Defiance: The Serpents Egg Review -

Defiance Review

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Episode: The Serpent's Egg (Season1, Episode 6)
  • Starring: Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Stephanie Leonidas, Mia Kirshner
  • Written By: David Weddle, Bradley Thompson
  • Directed By: Omar Madha
  • Network: SyFy
  • Studio: Universal
  • Series:

Defiance: The Serpents Egg Review

Coming at you live on Raider Radio!

By Chuck Francisco     May 15, 2013

Full spoilers in the review below.

Irisa is damaged goods. She's an uncomfortable level of crazy packaged with absurd lethality. She's not like eccentric uncle Sal, who always gets the end of the bread loaf and needs to sit diagonally across the table from cousin Steffy. Instead Irisa is balls to the wall vengeance personified. She sniffs the slightest scent of a man and instantly knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he tortured and abused her as a young girl. The crux of this story hinges on the audience not knowing if this man is guilty or not. He seems like a simple businessman, and his weak and terrified simpering bought my pity (kudos to Ben Cotton for his nuanced and convincing portrayal). The setup that Irisa is so crazy that she would kill an innocent man to sate her violent anger is compelling, so it's a pretty severe let down that she was correct all along. This is the kind of safe move that doesn't really rock the boat and thus doesn't become more than it is. 

We get a lot more of the person behind the badge of deputy Tommy this week and I'm not at all sure I like what we see. He seems to stand for law and justice, but as soon as Irisa frees him he goes about beating the bound abuser. The blunt insinuation is that he'd have beat him to death if Irisa hadn't interceded. So Tommy is willing to compromise the law he upholds as long as the vengeance is well warranted? He saw enough in that basement to now that Irisa was abused as a child, he knows she's damaged inside (and unpredictably violent) and his first inclination back at the jail is to make love to her? That's a dangerous (and unfeelingly selfish) game to play and it potentially jeopardizes the safety of his manhood. Tommy's got a brass pair on him, let's hope he keeps them.

There were some really interesting design choices shown this week which serve to accentuate the town and its setting as a frontier backdrop. The Landcoach in particular, as a parallel to the mail and passenger stage coaches of the old west, tells us a great deal about Defiance. The arrival of mail and parcels is a community event, so far between in interval and so important as a connection to the outside world. So we know that as many people as there seem to be in the town, the sense of small community is not lost.

That Alak Tarr runs Defiance's radio station out of the very top of The Arch doesn't surprise me in the slightest. It's another cool nod to partial series inspiration Fallout 3, with its wasteland radio station Galaxy News Radio. While Alak is no Three Dog, he does have great taste in music and his excitement at acquiring new vinyl records is probably the most interesting character development he's gotten. Love Song by The Cure was a great choice and I'm very happy they didn't decide to go with a cover. 

We learn so much more about the rest of the Defiance world this week as well. Las Vegas apparently sports the country's major prison and New York City is the Capitol of the Earth Republic; apparently the biggest player in the political landscape. I found it even more fascinating that the Earth Republic is a matriarchal society which includes multiple husband polygamy. This isn't the sort of outside the box thinking normally displayed on television. The science fiction genre is a vehicle for idea exploration, so I'm glad they're trying something. Hopefully it continues to be handled in such a solid way. Jane McLean is being setup as an ongoing antagonistic force, looking to exploit the town of Defiance for her own economic and political gain. Amanda is going to be really sorry she didn't let Nolan execute the ambassador.

The desert land coach stand off brings even more frontiersy, old west vibe to Defiance. Nolan's plan held shades of Mal Reynolds' stand off with Patience on Firefly. In this case Amanda played the role of Jayne Cobb, sneaking up on the elevated sniper to reverse the ambush. This story should have been the highlight of the episode but it doesn't feel as though it was handled as well as it should of been. It doesn't fall completely flat, but rather it is uneven.

This week's Defiance again brings interesting ideas but can't transcend above "decent to good" into "great" territory. The pieces for political intrigue between the mayor players all vying for the town's resources are still being placed on the board, but how much longer will that take? In our TV climate of half seasons, every episode must be a critical piece of the puzzle. This week's Defiance was decent entertainment containing great ideas. It has been and can be so much more.

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.


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CalamityJohnson 5/15/2013 10:48:54 AM

Ok, I've got the last three episodes in my queue unwatched and I've avoided reading these reviews for fear of spoiling them, but I'm not encouraged by the cont'd poor ratings. So, with Da Vinci's Demons and this show both receiving poor reviews why isn't Mania reviewing an AWESOME show like Hannibal? I would hazard to say it is more mania-centric than Bates Motel and that has received reviews religiously.

Maniacs! If you consider yourself genre hounds that want a quality experience I cannot give more awesome praise and urge you to watch Hannibal. Pick up the previous episodes first. You won't be sorry. Soooo very good, intense, creepy, ingenius... television at its very best. Nevermind that it's on NBC, it'll play as if it was on F/X or AMC. Aside from GoT right now, it is the best on television.

CyanideRush 5/15/2013 11:06:16 AM

 No spoilers in this post, CalamityJohnson, just an answer to your question: I wish all shows could be awesome. It would make reviewing shows even mroe fun. But not every episode can be exceptional, unfortunately (even if you go back to a CLASSIC series like the original STAR TREK). Still, that doesn't mean we shouldn't cover it. It's out job to let you guys know what is good as well as what is not. The show has a great many good ideas, some of the execution over the past two episodes has been spotty, but the first two episodes got better Mania grades. Anyway, I plan to give Hannibal a look once I get some down time, it sounds like you love it. Cheers! -Chuck

Iridan 5/15/2013 12:01:39 PM

I figure B- is about right for this episode. I thought the first half was pretty boring, but the second half picked up. I also agree that they need to get this thing moving or, as I said last week, I'm afraid this show will go the way of Caprica.

One last thing, hasn't this whole 'chosen one' thing really been played out. I mean, come on.

I'm still giving this thing a chance, but I really hope it picks up soon.  On Mondays, I look forward far more to Revolution than this show.

ddiaz28 5/15/2013 1:43:35 PM

I really enjoyed this episode.  I really like that Irisa is a little off.  It makes her unpredictable.  I watch this on the Showcase website along with Continuum's season 2 which I so wish was being shown in the US right now.  I want to discuss it on this site so badly.

And I ditto Calamity's feelings regarding Hannibal.  Great show!

blankczech 5/15/2013 4:15:03 PM

Chuck... I understand what Calamity Johnson is saying.  There are several shows I wish Mania would review and discuss like Justified, The Americans, The Killing, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and others...but I realize that they aren't I accept that, but I do get miffed when a mania reviewer critiques Lincoln (the movie), Les Miserables or Gatsby  (though it's usually only one of your writers who does that).  I think Calamity makes a good case for's as mania-centric as Dexter (a Mania mainstay).

Does "You've Got Geek,"  discuss movies / TV  from other genres (besides Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Anime and Comics) ?

Kaziklu 5/15/2013 7:03:24 PM

 that was also one of the most awkward sex scenes I've scene in a long time. 

jd25u 5/15/2013 8:27:22 PM

I hate to say it, but this show is becoming a bit too predictable.  I knew the "businessman" front was a ruse, I knew Irisa would stop short of killing him, and I knew that the other Irathi chick would come back to save the Lawman and Mayor (of course, I never really thought they were ever in true danger to begin with).  And once again, the theme of Defiance's eminant doom was a major plot line.  Oh, and I knew that the Deputy and Irisa would get it on eventually, just as the Lawman and Mayor will ... and I'm sure there were many that saw through all of the same things.  For me, there is no real sense of danger for the shows' main players yet.  Even in the Pilot, did you really think that the town would be wiped out the first episode??  I want this show to be good, and hope it can, but they need to step it up.

jd25u 5/15/2013 8:29:44 PM

 ... Oh, and I am watching Season 2 of Continuum ..... and it is pretty dammmn good.

CyanideRush 5/16/2013 4:38:30 AM

 Blankczech -You've Got Geek typically focuses on the Scifi, fantasy, video games, comics end of the spectrum, but we're also cinema geeks in general, so we usually spend time disucssing whatever the big release movie of the week is and any big news stories from the world of movies (even if it isn't genre specific).


monkeyfoot 5/16/2013 7:34:55 AM

Took me awhile to finally look at this episode.

Chuck, I more or less agree with your review. It was not a great episode but neither was it awful. It was as Jd25u said: predictable. This isn't always a bad thing. In you classic good vs. evil stories like Star Wars who doesn't know (SPOILERS) that the good guys win. It's execution that makes the difference.

Nolan's adventure was a variant of the classic movie Stagecoach which fits with the sci-fi western theme of the show. And Irisa's story of finding a villain from your past and seeking vengeance has also been done alot. It is just IMHO they did them in a standard way. I think more importantly to the producers was that they were trying to further continuing plots for later in the series rather than make this a compelling episode.

But as I've said before, other sci-fi shows I've loved such as ST:TNG and Stargate SG-1 took a season or two to find their groove and I have no problem waiting a bit for this.

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