Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Idiot Box: Defiance 1x07 - "Goodbye, Blue Sky" Review

I've been on this show occasionally for sometimes failing to meet its potential. Usually when this is the case, the result is an episode that despite being in a very unique and interesting setting rife for original storytelling ends up being a retread of countless other basic cable sci-fi/action plots. This is the show at its worst. At its best, it takes these same well-worn structures and breathes new life into them using the inherent weirdness of the locale and mythology to make something old appear new again. This week's episode of Defiance is thankfully one of the latter, telling its version of a "disparate characters trapped together" story with all the requisite character development and squabbling, but also a nice helping of meteor shrapnel, inter species lesbianism, and acid bath resurrections. This is the Defiance I want to see.

The incident that forces our cast to split off into dramatically convenient pairs is something called Razor Rain, this universe's equivalent of acid rain, caused by the dead ark ships in orbit falling to Earth in small jagged pieces rather than one big chunk as we saw in the pilot. When the leader of the nomadic Irathients is seemingly killed by one of these metal raindrops, then mysteriously comes back to life at his own acid bath funeral, he sets about on a mysterious mission with Irisa in tow that acts as a through line connecting the rest of the stories of Defiance's other residents hunkering down for the storm. This culminates in probably the most impactful moment of the episode, as Irisa defies her adoptive father and accepts the notion that she might have a larger destiny.

I have to give this episode some special credit for focusing on several stories that I haven't really been all that enthusiastic about, and pushing them forward in such a way that I'm actually starting to get interested in them. The Romeo and Juliet young lovers thing has always dragged the show down for me, but I think that might be because we've always seen this story through the eyes of other people not directly involved with the characters, seeing the reactions of the parents and so forth. This is really the first episode to show the two of them together dealing with the issues brought up by their relationship and the complications of their upcoming inter species marriage, and while I still think there are better plot threads in this show to explore, I didn't cringe when these two came on screen as I have in the past.

This situation is seen from the other side through Stahma and Kenya's segment, as the outwardly demure but secretly scheming mother seeks to hire the town madam to supposedly teach her son the ways of human love. I'm not sure whether we are meant to question this as a part of some larger plot, or if the unusual request is just the result of a cultural misunderstanding, but by the end, their initially uncomfortable exchange thankfully expands on a character that could have easily just been relegated to a one note manipulative villian. Also, you know, very pretty ladies makin' out is always a good way to end an episode. Just sayin'.

I'm actually a little surprised by how fast the McCawley family storyline is going, considering we're only seven episodes in and we've already got everybody on the same page concerning the threat to the town and the significance of the mysterious artifact. The former Mayor, whose name escapes me so I'm just going to call her Eloise Hawking from Lost, reveals her true colors pretty quickly and obviously, which I'm not sure yet if I like necessarily, but it definitely ramps things up going into the last half of the season. And we get another appearance of the dead son's ghost, which I want to see more of, as long as they actually incorporate it into the show and explain it, rather than just making it a psychological phantom or coping mechanism or something.

Overall, Goodbye, Blue Sky was another solid episode of a show that seems to have finally shaken off some of the Freshman stumbling blocks that I've felt hampered some of the earlier shows. I'll have to wait until we see the whole picture of season one, but I definitely get the impression that this series has settled into a groove and knows what its doing. I'm still impatiently waiting for a more expansive look at this strange world, and some more alien intrigue to counterbalance the conflicts we've already established, but at least now I have enough reason to give the writers the benefit of the doubt that what I want to see is coming eventually. More of this, please.

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