Saturday, June 28, 2014

Defiance, Season 2, Episode 2: In My Secret Life

We get a reminder that the stasis net (the forcefield) is up around Defiance again as the E-Rep soldiers record a nice little overdramatic propaganda video. Which is when Nolan and Irisa drive up, Nolan failing to convince her to stay away from the town. She’s still hallucinating Irzu and, following he demands, she charges the gate. Nolan manages to repair things somewhat with Captain Berlin who takes all their weapons – but Irisa loses it when Berlin takes her diary and starts a fight which gets her captured.

Irisa is dragged to the police station – where Tommy is waiting - with Berlin ignoring Nolan’s protests. Iris is left in Tommy’s custody while Nolan goes to see Niles

To the Tarr household where everyone is bathing together which makes Christie super uncomfortable (Alak tries to encourage Stahma to give Christie a little more space. Is it just me, or does Alak – or the actor – look super uncomfortable as well). Christie also isn’t a fool, she suspects that Alak is keeping up his dad’s criminal family business. Alak denies it and leaves – when she challenges him he calls her “such a human.”

In town, an unknown person plants some kind of insect based bomb.

In the market, Niles confronts Stahma and tells her to stop selling Adreno (a drug) since his men are getting hooked on it and doing bad, naughty things. But he may be craftier than he looks, when Stahma balks, he suggests releasing Datak; fully aware that she doesn’t want that. He demands she bring the rest of their Adreno to his office.

Niles, Stahma will eat you.

Niles goes back to his office and Amanda schools him on how to handle the Votans in the town, when Nolan arrives. Nolan and Amanda have a happy reunion. Niles greets Nolan with a little reference to his bloody war record which probably isn’t going to – and isn’t meant to – endear Niles to Nolan. Niles wants to know why Colonel Marsh has sealed Irisa’s file (Nolan claims ignorance) when an explosion interrupts them

It’s the bomb in the market – with the worms then burrowing in the flesh of the people injured in the explosion. Nasty. Nolan recognises it as a “shrill bomb” from the Pale Wars, used to terrorise. Niles supports Tommy, the new Lawkeeper (despite the E-Rep clearly walking all over him) but Amanda wants Nolan back in charge since Tommy didn’t even know what the bomb was. So the deal – Nolan finds the bomber in 24 hours and Irisa’s arrest disappears.

Nolan doesn’t like the idea because of the less than wonderful time he had as lawkeeper last time and his general unpopularity among the Votans (and Tommy if that glare is something to go by). Just to rub salt in the wounds, while Nolan plans to investigate the mines (the spores grow underground), he sends Tommy to the office to guard Irisa and takes Tommy’s gun.

Tommy does as he’s told and after 5 seconds of saying how annoyed he is that Irisa disappeared without saying goodbye, they kiss. Before Tommy pulls away and reminds himself he’s moved on. She tells him he’s done something terrible – and that she has something inside of her (she can’t tell Nolan because he still sees a human when he looks at her). She’s upset and agitated and agrees to tell Tommy, to take him to the mines when she’s released.

Nolan goes to the mines and meets Rafe who fills him in on the E-Rep controlling the mines and running them at a loss to extract the ore quickly in case of a war with the Votanis collective – and that conditions are unsafe but pay is so good many miners won’t protest. He also notices a symbol painted on the wall – a Casti for “rise”, encouraging people to rise up, but Rafe thinks the E-Rep will only leave with bloodshed. Rafe’s authority and gravitas gets one of the miners to tell him and Nolan who came looking for the nasty bugs. Nolan goes looking for him at the Need/Want and ends up being recapped by Amanda – including Kenya’s absence. Amanda still clings to the idea Kenya is alive but know she’s deluding herself, which quickly turns into lots of flirting between her and Nolan which feels kind of… off? Flirting while discussing the disappearance/death of your lover (Nolan) or sister (Amanda)?

The bomber suspect, Brad, arrives (which is a relief because I think there was a chance of Amanda and Nolan having sex in Kenya’s bed which would have been really tasteless) and Nolan charges after him (the man runs because Nolan has all the subtly of a rhino). He escapes when Nolan trips over Berlin. Everyone in the market notices Nolan and there’s lots of whispers about his killing a Casti boy last season.

Nolan joins Berlin in checking the CCTV system and is duly freaked out by the return of all the drones, CCTV and other surveillance that haven’t existed since before the war. Berlin does an epic job of calling out Nolan’s Han’s Solo shtick and puts his fear of all the order of the E-Rep comes down to his love of the chaos they have now, that lets him play out his little fantasy. While Berlin, who lost her parents when very young and there were no authorities to talk to, welcomes the order and apparent safety the E-Rep brings.

After comparing notes, they see that Brad hid in Skevur’s trailer (he’s been a background lowlife for some time on the show), a Castithan who apparently bought the nasty bugs. And there’s a second bomb out there – Nolan puts Skevur’s head through a window.

It’s underneath Stahma’s car. They quickly catch up with her and get Stahma and her bodyguard out of the car (Nolan physically lifting Stahma out). Nolan disarms the bomb (dithering and doing nothing until it counts down to zero then stopping it at the last second, of course). Stahma welcomes Nolan home with a little kiss. She leads the gathered crowd (the same crowd that was earlier whispering about Nolan killing a Casti boy) in a round of applause for Nolan.

In Camp Reverie, Datak and Yewl (who is awesome) plot their escape using a Castithan called Zakara who Yewl thinks is a religious fanatic. Datak works on manipulating him while Yewl does her classic eye roll.

The plan is derailed when Yewl is called in to be questioned by Niles about Irisa and Colonel Marsh and all the woo-woo from last season. Yewl denies knowledge of everything, including the safe in her office – and Niles cuts off one of her fingers. Just in case you were under any illusions that Niles was a good guy.

Datak isn’t even slightly sympathetic, focused far more on the blade Yewl is hiding. He gives the blade to his fanatic friend – who attacks Niles. And then Datak steps on… and saves Niles (this would be craftier if Zakara didn’t have ample chance to stab Niles but instead chose to knock him down first).

Unfortunately for Datak, Niles isn’t a fool, he knows how this game is played and knows how convenient it is that Datak’s parole hearing is coming up.

Back to the Need/Want with Amanda taking her drugs again (Ando) and meeting Niles for business – during which he accidentally drops a packet of drugs on the bar. She tells him she doesn’t care what he does in his free time (I can’t help but think Niles did it deliberately in a long ranged plot aimed at her drug use). A crowd comes partying in to the Need/Want led by Berlin singing Nolan’s praises.

At the Tarr household, Stahma is being attended by her servants (her Sensoth bodyguard is clear in shame) when Alak arrives and she blames him – because of his weakness, his weakness that forced Stahma to have Skeever beaten. And she expects Alak to fix it.

Alak goes to kill Skevur where he is imprisoned, Skevur begs for his life, for mercy – but it’s just a ploy for him to pull an arm free and grab Alak’s knife hand. They struggle and Alak is injured – but he ultimately manages to kill Skevur, stabbing him repeatedly then spitting on his corpse. I take it they don’t have DNA testing.

Alak leaves, clearly upset and is sick.

Nolan releases Irisa from prison and she announces she’s going to see Tommy – Nolan loudly expresses how much he approves of Tommy (in an awful “dad-approving-the-boyfriend” way) while Irisa makes it clear how little she cares about Nolan’s silly approval

Niels tries to offer Nolan the job of Lawkeeper to which he says no until Amanda catches up with him and tries to convince him to work for the E-Rep, trying to present the E-Rep occupation as temporary (and bringing up the British colonisation of India as if it were relevant which even Nolan calls out). She pokes him into it to protect “their home.”

He follows her back to the Need/Want, they go upstairs and they have sex. I dearly hope that isn’t Kenya’s bed – all watched by creepy Niles on his creepy CCTV

Irisa finds Tommy – but finds him kissing Berlin, they’re a couple.

Niles has made enemies of Datak, Yewl and Stahma. I cannot see that ending well for him. He’s cunning – actually pretty impressively intelligent (it’s nice to see a bad guy who is genuinely crafty) but that’s quite a list of enemies he’s racking up.

Especially with another example of Stahma’s power. Ok everyone’s going to be quite positively inclined towards a bomb disarmer anyway, but Nolan has few friends in Defiance – it was Stahma who accepted him back into the city – not Amanda and certainly not Niles. Similarly, it was Rafe who carried the authority in the mines. It’s a nice subtle statement on who still holds the influence in Defiance, especially when we couple it with Niles (for all his cunning) being taught how to handle the Votans by Amanda. E-Rep are here, but how tight is their grip?

The Stahma/Alak storyline looks promising in its complexity but I wonder what role Christie will have in it?

Time to unpack some things.

Firstly Tommy – he’s been utterly sidelined again, and this follows an entire season where he was never treated with any great respect or had any great presence. And yes, I know that Amanda was right, Tommy doesn’t have the relevant experience – but setting the situation up like this is the writers’ decision – as is sending Tommy back to play prison guard.

I’m more intrigued by Berlin’s character – but also worried, her being set up as a competing love interest for Tommy with Irisa can go to all kind of bad places. I suspect she may be a repeated foil for Nolan in them both representing differing views which will be great so long as Defiance manages what it has failed to pull off so far – nuance. Because her point – that Nolan doesn’t need the order of society to stay safe (also a very privileged position) is a telling one and there is a very real reason why people would welcome something resembling the E-Rep and nation state. But that point will become a mockery if we keep up the E-Rep = evil or at least don’t draw more direct comparators (for example, Yewl was tortured but in the same episode we saw Nolan beating an answer out of a suspect).

The death of Skevur is also part of a pattern. For a dystopian, Defiance doesn’t actually have that high a death count (even after all the drama of the season finale), certainly not of even bit characters with names who have been around for a few episodes. Skevur was having sex with Ulysses the bio-man – possibly for commercial or manipulative reasons (which is part of another Defiance issue – that little bit of doubt with the same-sex relationships) both of which are now dead. Just like Kenya. It’s not like Defiance has the death rate sufficient for these 3 to be lost among the many other dead.