I suspect this will be an angsty episode since we start with Berlin and Tom in bed having sex – and Berlin’s love of cameras stretches into the bedroom. Who bets Irisa is going to see that video and be the saddest of all sad pandas over it?
Viceroy Mercado, one of Niles’s least favourite people, drops in to let Niles know there’s a big shiny piece of Arc debris going to land nearby – which they want very much. Niles doesn’t think he has the resources or expertise for Arc hunting – but Nolan is an expert and Mercado expects him to use Nolan’s expertise. Not being Nolan’s biggest fan, Niles is not best pleased. It’s all politics as well – Mercado need something for the nest election
The Arc debris crashes which attracts the attention of several nasty mutant monsters. The debris has some kind of defence which promptly kills the nasty tentacle dog things. There’s something nasty and deadly in there, kind of like a spindly transformer
Niles and Nolan prepare to set out with additional information on why they want this so bad – it contains something that produces inexhaustible, clean energy. Nice. Nolan insists on being in charge because he’s the expert and Niles isn’t (also because they don’t like each other but they won’t admit to that).
Tommy and Berlin show up, rather than Irisa. Tommy thinks it’s a bad idea to mix them both so brought Berlin because a) she’s his girlfriend and b) she wants to make a propaganda video (she definitely has a thing for cameras). Nolan wants Irisa because a) she’s his daughter, b) she’s an experienced Arc Hunter and C) he doesn’t like Berlin. He also has issues with Tommy revealing him and Rafe trying to hide a murderer and thief; in response to this ridiculousness, Tommy quits. Nolan leaves – and Berlin takes the chance to congratulate Tommy and suggest they go to a different part of the E-Rep, to the border which will be good for both their careers. Tommy agrees.
Meanwhile Stahma takes Christie to one of the Tarr establishments – a casino. Which is being loudly protested by a Castithan called Belatok Kurr, a holy man. He accuses Stahma of heresy and she sends Christie home so she can make nice with the holy man. No, he’s not upset about the gambling – he’s upset that a woman “usurped her husband.” He dismisses the idea of Alak in charge and how their culture has survived because they don’t compromise – Stahma elegantly points out they are both speaking English. She calls assimilation natural, he calls it a virus and think he’s encouraging other women to “forget their place” (his wife looks on with “one day I will strangle you” eyes). Stahma finally decides “screw this playing nice shit” and reminds him she’s an empowered woman backed by a band of hardened criminals. They exchange more insults back and forth and he threatens to see her in a “shaming rack”.
To Rafe and Datak in the hovel Datak is staying in (and a little neat piece of world building – Datak now has a shower, which for Castithans is a sign of very low class). Datak shows something illicit dangerous, shiny and something we can’t see to Rafe. He leaves when Stahma arrives and accuses Datak of paying Kurr – which Datak denies, he doesn’t have the money and Kurr is unbribable. This boycott is entirely from their community and Kurr is dangerous because he is an “honest” man.
To Irisa (damn it I want to stay with Stahma) who is hunting another victim – only this time she’s followed by Tommy who wants to tell her about him leaving – and he sees the end of her weird tentacle attack. She tries to hide the body which she tells Tommy will be totally find – for rather obvious reasons he doesn’t believe her and threatens to shoot her. That doesn’t worry her either – being shot is a temporary inconvenience for her with Irzu inside.
Irisa and Tommy have a vigil over the dead body and Irisatells him that the same happened with Bertie and that she’s done it to many others – she can’t tell Nolan and she made a deal with something that calls itself a god. Well that’s a lot to dump on someone.
While they wait for the body to get up, Tommy tells Irisa he’s quit and is going to Texas and she asks him to tell how she met Berlin and he gives his sweet little story involving more cameras. Berlin is all about the cameras.
The dead Castithan comes to life before Tommy can tell Irisa if he loves Berlin. Back to Irisa begging Tommy to keep her secret
After all this, he tells Berlin he doesn’t want to go to Texas. He can’t go Irisa needs him – as a friend, honest. Uh-huh. Berlin offers to help as well (because she is a freaking saint!) and Tommy explains that he has to give his totally platonic friendly help alone.
…Berlin walks away. Because there are freaking LIMITS.
Mercado is enjoying Defiance’s hospitality while he’s there – going to visit the Need/Want trading words with Amanda and asks for… special services. She recommends he goes somewhere else for his very specialised tastes.
Back to Stahma – she and Amanda are sharing a drink and Stahma both laments her culture’s patriarchy and, at the same time, feels driven to speak up in defence of the Castithan culture that makes them strong. Amanda counters that human culture says the same – but women banded together and rebelled (and burned underwear which confuses Stahma). She urges Stahma to talk to the other Castithan women.
Stahma has a tea and sewing party with 3 other Castithan women. One of which has been assaulted by her husband because she didn’t serve the food he requested when they were out of it; the other women invoke the customs and laws they must obey. Stahma challenges those customs – and argues back against tradition. But the older woman there is fiercely resistant even if the younger would agree – so Stahma poisons them all.
This… seems like a not very productive way of convincing people.
Except that’s not the goal – at a big public meeting of the Castithans, Belatok Kurr is enduring one of their punishments – being slowly stretched by heavy rocks. As Datak tells Stahma, it appears he has been framed for the poisoning (his faked motive is that he killed them because his wife and the women were meeting to discuss women’s liberation). In between almost applauding Stahma for her masterful action, he adds that Stahma could have framed him. Stahma “and yet, I did not”. Which can be taken SO MANY WAYS. He suggests that maybe she still loves him – she goes to place her rock on the pile without answering – she does it quite forcefully. Does Datak look a little… worried there?
At the Arcfall, Nolan remains boss, demanding to take a small number of people in rather than the regiment Niles was going to take. As they walk in, Nolan expresses his contempt for Niles’s bioman bodyguard (Niles gives us the history of why he’s so loyal – he found Churchill, injured, and took him in. He compares his relationship with Churchill to Nolan’s with Irisa), calling them killing machines not people – something Niles considers to be bigotry. Of course all the excess extras are got rid of and it’s Niles and Nolan who head inside.
They move through its massive containers and Nolan realises that Niles was talking bullshit – this isn’t an energy source – it’s a Gulanee (the only Votan we haven’t seen yet) transporter full of containment modules – one of which is empty. Which is when they hear the eerie screech. They run outside to find everyone but the bioman dead – he explains they were burned by their attacker (which he survived being a bioman).
Niles calls his squad – the Gulanee is active and gives us a brief Gulanee overview: Gulanee are creatures of pure energy that get around in containment suits (they can’t exist outside of their suits or canisters). They’re also super-duper-amazingly lethal and everyone need to run away. Of course, Niles is talking to himself – the Gulanee has already found his troops.
When Nolan and Niles arrive at the devastation, Nolan realises that the Gulanee has been trapped for 17 years and doesn’t know the Pale Wars are now over. More arguments follow, Nolan telling Niles he should have bombed the place, Niles countering that the Gulanee were supposed to be dormant, not suited for battle. Personally, I want to know what the E-Rep wanted with a ship load of Gulanee. Nolan thinks their best bet is to make a weapon to pierce the Gulanee’s suit which may kill it. They scavenge things while the Gulanee zaps the remaining guards. Nolan can build something to stun it. But for Nolan to build it, Niles needs to buy time
Niles decides to give his bioman, Churchill, a sharp stick and tells him to stab the Gulanee in the face. Even Churchill considers this strategy rather flawed. He sends Churchill out, promising a treat when they get home, and then closes the door. Nolan points out that Churchill will die – and Niles, clearly upset, tells him to get to work.
Churchill moves on the Gulanee (which looks AWESOME) shooting it (or her, since Niles calls the Gulanee “her”) with his pistol (which doesn’t damage her armour). He slugs it out with the Gulanee which electrocutes him repeatedly and seems to be at least as strong as the Bioman – before she zaps him directly in the brain and casually throws him into a pit – Niles looking on through the secured door.
As they prepare, Nolan tries to comfort Niles that Churchill was a hero – but Niles asks if Nolan would have sent Irisa
The Gulanee breaks through the door and they hide while she heads to the device Nolan built. She zaps it and it rebounds the energy . With her pinned by the energy, Nolan moves to clobber it with a bar – but Niles insists on being the one to smack it’s head until it comes off and leaks purple gas and light particles – presumably the Gulanee outside of her suit.
Niles returns home to find Mercado ready to use his “failure” to throw lots of mud at him back in New York. Mercado intends to throw him out of Defiance and take over himself.
Niles goes to the Need Want to drown his sorrows with Amanda. Nolan and Berlin have a drink and are snarky and… flirty?
Oh no. Oh no no no no. Vetoed! This love quadrangle will not happen!
And, yes, we do get to learn what Mercado’s… special requirements are… dancing? Ok. And yes Berlin and Nolan have sex (WHYYYYYYYYYYY), Deidre and Christie appear in the montage to play with fabrics; and both she and Mercado experiment with white face paint and Castithan clothing. When dressed as a Castithan, Mercado goes to a Votan bar to flirt with… Christie, also dressed as a Casti.
Stahma’s conflict this episode mirrors such a lot of what we discussed on the last podcast – Stahma is challenging the patriarchy of Castithan culture while at the same time facing both her internal respect for her culture and external pressure from her community.
Her methods, though? Are entirely Stahma – in some ways it says a lot about her. While Amanda would build a movement, Stahma isn’t especially interested in gathering support and working to change society so much as she is about empowering herself. I don’t think it’s even entirely a matter of “I’ve got mine, screw you,” so much as her utter confidence in her own abilities as well as never being able to rely on anyone before – all she has ever been able to do is manipulate and plot, never form consensus and alliance#
Datak seems to be gaining respect for her – now is he smart enough to also be afraid of her?
I’ve been waiting to see a Gulanee (according to the wiki and the game they’re very rare compared to other Votans) but never expected them to be this lethal – it kind of begs the question how humanity managed to survive the Pale Wars if this was one of the Votan race. Each one appears capable of killing an army
Niles called the Gulanee “her” - how he knows I don’t know – and since these are beings of pure energy does our concept of gender even apply? It would have been good to explore (of course, the same applies to all the aliens).
Niles and Churchill are interesting. He clearly cares about Churchill and, equally, Churchill is clearly more than the machine Nolan degrades him as – we’ve seen with him and the previous bioman that they are sentient, emotional beings (who have a habit of being too trusting). We see him defending Churchill and asserting just how close they are and he does grieve but at the same time his asking Nolan if he would have sent Irisa out there kind of emphasises that Niles DIDN'T have the same kind of relationship - because there's no way Nolan would do that.
Tommy and Irisa because this is a great big steaming hot mess of Tommy throwing his life away to help her when he has no damn reason. And as for Niles/Amanda/Nolan/Berlin/Tommy/Irissa love THING!? No, just NO. No no no. Someone call Yewl with a chainsaw to deal with this nonsense.
As for Mercado and Christie – I can’t even begin to see where this is going except that it’s probably going to be a hot mess, especially if Castithan find out. I also think it’s a bad idea for any show with aliens to emphasise how their “aliens” are just humans without all that much cosmetic change.