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Defiance 1.09 "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" Review: Strange Bedfellows

     This week’s episode of Defiance, “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” was written by Bryan Gracia and directed by Allan Kroeker. Gracia’s only other writing credit is for One Tree Hill. Up to this point, there has been very little overlap between the writers with only three having written more than one episode. I’d be curious to know how the writing process works for the show. Knowing that the show was in development for five years leads me to believe that they must have a pretty well-fleshed outline of the characters and where they want to go with the show on which the individual writers are expected to draw. I’m curious how much influence showrunners Murphy, Taylor, and O’Bannon had on the individual scripts that came into them. I’m also curious to see what season two will look like, both in terms of scripts and the writers’ room when both Taylor and O’Bannon have gone on to other projects.
    This week’s episode seemed to have the clearest plot link to the video game. I’ve only played the game once – at the press tour last fall, but I do seem to recall that plague medicine factored into the game. I’d love to hear from people playing the game in the comments below! Am I remembering that correctly? At the very least, the shout out to Doc Yewll’s (Trenna Keating) friend in San Francisco is a reference to where the game is set. Coming on the heels of my discussion with Beth Roberts (NBCUniversal) last week, this does seem to point to a closer connection between the two mediums.
    The episode picks up right where we left off last week with the outbreak of viral hemorrhagic fever. Once again the episode also manages to tell the viewer something about past events and cultural relations while also revealing some new facets of the characters.
    We learn, for instance, why the Castithans refer to the Irathients as “unclean.” Because they are disease carriers, they don’t get the plague. This, of course, makes the humans fear them too. It’s interesting to see Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) growing closer to the rest of the Irathients. We see both a spiritual side and an animalistic side to her in the episode. Once again, I was impressed at how much Leonidas is able to convey with her body language while being somewhat impeded by the prosthetics of her character. She mentioned sitting at the Toronto Zoo and just watching the wolves as preparation for the role, and it certainly pays off in her body language. It will be interesting going forward to see how this new facet to her life will impact on her relationship with Nolan (Grant Bowler). The moment they share at the end of the episode would indicate that the two have forged a strong enough bond to weather the inevitable strain.
    The misperceptions between the races was an interesting facet of this episode. While the “typhoid Mary” scenario felt a bit cliché, it still worked. While the Irathients really do seem to be the more primitive and animalistic of the races, they were praying for the other races before the miners got violent. The humans seem to tolerate the other races but remain ready to become hostile primarily out of fear. I can hardly imagine the Castithans praying for any of the other races. Of course, so far, the only real Castithans that we’ve met have been the Tarrs.
    Quentin (Justin Rain) goes to see Nicky (Fionnula Flanagan) to find out about his mother, Pilar. Once again Flanagan’s performance is outstandingly creepy. We learn that Pilar was bi-polar but controlled by medicine that she and Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) supplied. If we needed further proof that Nicky was corrupt, the fact that she was obviously dealing with Datak proves it. She takes great delight in torturing Quentin by telling him his mother was caught trying to poison him and that his father (Graham Greene) almost killed her. She also reveals that she was having an affair with Rafe. Quentin gives Nicky the artifact in exchange for the information, even though “Luke” (Wesley French) tells him it means he will never see him again. Quentin then leaves Defiance to go to Mendecino. I suspect we may not see him again this season. The final scene shows Nicky meeting with Doc Yewll, who we learn was also in bed with Nicky. Yewll insists she is not interested in taking up with Nicky again, however. Nicky tries to tempt her with the artifact, but Yewll tells her to destroy it. Nicky’s final words are you can’t create without destroying. I suspect based on the comments that the artifact may have something to do with terraforming which is what almost destroyed Earth.
    While Nolan and Connor Lang (Gale Harold) rush to pick up the cure, Lang tells Nolan about his relationship with Amanda (Julie Benz). Nolan is surprised to learn that Amanda ended the relationship after getting pregnant and aborting the baby without even telling Lang. I was really sorry to lose Harold at the end of the episode. I enjoyed his performance and his chemistry with Benz. Benz’s performance of Amanda’s loss was particularly good. I’m hoping that we will see that the Amanda who would walk away from a relationship, I’m assuming because she didn’t want to bring a child up in such a hostile world, is also the type of woman who would know exactly what Nicky is really up to. I suppose another possible scenario could be that because Amanda essentially brought Kenya (Mia Kirshner) up, she didn’t want to have another child to tie her down...
     The Tarrs made great strides with their plans in this episode. Alak (Jesse Rath) does not seem like his parents. He seems to be far more assimilated than his parents – which explains his love of Christie (Nicole Munoz). Rath is terrific as Alak – he is both a smartass and believable as the concerned young lover. I’m glad they moved away from simply characterizing him as the town punk – the character has a lot more potential to be interesting now. I’d like to see more interaction between Rafe and Alak – I’m curious as to how well Alak really has assimilated. Christie balked at the Castithan bathing ritual last week, so it would be interesting to see if Alak is more comfortable in bridging the gap and accepting human traditions.
    Of course, Stahma (Jamie Murray) and Datak are both attracted sexually to Kenya. However, their dalliance can hardly be seen as love, which Alak clearly feels for Christie. Stahma in particular does a good job in projecting concern for Christie and Rath. Murray is once again brilliant as she manipulates everyone – except a disease-ravaged Amanda. In the end, she is able to have Datak as acting mayor and then manoeuvres him into running for mayor. Stahma is the one to order Datak to simply let all the Irathients go – a move he does not approve of at first, and in fact, he looks quite unsure of what to do, but in the end, he follows Stahma’s advice. I’m curious as to whether Stahma knew that Datak would lose all control and annihilate the Irathients and if she did know was she counting on him killing everyone. A third option would be that the two of them had planned the entire encounter down to the last death. The depths of Datak’s hatred for the Irathients was a little shocking. Curran also delivers another great performance - he's chilling as he loses his facade of respectability as he kills the Irathients. When Datak runs away with the radio broadcast, Stahma’s mouthing the words along with him really does seem to indicate that Stahma had a lot to do with his “speech.” It's a great little scene with Amanda fuming as her microphone is shut off and Datak smugly expounding his campaign platform while Stahma "meekly" sits in the background doing the equivalent of Castithan needlepoint.
    In the end, this wasn’t my favorite episode so far even though it did raise a number of interesting issues. What did you think of the episode? Do you think Amanda will be able to retain her position as mayor? Were you sad to see Connor Lang and most of the Irathients killed? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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