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Defiance 1.11 "Past is Prologue" Review: Cards on the Table

    This week’s episode of Defiance, “Past is Prologue,” was written by Michael Taylor and directed by Michael Nankin. This will, no doubt, be the last episode written by Executive Producer Taylor as he is exiting after this season. Based on this episode, he will be missed. Lots of intrigue this week and this brings us to the last episode of the first season next week.
    The episode begins with Nicky’s (Fionnula Flanagan) wake, and it suddenly occurred to me watching Amanda (Julie Benz), Nolan (Grant Bowler), and Rafe (Graham Greene) gathered at the bar that Rafe had an affair with Nicky – so he slept with an Indongene! Of course, in the next scene, we see Tommy (Dewshane Williams) and Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) making love, and we know that both Datak (Tony Curran) and Stahma (Jamie Murray) have slept with Kenya (Mia Kirshner). It makes things both easier and more complicated that alien anatomy is that compatible with human anatomy, but it once again reinforces that our aliens aren’t really that alien after all.
    In fact, everyone’s relationships get them in trouble this episode. Stahma played Kenya to set up Amanda and Nolan. Once again Murray is brilliant in the episode. It’s logical that we as audience members need to know about how Castithans value their pride enough that they would kill rather than suffer humiliation, but I find it hard to believe that the humans who have lived with them – and especially someone in the sex trade – would be so surprised by pretty essential Castithan behavior. A good part of Kenya’s business has to rest on her ability to read her customers and give them what they want, so I was a bit disappointed at how seemingly easily Stahma was able to dupe her – though Murray is very persuasive! The final scene between Stahma and Kenya is wonderful – Stahma telling Kenya that she loves Datak and that they are a team was a great moment – and possibly the most honest her character has been. Given how easily and well she manipulates everyone around her – and given some of the looks Datak has given her – I find it hard to believe that she could be the wife so completely dominated by her husband that Kenya thinks she is. Kudos again to Curran for his often very subtle portrayal of Datak – you have to watch for those reactions to Stahma’s actions.
    I did feel badly for poor Alak (Jesse Rath) who ends up getting it from all sides. He loses his friend because his father sets him up, and then he ends up on Rafe’s bad side due to his involvement. I have to say that as scary as Datak is, Rafe is scarier. Rafe is going to hold Alak to a much higher standard than either of his parents. It does seem that Stahma is willing to intercede to protect her son – though I wonder if it came down to choosing between Datak and Alak, who she would choose. Given how easily Datak followed her lead, I wonder if he also wonders this. Of course, they could both be simply maintaining their plot to gain control over the mines through Alak.
    Datak’s use of Nolan’s military record as proof that he is a “loose cannon” or racist is a real stretch. It was war, after all, and if they need proof that he isn’t racist, they need look no further than Irisa. As Amanda rightly says in the Council, he’s saved Defiance on a number of occasions. Amanda also gets it and tells Nolan that was who he was not who he is. We know that Yewll did despicable things in the war, and I’m betting that Datak’s hands are far from clean.
    Nolan walks away to save the town – Amanda is clearly conflicted on several levels, and this scene offered Benz an opportunity for a nicely nuance scene with Nolan. I actually felt like we got to see a lot more of what really makes Amanda tick in this episode with her back up against the wall. I like that she has a quiet strength, but I don’t doubt her resolve is made of iron. I think that next season, she will make a great adversary for Datak should he happen to win next week’s election.
     Great fight scene between Datak and Nolan – it was worth it to see him take the badge off for that. I also liked that Nolan was able to ignore Datak and walk away, but Irisa comes back and defends his honor. The bond between the two was nicely portrayed in the episode.
    It’s unclear what Yewll (Trenna Keating) was trying to accomplish with the artifact. Her second “experiment” was clearly aimed at Irisa, but it seemed as if the first incident was an accident.  Yewll certainly looks shocked as she’s operating – so she likely doesn’t really know what she’s dealing with. This seems a bit unlikely as Yewll has been outed as having run the bio-warfare for the Votans, so one would think that she would know about all the high-tech devices- even if she didn’t invent them all, and she did seem to know how to get it started. It’s also unclear whether the device came out of Irisa or the other went in or how she ends up in the woods. She certainly seems disoriented, so I wonder if she knows to try to go back to Nolan. It was nice to see Rynn (Kaniehtiio Horn) back as I really liked her dynamic with Irisa. Of course, Irisa’s disappearance will prevent Nolan from leaving.
    There were some nice touches on the production side of this episode. The mayoral signs were really well done – with a fair amount of thought going into them. Datak’s are all on a yellow, gold, red palate, while Amanda’s are on a blue palate as they each appeal to the other major constituent group’s skin color. I also respected that they held the debate outside even in the face of obviously inclement weather. Even though “arming” the crowd with umbrellas complicated the ability to paintball Amanda, it was also a nice realistic touch.
    Next week we have the election. Datak has clearly allied himself with the Earth-Republic, and Amanda may regret not doing so herself – though I think that is unlikely. I suspect that Datak will win the election and come to regret the alliance himself. In fact, it may be the thing that brings them all together next season – everyone of Defiance against the Earth Republic’s takeover. What did you think of the episode? Are you already anticipating the second season? Who do you think will win the election? Let me know in the comments below.

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