Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Defiance, Season 1, Episode 11: The Bride Wore Black

In what I can only assume is a Castithan stag night, Alak duels a series of young Castithan men with wooden swords, while a woman poses in a cage wearing a wedding dress, waiting to be “rescued”. Having defeated them, he unlocks her cage and she removes her wrap-around dress and moves on Alak. He backs off and calsl for more drinks though the Castithans want him to “mount his bride”. Alak says no – ritual coitus is too old school and, besides, his actual bridge would object. He then ends up beating down one of his friends for saying something crude and less than complimentary about humans. They fight – and one of them hits the thin plasterboard wall hard enough to break it –revealing a skeletal hand.

There be dead people in the walls. I don’t think it’s going to catch on as an architectural trend. And it can’t be hygienic.

At the Mccawley household Christie’s being fitted into her wedding dress by Kenya (it’s Kenya’s old dress) and Stahma brings her something “borrowed” to wear since Christie’s mother is dead; a Tilo, one of the three items she was allowed to bring on board the Arc travelling from her home world. It’s a metal veil –blindfold – in Castithan tradition a bride is blind until her betrothed “opens her eyes”.

Is it just me or does Stahma’s smile always make me think “all the better to eat you with, my dear”

Out in the street Tommy’s all looking forward to the wedding – chance for a party, but Irisa’s against the whole idea. He pokes her for being such a loner and pushes her to come with him with lots of the friendly flirting they have; which is her insulting him and him smiling and poking her

Y’know, this scene would work better if Irisa and her people hadn’t been rounded up and shoved in a cave, one of them murdered.

They join Yewl and Nolan examining the body found in the wall of Need Want – and the big shiny diamond its wearing. Tommy recognises it, back from when he was a card sharp who first arrived in Defiance, it belonged to Hunter Bell, who owned the Need Want

Flashback to when Tommy was a card shark, Kenya a waitress and married to Hunter and Datak someone Tommy was cheating. He takes Tommy outside, placating Datak, and doesn’t cut him saying the first lesson is free and tommy isn’t as good as he thinks – he takes him to the lawkeeper to get a job instead. Tommy feels he owed Hunter who went missing 7 years ago – they found one drop of blood but since he had enemies the old Lawkeeper was happy to dismiss it as Hunter just leaving town; Tommy didn’t accept it because in the dystopian world no-one just leaves everything they’ve managed to acquire.

Nolan’s suspicious that Kenya never mentioned a missing husband and they go to talk to her and break the news. Tommy is suspicious but Nolan more caring and gentle asking how their relationship was – Kenya puts on a positive spin but the flashback shows Hunter was an abusive husband.

To the Mayor’s office were Amanda is worrying away to Nicky about the upcoming election when Nolan and Tommy arrive to tell them about Hunter Bell. Amanda has a flashback to noticing Hunter had hit her little sister, Kenya, Kenya’s insistence on staying with him and Amanda’s threat that she would do anything to make sure he never laid a hand on Kenya again. Nicky leaves and Amanda describes Hunter as charming, rich handsome and a bully – but denies he did anything to Kenya, that they loved each other.

Tommy makes the not very big leap of logic and realises that Kenya and Amanda are lying. Nolan doesn’t know if Amanda killed Hunter for Kenya or Kenya killed Hunter – but he also doesn’t particularly care who killed the wife beater and is quite happy to let it all go away. He’s there to keep the peace not investigate crime – Tommy is concerned about justice

Time for Datak and Rafe to hiss at each other over the metal veil that Rafe doesn’t want Christie to wear (especially since he’s paying for the wedding); Datak responds with anti-human insults, mocking the pink skin of humans (seems to be the invented Castithan slur for the ultra-pale Castithans. Which Rafe skewers by pointing out his skin isn’t pink). Of course, neither man asks what Christie wants to wear on her wedding day. Still, Rafe sees Datak’s contempt for humanity and finally asks why Datak is so ok about Alak and Christie marrying – and he hasn’t come round to the idea like Rafe has, he’s always been in favour of it. Rafe seems to have a pretty good idea since he has a plan – he’s so very sorry that his mines are on stolen Irathient land, so he’s going to leave them to a trust for Irathients in Defiance when he dies. Datak doesn’t raise to the bait in front of him

Instead he goes home and rants and raves. Stahma tries to calm him down, sure they can convince Rafe otherwise when his first grandchild is born. But Datak is insistent and says Alak will get over it – and we seem some genuine anger from the normally reserved Stahma – since her own parents would have stopped her marrying Datak; she wants Alak to be happy and he sees humans differently than Votan-born Castithan. Datak just sneers about Alak losing his sense of smell – and begins to call the priest. Stahma manages to delay him

Meanwhile Tommy is still searching for evidence where they found Hunter’s body, while Irisa mocks him and finally helps – easily seeing and plucking a Liberata whisker out of the dust. Time to talk to Jerrod the bar tender who was bar tender back in the day as well. But he doesn’t answer his door – while Tommy considers legal ways to gain entry, Irisa breaks a window. Inside Jerrod is dead. They call in Nolan – there’s something odd with Jerrod’s fingers (Nolan puts it down to “nitrogen deprivation”) and his throat has been slashed, suggesting a Castithan hit.

Speaking of, Datak tells Alak of his father who refused to join the Arcs away from their dying planet because he had promises to preserve some holy scrolls. This is all a rambling way to say “no you can’t marry, because tradition!”. Alak, unsurprisingly, refuses to call off the wedding – or watch his tongue. He’s not impressed with Datak’s veiled threat to disown him and leave him a “street-haint” (haint being a slur for Castithans) because that’s what Datak said he was before clawing his way up. Alak doesn’t care about Casti traditions from a planet he has never seen. Datak leaves to allow Alak to “cool off”. And when outside he’s arrested by Nolan for murder.

And Alak goes to Christie to tell her the bad news. Rafe comes in to find Christie fleeing to her room in tears and a tearful Alak tells him Datak is sabotaging the wedding. You can almost hear Rafe’s heart melt at the unavoidable proof that Alak loves Christie.

Back to Datak being arrested, seems they found a walking stick in Datak’s house that matches the injury on Hunter’s skull, though Datak denies all knowledge. Flashback to when a younger Datak demanded a stake in Need Want after what he put into it. Hunter dismisses him and they fight. It’s fairly equal with an edge to Datak until Hunter draws a knife and slashes Datak. The fight is stopped by Rafe – pointing a gun at Hunter and demanding he drop the weapon and giving Rafe a makeshift bandage. They walk off and Datak asks why Rafe helped – part of it because Rafe values a fair fight but also because Hunter is moving on Rafe’s mines. Enemy of my enemy…

Ok, is there ANYONE in Defiance who Hunter didn’t piss off except Tommy?

Faced with no confession, Nolan kicks Datak out. Tommy’s confused but Nolan says there’s no way that Datak would have hidden the body of his victim. So why arrest him? Because an angry Datak is now going to find the real killer. Tommy’s not thrilled about being kept in the dark.

Datak goes to the Need Want to accuse Rafe of framing him. Rafe denies it as ridiculous and says he’s going to a wedding – and yes the wedding is on because the kids are in love and while Alak may never get Rafe’s mines, he’s still going to look out for his daughter and son-in-law. Datak draws a knife, Rafe snorts and shows the gun he’s carrying – which is when a gussied up Amanda arrives to tell them the ceremony’s about to start.

And Nicky goes to see Yewll at Yewll’s invitation. Nicky’s very very eager to get into business with Yell again; but she doesn’t want to talk about the artefact. She wants to talk about the murder of their “favourite Liberata bartender.” Nicky tries to blame Datak to which Yewll says “it’s me you’re talking to”. Nicky says she had to because Jerrod knew they killed Hunter; she daren’t risk exposure. Flash back to when they were exposed – Hunter walking in on Yewll giving Nicky a medical exam – checking her implants. Nicky isn’t human – she’s an Indogene made to look human. He tried to blackmail them for money – and Nicky kills him. Yewll losing her cool for the first time ever, calling Nicky “psycho” for killing him and Jerrod helps them clean up.

Back in the present, Nicky tells Yewll to relax, it’s all cleaned up, it’s over. Yewll says “I suppose it is” and injects Nicky with something. Yewll tells Nicky when she came to town she wanted to start over, she wanted to redeem herself, make up for what she did and Nicky was her inspiration until she changed. She lists Nicky’s crimes – unleashing the Volge, killing a harmless bartender. She’s clearly willing to kill anyone “for the greater good”, if she can’t trust Nicky with a walking stick – how can she trust her with a genocidal weapon?

She tells Yewll the first injection was a paralytic to stop Nicky feeling pain and to stop her struggling. The second will kill her. She’s changed as well – she’s a healer and not a destroyer which is why she apologises for what she had to do. She closes Nicky’s eyes and says goodbye.

At the town hall, Kenya prepares Christie for the wedding. Christie is nervous but Kenya tells her there’s no need – so long as she remembers that her husband is her partner, her equal and never let him treat her as less. And Stahma comes in – because Christie isn’t comfortable with the tilo, she made her a lace veil instead.

Time for the wedding, one half Casti, one half human – and Datak joins Stahma and Alak. The strangest thing in the entire room is the outfit that Irisa chose to wear.

In between all the ceremony, Nolan has a brainstorm. The Liberata breathe nitrogen, not oxygen – and the discolouration on Jerrod’s fingers match that caused by “oxygen bombs” humans used during the Pale Wars. Jerrod was exposed to a high concentration of oxygen – like the inhaler Nicky uses.

Nicky’s body is in a car, the engine running with the fumes piped inside. A suicide note is pinned to the windscreen, confessing to Hunter and Jerrod’s murder; including an indictment of doing evil “for the greater good.”  Over her body, Yewll says “she used to be good people.” And Nolan “sometimes good people do bad things.” Nolan congratulated a stunned Tommy and says people are a mystery – even to themselves. And we see Yewll with the artefact.

I love Yewll. Every scene she’s in is just covered in awesome and with a lot of complexity that’s only hinted at but really well played. Here mere presence has done more to redeem the silly artefact storyline all on its own. This whole episode developed a lot of the plot and the characters truly excellently.

I really do like how much effort has gone into creating fully realised cultures for at least some of the alien species – the Castithan and the Irathient. Not just language, but practices and traditions. It’s impressive world building even if I do feel they’ve created a new human culture rather than anything that is inhumanly alien.

Speaking of human-aliens – pet hate? Half aliens/half humans. The idea that a species evolving on an entirely different planet would end up with sufficiently similar genetics to produce a child with a human is just sloppy and silly.

It’s interesting to see Nolan’s distinction about his job – the difference between investigating crimes and bringing justice and keeping the peace. Peace, in this chaotic dystopian world, is about keeping order and keeping everyone quiet – not bringing justice, truth or fairness; this is really clear when you look back over the past episodes through this lens. Injustice is brushed over, placated, a quick, peaceful resolution is always what is sought more than any kind of moral or just ending. It’s a place of expedience and survival more than justice and truth. Just look at how little it takes for searches – the Law Keeper is little more than an enforcer, acting on his own whims.

Kenya’s opinion of Stahma’s marriage makes more sense now – and her excellent advice for Christie.

I think my main complaint about Defiance (beyond the silly woo-woo artefact storyline) is how many of the storylines are shallow and end when they shouldn’t. ERep just kind of moves out of town – though I’m confident they’ll be back. But the rest? Irisa has issues with Nolan over Sukar’s death which she then gets over. The Irathients are rounded up in cells last episode, Irisa’s semi-adoptive family killed and now Tommy’s talking to Irisa about how much fun it will be to get the town  together and party with friends and family. There was a big showdown about Datak and the Castithans giving up their customs at Amanda’s demand – and it’s faded away. It’s like everyone kind of forgets a lot of what has happened in the past episodes. That works for some storylines but some of these – especially since they are being used a lot as parallels for major real world issues like internment, colonisation, the theft of land (speaking of – can we have ANY CHARACTER but the Native American Rafe talking about how guilty he feels for stealing Irathient land. Any other character!), generational loss of culture, assimilation, cultural imperialism et al.

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