Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Idiot Box: Defiance 1x04 - “A Well Respected Man” Review

I don't know if its going to be every other episode, or just all the episodes ending on a mysterious note involving the weird gold spiral pattern they want to make into a thing, but this show has to do something about this roller coaster of quality. After a great pilot, a shitty second outing, and then a great third episode, once again I'm sitting here wondering if Defiance is worth the effort of continuing. Its not that this one was so glaringly bad, certainly not as boring or useless as the second one, but it just feels like a sci fi plot we've seen before. Woman in peril, virtual reality, drug smugglers, all coming together in predictable ways and perfectly fine in general, just not representative of what I know this show is capable of. Why spend so much time crafting such an elaborate history and back story and mythology for your show if this is all you planned to do with it?

A Well Respected Man is mostly about the one woman in town who seems to get no respect, the madam of the Need/Want brothel Kenya, a character who has been growing on me ever since the insane bacon grease sexcapades I attempted to dance around last week. This time around she's been kidnapped by drug runners, including the big blue Bioman from the first episode, who want to harvest her adrenal gland by scaring her literally to death, because they don't have cocaine or heroin in the future I guess. Maybe the terraformers turned all the pot plants into man eating spider creatures, I don't know, but that would have been a more interesting concept than this.

A newly romantically inclined Nolan teams up with Amanda in a mad dash to save Kenya, eventually requiring the assistance of Datak, who as expected, has to be a huge dick about everything, which is why we like him. This is the storyline referred to in the title and should have been the A story, as his wife manipulates things behind the scenes for her husband's benefit, and ultimately for her own advancement. We get a nice twist on Dexter with Julie Benz and Jaime Murray finally having a scene together that mirrors the manipulative relationships their two characters had on the show they were previously on together, and the final scene presents a sort of Godfather moment of hidden plots and intrigue that at the very least bodes well for the future.

Its just that...did we need the whole kidnapped by drug smugglers thing? I know it sounds like I'm harping on it, and I guess I am, but its such a standard and hackneyed plot device and really does a show like this a disservice. The thing I liked about this show going in was its potential to present a believable reality even amid such unbelievable circumstances, that the situations felt real even as half the cast was from another galaxy. Have you ever been kidnapped by drug smugglers? Any reason to think you ever might be? No, because you don't live in the universe of a shitty TV show that steals its plots from a hundred shitty TV shows before it. Its done about as well as it could be, but I just thought Defiance was going to be better than this.

On the positive side, they do use this story as an opportunity to explore the relationship between the two sisters in a way that is mostly effective, even if the final twist of the flashback subplot was a bit predictable. Then again, we start the episode with a tense stand off with gun runners that seemed to set the stage for an interesting exploration of the need for town security versus the need for moral clarity, and the precarious position the mayor is in as a result of her tenuous hold on her position, and fuck if I know where that story ended up. Overall, while I can't say it was the weakest episode so far, its far from the strongest, at least in terms of what I want from the series. I still see no reason to give up on it now, but I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about continuing it as I once was.

Okay, I really want to write the killer pot spider movie now.
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