Remember that multitude of questions that amassed after the pilot and the second episode? In the “Previously On” segment of the most recent episode of Defiance entitled “A Well Respected Man”, I’m hoping a couple of those questions might be answered as the references to previous episodes include Rafe McCawley finding that gold and shiny ‘something’ in his deceased son’s room; Nolan’s fight with the Bioman in Datak Tarr’s fighting club; Nolan’s meeting of Amanda and Kenya separately and later together as sisters; the deserting Castithan and how he met his end (particularly at whose hands). In essence, excerpts from the first 2 episodes only, as if last week’s ‘throw-away’ episode had never happened. In narrative terms, it could probably be seen as an episode of one detour after another, and so far, the only tangible thing we can take away from “Devil In the Dark” is that Irisa is special and that being with people of her own kind with the same cultural references was probably very valuable for her because although Nolan loves her and she him, as a human, he can’t ever understand her completely, no matter how hard he tries. And except for one brief moment, that’s the only time we see her in this episdode, the writers had other fish to fry.
Speaking of which, Executive Producer Kevin Murphy and the folks at tv.com had a live chat on Tuesday, May 7 and one of the questions that had been bothering me has now been answered. How these aliens with interstellar travel technology and cryosleep capabilities didn’t know that Earth was inhabited. Well, per Kevin Murphy, “a small cadre of Indogene scientists knew. They lied to fellow Votans to get their pet survival plan over net politically.”
Alrighty-then, back to “A Well Respected Man” – this time I’m trying out a different (and yet familiar) way of scene separation. Hope you all likey.
A street, daytime: some Castithans are in a vintage (even by our 2013 standards) automobile, slowly cruising down a street (despite being in a post-apocalyptic world, there either hasn’t been a petroleum-based energy crisis, or they are (that is, who they’re working for is) wealthy enough to own a sufficient supply). Surreptitious passing of money from passers-by to the Castithans in exchange for small dark blue cylindrical objects. And then Irisa and Nolan and Tommy happen. They seize the vehicle and start searching it, despite veiled threats of “Do you know who we work for?”. They find a stash of weapons in the boot as well as cash and confiscate the lot; Nolan has a cheeky smile on his face when he explains it’s the “Datak Tarr Retirement Fund”, as in he’s looking to put Datak out of business.
Council Chambers: Amanda and Rafe and the members of the town council in a meeting. Until Datak Tarr bursts in, they were discussing a MagLev rail service and E-Rep involvement for the town and being new on the job, Amanda was being patronised a bit but having none of it. Datak’s news that the guns the council had ordered through a gun smuggling collective had been seized by Nolan causes Amanda to question why she hadn’t been informed. Rafe tells her she didn’t need to know since she was only the “appointed mayor” (as in, Nicky must have stepped down during her and Amanda is merely keeping the seat warm until proper elections – Rafe says they’re “just around the corner” – can be held…I know we haven’t seen Nicky since episode 2, but the last thing she seemed was incapable…begs the question as to why). Rafe explains the council had felt it necessary to procure some additional firepower since the stasis net was destroyed…except Amanda was already mayor then (remember the cheese-ball speech?)…so the council would’ve acted without her knowledge or without the authority of the mayor’s office. Clearly, things don’t run by the book in Defiance. Before Amanda can say anything though, scene change…
A passageway off the street: Amanda is followed by a woman who accuses Kenya of destroying her family and asking Amanda to do something. When Amanda doesn’t take up the woman’s cause, she insults Kenya by calling her names which results in a slap and a cool response from Amanda that her sister runs a legitimate business and what the husband chooses to do is on him. The woman’s parting shot is about their mother which opens the door to a flashback of said bedraggled-looking mother, taking a necklace, an older girl putting a necklace around a younger girl’s neck (“it’s St Finnegan, patron saint of lost children”) and an explosion that ends with the older girl telling the younger that “Mom’s dead”. Amanda – sad face. Time for opening titles before we get too heavy.
Act I, Scene 1
A room in the Need/Want: Nolan’s on his dinner break and “spending time” with Kenya. Okay, they’re in bed, as usual. What isn’t usual is when Nolan is getting ready to pay (we only hear the rustling of paper), Kenya tells him she doesn’t want his money…that when he comes to see her, he comes to see her…no boyfriend/girlfriend labels, just everything but.
Act I, Scene 2
The bar at the Need/Want: Amanda is looking for Nolan. A Neelix-looking (the alien from Star Trek Voyager) barman tells her which room he’s in; she does a double-take, she knows it’s her sister’s room which she barges right into to find a shirtless Nolan getting dressed. It’s a little awkward – she tries to give him a hard time for interfering with the arms deal whilst not admitting she didn’t know anything about it, and he gives her a hard time for not telling her there was a deal, after drawing her attention to where his eyes are. The male objectified. Score 1 for equal opportunity ogling. Kenya comes out of the shower, Amanda’s in a bit of a huff over how Nolan fits in customer/friend and her parting shot tries to be that Kenya has no judgement when the latter follows Amanda down the stairs wanting to know where that came from. Amanda tells her about the woman, and that she considers herself Kenya’s mother having raised her after their mother died and therefore insulted by the woman’s words “your mother must be so proud”. It would appear that Kenya’s ‘career choice’ is something Amanda has always tried not to have an issue with. Kenya disagrees and tells Amanda that as far as she’s concerned, she raised herself. A customer approaches and informs Kenya that one of her girls stole some money out of her pocketbook. The girl does a runner when Kenya wants to talk so she runs after her (Amanda has already stalked off).
Act I, Scene 3
A street, night time: Kenya and the girl come across some people bound and tied getting pushed into a truck guarded by a Bioman – a sight that can’t be unseen, they run, they fight (well, Kenya pulls out a wee switchblade), they are incapacitated.
Act II , Scene 1
A mine: Quentin McCawley sees something he doesn’t like, the shaft his brother Luke was working on is blocked off, he wants to work the vein. Rafe intercedes and denies his request with the explanation that it’s not safe. Quentin doesn’t buy it and their exchange quickly comes to an emotional head when Quentin accuses Rafe of not trusting him. When Rafe doesn’t speak, he storms off. There’s a witness, Rafe threatens him with death if he repeats what he’s heard. No argument.
Act II, Scene 2
The bar at the Need/Want: The “Neelix”-looking guy asks if Nolan’s seen Kenya, that she’s been missing for hours, has missed appointments. Nolan wants more information.
Act II, Scene 3
A street, night time: Nolan and Amanda are on the search. They have differing opinions over Kenya (is she tough / is she fragile) but start running when they find the Defiance equivalent of a mobile phone (a “Hailer”, hailing device) on a kid who’d picked it up after Kenya and the girl were taken. He’s caught, questioned, they find Kenya’s necklace on the boy. For a price, they get him to talk: the Bioman took them, and he also comes at night to take people to make “the Blue Devil”. They let him go. The scene follows Amanda and Nolan back into the street. Amanda is audience-proxy: what’s the “Blue Devil”. Worldly-wise Nolan describes how it’s a drug to enhance physical performance made from the adrenal fluid of prisoners (so basically, a steroid?). Before, you could buy a synthetic version, now, you moonshine it by scaring prisoners to death and draining their adrenal glands as you go. And the only Bioman Nolan’s seen in town is in the employ of Datak Tarr. And if that’s where Kenya is, tick tock, she’s got 10 hours.
Act II, Scene 4
Somewhere warehouse- or hangar-like, a base of sorts: The scene opens to the sound of a music-box while the camera shows us prisoners in cages. Time to meet the only guest star whose name I recognize: Robin Dunne (of Sanctuary, as well as a really bad Robin Hood made-for-TV movie). The Bioman places a prisoner at his feet. He recognises her and feels the need to go over the orders he gave the Bioman (Ulysses is his name): pick up slamheads, stim-junkies, people who won’t be missed, not the mayor’s sister! Seems to be a bit of a junkie himself, but he comes up with a great plan: process the last batch (including Kenya who’s to be placed in a maze), sell it, and head south, just the two of them. Ulysses likes the sound of that.
Act III, Scene 1
The “Maze”: Kenya and the other prostitute have come to and are walking. Something else is in there with them, one level above, they can see him walking. Scaredness.
Act III, Scene 2
Casa Tarr, night time: Nolan and Amanda visit the Tarrs’ house. When Datak comes to the door, Nolan pulls him into the street demanding to know where Kenya is. Datak calls for Stahma but Nolan’s ‘bad cop’ antics are not working. Amanda tries ‘good cop’: we have a shared interest in getting Kenya back, your contributions for the anniversary celebration, and heroism at the battle with the Volge did not go unnoticed. Everyone knows the Bioman is yours. Even if, as you say, you’re not involved, people might think you are…Datak counters with some valid points of his own. Her people see him as useful if there are items to be smuggled in or information to be got, but the rest of the time, people view him as a wild dog. The lack of respect as a fellow citizen is why he won’t help. He goes back into the house to join his family. Amanda is in tears, Nolan tries to comfort her, but she walks away.
Act III, Scene 3
A street, night-time: We’re still with Amanda. Hearing footsteps on the gravel, she assumes Nolan has followed her (Duh! Is anyone else really not surprised it’s Stahma?). Stahma seems conspiratorial, looking behind her as if to make sure they’re alone. She tells Amanda how much she likes Kenya, that every time she and Kenya meet, Kenya has a big hug for her in thanks for Stahma “sharing her husband” (Castithan men apparently have quite the libido), in stark contrast to how the other girls of the Need/Want behave when they see her. Stahma wants to help: “Give Datak the respect he deserves and your sister is as good as found.” As inexperienced as Amanda is in matters political, she wasn’t born yesterday, and she wants to know exactly is expected to ensure Datak’s assistance. Well, it must be difficult for Amanda since she lost a member of the council in the battle with the Volge, who to appoint with “so much important work to be done”… “I’m rooting for her” are her parting words. Translation, she’s not going to lift a finger either, unless.
Act III, Scene 4
The “Maze: Kenya and the girl are on the run and find a place to hide from whatever’s following them (identified as a Volge). It hears their whispers, it may have found them. You can hear banging as the women cower in fear.
Act IV, Scene 1
A street, day time: Nolan is walking with Datak, he questions Datak as to what the price for his assistance was with Amanda. Datak tells him it’s none of his business and to concentrate on the task at hand. He also knows a lot about the townspeople and describes it as “if you know how the threads are stitched together, you can find out anything you want to know.” When they enter a Castithan man’s mobile home, Nolan sees some threads on his own: the man has been beaten up and is awfully focussed on Datak, in spite of Nolan standing in front of the man holding a gun. So he steals Datak’s thunder a little by postulating how this little ‘scene’ was meant to go down, Datak corrects him only on the last detail (a minor one, but it allows him to have the last word) and leaves. The man shares his intelligence. Nolan heads out.
Act IV, Scene 2
Casa McCawley: Quentin is at the front door and wants to leave. Rafe and he have a heart-to-heart from across the house. Quentin only turns around when Rafe shares that he loves Quentin for exactly who he is and that he respects him. Everything Quentin has ever wanted to hear, he hears now. Rafe is still looking at the golden artefact and shows it to Quentin. Neither know what it is, but Rafe tells Quentin that he thinks Luke was killed because of it.
Act V, Scene 1
The “Maze” (just past the ‘high-drama 45-minute mark’): The banging has stopped. The two continue whispering. The banging begins anew, this time louder than before and there’s growling as well. Kenya has a flashback to when Amanda put the St Finnegan medallion around her neck and tells the girl to hold it so she wouldn’t be so scared. Wait a second, do we have a Prop Continuity Problem? Kenya’s not supposed to have that necklace. Nolan and Amanda bartered with the street urchin for it and information about her capture in Act II, Scene 3. A-ha! Turns out Kenya realises the disconnect as well and Matrix-like she’s been hooked up to something and has now snapped out of it. She slowly frees herself, including the needle that was stuck through the back of her neck. Robin Dunne’s character (Miko / Meko) is busy injecting himself so doesn’t see Kenya as she breaks a beaker of something over his head, and then conveniently falls over. Ulysses strides over, concerned for his friend, and makes a move towards Kenya when bang, bang, shots ring out and Kenya and Nolan come to the rescue. Hugs for Nolan. Standing over in the background by herself for Amanda.
The Need/Want: Kenya tries to give the girl she was trapped with her necklace, explaining who and what it represents. The girl doesn’t accept it – “that’s St Christopher”, she elaborates when she sees Kenya’s puzzled expression: “I grew up with nuns”.
Amanda’s office: Kenya puts the necklace on Amanda’s desk, wanting to know who St Finnegan is. Pause. Next question: “How did Mom die?”. More pause. Amanda doesn’t know. In her mind we see the last time she saw their mom – but the audience doesn’t know to what degree she’s telling the story to Kenya or if she’s just remembering without telling Kenya much – there was an attack of sorts and their mother wanted to take Amanda and flee to the river. Amanda wouldn’t go without Kenya. They separate intending to meet up. They never do. That is the day on which Amanda gives Kenya the necklace and tells her their mom is dead. But, she doesn’t know for sure, and that’s what she definitely tells Kenya (so Mom could still show up in the show at some point). As for how did Amanda come up with the name for the saint? The name Finnegan was written on a dead soldier’s uniform, and out of his dead hand came the necklace. Amanda and her mother made money by scavenging and reselling what they found. Again, the audience sees this, we do not know if Kenya is being given the same information. Kenya is amazed that Amanda never told her that she was the one who came back for her when their mother didn’t. Why not? “‘cause you’re my sister.” Teary hug.
The mine (music in the background, no dialogue): the barrier on Luke’s vein goes down and Rafe and Quentin have a look around. They find belongings, a pair of glasses, bones, they see pictographs in the distance, Quentin takes out the golden artefact to compare it to what he sees.
Council chamber: Amanda introduces Datak as the newest member of the council to the rest of the council. He’s all smiles and tries to make friends. Most shake his hand, some don’t. Nolan leans in the doorway until Datak shuts the door. He walks through the antechamber where Stahma is doing some Castithan knitting or something. He scrutinises her a bit and tells her “All this time, I’ve had my eye on the wrong snake. You’re the dangerous one”. To which Stahma (Jaime Murray in her softest, gentlest, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth voice) replies “You’re so sweet.” Tony Curran, Jaime Murray: you’re perfect! I love these two.
The more I see Datak and Nolan interact, the more similar they are – Stahma referred to them both as hotheads, but that isn’t just it. Their tactics, the way they understand each other on such basic Alpha-male levels, they’re almost two sides of the same coin. BUT, Nolan has an army background and is human: he is automatically respected; he was offered the position of Lawkeeper after having arrived in Defiance mere days before. Datak, from the story that Stahma told Christie back in the pilot, we know has pretty much clawed himself out of the gutter by any means necessary. He has lived in Defiance for a while and although he makes his living by unsavoury means (it doesn’t look as though much is illegal in Defiance), by all appearances, he and his family live a genteel existence; he wants to be seen as a “Well Respected Man” – a paeon of his own community and of Defiance. That he is Castithan makes no difference in his eyes.
In summary, Nolan is now more in line with what the audience already knows about the Tarrs, that Stahma runs the show. He has no concrete examples, but he knows this to be true nonetheless. The McCawley men are no longer at loggerheads and Quentin knows his father RESPECTS him (we didn’t have any milksoppy Christie / Alak scenes – yay!), Datak has publicly been awarded a position of RESPECT within the town, and although they might not always see eye-to-eye on things, Kenya and Amanda have a newfound RESPECT for one another. In tonight’s episode, the word ‘respect’ was certainly a touchpoint and recurring theme. The title cannot quite cover all of them, but it does address the juiciest – and the one that will likely be focussed on as the overall story unfolds. I liked this episode. No amateur-hour CGI effects, and the story seemed to be more in line, in sequence, with the first two. In the Q&A chat on Tuesday, Mia Kirshner (Kenya Rosewater) added that this episode was actually shot right after the pilot, so that might account for the more familiar feel of this episode.