Oct 23, 2014

[TV] Defiance: Season 2

I recognize that I've been too generous with many TV shows. If I start a show and somewhat like it, I try to finish the season in order to give it a decent chance to mature a bit and generally prove itself. But then once I've finished a season, I'm more likely to watch the next one out of sheer habit. And thus the vicious cycle goes on and on until I've reached this point where I seem to be flooded with a lot of bad TV choices.

I should have quit Defiance after the first season, but when the new episodes started appearing I figured it might not be too bad to at least check them out and see how things were shaping up. Maybe things were going to get better. And that is some pretty bad logic.

I admit this need to give TV more of a chance all stems from a bit of trauma involving the second season of LOST. I was ready to give up on the show early into that season but given how much Tobie loves the series, I pressed on. I honestly felt like I had underestimated the series somehow and thus I didn't want to make that same mistake again.

But then again, very few shows are like LOST.

Synopsis: Defiance is a science fiction drama series developed for television by Rockne S. O'Bannon, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Taylor based around the MMORPG of the same name. It has been announced that the show has been confirmed for a third season.

At the end of the first season, the little town of Defiance was now under the control of the Earth Republic given their interest in the mines. Niles Pottinger (James Murray) is now mayor, while Amanda (Julie Benz), the former mayer, is watching over Kenya's (Mia Krishner) bar and brothel until she comes back. Datak has been imprisoned for his crimes while his son Alak (Jesse Rath) but ultimately his wife Stahma (Jaime Murray) continue to oversee his business affairs. And Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) continues to search for his adopted daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) and eventually finds her inside the Angel Arch over Defiance.

That seems a decent enough setup for a new season, but the real main arch here turns out to be the fact that Irisa has been experiencing strange visions and has been losing time. And when she does wake up again, a lot of times she finds that she has assaulted someone without knowing why. All this ties to two artifacts that had been found at the end of the first season that are actually keys to a weaponized Votan ship. And for one reason or another, Irisa plays a central role in fulfilling the function of the keys.

I have to admit, at first glance the Irisa angle seemed a little interesting. It added a nice meta-plot element that actually stretches across two seasons and holds a lot of good potential for story. But then the general noise that is Defiance and its myriad tangle of plots muddied up this key story until the very end of the season. Let's face it - there's a lot of stuff that happens in the town of Defiance that just isn't worth caring about. And yet we still have to dedicate entire episodes to it.

As much as Stahma is a rather intriguing and powerful character, why she continues to allow herself to be held back by her dimwit son and her egotistical husband are beyond me. She could have been rid of all of them long ago, and yet she continues to play a weird shell game where she tries to stay out of the spotlight. But given the ferocity you see in her eyes and the keen intelligence that drives her every action, I really don't get why she doesn't dominate more.

Despite the high potential meta-plot, we get bogged down in all these little stories about people we don't necessarily care all that much about. And while this is not inherently a bad narrative device, it would matter more if the characters meant more in the greater scheme of things or weren't so annoying. Thus the show sort of drags its feet for most of the season and then rushes to address the bigger plot towards the end. We saw the same pattern in the first season and it repeated once more in the second.

The show isn't entirely bad television - it has its interesting moments like any other show. But it definitely feels rather sub-par, especially given how hard it is to appreciate a lot of the characters. And this has nothing to do with the diversity of aliens - other shows like Babylon 5, Farscape and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made good use of diversity to tell different stories. Here everyone is just generally miserable and out to win somehow. And people have memories almost as bad as the folks who live Under the Dome since the bad guys are eventually forgiven and then reintegrated back into society. Seriously.

Defiance is not a planet-based Firefly. It's a science fiction show that tried to tell a decent story but instead played out like most video game adaptations - rather badly. Thus it gets 2 law man cases that stop being relevant by the next episode out of a possible 5.

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