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Defiance 1.12 "Everything is Broken" Review: On to Season Two!

 


    This week’s episode of Defiance, “Everything is Broken,” marked the end of season one. The episode was written by showrunner Kevin Murphy and directed by Michael Nankin. We had a lot of questions answered in this episode, but a lot more were asked too, leaving me wanting more a lot sooner than June 2014!
    I like how the series has doubled up with its directors – Nankin having directed last week’s episode too. That’s been the basic pattern all season – a director comes in and directs back to back episodes. I think this allows a greater comfort level on the part of the actors and a greater feeling of continuity on how the show looks and feels too. It made sense to have showrunner Murphy pen this final episode of the season, but I found myself thinking that it felt like a lot of the script ended up on the cutting room floor. This seems to be a problem with a lot of season finales: showrunners are so concerned with keeping the suspense and teasing out plotlines that they end up leaving too much to have to tell in the final episode.
     The episode does feature outstanding performances from most of the cast. Dewshane Williams gives his best performance yet as Tommy. He’s done a nice job of slowly letting us see who Tommy is as the season has progressed, and his first scene with Grant Bowler (Nolan) is easily his best work. We see a vulnerable side to Tommy as his tears clearly show the depth of his feelings for both Nolan as a father figure and Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) as his lover. There is a nice moment too, when Nolan and Tommy find Irisa. There is just a hint of a smile from Tommy, but off the first scene it is easy to read that small gesture as so much more. Tommy, of course, is finally rewarded for his devotion, when Irisa gives herself up to Black Jonah (Matt Lemche) to save him.
      Stephanie Leonidas also gives a great performance in the finale. We finally see Irisa tell Nolan that she loves him. In fact , Leonidas has also done a great job all season pulling back the layers on Irisa. She too has a nice subtle moment of shared affection with Nolan when he and Tommy find her in the Irathient camp. Throughout, Irisa seems more grounded through her new connection to her spiritual side. We see her take her oath as seriously as Nolan – to live or die together – when she seems to have sacrificed herself in order to bring Nolan back from the dead. I have to admit that I was yelling pretty hard at my television set when it seemed that Nolan was dead – but now I’m dying to know what Irisa’s fate is going to be!
    Both Julie Benz and Graham Greene had very little to do in the finale, which is a shame. Indeed, I have to say that I’ve felt with the exception of a few of the earlier episodes, Benz has been under used all season. My fingers are crossed that we will see a lot more of her – and Greene’s Rafe – next season as they rally the townspeople to fight the E-Republic.
     Tony Curran (Datak) and Jaime Murray (Stahma) had some marvellous scenes together in the episode. At first, I thought the love scene between Datak and Stahma was just uncomfortable, but then I realized that it is “alien” sex we’re watching so it should feel, well, alien. I thought their relationship took an interesting turn when Datak threatened Stahma outside the polling booth. Up until that moment, it wasn’t really clear to me who had the ultimate upper hand in their relationship. Murray was simply brilliant in the episode. We finally get to see what appears to be Stahma’s true emotions and motives. Stahma is clearly and honestly terrified in the polling booth. It at least appears that this is a physical fear and not simply her feeling badly because she’s been found out. I also thought that Datak was reasonably clever in putting two and two together to come up with that four. Murray’s portrayal of Stahma in the forest with Kenya (Mia Kirshner) was also wonderful. I do hope we haven’t seen the last of Kenya. Kirshner has really only had a chance to scratch the surface of this character. Murray gets to show yet another side to Stahma – her desire for something outside of her caste, for something for herself. Her plea that she is more than just a client to Kenya could be a plea to be more than just a possession or a trophy to her husband. The song she sings to Kenya is chilling, especially as it ends with “pretty little human.” I thought it interesting, as well, that in the scene in which Stahma tries to convince Kenya to run away with her, Stahma tells Kenya that she doesn’t understand Castihans – and she is right – I’ve been saying this in my reviews for some time. I did get the sense that Kenya denied feeling anything for Stahma because she felt betrayed by Stahma and wanted to hurt her – I’m not convinced that Stahma wasn’t more than just a client to Kenya – because why else would she have gone to meet her in the forest?
     The final scene between Datak and Stahma is a powerful one, following Datak’s confrontation with Colonel Marsh (Barry Flatman). I have to admit that I felt a little sorry for Datak – having his victory ruined and essentially snatched away from him. Marsh’s threat to have Datak thrown back into obscurity was clearly a mis-calculation on the Colonel’s behalf. I have a feeling that Stahma will find some way to spin the crime scene so as to prevent Datak from having to do any serious jail time. However, it was interesting to see them both wish to be back on their home world. Presumably if they were “home” they would not have been allowed to marry. Stahma would have even less freedom than she enjoys in Defiance, and Datak could never have aspired to become mayor.
     I felt that there was a lot packed into this episode, in fact a bit too much. The scene in which Nolan explains everything that’s going on to Irisa – you have two devices in you which will activate this weapon – felt particularly forced. There was a lot of exposition for one scene – which might have been better coming from Dr Yewll (Trenna Keating). A quick shout out again for Keating who managed to infuse her character with a wonderfully dry and sarcastic wit even with very little use of much more than her voice to convey it. We also completely missed how Rafe ended up chained outside the mines. Somehow I think a confrontation between Marsh and Rafe would have been well worth some screen time. And why leave him chained up there? Why not just kill him? I’m glad they didn’t, but it would seem that that would have solved a lot of their problems going forward.
    I did enjoy some of the little touches on the production side once again. There is a wanted poster, for instance, behind Alak in his broadcast studio in the Arch. I’m told the wanted man – from San Francisco – may have a connection to the game. Someone in Datak’s campaign office had nicely – and hilariously – defaced a picture of Amanda with mustache, beard, glasses, etc. The production crew should be commended for their outstanding attention to detail all season.
     Generally, I very much enjoyed this first season of Defiance. The writing and directing were solid if not flawless, but the acting from the main cast was outstanding all season. The cast also live-tweeted through the finale which was great – and often hilarious. There is obviously a real camaraderie between them that translates very well to the screen. I’m looking forward to finding out what’s happened to Kenya and Irisa – are they still alive? I’m also looking forward to  what Datak and Stahma are going to tell the E-Republic soldiers. It would seem that all the power players from the beginning of this season – Amanda, Rafe, Datak, and Nolan – have all had their power stripped away. The dynamic in Defiance promises to be very different next season.
    What did you think of “Everything is Broken”? Do you think Irisa and Kenya are dead? What are your thoughts on the season as a whole? Will you be tuning in again next season? Will you pass the time playing the game? Let me know in the comments below.

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