Remember last week, when the penultimate episode of Defiance’s first season was full of awesome moments, stunning character reveals, twists galore and stakes that couldn’t be higher? Well, keep remembering it, because the Defiance finale had (almost) none of that.
Let me just get the recap out of the way so we can talk about the problems. It’s Election Day, and a tense Datak has standing-up sex with Stahma to relax. A snarky commentsfrom Kenya at the voting booth later makes Datak realize Stahma’s been cheating on him with Kenya, but he can’t kill her because they’re in front of a crowd of voters. Keep this in mind for later.
Nolan and Tommy track Irisa, and find her at the Spirit Riders camp, stitched up by Rynn. But a special military group — headed by a one-dimensionally evil dude named “Black Jonah” and carrying an imprisoned Doc Yewell in tow — takes everyone hostage, because it turns out Irisa has both the gold Thingie and the silver Thingie in her body now, which are the keys necessary to unlock the 3,000-year-old Votan warship buried at the bottom of the mines of Defiance, which can either kill every human on the planet, or every alien, and with the E-Rep wants bad. Convenient!
Stahma arranges to meet Kenya in a secluded forest in the world’s most obvious trap, and then poisons her (presumably to death — despite a mention of a knock-out drug, and despite the fact the camera cuts away before we see Kenya’s last breath, I think Stahma’s use of the word “poison” means she genuinely murdered Kenya, and any uncertainty was unintentional, a result of poor storytelling. If only because if Kenya doesn’t die, then the showrunners have been lying to audience members for months about the finale.)
Datak wins the election! The Earth Republic instantly seizes Rafe McCawley’s mines! They force Doc Yewell to experiment on Irisa, trying to get the Thingies out! Datak visits his new mayor’s office, and Colonel Marsh stops by to be an insufferable asshole to Datak! Well, we know how much Datak likes that, and in the finale’s one shock — although that’s partially because its so dumb on Datak’s part — when Stahma meets with her husband in his office, Datak has killed Marsh and there’s blood everywhere. Oh, and unsurprisingly, the E-Rep soldiers are literally knocking on the door, looking for their commander.
And then Nolan, Tommy and Rynn, having escaped earlier, arrive at the mines, and free the conveniently tied-up Rafe and Irisa. Then there’s an extended third-person cover-based shooter sequence than I assume ties directly into the videogame, because it’s fucking terrible and it fucking takes forever, until finally that villain who showed up for this episode, Black Jonah, shoots and kills Nolan just before Irisa shoots and kills him.
Then Nolan dies, and Irisa enters the mines and the Thingies come out of her and she talks to the little girl in her head who says she’s the Klingon Space God Irzu and Irisa jumps down a mineshaft and Nolan lives again because what the fuck ever. At least at the end the Earth Republic has seized control of Defiance for season 2.
Okay. Even if last week’s Defiance episode wasn’t great, this one would still be trouble. None of the important moments work because they’re dumb, or they run counter to the shit the show has been building about the characters so far! Check it:
• Datak kills Col. Marsh? For fuck’s sake. Yeah, he has a crazy temper, but he’s a Castithan that can subsume his rage when he needs to, to get ahead. That’s how he got to where he is. That’s why he doesn’t kill his wife at the voting booth (which happens in this fucking episode, I must point out). So murdering a high-ranking Earth Republic official, the one link between him and the resources he needs to rule Defiance, and to murder him in the fucking mayor’s office while his underlings are in the same building looking for him? That’s dumb. Datak is now dumb.
• Kenya’s death should be somewhat important, but since it happens in the world’s most obvious trap — seriously, even Wile E. Coyote would shake his head in disapproval — it doesn’t matter, because Kenya’s a moron for agreeing to come alone to the woods to meet the woman who threatened to kill her just last episode in the first place.
• And speaking of Stahma, after her awesome heel-turn last episode, revealing that she loves her husband’s cruelty and will put him ahead of everything — Stahma pulls the sad little poetry-writing girl routine, as if Kenya had somehow forgotten last week’s conversation. Stahma’s ability to change personalities makes her interesting, but trying to play the role she played earlier — when she proved it was bullshit last episode — this is just insulting, both to Kenya and the audience.
• So Nolan dies, and comes back to life? Sorry, Defiance, you used that with Sukar already. And at least Sukar had a cool explanation — an Arcship’s nanobots trying to prevent its ship from landing on Defiance and killing its Votan population. What does Nolan get? A lot of CG nonsense in the caves and the Little Orphan Irzu, Goddess of Irathients, waving her arms to make it all better. And to have Nolan “die” at the hands of a character we hadn’t met until tonight, who you told us was super-evil without ever showing us, and after that lengthy fucking videogame sequence, it completely sucked away any chance that we might believe Nolan would actually die, and made the whole scene really, really terrible to boot.
So we end with two cliffhangers: 1) What is the Earth Republic going to do to Defiance? That’s an interesting question. 2) What the hell happens with Irisia, that stupid ship, her stupid divinity, and the Thingies? I don’t cae at all. Defiance has been at its best when it ignored the big –time alien stuff to focus on the characters — and I’ll count characters maneuvering around each other for the Thingie, instead of actually using them or talking about them not explaining them — I can’t think of anything that’s going to happen with the Naziri that is going to make Defiance more interesting, so I wish they’d just get it over with and get back to what Defiance does best.
Look, as bad as it was, I don’t think the finale negates the awesomeness of the last two episodes, and I’m going to be watching Defiance next seasons (and recapping it, as long as someone pays me and the creek don’t rise). But I was really excited for the finale, and I was hoping to be spending the time between now and June of 2014 slavering for the biggest scifi show on TV to return — and now, I’ll probably just forget about it until I see an ad next year.
Sorry, Defiance. You brought this upon yourself.
• Grant Bowler is not one of television’s most believable wilderness trackers.
• If you’re wondering where Ex-Mayor Amanda was, she gets a scene where she cries, because she is sad because she lost the election. Thanks for that in-depth look at a major character during a moment of personal loss and dramatic change, Defiance!
• Defiance never looked more like a Syfy television series than when Irisa was in the mine, especially with all the Thingie and Irzu bullshit.
• I would like to point out I called Kenya dying and Datak winning the election. I also said Datak would betray the E-Rep, which wasn’t exactly right, but close enough I get an “E” for effort, I think. We’ll postpone my theory that Amanda takes control of the NeedWant until season 2, since she only got one damn scene in this episode
• Note: Some of these problems can be addressed in the season 2 premiere. Datak could have a plan to frame someone for the murder, Stama could have merely drugged Kenya because she does have some feelings for her justifying the garbage she says in the woods, Nolan’s resurrection could have an explanation beyond “Klingon Space God did it!” and I hope it does, but these moments will still be dumb in the s1 finale, and they’ll be dumb until season 2 begins in June 2014.
• Apparently Black Jonah is a character in the Defiance videogame, which makes me even madder that the TV show used him without ever explaining him. You can't expect everyone to watch the show and play the game, guys. It makes me wonder how much better Defiance would be if the videogame never existed, and the show didn't have to keep shoehorning in characters and plagues and other shit from it.
• Can I reiterate how awful the scene was of Nolan and Irisa running around the camp, looking for people to shoot was? It was so bad, and I swear it was at least eight minutes long (Note: May have actually been less than eight minutes long).
• One thing I think the actors of Defiance should be congratulated for are their ability handling the alien languages. Sure, they still have their Earth accents, but they speak languages quickly and concisely, making them sound fluent. It’s a very nice touch of realism.
• Have you guys been checking out Syfy’s Inside Defiance galleries on Syfy.com? They offer a shit-ton of info about the world, and the aliens, and the many, many things going on outside of Defiance (a\nd even the videogame) that prove these guys have really thought this stuff out. Honestly, I think some of it should have been included in the show proper; some of these details help flesh the world out in a way the show often glosses over
• Note: This was not as bad as the season 1 finale of Heroes. But if Defiance season 2 looks anything like Heroes season 2 next year, I’m stopping the recaps and setting my TV on fire, just to be safe.