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- Episode: Goodbye Blue Sky (Season 1, Episode 8)
- Starring: Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Stephanie Leonidas, Mia Kirshner
- Written By: Anupam Nigam, Amanda Alpert Muscat
- Directed by: Andy Wolk
- Network: SyFy Channel
Defiance: Goodbye Blue Sky Review
Shiny Happy People
By Chuck Francisco
June 07, 2013
This week's Defiance successfully weaves a number of divergent stories together into an hour of compelling entertainment. Deception and misdirection plague Rafe's home as Nicky makes an unexpected storm time visit; love is in the air for a surprising pair over at the Need Want; Doc Yewll gets her hands dirty with some Ark tech; and Irathient mysticism is front and center. An action packed first half gives way to an emotionally tumultuous second act. Goodbye Blue Sky continues upon the strength of last week's episode while additionally fleshing out this fascinating world and the characters who inhabit it.
Full spoilers begin below
There are a number of sizable discussion point to speak on but it's the little touches this week which were vital to combining the whole into a cohesive package. The opening camera work accompanying the Spirit Riders flight from the Razor Rain storm was exciting. The kinetic nature of this sequence's visuals translated into a much more dangerous feeling, punctuated by the death of Sukar. It also lent a lucid quality to the moment, confusing Irisa and the audience about the truth (was this a premonition or was she seeing a live feed). The spinning centrifugal light on the hood of Nolan's Dodge feels like something off a Ghostbuster's proton pack, which helped establish more of the full flavor of the setting.
The more time spent with Rafe, the less he seems like a good man. He's quickly moving toward the corrupt company owner/organized crime family end of the spectrum. With the organized crime side of the equation clearly covered in the person of Datak, that leaves Rafe as the subtler, more respectable face of Defiance's under belly. Given how careful he's been, it's all the more surprising that Nicky was able to get one over on him and fool him into admitting Birch was murdered in the McCawley home. Again there's "head Luke", advising baby brother Quentin on exactly what to say. It's still not clear if Luke is a hallucination but I'd wager it's more likely that he's a manifestation caused by the alien object.
The first association that springs to mind when razor rain was mentioned is razor hail from Gears of War. In that context, it functions more like flesh shredding mega hail. Here on Defiance it's used to refer to a rain of lethal shrapnel pouring down from among the orbital ark belt (super cool name). The use of dangerous storm conditions to force characters together into confrontational situations is not a new one, but it shows great creativity to devise a unique and suitably science fiction steeped "storm". Nolan's patch into Raider Radio to warn the town further fostered the feeling of small town community, which is sometimes misplaced among the show's priorities. It very much gave this episode a "small midwestern community battening down the hatches to wait out a tornado" feel; this very much fits and enhances the setting.
I was sad to discover that Sukar actually died as he's a figure I find quite interesting. Even more shocking was his resurrection and Wolverine level regeneration. Are we tired of nanites yet? They seem to be microscopically hiding in plain sight everywhere you look. Have they became the "radiation gave them superpowers" of the 2010's? I'm much more apt to believe their existence here since they're a part of ridiculously advanced alien technology. After saving the town from destruction they go dormant in Sukar, leaving him in a permanent coma. Very interesting will be the day when he is reactivated to serve the sentience of the ark belt. Make no mistake, we haven't seen the last of the mountainous former leader of the Spirit Riders.
Have we seen the end of Nolan and Irisa's relationship? It's doubtful that the rift formed by Nolan's actions inside the Arch will permanently sever their bond (and from our perspective he's reasonably justified), but an ever enlarging gap seems to be materializing between them. I was vey unhappy with the handling of Irisa's character this week. So much time has been spent showcasing her barely restrained lethality that relegating her to the role of useless sidelined girl, screaming for the tough men to stop their fighting, is jarring. Disarming her ability as a person because it was needed to fit the story is lazy, and removing her combat capability to shout at the boys is misogynistic. I found her lack of agency troubling all around.
On the other hand completely, I found the subplot between Kenya and Stahma to be charming, emotionally deep, and endearing. Kenya's role has always been far from simply town prostitute, and she strikingly resembles a trained companion cut from Inara's cloth (Firefly). Her ability to comfort Stahma, see needs within her (needs plural, emotional as well as sexual), and address those on several levels is fascinating. Both actresses display a range of emotional states from vulnerability and discomfort, to brevity and sincere longing. Their on screen chemistry is fun and they bring out great things in each other. For added entertainment value, be sure to follow Jaime Murray on twitter (@DefianceWorld) as her live episode tweets are spectacular (and her back and forth with other cast members is highly engaging).
Here is yet another solid episode from the folks at SyFy. Early on it appears that the balanced episodes, which work a number of disparate plots, are the most entertaining. The intrigue is starting to deepen and the characters are solidly growing. Next week's episode sees the wrath of Datak in response to Stahma's stress relieving indiscretion, and the discovery of a US solider long left in some manner of stasis. Maybe Amanda will finally get her way and we'll be subjected to Shiny Happy People? Let's hope not.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.