Sunday, August 30, 2015

Defiance, Season 3, Episode 13: Upon the March we Fittest Die

Kindzi is about to eat the tasty tasty human baby – Stahma and Alak powerless to stop her. Stahma is reduced to begging and bargaining – with nothing to bargain. She even offers to be Kindzi’s slave if she spare Luke.

Datak appears and stabs his spike into Kindzi’s head, impaling her to the wall and then bending it so she’s stuck there. The Tar family gets away, and Alak praises his mother for saving Luke by keeping Kindzi talking. Stahma leaps on the chance to say she did what Christie did but Alak draws a line. Too soon Stahma (but nice try).

Kindzi returns to her Omec and is miffed that there are no new Omec landing – stopped by one of her minions because they’re out of captive food to give them. Also because he wants to discuss things “as a group” (which seems to be a subtle way of not respecting her Athoritay!). He’s upset that there’s only 7 of them left. Kindzi decides a reasonable response is to kill the dissenter and demand the others eat him. Behold diplomacy. As a bonus, it seems outside of funerals, eating another Omec is naughty!bad!wrong! She demands they do it anyway.

At the police station the gang gathers to discuss their next move while eating – basically realising that the Omec are weak before they’ve fed and they now have no ready supply of food. Strategy is interrupted by Datak, carrying a gun, looking for Yewl who he considers a collaborator. He does take their reassurances that she’s back on their team and Stahma and Alak joins their planning meeting

Which involves blowing up the Omec ship. Nolan “how do you know so much about Omec ships” Yewl “it’s entirely possible I’ve done this before” (Yewl is never not awesome – and this is a reminder that the Omec are a near extinct species because of the Indogene doing this before). Nolan and Amanda question Yewl – but Yewl isn’t having it: they trust her, they follow her, or they lose their last chance. (This is worrisome because Yewl may be setting up a suicide mission for herself and the volunteers).

The volunteers include Nolan, Amanda and Datak, despite Stahma’s vociferous objection.

While discussing this, Irisa is being super sweet with Luke and Alak notices. Afterwards he awkwardly invites Irisa to spend more time with Luke after the whole war thing is over. I smell the beginnings of a romance (I have to give a nod to Renee she totally called this one)

Amanda makes a speech to the entire town to warn them of the Omec invading, eating them all and destroying the planet. She also accepts responsibility for inviting them in in the first place.

She and Berlin leave and hear an Omec raiding party – they rescue hostages, kill Omec and Amanda gets slashed in the process. To Yewl for medical intervention with her AWESOME bedside manner. Amanda is concerned about the ship not being destroyed with Yewl in Defiance healing the injured from Omec attacks: there’s no point in saving individual lives if they don’t stop the Omec. Again, Amanda’s ruthless dedication to Defiance really shines through. She tells them to go and Nolan and Amanda have romantic goodbye – though Nolan points out the VC wants to kill him still.

Without Amanda going on the mission, Irisa decides she’s going to take her place. Nolan objects, she stomps all over that. Nolan, Yewl, Irisa and Datak enter old St. Louis and use the tech there to reach the Omec ship.

Kindzi sees the launch.

On the ship, Irisa sees that the Omec also have children in the sleeper pods whih suddenly worries her, though Datak has no such doubts – Omec children would eat their kids if given the chance.

Yewl interfaces with the ship – a clearly unpleasant experience which she drives on with despite Datak’s objection. She overcomes the ship’s objections and is in, guiding Nolan and arguing with the computer to try and stop it killing Nolan, involving more new connections to the computer

Irisa sees the silver Indogene blood pouring from the connection and realises Yewl won’t survive this – this was always a suicide mission for her. She says “an artificial person is a tolerable loss” and Datak says that she’s a real person with a soul and honour. He thanks her, using her first name, Mae, as the last connection goes into her brain.

Back in old St Louis, Kindzi launches herself to the ship. She finds Nolan as he’s completing the sabotage of the ship. They fight (numerous camera angles show us a kind of whirly blade where I’m sure Kindzi will be dropped in the near future because foreshadowing). Kindzi wins of course while Nolan tries to convince Kindzi her dad was a good man who wouldn’t want this…

Until she pins him near those whirling blades – Nolan manages to stab her in the head and throw her into them. No surprise there. Nolan tases the engines back into action and tells everyone to evacuate before the ship is destroyed.

But Irisa won’t leave – the ship is full of intelligent people, she can’t let this happen. Nolan protests that the Omec are monsters – but Irisa tells him that so was he once, as was she. They can save the Omec. Direct hit Irisa.

They ask Yewl if they can stop the explosion. Yewl is not amused. They only solution is to vent all the power that’s about to blow up the ship into propulsion – so they will launch to parts unknown, unable to find Earth again. Nolan agrees with that: find a planet for the Omec far from Earth.

Irisa hugs Nolan – and he tases her with the Omec weapon, leaving her unable to move. He puts her on a pod and sends her back to Earth after a beautiful goodbye.

Nolan unplugs Yewl’s head and Nolan takes the captain’s chair and they launch to parts unknown (with Yewl threatening to vent Nolan out the airlock, of course). The ship launches from Earth with Irisa watching on the ground, laughing and crying.

Back in Defiance, Samir and Stahma treat Amanda – Amanda still loathing Stahma, making it clear nothing Stahma does will make up for her crimes. Stahma, in turn, is frustrated that “the woman she admires above all others” hates her. She talks about how Amanda tends to inspire others and how she failed to meet those aspirations and Amanda hits a truth – Stahma isn’t frustrated with Amanda, she’s frustrated with herself.

In a semi-dream state, the drugged Amanda sees and hears Omec – she wakes to the sound of battle – and even though she’s bleeding badly, she takes a ghun and staggers out to where the Omec are still gathering hostages. She shoots the three Omec and kills them (what, seriously, no-one else could fight?) She collapses and Stahma catches her.

Six weeks later everyone gathers to honour Nolan – fixing the Arch with light to commemorate him. Irisa gives us a closing voiceover, and her belief Nolan is having massive adventures. Irisa is the new Lawkeeper and she praises Nolan as a father

Ok dare I say spin-off? Nolan and Yewl in the stars, spreading sarcasm and snark across the galaxy?

So ends a new season of Defiance and generally I liked it – which is no surprise, I generally like Defiance. I think it has an excellent world setting and there has been some real effort to develop the cultures of the various alien races – even, to some degree, the new Omec. There has been a lot of various nice world building very carefully and artfully presented so as not to be clumsy info dumps or convoluted. It has worked extremely well

I also really love the characters – and so many of these have shown some genuine growth. Irisa particularly, though this season started out with another heavy dollop of Irisa being all tortured AGAIN, there has been a lot of growth from there, a lot of very mature development of her relationship with Nolan and a lot of her asserting her own personhood and identity and moving out from under Nolan’s shadow. There has also been some decent call backs to Nolan’s own monstrousness, but in general I don’t think his growth has worked well so much as a backdrop for Irisa’s.

Amanda had some very nice underpinning her – her steely determination to see Defiance – and her vision of Defiance – flourish has been so powerful. She is an amazing an rather terrifying character: iron hard, ruthless and sometimes even cruel to people (her deriding Berlin for cowardice for example) and her vision for Defiance does mean her dismissing others who don’t necessarily share it (everyone warned her about the Omec being a threat, something she refused to heed despite their greater experience and knowledge). But her overriding passion for Defiance really came through well.

Stahma and Datak’s development… honestly part of me wants to scream and reject Stahma’s lesser role or the way this entire season seems designed to bring her down and weaken her. But, at the same time, Staham and Datak keep bouncing back, keeping finding a way, keep finding a loop hole which defines the two of them so well. But, while Datak, has managed to carve his way through the whole story, Stahma has largely been a victim. She has manipulated T’evgin, but ultimately came to nothing. She has cowered and hid and even opposed the ending venture. Datak manages to stand tall this season, while Stahma was dragged down, a direct contrast to the previous seasons. Datak winning through even counters the idea that this is natural consequences of their actions – because Datak’s hands are just as blood stained. On top of this Stahma was sex-shamed and derided from every angle, constantly demeaned for using the sexuality that her culture limits as her ownly source of power. My only hope is that Stahma’s collapse this season is something of cleansing, with her standing tall and rising up again next season alongside Amanda.

We also had some other shakiness, especially in relation to any minorities.

First of all, the show’s only prominent POC, the McCauleys, were all slaughtered at the very beginning. Following Tommy’s death last season, we had a complete extinction of portrayed POC characters, all sacrificed and lost. Even then, their deaths become more of a source of conflict between Alak and his parents than a major element of the plot or world building of Defiance; outside of the Tar family, I don’t think these deaths even registered.

The only recurring portrayed POC after that was Samir – who has been rescued, been a tiny character and now is thoroughly part of the Nolan fanboy club. He’s hardly anything close to a main character

There are other POC actors on Defiance but they’re all aliens – and wearing make up that covers – the Omec and Alak.

The Omec present another problem in that we have the only alien race entirely portrayed by Black people, with make up that highlights dark-skin and they’re savage, predatory cannibals that hunt, rape and prey on other species ESPECIALLY the oh-so-very-white Castithan. We have the predatory dark skinned savage raping cannibals hunting, raping and eating their civilised, pale skinned victims. It’s not a subtle trope here.

Last season also revealed a lot of the female characters to be bisexual or lesbians. It wasn’t always a perfect portrayal, but it was surprising in terms of sheer quantity and excellent of some of these characters. This season… not so much. Stahma’s main storylines are her sex lives with two men, with no nods back to her bisexuality. Kenya is long dead. Yewl does overtly mention being a lesbian but, like past seasons, is without any relationships or partners, she also spent most of this season as a helpless slave and may now be removed from the show entirely. Other close hints we have to bisexuality are dubious – the Omec will rape and eat people of either gender (and who you will rape is not an indication of sexuality though I suspect it is meant to be read as such) and possibly Niles‘s depraved stalking of Amanda may have been related to his possibly sexual obsession with her husband. This does not come close to a positive portrayal. While we’ve had multiple depictions of opposite-sex romance this season, LGBT inclusion has been much rarer, often implied and hints at the extremely problematic.

There are definitely some things to step up in Defiance – I just hope a season 4 is on the cards so they can do that.