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Defiance: “Everything Is Broken”

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The season finale of Defiance may be the first episode of television to indicate a post-Game Of Thrones mentality in television. HBO's phenomenon will likely have a major effect on television, and the most obvious of those effects will probably be following its lead in killing off major characters. It's with that in mind that “Everything Is Broken” becomes more interesting. The climax of the episode shows Joshua Nolan, ostensibly the show's main character, dying—and it's entirely plausible that he could stay dead. Would this have been plausible three years ago, prior to Game Of Thrones? I'm not so sure. That show made it quite clear that an early main character, who successfully introduces viewers into a more complicated world, is expendable once the setting and ensemble have been established.


That doesn't actually happen in “Everything Is Broken.” And that's not all that surprising, to be honest. There was room for Nolan to be resurrected, and the show took advantage of it. But what makes it interesting is that there was also room for Nolan to remain dead, for Irisa to learn and understand that there are some things she shouldn't control, and for the show to take the risk of letting its supposed main character be dead. For several minutes at the end of the episode, I didn't know which was more likely. Game Of Thrones opened that door, and although Defiance didn't choose to walk through it, it knew the door was there, and so did we.

Another aspect of the episode that can be tied to Game Of Thrones' rising influence—although less directly—is that the story doesn't end with the end of the season. The climaxes and cliffhangers of “Everything Is Broken” point to a new direction for the second season. Datak's election gives the Earth Republic reason to move in, and by the end of the episode, it's unclear where everyone stands. Doc Yewll was attacked by Irisa's implants. Rafe has been shot. Datak and Stahma are standing above a dead Colonel's body as his men search for their officer's body. And Kenya is apparently dead, poisoned by Stahma. I have no doubts that almost all of these characters will survive, but their positions if they do so may be dramatically changed, which makes the cliffhangers more exciting than annoying.

But while I can admire the episode in terms of the structure of this season and next, it was, in a few too many ways, a reversion to the awkward episodic pacing of the early season one episodes. This was most apparent at its very beginning, when the mythology of the artifacts/Irisa was explained almost cursorily. “Oh, by the way, there's a 3000-year-old super Votan ship underneath the town and only you can use it.” And what's stranger is that suddenly the characters all know this. Nolan, once he's found Irisa, had apparently heard the exposition from the Doctor, despite the show indicating that he'd been tracking Irisa ever since Yewll had pointed him outside of her clinic.

There are several disjointed moments like this throughout “Everything Is Broken.” The villain who kills Nolan is a mercenary who goes by “Black Jonah” as though the name should have meaning, but he's not given any particular history that seems deserving of the reputation. (There are some audio recordings of his recruitment in the Defiance game, but nothing especially memorable.) The Mayoral election results are simply announced, with Datak winning, and no particular tension. When the episode calms down a little bit and allows its characters time to talk to one another, as in a great scene where the E-Rep Colonel tries to put Datak in his place, it really works. There's enough going on here that's left by the wayside that “Everything Is Broken” feels like it would have benefited from an expanded run-time as was the case with the pilot episode.


But that's Defiance in a nutshell, isn't it? Some wonderful ideas, some well-developed structure, great character moments, and it's all put together a bit too messily. That's not a bad combination at all for the first season of a television show, mind you. It beats the hell out of properly-paced boring and inane. I am well and properly excited about having this kind of science fiction on television, and looking forward to the second season.

Season grade: B+

Stray observations:

  • “There's only one other person who's done what you just did, and I pay her by the hour.” Did what, Datak? Had standing sex? Or was something else going on there?
  • “What's a golf ball?”
  • I can't imagine a worse thing to call Datak Tarr than “uppity.” You poor dumb dead racist colonel.
  • “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm a monster. I regret my past, and I'm trying to do best. You should be taking notes.”
  • Defiance the video game news: In order to maintain momentum with the show ending for the year, it looks like they're starting a contest where the best Ark Hunters in the game are getting a chance to appear on the show. In addition to that, of interest to those of who don't want to dedicate our lives to Ark Hunting, the game is including all the episodic tie-in quests again, so I'll finally have the chance to see the Nolan-Irisa prequel story.

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