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Defiance 1.04 "A Well-Respected Man" Review: Knowledge is Power

    This week’s episode of Defiance, “A Well Respected Man,” was written by Craig Gore and Tim Walsh and directed by Michael Nankin, who also directed the second episode. Gore and Walsh are relative newcomers, whose only other credits on IMDb are for the short-lived CW show Cult. The script for the most part was tightly written and well-paced. There were some excellent scenes with some powerful moments. There were also a few instances of clunky dialogue. However, there were a few potentially clichéd scenes that were turned on their head, and I’m enjoying getting deeper into the dynamics of the community. The episode featured little in the way of special effects – not what you would expect of a sci-fi series, perhaps. However, the production seems to be spending its budget wisely. The CGI backgrounds are seamless. The drama is grounded in the actors’ performances and realistic sets. The money saved is put to good use on music such as one of Bob Dylan’s latest releases over the final scenes with Amanda revealing their mother’s death to Kenya, Rafe and Quentin in the mine, Datak joining the Council, and Nolan’s chat with Stahma. Once again, the performance of the week has to go to Jaime Murray as Stahma with Tony Curran’s Datak running a close second.
    This week’s episode did see a number of themes running through a few storylines with the primary one being about knowledge and perception. In one of my favorite scenes in the episode, Datak is explaining to Nolan (Grant Bowler) that knowledge is power. Datak is also demonstrating to Nolan that he knows everyone in the Hollows, including all their dirty secrets – it’s how he stays in power. He does use a lovely analogy in describing the threads between people being like the threads in a rug. When they get to Datak’s informant, Nolan sees right through Datak’s subterfuge, proving that he’s not nearly as stupid as Datak thinks he is. The banter between Curran and Bowler is excellent, and sets up yet another pair of actors with amazing chemistry on the show.
    A number of characters are being kept in the dark. Flashbacks reveal that what Kenya (Mia Kirshner) had believed about the death of her mother was a story that Amanda (Julie Benz) had made up to protect her. For her part, Amanda is being kept in the dark about Datak’s illegal gunrunning. Rafe (Graham Greene) explains it was a need to know basis and she didn’t need to know. I’m enjoying watching Amanda slowly simmer towards boiling as people discount her authority. The flashbacks showing how she went bravely back for her sister when her mother abandoned them has me thinking this is not a woman that people want to back up into a corner.
    Amanda isn’t perfect, however, and carries mis-perceptions and shame about her sister. When she’s accosted in the street by a woman whose husband frequents the Need/Want and calls Kenya a slut, Amanda slaps her and declares her sister runs a legitimate business. Yet, Amanda is completely unaware that Kenya calls her prostitutes Night Porters. Stahma is completely comfortable with Datak frequenting the Need/Want and knows more about Kenya than Amanda does. Stahma tells Amanda that Kenya has a rare gift for knowing exactly what people need.
    Rafe has been keeping Quentin (Justin Rain) in the dark about what is at the bottom of the L7 shaft. Quentin misinterprets Rafe’s decision in shutting down the mine as Rafe’s lack of faith in him. The scene in which Greene tells Quentin that he’ll never be Luke but he loves, respects, and admires him and holds a special place in his heart just for him is arguably Greene’s best work to date on the show. The scene is further enhanced by a beautiful shot of Quentin framed by a single pane of the stained glass in the house. As the two become closer emotionally, the scene mirrors this physically as Quentin moves from the doorway to Rafe’s side.
    Rafe ultimately takes Quentin into his confidence about the object he found in Luke’s room that he is convinced got him killed. They travel to the bottom of L7 and find bones, artifacts, and cave paintings – knowledge that will no doubt prove to be important.
    Nolan also recognizes Stahma’s importance in the Tarr family. The scene between Murray and Bowler at the end is terrific. Nolan tells Stahma that he’s had his eye on the wrong snake and identifies her as the dangerous one. For her part, Stahma graciously takes the compliment and tells him he is sweet. After interviewing both Murray and Curran last week, I was paying more attention to their performances. One thing that Murray commented on was her choices on how to play an alien. It’s slightly uncomfortable watching her because her movements and inflections are not quite what you would expect from a human and these were choices that Murray consciously made. She is also very deliberate in her speech, often pausing to think of the right word. This is because she hasn’t had the same experience as Datak in walking about the Hollows, working and interacting with its inhabitants. Stahma will have learned her common tongue through her servants and will have had to use it less often. She is somewhat of an anomaly in a very patriarch society, but she does all of her negotiating behind the scenes. She is like Kenya in her ability to determine what people need, and she has the ability to use that knowledge to her own advantage.
    The title, of course, refers primarily to Datak’s quest for power, standing, and respect. However, Amanda, Nolan, Quentin, and Stahma are also looking for those things. In trying to convince Datak to help look for Kenya, Amanda appeals to his desire for status. She points to his recent actions and how they’ve elevated him in the town’s eyes. She points out that the Bioman, Ulysses, is his and everyone knows it, so if he doesn’t help, everyone will think he’s been a part of the kidnapping. Tony Curran is fabulous in this scene. Datak talks about his hubris in always taking credit for his work. He says it is a personal flaw, but his wife seems to like it. Ultimately, Datak refuses to help in the search for Kenya because they lack respect for him and think they are better than he is. He tells them, they only see him as a wild dog to be kept on a short leash. Datak’s desire for respect and standing is shared by Stahma because the Castithans society is built upon it. When she goes to Amanda, Stahma appeals to the similarities between them. She tells Amanda that both Nolan and Datak are hotheads. She tells Amanda that she can offer Datak respect by appointing him to the vacant Council seat. Stahma is always soft-spoken and makes her requests in a roundabout way.
    The final four scenes are tied together by the overlay of the Dylan song. Kenya and Amanda come to a new understanding and mutual respect. Rafe discovers what’s at the bottom of the L7 shaft, but not its significance. Meanwhile, Datak is taking his seat at Council for the first time. He notices Rafe’s empty chair and looks disappointed. No doubt Datak was looking forward to gloating over his nemesis. Certainly, he takes great pleasure in closing the door in Nolan’s face, thus demonstrating his superiority over the other blunt instrument in town. Stahma is patiently waiting for her husband to finish her business, working on some kind of weaving craft. It reminded me very much of a spider, spinning a web. Nolan demonstrates that he is much more of a blunt instrument by seeing through Stahma’s facade, and realizing that Datak’s quest for respect and standing is very much her own.
    I enjoyed seeing the Bioman again, and I hope that they will “reprogram” him so that we’ll see him again. I found the Blue Devil storyline a bit simplistic and derivative, even down to the kidnapping and draining victims while putting them in a dream world – see any episode about Djinn in Supernatural, but particularly “What Is and What Should Never Be.” It did, however, serve its purpose as a backdrop to the main character-driven plots.
    What did you think of this week’s episode? Is the show starting to find its stride? I remain convinced that the strongest element of the show is its examination of relationships. Let me know your thought in the comments below.

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