Defiance, the scifi Western show from the same people as new BSG and Farscape, that Syfy was advertising heavily this year has just ended its first season. The show had a lot riding on it, Syfy has had some financial difficulties in recent years and invested heavily in promoting the show as well as the game. The good news is that it didn’t crash and burn, the bad news is that it is still a first season with all the associated warts and bumps. So let’s break down each element of the show and see how it carried itself.
Now I could sit on this and mull over how I feel about the show, but this isn’t a thought provoking show. By that I mean it’s not really complicated in terms of plot nor is it a show that I have to really process how I feel about it. Instead I’d rather get this out now while everyone is thinking about it.
BEWARE YE WHO CONTINUE READING FOR SPOILERS
Characters: By and large I like the main characters: Nolan, Irisa, Yewll, Rafe, the Tarrs and Tommy. Just about everyone else is forgettable, dull or too shrouded in mystery for me to have an opinion on them. The one exception to this is that there is 1 character I actively dislike, that being Kenya, mainly because she’s kind of an idiot and it’s a plot point that keeps coming up. The guest stars also weren’t that bad as a whole with a few of them being quite good. It would have been nice to see Christie and Alak together, for in the case of Christie at all, after their wedding as well. The characters are like many other things on this show, decent to solid with room for improvement.
Visuals: This is the kind of stuff that you expect from Syfy TV shows; which is to say very well. It doesn’t have anything like BSG’s visuals, it’s very much like Eureka, and they’re solid with a few stand outs.
Music: The music is by Bear McCreary means I’m already predisposed to liking it. He does good work. Every episode ending with a cover is less than stellar in my opinion with the songs being used hit or miss. Moving forward I really want more Votan/post Pale Wars stuff like the snippet heard in the first episode at the Need/Want.
Backstory: At first it is admittedly somewhat overwhelming, tying the beginning of the show to the game was really not the best move since it left me feeling disjointed. It also doesn’t bother with much in story exposition, which increases the verisimilitude of the whole thing. Instead viewers are expected to look it up themselves or piece it together and roll with it. I’m not inherently against such a method, but the show starts off really rough in this regard. At first I thought that the backstory was cluttered with how many different species there in comparison to the ones that get used, but it’s a rather silly. The status quo also makes sense when you consider the behind scene issues in costumes and prosthetics. It gets better once it establishes itself though. Now I just hope there isn’t too much stuff that’s actually important tied up in the game.
Episodes: The first four episodes really aren’t that great, five is half good and six is pretty good , seven is a drop in quality and then the rest of the season is really starting to pick up. It’s also once you pass that four episode mark that the show really starts to establish its own identity. This could be influenced by the fact that I’m currently rewatching Babylon Five but it very much feels like it’s trying ot emulate it in certain regards, the good filler isn’t really filler but is setting things up sort of way.
Overarching Plots: Like any good scifi show there is of course more than overarching plot holding this together and their quality varies.
- Nolan and Irisa’s heist in San Fran: I expect this to be wrapped up on the grounds of more important stuff is happening and am only listing it for the sake of being thorough. About as good as any other way to start the show and introduce some tension but that’s it.
- The Kaziri: This is really annoying because of how little we know. My opinion of this dropped when it turned that it isn’t related to some powerful terraforming equipment but rather it’s basically a Votan nuke….maybe probably. What pieces we are given of it are good in building up interest in mystery except the show also likes to scream OMINIOUS HAPPENINGS.
- Pale Wars 2.0: It would’ve been nice if the Votanis Collective hadn’t been pushed aside almost entirely from the show. Although I expect they’ll feature prominent in season two and in resolving the cliffhanger we’re left with.
- Earth Republic annexing Defiance: Specifically this part of the cliffhanger, since supposedly Datak still has connections in the Votanis Collective, and they have to know something about the Kaziri. Even if they are in Brazil the Votanis Collective isn’t going to do nothing, and neither are the people of Defiance.
- Kenya: Is being held by Stahma but given everything else going on is really the least important plot right now by a wide margin. The fact that I don’t care for her character only compounds my apathy here. Or she might be dead, I honestly wasn’t paying that much attention; in which case it’s the fallout of her death that we have to see.
- Datak and Stahma: are being confronted by Earth Republic forces last we saw them.
- Irathient Religion/Irdu: Can we just forget this whole pseudo-Native American shtick they have? The only reason why I’m listing this is the off chance that mystical forces will actually play a role in the show. It’s dumb, and aside from Sukar’s original premonitions can all be attributed to Votan tech doing stuff.
- Nolan is being kept alive by Votan tech: We know that Votan tech can bring back the dead, so there’s just the question of how this is going to play out.
- Irisa’s Technicolor stuff: I’m not really sure what else to call this beyond some machine induced hallucination presented itself as a God and basically told Irisa to jump into the light.
- Quentin looking for his mom: I really don’t care about this, it seemed like Quentin’s main function was holding onto the Kaziri for half the season.
- Volge/Gulagee: This mainly exists in the backstory right now but there’s still a bunch of questions about what is up with these two races. If this never gets resolved then it plummets the value of the pilot and some of the setting’s draw.
Other thoughts: the two Votan cultures we see aren’t really flattering: Castihans are just dicks and Irathients are as already stated pseudo-Native Americans.
Overall: Defiance had a decent first season, I’d recommend watching it and I’m looking forward to season two. I’m also going to be expecting a lot more from it in season two, the writers got the chance to find their bearings, now they have to deliver.