Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Defiance, Season 1, Episode 12: Past is Prologue

At the Need Want, the whole of Defiance seems to be gathered for mayor Nicky’s wake – Amanda speaking movingly about her. And Datak, showing zero class, turns it into another election pitch; he also gives a nod to the Earth Republic representatives.

After the speeches Amanda complains that a wake is no place for a political broadcast – and colonel Marsh from the Earth Republic offers her his endorsement; she says there’s always a price. He offers to protect them from “alien barbarians” but she thinks they’re pretty good with alien barbarians, thanks all the same.

Tommy and Irisa are being incredibly cute together before kissing and then having sex. And Yewll examines her shiny golden thingy (the Kelivar) and takes it to her lab. She puts it on an apparatus and turns on the machine shooting blue light at it and Irisa, with Tommy, sTarrts crying out and not in a good way. She gasps that she can’t feel her legs

At the clinic Irisa is walking around claiming she’s fine – Yewll says she has a psychosomatic reaction, everything’s fine. Irisa has visions and is drawn into Yewll’s back room, before Yewll breaks her out of it, miffed at Irisa’s snooping.

At the Need Want, Stahma is in bed with Kenya but Stahma is suddenly uncomfortable. Kenya presses her, asks what’s wrong and why she needs to leave so suddenly and Stahma bursts out that not everything is about “us” and there’s a limit to what she can share with a prostitute. Stahma realises what she said and quickly apologises but Kenya says she’s not bothered by people looking down on her and if Stahma’s mind is elsewhere, her body should go join it. Get out. Stahma starts to leave but looks so upset Kenya demands to know even when Stahma says it will put her life in danger. Stahma breaks and tells Kenya that it’s Datak’s pride and how losing the election would be such a great shame to him (she uses a Casti word for it) that he’s planning on having Amanda killed.

From there, Kenya warns Nolan and Amanda – she says he wouldn’t dare but Kenya points out Amanda isn’t thinking like Castithan – people who will kill to avoid humiliation. She refuses to reveal her source because of the risk Stahma took; Nolan tries to get her to hold debates somewhere more enclosed by Amanda can’t risk being seen as a coward and insists she trusts Nolan to keep her safe even outside.

Nolan goes to Datak and threatens graphically to kill him should anything happen to Amanda. Datak isn’t that concerned. When Nolan leaves, Alak arrives and Datak demands reparations for being shamed at the wedding; invoking a Casti custom that causes the whole tent of Castithans to fall silent and watch. At the end of which Alak says his arm is Datak’s will – a gesture of earning Datak’s forgiveness.  He has a job for Alak.

Later Alak is with his friend who is laughingly astonished that Datak went for a shaming ritual he considers archaic on Earth. But Alak says he can get his friend into Datak’s crew – something highly coveted – because he has a job to do that cannot be traced back to Datak.

To the debate – it’s chucking it down with rain but a lot of people have turned out. Including Yewll – leading to Irisa abandoning her post to go snoop. Alak’s friend is looking down at the proceedings with a gun, Alak telling him to hit her right between the eyes.

The debate begins and Datak, surprisingly, speaks up for Earth Republic alliance and all the disasters that hit Defiance that could have been averted or reduced if they’d had Earth Republic help, that Defiance doesn’t have the resources to handle all these catastrophes without working with the greater society. Amanda’s turn and she speaks up of the Earth Republic cities she’s seen – repressed places with poor living conditions; she speaks up for being independent, beholden to themselves both for their mistakes and successes.

Nolan sees the Casti on the roof, aiming his gun – and shoots him. He falls to the floor, dropping his rifle that fires and hits Nolan. With paint. Alak cries out that it was a prank, it was just a paintball gun (which is bloody stupid anyway).

The council meets and there’s a huge argument with the humans siding with Nolan and Datak demanding consequences for killing a foolish kid. He adds that he doesn’t think Nolan would have shot the kid if his skin were darker (if he were human not Castithan and yeah that’s still awful). This claim would have made more sense over Rafe’s attempted murder of Alak. Datak insist that the records show that Amanda supports Nolan’s actions 100%

In the lawkeepers office, Castithan are performing a ritual over the dead body and Irisa blames herself for leaving her post to snoop on Yewll – but Nolan says she’d have done the same as he had and she’d now be taking the same heat. He does doubt himself for going for a lethal shot rather than disabling.

At the Tarr household, Alak is disturbed wondering if his father knowingly asked him to send his friend to his death (can Alak possibly be this ignorant and naïve?) Stahma praises his courage for being willing to question his father – which allows them both to express their pride towards Alak without actually answering his question. His dad was busy looking at Nolan’s files – including his war record.

Yewll comes home to find the mess Irisa has left trying to find whatever’s bothering her psychic senses – but she didn’t find the secret cupboard, or the lock on the cupboard or the safe inside; the kelivar is safe. Yewll is pretty security conscious.

Nolan takes the body to the boy’s parents who aren’t particularly interested in his condolences. About the same time that Datak goes on the radio to spill more dirt he’s found on Nolan – including when he was court martialed for taking part in a massacre and was called a “killing machine” (something we’ve had referenced before). And they have a transcript of Nolan from the trial where he refers to aliens in… very undiplomatic terms, including how, yes, he will kill 12 year old Votan children. Datak follows up by quoting Amanda’s unequivocal support for Nolan.

Nolan goes to Amanda and hands in his badge. She says he’s not resigning, he says no she has to fire him and then disavow him – say he’s good to fight of marauders but not to uphold the law. Amanda counters that who he was isn’t who he is and Defiance is all about new beginnings (errr, this was the same town that was happy to hunt down weapons manufacturers for the Votans) which is bound to be reassuring to the Votans in Defiance. I mean, it’s not like Defiance has a record of banning Votan customs at gun point or rounding them up into camps or that the richest man in town made his money on land taken from murdered Irathients and… oh wait. She wants to defend him but Nolan sees the truth – she’s expected to get emotional and defend Nolan and hand Datak the election – then he hands Defiance to the Earth Republic. And they’re behind this because that’s the only way Datak could have access to his sealed military files. He wants to leave Defiance in order to save it.

Showing some more justice, 3 humans grab Alak off the street, put a bag over his head, brutally beat him and then present him to Rafe for questioning. Rafe threatens Alak with death unless Alak does what he wants. YAY JUSTICE! Y’know every time they try to paint Datak as the bad guy, they have Rafe act completely violently out of control, expect me to see him as the good guy and it all crumbles.

Yewll re-examines Irisa’s scan – and this time seems to see something. And Kenya storms over to the Tarr house to have it out with Stahma for lying to her about the risk to Amanda. Kenya threatens to tell Datak about them and Stahma says Datak already knows – he doesn’t care. Kenya doesn’t believe it and Stahma tells her it won’t end well. Kenya asks why she does this – why put up with Datak’s cruelty? And Stahma shatters Kenya’s illusions – she loves Datak, not as an abused lover clinging to her abuser, like Kenya was but because of his cruelty. To her, Datak’s cruelty and ruthlessness are strengths. Kenya calls Stahma pathetic, Stahma says Kenya is alone. Ouch.

Out on the street, Nolan decides to hit Datak’s Sensoth attendant in the face with his gun. Y’know Nolan, if you’ve just been publicly branded as a violent bigot who hates aliens, randomly attacking them in the street isn’t going to really increase your standing.

Nolan punches Datak in the face. He goes down, flips to his feet and spin kicks Nolan in the face. Well, look at that – Datak got skills. They fight until they end up in an alley where Datak can’t spin around so much. And Nolan gets the upper hand, with Datak largely just staggering backwards. Datak reaches for Nolan’s dropped gun but Nolan gets there first – Irisa stops him firing.

Nolan and Irisa pack to leave – while Yewll tests the kelivar, causing Irisa to collapse. Yewlls turns off the machine quickly and rushes downstairs ready to help Irisa when Nolan carries her in. Yewll anaesthetises Irisa for surgery – lifting her shirt to show things moving under her skin. She tells Nolan it’s a Votan parasite. Yewll kicks him out of her clinic while she operates. Irisa has a flashback of some people putting a silver kelivar on her back – exactly where Yewll is operating, it growing silver hairs and sinking into her skin. In the room above, the gold kelivar sprouts the same glowing hairs as Yewll cuts the silver one free. The silver hairs from Irisa’s back meet the gold hairs coming down through the ceiling. We get a view of the cave paintings under the city and see the two kelivar – with a woman holding both of them.

An out-of-body ghostly Irisa approaches the real one and tells her to wake up. Nolan hears struggling in the clinic and bursts in to find the place in disarray, Yewll apparently ok on the floor – and Irisa run out the back door.

Meanwhile Datak is plotting with the Earth Republic representative, Colonel Marsh who reveals the price he demands of Defiance – Datak to use some legal wrangling to take the mines off Rafe and deed them to the Earth Republic. And Datak gets a nice, shiny pay off.

In the woods, Irisa staggers, bleeding from her back, after the shadowy copy of herself. She collapses in the woods and Ryn kicks her boot. She tells Irisa she knows what Nolan did to Sukar and asks why she shouldn’t kill her; because she’s at a loss.

I’ve said before that I don’t like using aliens to stand in for marginalised and persecuted others. I’ve said it repeatedly that it’s appropriative and dubious especially when those same issues are so rarely dealt with with real minorities, only with a fictional stand in. And this comes to especially awful depictions like this where we have a group being presented as marginalised when their main defining feature is their PALE SKIN. For extra nausea, Rafe McCawley, a Native American, is one of the powerful members of the town positioned as an oppressor.

Not only that but Defiance just doesn’t examine any of these issues with anything resembling depth or nuance or even links to the real issues involved – and, in this case, it outright invokes what is a very serious real world issue – the disproportionate death rates of racial minorities at police hands – with plot by a minority for power; presenting them as at fault.

I’m bemused at the idea that revealing Nolan’s own words on air is somehow so very cruel and naughty and wrong. And the Castithan plot carefully and hide their actions from public and legal scrutiny – humans grab people in the street and beat them; surely that speaks volumes to the justice system?

It looks like Defiance’s only same-sex romance has crashed and burned – and I’m still not sure how much of it was affection, how much of it was pity from Kenya’s assumption of Stahma being abused, how much of it was business and how much of it was Stahma plotting.

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