Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Idiot Box: Defiance 1x05 - “The Serpent's Egg” Review

Well, maybe I was right in my prediction that every other episode of this show would be a good one, but then that only leaves me dreading next week's show. After last week's far too standard kidnapping plot, we get another story that is a little cliche, but works a lot better with the frontier western setting, such that at the very least it doesn't feel quite as much like a script from another show altogether that they just changed all the names to fit. Its a hostage standoff episode, and weirdly a direct sequel to the last good one bringing back the Hellbug luring Irathient criminal, which leads me to think that last week's bore fest might have just been some adrenaline drug induced hallucination.

The Serpent's Egg follows Nolan transporting the aforementioned murderer to the closest prison (apparently in Las Vegas) while Amanda tags along with a macguffin sized bag of cash that leads to schemes within schemes where various unsavory types try to steal it for various reasons. This unnecessarily complex structure is my one big problem with the episode, as the reveals are incredibly predictable even by TV standards. The initial twist of the first thief's identity, and then a later one concerning who hired them should probably be figured out before the first gun is drawn, the first being pretty hokey in its own right, and the second one only a little more interesting in that it seems to set up another villain for the future.

The much better story, which surprised me considering I'm already a bit leery about this plot line, follows Irisa kidnapping and torturing a man who she believes did the same to her as a child as part of some mysterious religious ritual. Apparently at one point her family gave her up to a Castithan cult due to the psychic ability she revealed earlier in the season, and according to this group, she is some sort of messiah, or will be. Its not my favorite sci-fi trope to be honest, but in this case it expands upon the mystery of this universe's past and the connection between these various cultures, that for example her sixth sense isn't just an Irathient superstition that happens to be true, but something that other races are aware of and seek to cultivate.

I think I may have referenced this last week, but the thing I keep worrying about as I see Defiance play out is how even when its good, it doesn't feel like it is exploiting the scope inherent to its premise. This show needs to be bigger, and I know that sounds strange considering the action is centered on one relatively small location, but there's so much more under the surface, and so far the show seems to be getting a bit bogged down in minutiae at the expense of its larger and more interesting elements. There are still several species on this planet that we've had really no information about in the series proper, and at least one that hasn't even appeared and that I only know about via Wikipedia.

The cult and its connection to Irisa and Nolan's past is a good start, but if I don't see this show expand on this kind of thing going forward, I might have to consider giving up on it. Supposedly its something of a hit and has already been renewed for a second season, and I hope that by the last episode of this one, they've managed to reveal enough to keep me interested and willing to keep going with it. With so many great shows that get cancelled before they have time to reveal their full potential (Farscape and Firefly, the two that this show probably owes the most to being among them), it feels like a waste to establish so much right at the outset and then follow though at such a slow pace.

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