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- Episode: If I Ever Leave This World Alive (Season 1, Episode 10)
- Starring: Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Stephanie Leonidas, Mia Kirshner
- Written By: Bryan Gracia
- Directed By: Allan Kroeker
- Network: SyFy Channel
Defiance: If I Ever Leave This World Alive Review
Unspecified immoral machinations
By Chuck Francisco
June 19, 2013
Full spoilers begin below!
Political infighting and plot elements from the Defiance game command the foreground of this week's scifi power hour. The much touted plague being teased in trailers over the past week has been an in game event for the last several, and has made its way east from the Bay Area. For TV show fans who aren't familiar, the game is centered around the area of what used to be San Francisco. The scientists of the game managed to synthesize an antibody and, as luck would have it, Doc Yewll is familiar with them. Here my familiarity with the missions in the game ends; I'm unsure if the repurposed ICBM cure delivery vessel is actually launched by players on that end (though that would be exceptionally cool). Despite being a brief, off hand reference, I found the delivery mechanism clever. How else could a cure be so quickly sent across the wasteland?
Severe allusions to World War II and the accompanying human rights violations are marbled like silver veins throughout the story. Many of the arguments being bandied about in support of penning the Irathiants inside makeshift internment camps ring all too familiar to those used for imprisoning Japanese Americans in the 1940's. The vulgar abuse spewed by human miners turned prison guards came off as an eerie warning not to forget our very real past transgressions. These real world parallels are taken a step further when one of the Iraths makes mention that the Castithans gassed their people with chlorine in a very similar situation. A ghoulish call back to the Haulocaust for sure, but also an extremely telling insight on the Castithan mindset. As always I find science fiction most compelling when it's used in ways that examine the people we actually are (or were).
We get a fairly dark glimpse into the history of a number of characters this week (which must be a theme because it continued into Warehouse 13 immediately following Defiance). Nicky exchanges the truth about Rafe's wife with Quentin for the mysterious object. She revels among her cigarette smoke, lording the sordid past of the young man's family over him like the Wicked Witch of the West finally exacting verbal revenge. It isn't enough for her to explain how Quentin's mother slipped off into madness in the absence of her bipolar medication and was shipped out west by Rafe. No, she is compelled to twist the knife and detail how she herself was also Rafe's mistress. First of all- ew. Secondly- it further draws a grim picture of Rafe as a secretly awful human being, despite bright spots of levity or kindness. Perhaps he's the most representative of humanity in the bunch: trying hard despite sometimes falling to temptation. Nolan seems to be doing a more respectable job of it though.
The Earth Republic's ambassador to Defiance, Connor Lang, fosters our sympathy and exhibits likable qualities before being executed by Datak. In becoming relatable to Nolan (and thus the audience), he spills the beans on his past with Amanda, including an aborted pregnancy. It's certainly not the answer Nolan quested after and may color their budding relationship. It's cliche, but I was just beginning to like Connor when he unfortunately witnessed the unrestrained monster lurking beneath Datak's mask of civility.
It's the rare line of dialogue which so epitomizes a character is delivered by them. Datak's "doesn't fit my narrative" moment is one such encapsulation. In that second we learn far more about that man who would be mayor than we have across nearly nine other episodes. Now consider that his wife Stahma is the more dangerous of the two and that she is effectively keeping her husband on a leash. All that stands between Defiance and brutal vengeance is a knowing look from wife to husband. And through their son they also happen to control the airwaves of the town too. As Datak delivers his rousing bid for the mayorship, Stahma can be seen prompting him through their polished presentation. Of course, Alak has disabled Amanda's mic so there can be no rebuttal. Lady MacBeth in all but name.
Nicky now posses the object, which is apparently so dangerous that Doc Yewll(who manipulated an energy core into an explosive during a full on battle, you'll recall) wants no part of it. From their brief exchange it sounds like an engine of change, but also an agent of chaos. Yewll's sordid past is given scope in the conversation as well, informing us that she is part of "the old crew" who were up to unspecified immoral machinations. I gather that Rafe and Datak were also involved in some capacity.
As the plague is beaten back and the dead are disposed of, things begin to settle down in Defiance. This doesn't mean that the status quo will reign again, though Nolan and Irisa appear to have patched up some of their recent rocky stretches. Quentin sets off west in search of his mother but with out the guidance of his ghostly brother Luke's apparition. Being that it's attached to the object, perhaps he'll haunt old aunt Nicky. Mayoral elections are fast approaching and with Stahma's steadfast guidance Datak is positioned to wrest control of the town from Amanda. With only three episodes remaining this season, expect the stakes to be raised and the consequences to take on even more dire nature. Complex, heady science fiction is the order of the day, and Defiance brings it in spades.
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.