It starts so peacefully and mundanely – a man in the woods changing his shoes, shoes he keeps in a fancy box and he’s really really fussy about them – has his peace shattered by engine noises and a lot of shouting. A group of Irathients on bikes; he ignores them and sets off jogging, listening to music. Which means he doesn’t here whatever it is moving through the foliage towards him. Until it bites his leg. Now he starts running – personal trainer monster will eat you if you don’t beat your personal best! He doesn’t, so it grabs him and drags him away across the forest floor.
In Defiance, Irisa is practicing martial arts when a group of Irathient Spirit Raiders arrive to trade, much to the consternation of the general populace. One of the Spirit Raiders smells some fruit and moves to put it back and the shop owner tells her she touches, she buys – and that he lost a brother to a plague the spirit raiders carry. She licks it and puts it back – and he tries to hack her with a clever, interrupted by Irisa throwing a knife near his hand. The head of the Spirit Raiders throws some money on the trader’s counter and they walk away.
The Spirit Leader asks Irisa, calling her Little Wolf, if she thought they were in danger – Irisa says the storeholder was and they comment on her badge. While she talks, Irisa looks at the scars on her face and sees them as open wounds. The Spirit Rider leader reminds her that his offer – whatever that is – still stands and that she should spend time with her own kind.
Which is interrupted by her being called out by Nolan to body in the woods, complete with entrails in the trees. It’s messy, very very messy. And spotting a butterfly, Irisa has a flashback to something in the past, something violent. She snaps out of it and Tommy gives her the victim’s history – Dalton Taggart, who runs a bakery in town.
In town Amanda meets the head of the Spirit Riders telling him about the complaints she’s been getting. She wants them to stop “provoking” people. He points out their presence is a provocation to the residents. She tells him to assimilate and most people will accept him, and she wants him to forget the past (when the Irathients were massacred). He doubts it but says they will assimilate, smile and play nice until the humans turn on them. Again. By which point they will know enough about Defiance to fight back. She has a case full of items from every Votan race but Irathient, he says he may bring her a handful of soil from Defiance, to remind her it’s soaked with Irathient blood.
To Need Want where Kenya is hard at work (this was the least of the puns I thought of) when something sharp and nasty bursts into the torso of her client. Nolan arrives with Irisa, Tommy – and Dr. Yewll (yaaay!) who confirms that by the acid saliva, they have a case of Hellbugs. Nasty critters that eat marrow and line their nests with flesh. To stop them you have to kill the matron. Irisa, seeing a US flag tattooed to the man’s body, has another flashback. She recovers and leaves the room, blaming the blood, Nolan follows her. He refers to her “episodes” which he thought had stopped but she just stopped talking about them – they’ve been getting stronger since coming to Defiance. He starts to lecture her on PTSD while she repeatedly tells him she knows
Tommy and Dr. Yewll bring more news and sarcasm – a Hellbug egg sack not normally found outside the nest, and chemicals on both kill sites – attack pheromones, someone is directing the hellbugs and using them as weapons.
At the Tarr household, Christie has moved in and is serving dinner, to many compliments from Stahma who is trying to make her feel very welcome. Datak tries to keep his snark in Castithan – unfortunately, she speaks it. Christie and Alak leave and Datak complains about how Christie doesn’t fit in a Castithan household with habits like her bathing alone. He expects Alak to control her. Stahma pushes that off as future concerns – for first they need to secure the marriage which means reconciling Christie with her father
Which is what Christie talks about with Alak – Datak may be an ass but he’s an ass who is there for Alak. Before they can talk further, two hellbugs attack – Christie fends them off with a lantern until her screams bring Datak – his nifty glow knife turns into a glow sword.
The Castithans have light sabres. Everyone else bow down.
The rest of the family flees through the back door until Datak calmly joins them, damp from hellbug fluids, but calm and cocky and more than a little awesome.
They go to Rafe’s house and the tearful Christie hugs her father. They all sit down with him with Stahma presenting a heavily edited version of events that makes Alak the hero. Reconciliation is rapidly on the way. More nauseating fawning is interrupted when Nolan and crew arrive – including Dr. Ywell with a scanner that finds Christie and the Tak family have been doused in the pheromones. They hurry upstairs to wash. Nolan asks Rafe what he knows about the victims – he had some business dealings with them some time ago but nothing since. Nolan asks to see the documentation on it.
It takes them all night to dig it up, his filing system isn’t great, with no computers or databases and Irisa has another episode; she leaves with Tommy following her while Rafe and Nolan look over the deed for the land he bought – which they in turn got from an Irathient homesteader. Nolan’s suspicious since the Irathient apparently signed the transfer in English and Rafe didn’t check the authenticity of it.
Outside in the fields, Irisa has another, longer, more severe episode with violent memories that cause her to clutch a shard of glass so hard she cuts herself, she struggles and cries while Nolan holds her. During the seizure she has visions of one of the Spirit Riders, the woman with the facial scars.
Back in town she refuses to see a doctor and goes into Need Want to talk to the head of the Spirit Riders. He accuses the woman, Rin, of being the one behind the hellbug attacks. He denies all knowledge but looks nervous. She asks about the killing of the past, how he took her in and gave her a new name. He doesn’t understand how she knows but she says she saw it – and he gasps that Irisa is touched (psychic?) He tells them that Rin said she never saw who killed her parents but suspects she repressed the memory. He still says he doesn’t know where Rin is – but he can teach Irisa to use her woo-woo to find out.
1 woo-woo ritual later, with a side order of bong hits and Irisa has a vision, back to Rynn as a child at the farm. Taggart and Dolan arrive and kill Rynn’s parents for the land they would later sell to Rafe, one of them cutting Rynn and scarring her face. The Spirit Rider leader tells her to see Rynn the woman and Irisa switches from a vision of the past to see Rynn as an adult riding a bike. She comes out of the vision, knowing where Rynn is.
As they leave, Irisa is angry with Nolan, her visions were never PTSD flashbacks, they were visions – and a natural part of being Irathient. She’s an alien and Nolan’s treating her as a human made her afraid of that. She shuts down his attempt to talk about it, grabs some guns from the lawkeeper’s office and says they need to stop Rynn
Tommy, Nolan, Irisa and the Spirit Riders leader head down the mine, though he doesn’t want to hurt Rynn, he goes with them because the gods wish it. They go even further down than the bottom floor to a huge cavern crawling in hellbugs. And a giant matriarch
Tommy sets to fixing the lift while Irisa and Nolan set explosives to kill the matriarch and block them in – the spirit rider looks for Rynn, but she finds him, shooting him in the leg. She’s carrying a box of pheromones, she drops them, everyone dies.
They talk about Irisa’s sight and she tells Rynn her vengeance is already fulfilled. She asks Rynn if this is how she honours her parents – Rynn says yes and throws the pheromones and Irisa stabs her with a throwing knife. Nolan grabs the attack pheromones and throws it at the matriarch to encourage the swarm of hellbugs to attack the hive mother. They escape in the lift and as it rises Nolan shoots the explosives, collapsing the tunnel behind them
Back at the mayor’s office, Amanda announces that the land will return to the original Irathient owners – which in turn will be leased back to Rafe’s mines. So he still gets to use the property he was party to cheating the Irathients out of. Amanda considers this righting an old wrong and upholding Defiance’s values and Christie is so proud of her father.
In the prison the Spirit Rider chief and Rynn talk, about her parents, the sight, the gods and her going to prison. Later, during the musical dénouement, he goes to talk to Irisa in Need Want and Nolan looks a little put out. And Rafe takes Christie back to the Tar house to see Alak.
This is the resolution? More “assimilation” (i.e. become like us and take abuse) talk from Amanda. Rafe used land that he had to know was dodgy and he certainly did not checking up on and enjoyed the income for how many years – and that’s just ignored? Amanda has an interesting interpretation of justice and righting wrongs. And this whole wrong was only righted because Rynn started to fight back – and is now going to prison because she sought resolution no human authority cared about.
This man went into the woods jogging, listening to your MP3 player… well I’m sure many people today do that because people like trees… and mud… and outdoorsy stuff. But in these 3 episodes we’ve seen Nolan attacked by Spirit Riders for shinies and then be attacked by giant bear/wolf/spider thingsm, hellbugs etc. In this new world would you go running through the woods?
What isn’t interesting is the Castithan expectation that a husband will be able to control his wife – why take a species that’s entirely alien, literally, a species with vastly different customs and beliefs from a vastly different planet and still saddle them with the same prejudices as we have?
It seems odd they can see the whole point of how silly it is to use human medical terms for the alien Irisa and then make Castithan society so human
As someone who plays the game as well (more on that later) it was good to see some parallels and related links between the two which was supposed to be one of the unique elements of Defiance (I’ve killed a whole lot of hellbugs).
With the season finale of Defiance approaching, I know there's many people trying to catch up. You can watch Defiance online here to catch any episodes you may have missed
NB: I know my episode numbering is odd. Depending on the source you use, the Pilot was 2 episodes back to back, so was episode 1 & 2. So you may have this episode down as episode 3.