It's a science fiction double feature thanks to Defiance, which aired two full episodes last night as we come into the home stretch of season 2. Which means we got two heaping helpings of politics, heroism, crazy alien gods and, of course, murder.
1) "Bottom of the World"
In the superior of the two episodes, the hilariously shitty Ambassador Tennety returns to Defiance for a tour of the mines, joined by Pottinger and an extremely annoyed Amanda. Quentin, under orders from the Votan Collective, has him try to rig an "accidental mine collapse" to kill both E-Rep minion; he manages to get Tennety, but Pottinger and Amanda are trapped in the caves.
Nolan has to mount a rescue mission, which more or less keeps him from noticing Irisa has gone completely off the deep end. She tries to steal a Terrasphere in order to… do the thing the thing inside her wants her to do. She eventually tricks Tommy into grabbing one for her ("I'm, uh, sick. And the Terrasphere will make me better. The doc said. No, not that doc. A different doc. One you don't know and can't talk to. Just get me the damn thing, okay?") and after he delivers she mouth-tentacles him into joining Team Urzu. Then Irisa uses the Terrasphere to… make a bunch of her followers turn into egg-things and sink into the ground into a buried Votan ship. It's weird. In much less exciting news, Alak and Christie reconcile, to DJ Prostitute's immense dissatisfaction, and she swears to win back Alak's love.
Unlike some of the previous, better episodes, "Bottom of the World" pretty much has everyone doing their own thing, with virtually no crossing over. But there are two highlights worth pointing out: The first that while trapped in the cave and running out of air, Pottinger tries to convince Amanda to kill him so she can have his air. Pottinger has turned from a dastardly E-Rep minion/secret pervert into one of the show's best characters, because he loathes himself for his vices, even though he can't shake them, and yet he still wants so badly to be a good man. Pottinger feels the most like the show's fully-realized character, and I hope to god he survives this season (if the show survives the season) — it would be fascinating to see what he'd do out of the E-Rep's grasp. Anyways, it should go without saying that Nolan rescues both him and Amanda before they suffocate.
The second development is a result of Quentin being the one to sabotage the mine, which is no surprise, nor is the fact that he immediately pins the blame on his dad Rafe... or that the tired Rafe takes the blame (Quentin smacking his dead with a lead pipe? Somewhat more surprising). No, the real shock is learning that Quentin is taking orders from the Votan Cllective because it's the only way they'll free his crazy mother… which they do… at Defiance… and she's Linda Hamilton! I'd completely forgotten she was joining the show. Her Pilar is a wacked-out hippie who loves her family (including Rafe, who had her committed) but who thinks Quentin is an idiot pinning the blame on his dad. I eagerly look forward to seeing more of her and her inevitable shenanigans.
2) "Doll Parts"
Despite concentrating on Irisa, Urzu and whatever the hell else the main plot of the season is, "Doll Parts" lacks the great character moments the previous episode had. It begins when Nolan suddenly realizes that the Irathiant god inside Irisa's head is actually just the sentient Arkship brain of the ancient, massive Votan ship buried underneath St. Louis — which was a pretty stunning realization for me, that Defiance just seemed to toss off. Was it in one of the earlier episodes I saw late?
Anyways, Nolan takes some Arkbrain-disabling grenades (sure, why not) into Camp Irisa, where he's immediately captured by Tommy. Happily, Tommy chooses that moment to vomit up his silver tentacle thingie (although I prefer to think that Nolan was being such an asshole to Tommy, as per usual, that the tentacle committed suicide) and returns to normal. Tommy helps Nolan with his plan, which is to get Irisa and as many of her followers as possible in one tent, surround it with the grenades, set 'em off, and steal Irisa's unconscious body. Which they do.
Meanwhile, DJ Prostitute has been murdered. Specifically, she was dropped out of the top of the St. Louis arch. It's good timing for Alak, since he's trying to reconcile with Christie and DJ Prostitute was determined to break the two of them up (I should probably state that the character I've been calling DJ Prostitute is actually named Treasure Doll, which I contend is literally no more or less ridiculous than DJ Prostitute). With Nolan gone, the newly deputized Amanda is on the case, and quickly learns pretty much all the Tarrs wanted DJP dead, all for the same reason — getting her off Alak's back. But Amanda finds a video of Alak threatening very specificlally to toss DJP off the Arch, so it's him she arrests.
Of course, all the Tarrs think a different family member did the deed, and thus Stahma finds a dying Castithan and promises to make his daughter their servant (which offers a great deal of safety, stability and status) if he'll confess to the murder. Which he also does. Even Amanda thinks this is bullshit, but when the Castithan pulls out the bloody microphone DJ Prostitute was beaten with (and which was found under Alak's bed) she has no choice but to free Alak. When Stahma goes to thank Datak for the help he presumably provided, and he denies it, Stahma realizes the only person who could killed DJP and hidden the microphone in Alak's room is… Christie.
Now, it would have been great if Christie had, as part of her weird embrace of Castithan culture, decided murdering DJP was a completely acceptable thing for her as a Castithan wife to do, but instead it turns out DJ Prostitute tried to poison her and they wrestled and Christie threw the girl across the room and the wall broke and she fell to her death. It was an accident. Christie doesn't seem to be upset about her role in DJP's death — she's more worried that Alak know he can never "dishonor" her again — but I feel like Defiance let the character off the hook here. Her being a murderer would be far more interesting that her penchant for Castithan dress-up. At least Stahma, when she realizes her daughter-in-law killed the girl, laughs in what seems to be actual joy.
In the end, Nolan and Tommy drive the unconscious Irisa back to Defiance, and Nolan… well, he doesn't apologize for being a tremendous asshole to Tommy after completely abandoning him at the end of season 1, but he does say some nice things and says he's be honored if Tommy would take back his badge. At that point, a floating skull and countdown clock could have appeared over Tommy's head, but instead Irisa wakes up, uses her magic Urzu powers to short out the car, and kicks Nolan in the head. Tommy tries to convince her to stop her madness and resist Irzu… and Irisa stabs him in the gut. Irzu tries to make her kill Nolan as well, but Irisa barely resists and runs off. Nolan wakes up to discover Tommy dying, rigs a sled out of some stuff, and begins dragging him back to Defiance hopefully before he dies.
I don't know if Tommy will actually die — since he didn't do it before the credits roll, I assume he probably won't — but his death would appropriately raise the stakes for Defiance's final two episodes. Even ignoring the whole Arkrise/Irzu situation — which I don't think is as interesting as the looming battle between the E-Rep and the Votan with Defiance caught in the middle — we have the crazy McCawley mom back, the Tarrs still separated and a daughter-in-law who's a killer, Doc on the run, Pottinger headed for a breakdown, and Tommy on the brink of death. I'm actually afraid that, like last year, Defiance is going to concentrate on a bunch of needless science fiction mumbojumbo when what we really want to see are these characters, because lord knows they have more than enough on their plates as is. We'll find out next week for the last two episodes shoved back-to-back "two-hour finale."
• I don't know that Syfy burning off two new episodes of Defiance for these last couple of weeks is a bad sign, necessarily, but I know it's not a good one. This might be it for the show.
• Although I don't think Defiance has ever fully lived up to its potential — it has a lot — it's still had plenty of good episodes this season, and there's just something kind of charming about its classic, old-school, all-aliens-are-humans-with-makeup style. I hope these crazy kids get another chance.
• In the first episode, Stahma visits Datak and asks him to kill DJP, which he says he'll do if he can come back home. Stahma says no dice. I appreciate that the show is taking its time with this, certainly more than it did with the "Datak-in-prison" storyline.
• I also don't know why Nolan made Irisa wear her Californian flag-poncho after he handcuffed her to keep her from running off, but I thought it was hilarious.
• Defiance goes for the easy anal beads joke.
• When Irisa and Nolan have their confrontation in the tent, Stephanie Leonidas is… off her game, or something. That was some seriously bad acting. I don't know if they wanted her to act weird because Irzu was affecting her, but it just seemed lrisa was trying to pretend to be upset or something.
• I hope that Stahma's realization her daughter-in-law is a killer — and her laugh — means she feels a true kinship with her now. That would be a cool dynamic to see, especially to watch Alak squirm as hi mom and wife get uncomfortably close.
• I apologize if I've said this before, but it completely boggles me that Syfy is running edited version of Starz's Spartacus series. Once you take out all the softcore sex, those episodes are like 18 minutes long. What the hell?