‘Defiance’: Season 1 DVD review

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We are introduced to Joshua Nolan (ex-Marine, a tad Mal Reynolds) and his friend Irisa – an alien teenager – as they scavenge a crashed ship on a terraformed Earth. It’s a great opening, both visually impressive and scene-setting. The prospect of two scavengers exploring such a world is an enticing one. There’s a lot of potential here.

Then Defiance turns up.

It is a city-state built on the ruins of St. Louis (the Gateway Arch is still standing, though the rest of the city ruins are underground – it’s best not to speculate how this happened). Nolan ends up becoming Chief Lawkeeper. Each week’s mystery and its resolution adds to the on-going arc. The problem is that these mysteries aren’t very interesting.

When Defiance is at its best is not in the science-fiction elements, but the political in-fighting of this world and the driven characters who attempt to manipulate it. Our heroes, with the exception of Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), are stock characters. Far better are the Tarrs (Tony Curran and Hustle‘s Jaime Murray). They are aliens (although, it would make little difference if they weren’t) with ambition and determination; he obviously violently power-driven and she the Lady Macbeth figure behind him.

The female aliens are the best characters because they’re harder to fathom, and more unpredictable. Others are variable, depending on what the plot needs them to do. There are many moments where, as a viewer, you question plot or character logic.

Why, you ask, would a person trust this immensely suspicious character? There are many of these characters, because the show keeps killing them off rather than allow us some sort of consistent face of the enemy. Because there are so many characters some are barely sketched, yet the show returns to them at the expense of the more intriguing ones.

It also features yet another bloody resurrection of the dead. These are rubbish. Please take note, fiction-makers.

Most episodes end with a song played over the characters looking wistful about what’s just happened. This is, without fail, awful. It’s a blessed relief on the few episodes where the credits roll and your senses remain unmolested by tepid pathos.

There are twelve episodes here, and the series arc really kicks in around Episode 10. The final two episodes are the best by far, and with the groundwork done there’s a lot of promise for Defiance‘s confirmed second season, but its focus needs to be tightened, and questions answered. Chiefly:

Why is there a Hole poster in the town council meeting room?

It’s not even from one of their good albums.

Released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 15 July 2013 by Universal Pictures (UK).