This week Josh reviews the series premiere of SyFy’s Defiance, along with Violet providing her feelings on the show. What did we think of it? Take a look after the jump! Spoilers are in orbit here, so make sure you have already seen the episode before reading!
My wife and I just finished the two hour premiere of Syfy’s Defiance. As is inevitable, in my head, I began comparing this show to other sci-fi genre shows we have had come and go. The first one that came to mind is Firefly. Interestingly enough, Defiance is the first television show that also had an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplay game) in development with the show. What we know so far: Jeb Nolan is an ex-soldier who seems to be constantly on the move with his adopted daughter Irisa (who is Irathient–one of the alien races that came to Earth 33 years ago). Their ultimate goal seems to be Antarctica, which according to Nolan is now a “paradise”. We also learn that Votans–the alien races now on Earth, came here and Terra Formed our Earth, changing the geography as we know it, and somehow within the past 33 years, Earth has been changed into a hostile, post-apocalyptic-like planet.
We open the show to find out that Nolan and Irisa make money as scavengers. What do they scavenge? The space debris that crashes down from orbit above Earth. Many decrepit space ships seem to be orbiting the Earth, and eventually make their way to the surface. For those of us that have seen Firefly, Nolan gives off that Mal/Han Solo vibe. The hero that is also looking out for his own skin. Nolan wardrobe seems to have even taken a few hints from Malcolm Reynolds.
Not to mention that the whole premise of “Firefly” was that they were scavengers. I like how the show sets up the relationship between father and daughter, which seems to be a close one, and hints at the fact that Nolan often makes questionable decisions which get him into trouble, and that although Irisa is the child, she has to help her parent get out of those predicaments. Irisa goes on to prove in this episode that she is no helpless little girl, and can take care of herself if need be.
After scavenging what Nolan and Irisa seem to think will solve all of their debt issues, they are attacked by Spirit Riders–which are basically an Irathient biker gang. After a brief chase, and Nolan battling some weird wolf-arachnid-type beasts in the forest, the Lawmen of Defiance show up, and take both Nolan and Irisa into town (right after Nolan manages to bury their “lottery ticket”). Again, that Firefly vibe is given off, with a somewhat old-west feel to the city, as we enter Defiance. For those who haven’t seen anything about this show, we learn here that Defiance is what formerly was known as St. Louis. Here in Defiance, we are introduced to our newly appointed mayor, Amanda Rosewater, our lawmen police officers, and the two rival wealthy families, the Tarrs and the McCawleys, or as I like to call them, the Montagues and Capulets of the town.
The town of Defiance is interesting, we have a variety of alien races living here. Interestingly enough the town has a brothel (ran by the mayor’s sister) and a fight club, both of which our protagonist Nolan has already frequented. In order to figure out how to get our wayward hero to stay in Defiance, we have to have a conflict which comes in the form of the death of one of the McCawleys. This is where we learn a little bit more about Nolan, as he volunteers to investigate the murder of McCawley’s son after the lawman who should be taking care of such tasks is killed in a scuffle between the Tarrs and McCawleys.
Through investigation, and the assistance of the mayor, Nolan is able to deduce the killer, who has a greater agenda: bringing down the Stasis-Net. What is the Stasis-Net? It is some sort of force field that keeps out invaders. If someone is bringing down the Stasis-Net, it probably means an invasion is coming, right? Sure enough, we have an alien race known as The Volge marching on Defiance. We get to see the empathizing side of Nolan here, as rather than skipping town, he sacrifices his scavenged lottery ticket to save the town, using it to make a giant focused energy wave that Defiance can direct at the incoming forces.
We see some friction between Irisa and Nolan when Nolan decides to go back. Apparently they have led a difficult life, and every chance they’ve had to get ahead, Nolan has blown it. However, has he always blown it because of his good-hearted character and need to help others, like what happened here, or because he screwed it up by getting into questionable situations which he could have avoided? I’m interested to know more of their back story.
By the end of episode, we have a new lawman in Defiance, our main protagonist Nolan. We have our feuding families, one of which is conspiring to have his son and the daughter of McCawley married in efforts to anger him. We also learn that Nolan was living in St Louis before the alien invasion, and he among other people fought in the “pale wars”–presumably a war between humans and aliens. So far the show has not given much information on this war yet though. There is also an alien invading race called the Volge, bent on destruction, and most importantly, we find our main villain, the previous mayor of Defiance who is bent on finding an Artifact hidden with Defiance.
Also, it is established that Nolan was one of the “Defiant Few” who stood in defense of Defiance when their numbers dwindled in the war. Some people seem to highly respect him for this distinction, while others are more concerned with the present. Very sneaky of that former mayor, to help Amanda to become the new mayor only because she thought Amanda would be weak and unable to handle the Volge’s invasion, even encouraging her when she doubted herself, saying that she saw talent in Amanda. I didn’t see it coming that the mayor would be the bad guy, considering that she had been the mayor there for so long, now only to turn against her town. Plus, she just seemed like a sweet little old lady! But Amanda proved her wrong, and her strength came through to help inspire the citizens of Defiance to protect their town rather than flee. Of course, they wouldn’t have won without Nolan’s help, but still.
So far this show is shaping up to be pretty exciting. Nolan is no Mal, and Defiance is no Firefly, but I think this show can mold itself into an enjoyable show of its own given the writing and acting is done well enough. The post-apocalyptic feel of the backstory will be fun to see unfold. The feuding families with be entertaining drama for the show, while our “rough-around-the-edges” hero seems like he will be an entertaining Han Solo archetype to watch. My biggest complaint of the episode was probably some of the CGI, but for a TV show, it’s hard to fault lower budget special effects. It is fairly early to make any finalized decisions on this show, but so far it has my attention, and I will be tuning in next week. I am on board with this show so far!
My biggest complaint was how predictable this episode was. It was obvious that Nolan would be the replacement for the Lawkeeper, that he would decide to go back and help the town, using their scavenged item in some way, and that he and Irisa would then decide to stay in Defiance rather than moving on. But I guess since this is the pilot episode, and the title of the show is the same as the name of the town, they had to find some way to keep him there. Hopefully the rest of the season won’t be quite so predictable now that we’ve established roots for the characters. I’m also thinking there’s going to eventually be a love triangle between Nolan, Amanda, and her sister. I wonder if there will be anymore flashbacks throughout the series, in addition to the one we’ve seen of Nolan as a child when the aliens arrive. In any case, I am curious to know what happened within the past 33 years, and if the show will reveal more of that, or mostly concentrate on the present. As of now, the show has me hooked, and I will keep watching!