Despite my earlier hypothesis about this franchise apparently the game installment of Defiance has earned some decent to middling reviews on it. As I’ve said many times, I can be wrong. While this was going on the trailer for the show started playing at my work continuously and it got me curious enough to sit back and try and watch it.
And if you want my honest opinion… I wish I could say I was more impressed.
Now, don’t misunderstand, there’s a lot of good foundation work here. Actually there’s an amazing level of foundation work here. The entire concept behind Defiance is that 33 years ago several alien species banded together when their worlds died and made migration for Earth. This resulted in several conflicts and wars (called the Pale Wars) between humans and aliens that were brought to a halt when an event called the Arkfall occurred. The alien fleet ships all suffered massive explosions and shutdowns for some unknown reason and crashed on Earth killing all who were on board including those in cryogenic sleep. As a result all of their terraforming technology was released at once causing a massive change in geographic and Earth environment. Peace was formed shortly after as the landed aliens settled in and started mixing with humans. More or less. Some races are more hostile, some groups of races are more hostile. There’s a fairly good spectrum on it.
Defiance is the name of a city built upon the ruins of St. Louis where several species now co-exist. It, in turn, takes its name from a famous historical battle. When a down on his luck drifter named Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adoptive alien daughter Irisa Nyira (Stephanie Leonidas) arrive in town by accident they are quickly drawn in to the politics and plight of such a small town with different cultures trying to coexist. By the pilot’s end Joshua is the new sheriff and Irisa is… well, generally she’s miserable all the time so there isn’t much change.
The thing is looking at the show I can easily pick out where a lot of the ideas come from. There are clear elements of Firefly being used;
It’s not just me who sees this right?
While some characters look like they’re lifted straight out of Game of Thrones.
I can’t be the only one who sees this.
And yet, there is groundwork for something good here. My favourite character by far is the young black police officer Tommy. Despite being quickly picked over by everyone in the cast during the pilot as lacking in courage and good sense he actually has some of the best dialogue in the show. While a lot of characters dab a lot of overuse in philosophy and the common theme of “Just trying to push through and live my own way.” You know the one. Tommy will instead actually look at a person who plays with a knife and openly say “Listen, I don’t know what image you’re trying to sell, but you just look like a crazy lady.” After the pilot and subsequent episode he’s often the one who cuts through the bullshit and comes up with clever schemes to solve problems. He stops a guy from getting tortured by arresting him for loitering. I love it! I’ve come to look forward to moments he’s on screen.
Love you buddy!
The other thing is, the story that precludes this, the Pale Wars, that actually looks like the more interesting period to film. First contact, negotiations breaking down being the end of season one. The war commencing and major incurrences happen during season two with a culmination of the Arkfall in season three. Hell, why wasn’t that the show? Did they not have enough money to CG that?
Actually, looking at the overall production that might be the case.
Defiance seems to only ever really advance one particular plot beat in a significant way from episode to episode. That is of the possible impending threat to the town as a whole. Otherwise any of the other issues of racial intolerance, adapting to new lifestyles, those are never, ever really resolved. So you can tell where the writers are putting their bank on for writing in cheap episodic hooks.
The thing is, it’s almost as if Defiance needs just one more core staff member to really bring it home. It could easily crest into memorable territory right from the get go, but it’s almost as if the show’s writing is hesitant to make any real dramatic leaps. The preceding 33 years before the show starts is more and more engaging as the plot continues to add details. And if you are going to have a slice of life sci-fi show like this the dialogue has to be remarkably punchier to carry forward. I think I’m willing to take a back seat on this one and wait out the reviews of the remainder of the season.
Or I could just go watch Bates Motel. Now there’s a show that’s making mileage.