This week’s episode of Defiance, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” was written by Bryan Q Miller and directed by Larry Shaw. Once again both are new to the Defiance team. Miller’s credits include Smallville, Arrow, and Dominion. Shaw’s many credits include Castle, Devious Maids, and Desperate Housewives. This episode featured the surprise return of Kenya (Mia Kirschner) and a fairly startling development in Irisa’s (Stephanie Leonidas) story. One of the most fun things about this week was that William Shatner live-tweeted the show with the cast! Hopefully, SyFy will take notice of Captain Kirk’s endorsement and announce the series renewal soon!
We’ve clearly started into the run for the season finale as things heat up for Irisa, Defiance, and we start to see the implications in the wider world with the conflict between the Voltan Collective and the E-Rep heating up.
The episode features some terrific performances from Kirschner, Julie Benz (Amanda) and Grant Bowler (Nolan). Bravo to Kirschner for appearing with virtually no makeup. Both Benz and Krischner are wonderful as the two sisters try to get back together again. Benz, in particular, finally gets to really show what she can do and is terrific as she moves through hope, desperation, despair and finally joy.
I have to wonder if Amanda is going to end up regretting using Deirdre (Kristina Pesic) in her plan. Mercado (William Atherton) calls her Madame Mayor at the beginning of the episode, but it seems she has lost her return to office by the end of the episode when he orders Pottinger (James Murray) recalled. It’s not clear if she’d actually ever really accepted his terms, however. She also tells Nolan at the beginning of the episode that they’re “not political.” Of course, this distinction has never seemed entirely clear to me.
Bowler gets a real range to move through in this episode as well. His scenes with Irisa are always great. I think my favorite scene with them is when Irisa insists on going into the field, leaving Nolan with Amanda. My favorite moment? When Nolan asks her what she needs. I’ll be interested to see if there is a non-supernatural explanation for what’s happening to Irisa. Nolan has his convictions challenged and shaken when Kenya actually does turn up alive – he was so convinced that she was dead. His reaction to see her is wonderful. Of course, it’s hard to imagine his love life could be any more complicated.
We don’t see a lot of the Tarrs in this episode, but as always Tony Curran (Datak) and Jaimie Murray (Stahma) are terrific. Who couldn’t love their passionate scene in the hovel! It’s easy to see that Datak – who we know likes rough trade – is going to come to not only tolerate this new bossier Stahma, he’s going to come to love her – in every way!
Murray is, as always, fascinating as Stahma. The character has really come into her own, and we see her manipulation tactics at their finest. She manages to distract Tommy (Dewshane Williams) and Berlin (Anna Hopkins) during her own interrogation by using flattery and distraction, revealing Berlin’s relationship with Nolan to Tommy. It's pretty clear that Berlin, at least, gets what Stahma is doing. I loved the scene in which Tommy confronts Berlin and asks her if she’s dating Nolan. I adored her answer – “No. Just having lots of sex.”
Stahma uses sex to manipulate Datak into becoming her killing machine again. It’s pretty clear that he sees through her subterfuge and is happy to play along – after all, isn’t this the way he won her in the first place? Of course, this time, Datak comes through and actually does kill Mahsuvus (Merwin Mondesir). Things are not all rosy for Stahma though. Reiga (Kevin Shand) expresses the displeasure of the gang at the possibility that Datak will worm his way back into power. Shand is amazing as we see his disgust even through all those prosthetics! Reiga and the men have a fair concern. If Datak gets back in power, he will kill them – or at least some of them. Stahma’s response is really interesting though. She doesn’t promise to protect them – as I thought she might – but relishes in pushing right back, clearly willing to kill them herself if it comes to it. Again, Shand’s reaction as Reiga is fantastic – and done almost completely with body language. He realizes that Stahma is not that much better a master than Datak.
It’s always great to see Noah Danby back as Sukar, even though he had relatively little to do in this episode. I have to wonder if anyone is going to miss Bertie (Jessica Nichols) since Rafe (Graham Greene) was evicted, we haven’t seen her. He hardly needs a butler/maid with no house. It was interesting to see that Fionu’s (Lizz Alexander) inner child called herself by the name of a different god. Irisa does seem to be coming to terms with her role as leader too and reacts with acceptance rather than surprise or resistance when Irzu tells her it’s the beginning of arkrise. No doubt this is going to drive a wedge between her and Nolan.
The one part of this episode that didn’t work for me was Kenya’s abduction. Who is behind that mask? I would posit someone we didn’t see elsewhere in the episode – so Rafe or Pottinger? Why would they have kept her so close to Defiance for so long though before making use of her? Were they planning on using her against Stahma? What will this mean for Stahma? However, that isn’t what really didn’t work for me. What was stupid was Kenya getting loose and then not running immediately! You are weak and you try to take out someone who is armed, bigger, stronger, and in armor? Really? And then having him just disappear and reappear for the cheap scare? That particular part could have been handled much better.
One thing that I really did notice in this episode was the use of lighting and color to underscore the different races. Irisa is most often in warm and natural lighting, underscoring her affinity for the natural world. Yewell (Trenna Keating) is always in blue lighting, underscoring her artificial and mechanical approach to everything. Loved her simply assuming Amanda was acting as an addict – and calling her “Pudding”! Stahma is always in white light, underscoring her coldness, but also her “pure” or high status in Casithan society. This is also underscored by her insisting that Tommy call her Fava – not Madame – and insisting on Raiga’s respect.
The show also does a great job with subtle things with costuming. So we have Amanda’s braid of justice back – her hair is back to season one. She has lost the veil – just as she’s lost her grief and the veil the drugs were providing. Datak is half naked and exposed when Stahma comes to him.
What did you think of the episode? Do you think Kenya’s return is going to stir up a lot of problems for everyone? Do you think Datak and Stahma are well on their way to a reconciliation? Who do you think is behind the mask?! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! And don’t forget to tweet #RenewDefiance to SyFy!