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Defiance 1.03 "The Devil in the Dark" Review: Getting to Know the Neighbours

    This week’s episode of Defiance, “The Devil in the Dark,” was written by Michael Taylor and directed by Omar Madha. I always like titles that work on several levels as the story unfolds and this one does it very well. There were lots of good special effects this week too; I especially liked the hellbug emerging Alien-style from Bowen’s (Glen Cross) chest.
    Given the number of Star Trek alums on the show, it can’t be a coincidence that Taggart (Darren McGuire) is wearing a red hoodie and sporting red adidas when he is the first to be killed by the hellbugs. It was also a nice touch to see the reverence Taggart paid to something as commonplace as a pair or running shoes, which he had to acquire from a scavenger. Even something so commonplace as going jogging is a deadly activity in this new landscape – granted in Taggart’s case it’s really only deadly because he was targeted.
    This episode marks a bit of a shift in the narrative as we get a much closer look at Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), and therefore less of many of the other characters. As the story progresses, we learn that Irisa has had “episodes” her whole life which have bothered Nolan (Grant Bowler), and which he’s passed off as PTSD, so she’s kept them from him. Since coming to Defiance, the episodes have gotten stronger. Sukar (Noah Danby), the leader or the Irathient spirit-riders, is able to explain that these episodes are an alien, psychic ability and he’s able to help Irisa harness them. The devil in the dark for Irisa is both her new psychic power and her alien heritage. The chemistry between Bowler and Leonidas is fantastic in this episode. Irisa is grappling with both her new-found ability and learning about her heritage, growing away from Nolan and toward Sukar as a mentor. Nolan rocking and soothing Irisa during her seizure at the farm is a poignant moment. It is mirrored by Sukar soothing Irisa after he helps her harness her power – and Bowler’s performance conveys Nolan’s longing to go to his ‘daughter’ yet clearly shows he knows that she needs this part of herself too. At no point do you see him fear or even really resent her reaching out to Sukar, though Bowler does convey Nolan’s sadness at having to let Irisa get that close to someone else. Irisa accuses him – like every teenager, ever – of not understanding her and of making her feel bad about the alien part of herself. Nolan immediately apologizes. The final montage of the episode includes a scene of Irisa having a nightmare but immediately soothing as Nolan takes her hand. Their bond will, no doubt, continue to be tested but it is clearly a strong one.
    The literal devil in the dark is the hellbugs which are released on the town by Rynn (Tiio Horn) and kept in the mine. Rynn herself also becomes a devil in the dark as she exacts her revenge on Taggert, Bowen, and Rafe (Graham Greene). The Irathients themselves are a part of the dark past of Defiance and Sukar’s meeting with Amanda (Julie Benz) shows that they may be the devil for the town as well. The murder of Rynn’s parents seems to indicate that the town discriminated against and took advantage of the Irathients in more ways than just over the mandatory vaccinations. This episode really started to give some interesting background into how the races are different, highlighting the Irathient’s sensitivity to nature and their more “animal-like” behavior. I’m really excited for the show to explore these difference even more.
    We didn’t get a lot of the Tarr’s in this episode. However, we see Christie (Nicole Munoz) really trying to fit in by cooking a special dinner and, unbeknownst to Datak (Tony Curran) before he insults her cooking and her father in Castithan, learning their language. We do learn that Christie is fearless as she basically saves and defends Alak (Jesse Rath) when they are attacked by hellbugs. However, the big hero is Datak, who sends everyone else to safety while he single handedly dispatches both monsters. He may be a bastard, but he isn’t a coward. Interestingly, in order to further her ultimate plan, Stahma (Jaime Murray) tells Rafe that it was Alak who had defended Christie. Christie, I think, begins to see that Stahma has an agenda, and seems to be a bit disturbed by it. To this point, Christie seems a very genuine “good girl.” It will be interesting going forward to see if she becomes more suspicious of Stahma. For now, she may be more than willing to let Stahma take the lead if it results as it did in tonight’s episode with Rafe letting Christie go back to the Tarr’s without a fight.
    One of my favorite scenes in this week’s episode is the dinner scene at the Tarr’s. It’s interesting to see the lack of species-understanding go both ways as Datak is not comfortable with Christie’s ways. He in particular singles her out for bathing alone: “Who does that?” I like the way the show balances that lack of understanding, presenting it from both sides. Amanda’s request of Sakur that the Irathients “assimilate” seems naive and misguided. It’s already clear to see that the differences between the races is too great to hope that they can all melt together into one happy whole. It seems clear that what’s really needed is a greater understanding of each other and a greater acceptance of their differences. So far, Stahma seems to have the clearest grasp on how to exploit her opponents through a strong understanding of them.
    Kudos this week to the cast for some wonderful performances. Bowler’s scenes were subtle and touching. There were also some great comedic touches to relieve the tension from Curran, Greene, and Dewshane Williams as Tommy, when Irisa throws him from the roller. We also get to see Kenya (Mia Kirshner) earning her living at the Need/Want this week. I’m really anticipating getting more background for her and Amanda. The one moment from this week’s episode that I will criticize is the falling elevator. Really? Dropping at that speed, from that height, they should be dead. And was that tiny increase in tension really needed?
    Overall, I really liked this episode, good writing and character development. What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.