Saturday, August 2, 2014

Defiance, Season 2, Episode 7: If You Could See Her Through My Eyes

Christie still has a patch of make up from her little adventure last episode and it’s noticed by one of the Tar servants, Jalina, who nicely agrees to keep it a secret. She has to go to her next job serving the family – having sex with Datak. She decides to repeatedly say his name during sex which he finds off-putting, it’s almost like she thinks he’s an ego-maniac.

We can conclude from this that Jalina is a very observant woman. And he’s much rather chant Stahma’s name which is… very very creepy.

The next morning Datak finds Jalina’s eye-less corpse propping open his door. Wow, they gave her a name and killed her within 10 seconds. He calls in Yewl who explains she was attacked and dumped in a rubbish bin but survived long enough to crawl to Datak’s door. Datak actually feels guilty that he was too drunk to hear her call for help. Datak decides to swear revenge and also adds how devoted he was to her since she had been sworn to the family as a child. Yewl, being Yewl and awesome, isn’t impressed and thinks Datak should be more worried about Nolan suspecting him of murder (Yewl nicely dodges the question of whether she thinks he did it or not).

Yewl also informs Datak there are two kinds of friends in this world: “those who help you hide a dead whore. And me.” When he protests that he can’t do it alone she responds “you’re a professional criminal. I have faith.” She leaves

Yewl always has the best lines.

Alas, we have to leave the supreme awesomeness that is Yewl and go to Irisa who, in between sketching, cuts her arm and has another vision/memory/drug trip. Except she doesn’t see anything interesting so it’s more a reminder that she insta heals and sees things while doing so. She’s joined by Rynn who is worried about Sukar going missing throwing in some Irzu references. Irisa wants no part in that; but Rynn does recognise the guy she’s been sketching

She takes Irisa to see him and introduces an Irathient called Kai who looks exactly like the man from her vision. He’s also a little creeped out by Irisa’s odd staring (Rynn explains Irisa is touched by Irzu. Or mentally ill). While Irisa freaks out the poor Irathient lawyer, Stahma is also in the market, grabbing Nolan to report Jalina’s absence. Nolan has seen Irisa and is distracted – he promises to investigate. But his main worry is that Irisa has done to Jalina what she has done to Bertie – also lots and lots of frustration over Irisa’s very weird secrets.

Irisa doesn’t share.

To the arch where Christie has brought Deirdre and Alak lunch and Alak spots the… gem? Flower? Thing? That Marcado gave Christie. Apparently it’s a Castithan courtship gem, hand crafted on Casti, rare and not for sale (well, Mercado found one). Christie maintains that she bought it and Alak pouts and storms off. Christie feels all guilty for lying and when Deidre tries to spin it (she’s did the costume to try and understand Alak) Christie admits to enjoying the power of it. Deidre is all about reinventing yourself and defining yourself or, as she puts it, someone else does it for you. Deidre gives Christie her story – her mother was a prostitute who sold her when she was 13: she killed the man who bought her and ran, reinvented herself and got a job at the Need Want as “high class.” Now she has a job as a DJ and she hopes to marry a rich husband, like Christie. She says she is her own invention – and anyone can be anything if they want it enough

Datak has found someone to help – Rafe (who is only in it for the weapons Datak promised). As they carry the body, Datak regales him with what a wonderful and special person Jalina was (mixed in with the fact she was a slave). They drop her body for the hellbugs to eat – and while Rafe doesn’t like Datak, since he’s family he offers to help find who killed Jalina. They gather the gang to help with their epic revenge –though the gang makes it clear Datak is dead to them; they’re there for Stahma and Alak. Datak gets huffy but Stahma puts her foot down – this is for Jalina, not rivalry.

Amanda drops in on Mercado to figure out while Niles got banished since she thinks she’s so perfect for the job. He’s very cagey about his reasons but also seems willing to offer Amanda the job, so long as she’s a good puppet. Alas, Amanda is too loyal to Niles for… reasons.

Back in town Datak tells Stahma about Jalina and asks if she did it – Stahma is shocked at the suggestion since she loved Jalina too. They both seem genuinely upset. After a brief moment of Stahma considering having Datak being sent back to Camp Reverie, Datak points out she could have done it but didn’t – so they’ll keep the lawkeeper out of it and handle it as a family

At the top of the arch, Deidre continues her odd game – remarking that Alak calls her by her real name, the only one who does – and  tells Alak about Christie. He goes to the club and finds Christie and Mercado, in full costume, dancing. Alak is outraged and offended (and asks if she’d like it if he painted his face human pink which is rather ludicrous since Christie isn’t pink). She argues she’s doing this for him to be beautiful and strong like Stahma – Alak certainly doesn’t want his wife to be like his mother! She brings up Alak running his father’s business and Skevur’s death and refuses to leave with him – he goes without her.

When she’s alone, Mercado comes up to explain all about why he thinks Castithan are superior, conquering, dominant race and so much better than humans. He puts his presence there as one of humanity’s great strengths – humans are curious, they want to be other, to experience other. They dance, and Christie says to call her Stahma

Yewl gets a visit from a Professor Lambert, the school teacher, looking for eye drops. Being Yewl she yanks off his sunglasses and sees he has Castithan eyes. He claims contact lenses and when she doesn’t believe him, he says they’re black market (from an actual dead Castithan) and it’s a kink which he hopes will dismiss the issue. She gives him the drops – then calls Datak.

Rafe and Datak break into Lambert’s house, find a white wig and Lambert with Casti eyes – and a symbol for what Rafe calls “Votan crossdressers”. Lambert gives up the doctor who provides him with the corneas

Irisa goes to harass Kai some more before he gets on the bus – but Rynn  is missing (cut to creepy guy dragging Rynn’s unconscious body away). They call Nolan and he goes investigating while Kai babbles away (which he acknowledges he does when nervous) about being brought up in a kibbutz. And he’s still unsettled by Irisa’s insistence that they have a connection. Nolan finds signs of a struggle and that Rynn was drugged.

Rynn is strapped to a chair by a doctor planning to remove her corneas.

Nolan and Irisa go to see Yewl who confirms from the drug they need to find a doctor, preferably  a surgeon. Nolan tries to question Yewl. Well, it’s amusing but there’s no way that was going to work – she does give him a list of 5 other doctors in Defiance.

Nolan and Irisa charge into the doctor’s office before he manages to remove Rynn’s second eye – but in the struggle Irisa is stabbed with a pair of scissors. The doctor manages to escape – and runs into Datak and Rafe. He justifies himself as needing the money – his daughter as Polio and with Yewl back out of prison he lost most of his patients. Rafe encourages Datak to be merciful, but Datak says “I promised the wife” and puts out the doctor’s eyes. After Irisa encourages Nolan to leave, he catches up. Rafe calls it a “citizen’s arrest” and there was an “accident”.

Nolan’s more distracted by the fact that Irisa is covered in blood – but has no wound.

Alak goes to the Need Want and gets very close and personal with Deidre who is very sympathetic about the terrible things Christie is doing. They go upstairs to have sex – and she refuses his money, she wants to be “his princess”.

Yewl treats Rynn, but can’t resort her eye. Kai leaves and Irisa catches him, grabs his hand and kisses him – a vision hits. They’re on the ship and she says it’s time to seize it. They destroy the current… odd pilots and then take over, kissing each other as they do. They return to the present and it’s apparent Kai shared the vision. He gets on the bus (well, landship).

Time for the closing montage (music provided by Mercado), Jalina’s funeral. Nolan tackles Irisa and cuts her with a knife – watching the wound close. Afterwards they hold each other, Irisa having told him the truth and that Irzu threatened to kill him. Alak and Deidre have sex.

Christie and her Castithan garb was something I was wary about last episode – but waited because it was brief and I didn’t know what would come of it. Well…

Deidre’s message of empowerment and self-definition works very well within her context. Deidre has redefined herself, chosen her own path and not allowed assumptions and her beginnings to define her. Well, in theory. The flip side is her own personal narrative of success is very much defined by finding a successful man rather than recognising her own career path beyond finding a wealthy husband – so there’s a lot to be chewed over on how much Deidre’s self-definition is still shaped by how others define her and how she has been defined before. There’s a whole debate there about identifying and defining oneself but still being caught within the parameters of your society and context. Deidre can re-invent herself as a “high class” sex worker rather than travelling between military bases or being a sex slave but even with a career as a DJ she is still looking for the “Pretty Woman” happy ending. Especially since all of that may have just been a ploy because she’s set on Christie’s husband – which completely upturns the whole thing into her conniving manipulation

This sounds very empowering and a very useful message, but it’s vague and lacks nuance. While Christie can and should define herself rather than allowing others to define her – there’s also a level of appropriation in defining oneself as part of a culture and a people to which you are not. At this point, the wording of “self empowerment” transforms into selfish entitlement – to define herself she is free to take from another culture, play with the important trappings of that culture without understanding them and generally indulge herself at the expense of the culture she imitates. Her claim of wanting to understand Castithan is so blatantly challenged by the fact she didn’t even know what the gift she accepted was – she was going through the motions, playing a game but not actually understanding what any of it meant. Ultimately, it was about her enjoyment not education.

On top of this we have the fact that the Castithans are presented as a minority (if not exactly marginalised) culture in Defiance, their ways are presented as exotic and strange and often come into conflict with the humans. This adds an extra layer of problematic elements to Christie’s behaviour, treating the culture as an amusement ground for her

Of course, these have direct real world implications. POC and LGBT communities have had non-members play-act to “learn” about them (which is othering, invasive and shows the gross lengths people will go to rather than talk to an listen to minorities). There’s obvious parallels with Blackface and there are vast issues of cultural appropriation – of language, mannerisms, art, religion and culture that are pervasive problems. While this could be an opportunity to explore those issues, it didn’t. It became just a way for Alak and Christie to argue – and Christie quickly turning the argument away from what she was doing to what Alak was doing. There wasn’t really even an attempt to address the issue

This is one of the many problems of appropriation – rarely, if ever, are the actual issues properly addressed or challenged – not only was there no real challenge of what Christie was doing but “it’s a kink” was used repeatedly as a defence rather than pointing out that fetishizing another culture is not ok. Or there’s Mercado’s curiosity – because this is another excuse many people make for othering, prying and generally boundary stomping with marginalised people and other cultures – there being “curious” somehow justifies the violation – again, it’s a level of arrogant entitlement, not a defence.

Also, “Casti transvestite”? “Votan crossdressers.” really?

Jalina's death is interesting and fraught - Stahma and Datak clearly love her and cared for her - but she was still a slave.