Sunday, June 14, 2015

Defiance, Season 3, Episode 1 & 2: The World We Seize. The Last Unicorns.

After a dramatic recap of the last episode we move on to this season… I’m leery about this, Defiance has done it before and it tends to ram a lot into the downtime

7 months later

A giant ship approaches Earth, on board are a father and daughter on an ominous mission – they are transferred to Earth and look for Gulanite. They reach the McCawley mines using their super technology to drill through the caved in tunnels. They find the Votan Arc underground and seem surprised to find it there. Among the lifepods they find Irisa and Noland and the woman frees them (they’re connected by some strange brain tube she cuts because it’s all kinds of nasty). She smells them – then grows some massive fangs (ok, these guys are definitely not Votans – Space vampires!) but her dad stops her chowing down on Nolan’s face. Nolan wakes up – they ask if he speaks Irathient (they’re Irathient?) and they fight – Nolan ends up unconscious.

They – or someone – dumps Irisa and Nolan in the snow. It looks very very very very cold. They head towards the Gateway Arch. They try to recap what happened to them and both confirm that they don’t know what species the aliens were who rescued them. Irisa is afraid to go back as a mass-murderer who destroyed New York and killed Tommy – though Nolan angrily rejects that since she defeated the Arc brain that was really doing the killing – she saved them all.

In Defiance, Amanda is mayor again – and the power has just been cut, including their stasis net. The Gulanite reserves are gone and power and supplies are at a terrible low. It’s all grim and ominous. Amanda is called to the Need Want which she’s also running and where Yewl is gambling and winning and up to something because she is Yewl and the second most awesome person on this show. Amanda’s been called to intervene before Yewl breaks the bank.

More pressing concerns – a gang comes in with guns to rob the place. Amanda and Berlin (the new lawkeeper) take them out. It also gives Amanda time to exposition all that has gone wrong for Defiance’s collapsing economy lately.

Amanda returns Yewl’s winnings and learns that she intends to leave. Amanda protests that this town needs Yewl. Yewl’s response “what this town needs is a sensitively worded obituary” (see, this is why I love Yewl). Without a gulanite mine, the town will die especially without the Stasis Net for protection. She appeals to Yewl that as all the skilled people leave only those with no marketable skills are let behind and desperate. Yewl is duly snarky about their human attempts to appeal to her conscience but it seems to work.

Oklahoma City (500 miles from Defiance)

Datak and Stahma (the most awesome) and Rafe are following Pilar who has kidnapped Alakk, Christie and their grandchild. Stahma makes it clear that if Pilar has harmed any of them she will die and excruciating death. Of course she will also die an excruciating death if she hasn’t harmed them as well. Because Stahma. And yes I am cheering excruciating deaths – because Stahma. They’re also in Votanis Collective territory

Inside, Alak, Christie and Quentin are chained by their feet while Pilar pretends to be friendly. She insists that her whole kidnapping is completely reasonable.

They go back to the roller only to find a Votanis squad has taken it. They quickly rough Rafe up and pretend to take him captive (Rafe actually instigates the plan). They meet General Rahm Tak, known as “the beast”, a Castithan. He scorns Datak as a crime lord but as a lower lira (Castithan caste system) who only married above himself – he respects Stahma. They claim that Rafe is a bounty they’re claiming – but Rahm says they’re going to Defiance. So they can travel with him. Ooops. There he intends to slaughter all the humans and burn the place down. Also oops.

A long distance Votanis messenger flare signals to them that Defiance’s stasis net is down and the town is vulnerable. Rahm is so very enthusiastic about tearing Defiance down while he apparently dines on human ears.

They pass the house where Pilar has her little kidnapped family – though Pilar and Alakk are out checking traps. That leaves Christie to hide with the baby (the Votanis collective hates mixed-species babies. I also want to know how human genetics can combine with a completely alien species which would be pretty remarkable if it even had DNA but that’s just me) and Quentin to talk nice to Rahm Tak. Quentin claims to be on Rahm’s side – and Rahm shoots him in the head. Rafe screams in rage and grief, Rahm says “oops”.  Datak offers Rafe understanding and comfort even as he picks the lock on Rafe’s cuffs. He runs around killing guards when Stahma and Datak are called to Rahm’s side

Pilar and Alak walk with baby Luke, Pilar blaming everything on Stahma and Datak. She finds a couple of humans and kills them for supplies much to Alak’s shock. He doesn’t buy into Pilar’s excuses or her willing to kill anyone for her own means. She describes her history after she tried to poison her children, how she was abused in a monastery to cure her and how that has led to her own current world view.

That night she flees with the baby. When Alak tries to follow, he is picked up…

Rahm begins to suspect Stahma and Datak of shenanigans even as Christie is found. Rafe charges through killing guards and wounding Rahm – but he himself his shot repeatedly when he reaches for Christie. As her father falls, dying, Christie angrily curses them in Casti. Rahm suspects Stahma of teaching Christie their language and curses and demands Stahma kill Christie – he then puts a gun to Datak’s head and demands she choose, Christie or Datak. Stahma cuts Christie’s throat as she stands and declares herself unafraid. Outside, Alak sees and only Pilar stops him crying out. Stahma remains collected in the face of the death, albeit visibly struggling. Only the baby is left behind for Alakk to find among the bodies of their loved ones. Rafe holds only to life for a brief devastating moment with Pilar and his grandson and Alak he tells Alak to forget this day and love that baby.

Datak eats with Rahm trying to figure out how he intends to take Defiance with such a small army –and learns they have a weapon. Rahm is a fan of human culture – but views it as something the Votans are entitled to, another asset to raid and exploit. Stahma is forced to serve them, as Datak puts it “the men are talking.” Rahm intends to use Datak as a saboteur – and keep Stahma captive to ensure his obedience.

Rather than be split up, Datak tries to make a weapon, outraged at how Rafe – their human – was killed. Stahma, similarly furious over Christie’s death, demands he makes her a weapon too. They got to kill Rahm – and he is impressed by their ingenuity as a team. He agrees to send them both to Defiance – because now he has Alak as leverage.

Back outside of Defiance, Nolan and Irisa also see the flare – and sneak up on the spies. They kill one and the other tries to talk Irisa down, claiming a book was written about her. Irisa, trembling and traumatised can’t bring herself to pull the trigger and Nolan has to rescue her.

They go to Defiance where they notice the missing E-Rep but don’t entirely celebrate as they realise it’s the E-Rep that can stop the Votanis Collective invading. Nolan goes to see Amanda and they have a slight surreal reunion. He tells her about the Votanis on the way and she tells him how they have no power, few weapons and are generally screwed. She also tells him the mines are caved in by a rock they can’t penetrate – though Nolan points out he and Irisa got out. If they can find the purple skinned aliens they can find a way back in

 Irisa waits outside since she Amanda tried to shoot her last time – and someone comes to her with a book to sign. That’s two people remarking on the book – it’s called the “Amazing Goddess of the Badlands” and she’s hailed as saving the world.

The man is a deputy – and Berlin sends him on his way and points a gun at her head. Not everyone is buying into the saviour meme it seems. She cuffs Irisa then brutally beats her. Amanda and Nolan arrive and she screams about Irisa killing Tommy while Nolan, again, argues Irisa’s innocence.

Nolan, Irisa and Amanda go to the mines where they find shiny new ominous tech. Nolan identifies the tech as Indogene (he makes a comment about the squatters being from Irisa’s neck of the woods to which she snarks back “I’m from Denver”). They encounter some of the techs they identify as terraformers and Amanda is stunned. They duly leave her behind to go and see the massive, shiny mining operation.

Leaving her behind means the female alien finds her and knows they have an invader. She goes to confront Nolan and Irisa she attacks and easily beats them both even when Irisa uses shiny sparky thing – Amanda arrives to shoot the woman twice. That works. They then have to get the woman she shot to as doctor.

To Yewll, who is terrified when she sees the woman and tries to leave, calling her “Enchanter, unholy taker.”  (I don’t follow that, Irathient are atheistic, do they have holy and unholy?). She would be happy to let her die but Nolan and Amanda insist – so she insists that the woman be chained. Yewl calls her a predator, one evolved to hunt and a cannibal, an early Votan race that predates the rest and used to rule them all: Omec. Their Arcs were supposed to have not worked. The Omec wakes up and Yewl pulls back, visible terrified of her. Yewl tells Amanda to kill both the Omecs
Instead Nolan tries to befriend her though she doesn’t speak English or Casti. Her name is Kindzi.

Amanda goes to ask a Casti friend of hers about the Omec and he describes them as devils, enchanters, dark gods. They’re not technically cannibals because they don’t eat their own – they ate other Votans. When their planet came close to the other Votan planets they would raid and would harvest thousands to enslave and/or eat. Though his son doesn’t think they even existed.

Underscoring his point, the other Omec walks through town and into the Need Want, the crowds scattering in terror as he walks through. He speaks English and demands his daughter. Amanda and Nolan drink with him in a deserted bar, he introduces himself (reluctantly) as T’evgin (his naming conventions also reveal he has a ship). He describes how he saved them from the pods. He is harvesting Gulanite to repair his ship so he can then return to space and look for the rest of his people. He has a temper tantrum when Amanda proposes trade but Amanda and Nolan pull guns and Amanda waits until the drama is over with a glorious calm. She’s effectively using Kindzi as a hostage so T’evgin will use his techmnology and share the Gulanite he harvests

In the prison, Kindzi is a noisy hostage, Berlin is still no fan of Irissa’s and she gets some more fans prasing her amazing mass killing skills. The curious kids stupidly poke a metal pipe through the bars of the cage – and one of the kids ends up dead. Before Kindiz rips open her prison with her bare hands. Ooooookay then.

They examine the body and Yewl considers whether it’s inconsiderate to say “I told you so”. T’evgin hits her for her snark – and a gathering crowd wants to kill him.

The mob finds the injured Kindzi, attacks her and prepares to hang her before Nolan stops them, then stops T’evgin rampaging into the crowd. He roars – the Omec have very impressive roars

To the doctor’s office and he needs Yewl – not her medical expertise, but her skin. Indogene (a manufactured race – I wonder if that’s meant literally or the way they cybernetically enhance themselves) have skin that he can easily use to patch wounds. If he doesn’t get his skin (which Yewll will recover from) then there will be no Gulanite deal.

Amanda tells Nolan to grab Yewll – and he and Irisa capture her and knock her unconscious then slice off her skin while Yewl screams. T’evgin uses the skin to heal Kindzi. That night he tells a newly conscious Kindzi that they need to keep the town of Defiance onside, they’re too badly out numbered and their entire species faces extinction. OF course, they also have a ship full of sleeping people who will conquer the planet when the ship is repaired

He agrees to Amanda’s deal for the Gulanite. But the father of the dead Casti child snipes at them when they try to leave. Irisa goes to him to talk him down, peacefully and drawing on her own pain at being a killer – but Nolan shoots him in the back. Irisa is horrified, she had a peaceful method. Nolan says no-one forced the man to shoot at innocent people, Irisa mocks the word “innocent.” After all, no-one he shot at was innocent.

Power returns to Defiance.

Ok… that was… unexpected. The entire McCauley family is now dead? Rafe, Quentin, Christie? That was harsh. That was devastating. There was a lot of emotion there and left me both shocked and terribly sad – which is impressive because I didn’t overly care much about the McCauley’s.

I am torn, because I both love Yewl and want her to stay forever and think that, after the shit Amanda and Nolan just pulled, she needs to take her money and get out of town so fast that she leaves a blazing trail behind her.

Rahm is an enemy of Stahma. He is DOOOMED. Also interesting is the interactions between the Castithans – in particularly related to both class and gender. Their society is grossly misogynist, and Stahma is forced to play waitress to them and keep silent. At the same time it’s very classist – with Stahma being accounted more respect than Datak because of her caste.

Now this is the first episode of a new season and, as is my habit, I like to wait a few episodes before unleashing – but the death of the McCaulys, a family of Native Americans, by a man talking about Manifest Destiny? Nope – this is way too appropriative and just outrageously out of line – which follows a lot of appropriative plot lines with things like the McCauly’s taking Native Irathient land… this kind of appropriation is far too common with this show. It also means that nearly all of the POC in this show have been slaughtered – Defiance is going to have to do a lot to pull this back

I’d be interested in Irisa’s storyline, her dealing with the huge guilt of what she did last season and what she was – but it also looks like another season of Irisa being fragile and vulnerable and Nolan being all reassuring and comforting.