Saturday, June 22, 2013

Defiance, Season 1, Episode 10: If I Ever Leave This World Alive

We return to Defiance – in the midst of a plague. While life tries to continue as normal, Alak on his radio from the arch gives out information. It’s the Irath flu, humans and Irathients can carry the plague but only humans die from it – and it’s spread by skin contact. He warns everyone to buy gloves – but the masks do nothing (much to the annoyance of a Castithan selling masks who turns off the radio and continues to peddle them). If people feel ill he tells them to go to a triage tent

Which is where Amanda, Nolan and Dr. Yewll are; there’s a large number in the tent that shocks Amanda. Yewll has the numbers – 6 dead, 21 sick. Dr. Yewll knows of a curse – after an outbreak in San Francisco they developed an anti-viral – they have to wait for it to arrive, however.

As if that weren’t enough to worry about, Christie in the arch notices Earth Republic trucks approaching. Alak passes the message to Amanda – and she and Nolan go to see Connor (Earth Republic representative) in Need Want to give him menacing glares. Connor says that ERep is quarantining Defiance, preventing the disease from spreading East to the Republic. Connor says ERep is quite happy to see every human in Defiance die – including him – so they can then roll in and take the mines.

And, yes, Connor is rather drunk. Nolan discusses how they can break the quarantine, but Amanda can’t say they’re wrong – ERep has good reason not to want to spread the plague across North America. Amanda holds on to hope. Connor wants to get drunk and suggests Nolan does the same

Out on the street a group of Castithan are throwing rocks at a group of Irathient Spirit Riders – calling them dirty and filthy (why would the Castithans be so upset? They’re immune and can’t carry it. This would make more sense with humans). Irisa breaks it up before the Irathients respond with lethal weapons – and chases the Castithans into their homes by threatening to bite them. She then greets the Spirit Riders (friends of hers) who have come for food and medicine – but now they can’t leave because of the quarantine. An Irathient woman who acts as some kind of priest fears the humans will blame them and asks Irisa to pray with them

I like how much Irisa has grown, the slow distance between her and Nolan while her finding a new family with the Irathient – it shows her in both worlds and making a place for herself in both; and it doesn’t take much to show it, just little scenes like this.

At the town council, the numbers have been updated to 16 dead and 30 ill. One Councillor fears they won’t survive the quarantine and Rafe shifts the blame to the Irathients despite, as Amanda points out, humans also being carriers. Datak also blames the Irathients – and shows the prejudice the Castithans have against the Irathients that explains the earlier attacks – he believes that Irathients often carry disease but rarely get sick from illness themselves (something his fellow Castithan agrees on but Amanda disputes). He says other Votans see Irathients as plague carriers – which he agrees is partly bigotry but has a root of truth to it; and it’s why Irathients keep to themselves and why Castithan shun them. For once, Rafe agrees with Datak; and proposes forcibly quarantining Irathients in the mines. Amanda points out Irathients and humans have been asked to stay inside – but Rafe is contemptuous of the Irathients following orders: with the Castithans supporting him. Amanda reminds them how tense things have been with the Irathients and how they could be facing another armed uprising – but the spineless human Councillors make excuses how it’s “keeping them safe” from bigots to lock the Irathients up. When it goes to the vote, only Amanda votes against interring the Irathients.

Irisa and the Spirit Riders are praying on a rooftop when Rafe and an armed group of humans arrive. Rafe climbs up and tries to get Irisa and the others to surrender – but she’s not buying his crap and won’t be locked up like an animal – she pushes him down and tells the Spirit Riders to run and gather the Irathients while she slows the humans down. She fights them until she’s finally overwhelmed.

As they drag Irisa into a truck, Nolan arrives, with Amanda, and draws a gun at the man holding her who draws a gun of his own. Apparently Rafe was supposed to let Amanda tell Nolan before acting – of course Rafe had to push it. Amanda tries to talk Nolan down – again playing the “Irathients are safer locked up” card. Amanda tells Irisa to say she’s ok – Irisa doesn’t, but she says she doesn’t like the odds and to put the gun away.

Going to the Lawkeeper’s office, Nolan grabs several guns saying Irisa will know he’s coming for her – Amanda tries to talk him down again, saying he’s sweating (implying he has the disease) and that it’s just guilt over Sukar (and, hey, she voted against – so she’s done her bit when it comes to mass interment). Their argument is cut short by Yewll arriving with a message – San Francisco has sent the cure. But the drop is outside the quarantine.

To Need Want to wake up the drunk Connor so he can get them through the quarantine – well him and Nolan. Amanda nearly falls, dizzy, probably early stages of the disease.

Qunetin walks to the diner, past Irathients being rounded up and impounded, to meet with Nicky and her evil plotting. Yes, he’s taking Nicky’s bait and asking about his mother. She tells him that his mother, Pilar, is alive not dead as Rafe said, and she’ll tell him where to find her if he brings the gold artefact.

Being the trusting fool he is, he goes home and gets the artefact. Even his hallucination of his dead brother Luke thinks this is a bad idea.

The Irathient are locked up in cages in the mines – and one of them believes they’re going to die, killed with chlorine gas as the Castithans did to Irathients in the past. Defiance – you’re crossing the line from parallels to outright appropriation again.

Rafe, Quentin Atak, Datak and Stahma go to the hospital tent – Christie has the disease. Stahma urges Rafe and Quentin to leave since they’re healthy and it’s dangerous. There’s no pain medicine left, but Datak has a stash of old opiates and gives one to Christie. Christie talks about meeting her mother – and Amanda is brought in on a stretcher, unconscious and bleeding from the nose.

In the badlands, Nolan and Connor drive to find the cure – Nolan sweating and looking awful and asking Connor about his military service and how long he was with Amanda (3 years). Unknown side effect of the illness – gossip. Turns out Amanda got pregnant, Connor was ready to raise a family (though scared about the new world), Amanda wasn’t and had an abortion; and they broke up.

At the quarantine they meet Colonel Marsh, the commanding officer – and with him is evil ERep representative Olfin Tennety. They won’t let them past to get medicine and Olfin offers to get it – Nolan nixes that plan, not trusting her. Nolan invokes the 6,000 deaths (human population of Defiance) that will be on the Colonel’s head – and adds that they’ll have no chance of any kind of alliance with Defiance if they prevent medicine reaching the sick (they could move in anyway, as Connor said). Olfin tries to get Nolan shot, but the colonel overrules her and lets him collect the meds.

Defiance is eerily empty, as more and more humans fall ill and others die. And Stahma, not missing a trick, pushes the ill Amanda to put Datak in charge while she’s ill, since Castithan are immune and offer stability. Amanda’s not hearing it – Rafe is senior he will be interim mayor. Because Rafe is better?

At the Irathient cage, the Irathients are praying, much to the annoyance of one of the guards who finds it too loud. She shouts at them and, when they won’t stop, she goes in and kicks over their altar of stones. An Irathient jumps on her, human guards rush in – and the Irathient on her is shot and killed. Irisa climbs the half way up the fence and screams with rage.

In the utterly irrelevant column – Quentin delivers the artefact to Nicky. Turns out Pilar was bi-polar and, of course, during the war and after it the medicine was hard to come by. She, as a quartermaster, and Datak managed to provide her with Lithium but it eventually stopped working (being over a decade old). One day Rafe found Pilar poisoning the kids breakfast – he would have killed her but Nicky (with whom Rafe was having an affair), stopped him. She’s in Mendesino (at least, so long as Nicky isn’t lying) – and Nicky takes Quentin’s keycard as well.

Driving back with the cure, Nolan is looking worse and worse – and the car crashes. Not because of Nolan, but because of a spike trap. The Irathient Spirit Riders who Irisa helped escape have trapped the road. They take Nolan and Connor captive and the medicine – they demand the Irathients be released before giving up the cure.

In the camp, Christie is getting worse. Alak, while crying over her, puts his wedding ring on her finger while Datak and Stahma look on and Rafe holds his shoulders. A nurse (a Castithan like most of the nurses) arrives with a message on the mayor’s caller from Nolan to give to Rafe – but Stahma takes it, pointing out how distraught Rafe is. Which means Datak is the one who receives the Irathient demands.

He passes them on to the internment camp – but Rathus, the Spirit Rider and brother to the one holding the medicine – is the Irathient who was shot. Datak doesn’t know what to do – Stahma tells him to release the Irathients, all of them. Trust her

Stahma is always the one to watch.

Datak goes to where Nolan and Connor are being held, unarmed. And he tells them about Rathus being dead. Followed by blaming everything on the humans and claiming the disease is a divine gift to cleanse humans from the planet. He tells them that they need to destroy the cure. He coats one of the boxes in flammable liquid and throws it outside, inviting the Irathient to burn it.

As he steps to the door, he is shot by a sniper. Datak then grabs his pistol and shoots 2 more Irathient. The last one grabs him – but Connor runs into her, knocking her down, giving Datak chance to shoot her as well, repeatedly – then kick her corpse in a rage that she dared to touch him. Then he tells Connor “I’m sorry you had to see that” and shoots him. “Doesn’t fit my narrative.”

If there was ever any doubt about Datak being a Bad Man, it is now very very clear.

Nolan is genuinely unconscious so Datak doesn’t have to kill him, saving him the trouble of explaining 2 dead humans. He puts the gun in the dead Irathient’s hand – and gives Nolan the cure. Soon everyone is cured and everything is fumigated. The dead are gathered and burned. Quentin leaves to find his mother. And Amanda grieves for Connor.

Defiance returns to normal and Irisa meets up again with Nolan, they hug.

At the arch, Amanda broadcasts a message to Defiance, calling the Irathient Internment a “terrible tragedy” and singling out Nolan and Connor for their bravery. She also thanks Datak and lets him make a speech – which he instantly takes the chance to launch his own election campaign to compete against Amanda for mayor. And uses the incarceration of the Irathients as a mark against Amanda and a plank in his campaign

Outside in a car Dr. Yewll meets with… Nicky. She criticises the mayor for smoking (her usual bedside manner) and for the Volge attack and the radiation leak underground… calling Nicky and Birch reckless and stupid. Which is why she stopped working with them. Nicky tells Yewll Birch is dead and Yewll remarks that makes them two the only ones left of the “old gang.” Yewll says she’s not interested in working with her but Nicky convinces her by telling Yell she has one of the “Kelivar”. I have a name for the artefact! Yewll tells her to destroy it and Nicky refuses, she says they can remake the planet – Yewll says “destroy” and Nicky adds “you can’t create without destroying”.

Noooooooo! They can’t make Yewll a bad guy! Damn it, now I have to support Nicky and her evil machinations. I have to be team Yewll!

Ok there were some heavy issues here – and a lot of them made very direct parallels to real world treatment of marginalised people. Internment camps, death camps et al are major world events that, again, should be used very carefully in fiction if at all. It seems clear that Defiance is dedicated to using aliens as stand ins for the Other which also means translating the issues marginalised people face to them. While no direct comparisons were made, it wasn’t necessary when they were so blatant and some of them were handled poorly – reducing the idea of genocide to a side reference and I dislikes how the ending was used as an almost “look they’re just as bad” moment that I suspect will be used to justify lack of consequences

A lot also counts on what the fallout from this will be – and not just Datak’s political machinations. Will the Irathient leave? Will Irisa leave? For that matter, doesn’t this give Irisa and Nolan strong incentive to get out? If this is just brushed under the rug as a non-issue then it’s appropriation without even a slight attempt at purpose or examination. If they turn it to be all about Datak and ignore the Irathient then it’s another reason why Defiance needs to stop appropriating these issues as they are constantly doing – and screwing them up

On Datak though - while he’s evil and inexcusable, a bad guy who is so gloriously evil is something of a guilty pleasure of mine.

Irisa was doing a great job of growing and showing the links between both worlds and how she was pulled to Nolan and the Irathient – but now, with the dead Spirit Riders, it feels like she’s been sent back to Nolan by killing off the “distraction.”

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