week’s increasingly traditional big reveal is the biggest yet. Not only do we find out Nikki killed Hunter Bell because he found out she was a surgically altered Indogene but the Doc then kills her. This is really brave, taking the show’s major bad guy off the table with the end of the season still to come. Trenna Keating nails the Doc’s combination of resolve and grief at having to kill her friend and the ambiguity that comes with it. Is the Doc on the town’s side? What’s she going to do with the artefact? Will anyone find out she killed Nikki? With only a few episodes left, Defiance is upping its game week on week. While not everything this week worked for me, this was still a great episode that swept the board for the final run.
"She does have an amazing touch." Stahma Tarr, Bondian Quipmeister
"You’re an idiot." Irisa’s favourite insult shows just how much she’s let Tommy in to her life. She only calls people she loves idiots. Which is both grumpy and adorable.
"You all look the same." Datak proving that racism is universal, ladies and gentlemen.
"Alak is of the new world, he doesn’t see the humans the way we do. He sees beauty in them, kindness."
"Then he’s lost his sense of smell." Datak has some fantastic, snarly dialogue this episode and is shown, again and again, to be one of the most racist people in town. It’ll be interesting to see if Rafe uses any of this conversation to attack him in the upcoming election.
"Watch yourself. Without the name Tarr you’re nothing but a street haint with dyed hair and a record collection."
"Or what, you going to slit my throat? That’s the Casti way." Alak was entirely on board with Dad last week. This week? Not so much. Alak and Christy have consistently been two of the least developed characters and it’s nice to see one of them finally getting fleshed out.
"Your son loves my daughter and my daughter loves him and that’s good enough for me. Oh he may never get my mines but I will look out for him. And I will make sure that those coulds have a wedding that they will always remember." Rafe McCawley, badass Dad to other people’s kids as well as his own.
"If I can’t trust you with a simple walking stick. How can I trust you with a genocidal weapon?" Oh Doc. Oh DOC. This scene all but confirms Doc Yewl’s going to end up as the season finale big bad and it’s a real shame. She’s changed, she’s different and yet she has to go back to her old ways to save the town.
"She used to be good people." Understatement of the century, Doc.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?! Nikki’s an Indogene! A stealth Indogene! AND THE DOC KILLS HER and FAKES HER SUICIDE!
Datak arrested up against one of his own campaign posters.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMMMM So Datak was of the lowest liro on Votan, but his father was able to stand guard over the sacred scrolls?
BADASS MOMENT "PLEASE." Rafe McCawley, showing it’s never a good idea to bring a Casti blade to a gunfight.
SWEETEST MOMENT Irisa turning up to the wedding in an actual honest-to-god dress, still packing blades, and holding Tommy’s hand, may be the sweetest thing the show has done so far.
SMARTEST MOMENT Nolan’s delivery from the clue store finally shows up as he publicly arrests Datak and tears a strip off him. He knows, full well, Datak didn’t do it, but he also knows that Datak will be so insulted he'll lead Nolan straight to the person who framed him who, odds are, is the killer. He's wrong but the reasoning is solid.
MONTAGE OF THE WEEK None this week, just the wedding and Nikki’s "suicide". It’s a nice change and neatly shows up just how important the event is to the town.
DEFIANT MUSIC A light duty episode musically, but "Castithan Wedding Song" by Bear McReary and Raya Yarborough is lovely.
GAME TIME No real crossover this week. Although security organisation Echelon has been sniffing round the Bay area looking for Nolan. Only a matter of time before they find out where he is…
IT’S WOSSISNAME! Brendan McCarthy is great as the deeply unpleasant Hunter Bell. You may have seen him before in True Blood as Nate, Justified as Tanner Dodd or The Mentalist as Lance Gladstone.
• If Nolan was one of the defiant few, why did he leave?
• What really happened at that battle?
• Why didn’t she grab it during her time as mayor?
• 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 maglev 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’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?
• Will Nikki now have the visions Quentin had?
• Did Hunter Bell have an ulterior motive for getting Tommy work as a Lawkeeper?
• Why was Nikki put in place as Mayor of Defiance?
• What will the Doc do now she has the artefact?
• How will Datak get the mines away from Rafe?
• Will Nolan accept that blue is pretty clearly his colour?
• Who directed the Volge at Defiance?
Nikki and Birch, hoping to wipe out the town so they could search for the artefact
• What else did the Doc do during the war?
Possibly assist in surgically altering an Indogene and placing her in Defiance as Mayor Nikki.
• What other Sleepers are still active?
Well, there’s clearly one less now….
• Does Nolan scrub up well?
• New episodes of Defiance air in the UK on Syfy, Tuesdays at 9pm