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Defiance 1.07 "Goodbye Blue Skys" Review: Stormy Weather

    This week’s episode of Defiance, “Goodbye Blue Sky”, was written by Anupam Nigam and Amanda Alpert Muscat and directed by Andy Wolk. Once again, the drama focused on “human” interactions rather than action or relying on big, flashy special effects. I’m okay with that, and I’m really starting to enjoy getting to know these characters. We did get to see what razor rain is, however. I thought this episode was particularly well-written, in that it takes the theme of cultural misunderstanding and weaves it throughout a number of storylines.
    Is it just me, or is Fionnula Flanagan (Nicky) incredibly creepy? I’m not sure whether it’s that she just does the evil, creepy so well or whether it’s the contrast and the speed at which she goes from being the soft-spoken, slightly vague and grandmotherly to manipulative, murderous bitch. The end result is the same. Her scenes with Graham Greene (Rafe) are particularly good. Rafe knows her and knows what she’s capable of. On the other hand, she seems to know something about the death of his wife that she can hold over him. I love how this shared past in which both Nicky and Rafe were obviously forced to do things that were sketchy at best is revealed to us through their interactions in the present. It helps to build a history of how difficult life must have been during the Pale Wars without providing a lot of exposition. I’m looking forward to having a lot more of that backstory filled in. While Nicky is able to manipulate Rafe into confessing to having killed Birch, thus actually implicating Quentin, he is clearly up to the task of standing up to her. Quentin, on the other hand, definitely seems like the weak link at this point. I love seeing Greene get some scenes to dig his teeth into. I’m worried, however, as now we have both the Tarrs and Nicky gunning for him. It’s possible we’re leading up to another murder mystery.
    Meanwhile, young love is not faring very smoothly. Christie (Nicole Munoz) is freaking out over a Castithan bathing ritual which will have her having to bath with ALL of the Tarrs - naked. Alak (Jesse Rath) does not want to stand up to his parents. His reluctance to tell Christie that they all have to be naked is a good indication that he knows the ritual is going to make her very uncomfortable. He tries to blame it on humans being too hung up about their bodies, but he clearly understands just how uncomfortable this makes her. Ultimately, he promises to speak to his parents. This is a nice illustration that it’s much more likely for the younger generation to have an understanding of and tolerance for others  Alak is becoming a much more interesting character. Initially, he seemed to be nothing more than a bit of a punk – perhaps, following in his father’s footsteps. However, his relationship with Christie helps to soften that portrayal, and the added dimension of his running the radio station takes his characterization further. He’s performing an important function for the community by playing music and alerting the population to things like razor rain. While he has respect for the mayor, he also wants autonomy – at least in so far as the music he plays. His interest in music is yet another interesting layer and an indication of his curiosity about humans.
    The episode centers around Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) and the other Irathients, particularly Sukar (Noah Danby). I was very sad to lose Sukar – at least for now. I’m still loving the dynamic between Nolan (Grant Bowler) and Irisa. It’s great to watch their characters try to understand each other, and in particular, Nolan’s attempts to both give Irisa space and still protect her. Both Bowler and Leonidas keep delivering subtle and nuanced performances. Once again, I have to give a shout out to Leonidas, Sukar, Doc Yewll (Trenna Keating) for being able to convey their emotions so clearly even through the prosthetics. Keating, in particular, does a great job clearly conveying annoyance with little more than her voice.
    This episode provides some really interesting insight into the differences between Votan culture. We learn a lot about the Irathient funeral ritual – the sinking ceremony. Theirs is a very heavily spiritual existence. The Priestess immediately wants to see Sukar’s seeming return from the dead as a curse, but the ritual itself speaks of a strong link to the land and environment. Sukar’s nickname of “little Wolf” for Irisa speaks to a bond with nature. It also speaks to her visions which may be like a wolf or other animal’s instincts. When Yewll explains the very scientific reason for Sukar’s actions – that he’s been infected with millions of nanytes – it highlights the difference between the Irathients and the Indogene. She immediately looked for a scientific explanation while the Irathients had all assumed a spiritual one. At least with the nanytes being dormant, it’s possible Sukar will return. I found it interesting that both Yewll and Nolan wanted to let Sukar simply die while Irisa and the rest of the Irathients, who agree to look after him, are determined not to play God.
    Perhaps the most interesting glimpse we get into culture differences in the episode occur between Kenya (Mia Kirshner) and Stahma (Jaime Murray). While I was thrilled to have more Stahma, I have to admit that I missed Tony Curran’s Datak. Stahma shows up at the Need/Want to hire Kenya to prepare Alak for his human bride. Kenya’s first assumption is that Stahma is there to collect Datak’s money. It wasn’t completely clear what the money was for though it’s certainly implied that it’s a kickback of some kind, likely ‘protection.’ What is clear is that Stahma doesn’t want to have any knowledge of her husband’s business and certainly has no intention of interfering in it in any way. Murray’s performance in this episode is simply brilliant. She brings both a strength and a vulnerability to the role. One easily gets the sense that the role of a Castithan woman is far from easy. I did find it curious that Kenya would so easily misunderstand and then insult Stahma. Kenya’s job, after all is pleasing her customers, and it seems unlikely that she wouldn’t have known that causing Stahma to feel like a fool would have been an insult. Given Stahma’s discomfort in appearing in the Need/Want it is possible that few if any Castithan women frequent it – though we have seen that Kenya even has a few in her employ. One could still attribute the mistake to her not knowing many higher caste Castithans. Kenya is able to provide valuable insight into humans for Stahma – such as the fact that Christie is never going to discuss her sex life with her father.
    Regardless, Kenya’s interactions with Stahma, provide us with a lot more insight and information about Stahma. We see that she feels somewhat trapped and that she was a sort of actor/poet/artist on her own world. Of course, those skills can also be helpful in portraying a picture to others. Kenya is obviously very good at her job – providing comfort and a safe outlet for her patrons. It was interesting to hear Stahma refer to Alak AND Datak as “her boys” – as if both are her children. It’s an interesting characterization and speaks to her relationship with Datak in particular. No doubt that feeling of ‘mothering’ him comes from guiding him in a higher position than his social standing would ordinarily afford him. While Kenya can’t get Stahma to perform poetry for her, she also offers her the creative outlet of dancing with her. At this point I felt fairly strongly that Kenya was falling under the spell of Stahma. It felt like their having sex was both a creative outlet for Stahma and a mutual attraction. I’m curious as to whether Kenya charged her... Stahma’s fear should Datak find out about it added another layer to the hierarchy and expectations of Castithan society as well.
    I really enjoyed the peeling away of more layers on the show this week. The episode did a good job in illustrating that the tensions don’t just occur between human and Votans – though it’s understandable that those relationships pose the most opportunity for misunderstanding. The relationship between the different races of Votan, of course, go back even further than that of Votans and humans. What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below.

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