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Old July 9 2013, 02:25 PM   #723
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Re: The Defiance Thread - News about the Show and Game

"Everything is Broken" -- Spoilers ahead!

That episode title sums up how I feel about the episode. The past couple of weeks, I thought the show was finally becoming good, and this just blew it all to hell.

Just when I thought the revelation about the keys inside Irisa meant all that destiny/Chosen-One stuff was nonsense, it turns out to be the climax of the whole thing and makes her the destined savior/destroyer after all. Ugh. I am so sick of stories about destiny. I don't want to see stories about characters at the mercy of forces they can't control. Such characters have no agency. I want to see characters making choices that determine outcomes. I want choosing ones, not chosen ones.

I really hate what they did with Stahma. I'd come to believe that Stahma was truly Datak's equal partner, the Lady Macbeth who saw him as her perfect tool for the ruthless pursuit of ambition, and I guess I believed it because I wanted to, because it was much more interesting and empowering than the alternative. Having her turn out to actually be a terrified, subordinate female at the mercy of her domineering husband, able to be bullied by him, is far more cliched, and it weakens her profoundly as a character. In fact, hell, I don't believe it. It doesn't fit what's been established about her character. She should've had a plan in place for any contingency. She should never have made the mistake of giving away that she'd been with Kenya, and she should've had a good explanation ready if he did find out. In particular, if she knew how dangerous Datak could be to her if she crossed him, then she should've had a plan already worked out well in advance, and been ready to stab him in the back before he saw what was coming. They've taken a great, Machiavellian character and stripped her of her intelligence and strength, and that ruins her, makes her boring.

And it sucks that they've apparently killed off Kenya. She was perhaps the most interesting, least cliched character on the show. A legal, respected sex worker who enjoys her work and is accepted by the people close to her is a novel kind of character for American TV (Inara from Firefly fit the first couple of parameters, but her love interest resented what she did) and her life was interesting to explore. Now they've taken this intriguing woman and stuffed her in a refrigerator. Worse, they don't even acknowledge it. We don't see Amanda or Nolan or anyone becoming aware of Kenya's death; it just gets lost in the clutter. That's just sloppy.

Indeed, a lot about this whole series is sloppy. There's still so much exposition we haven't gotten. The mystery of how the Volge got onto the Arks hasn't even been touched on since the pilot. There are still many unanswered questions about Arkfall and the terraforming and how the St. Louis Arch managed to survive, a mystery that the producers hinted they would address. (I guess we're supposed to conclude the ship under the city had something to do with it, but what?) Moreover, they've suddenly thrown us this new information that contradicts all the established backstory for the series. How the hell can the Votans have been searching for this ship for 3000 years? They were travelling through space in suspended animation for the past 5000 years. And we didn't even get any exposition beyond that one cursory reference. You don't just toss aside everything we knew about the show's universe so cavalierly and then drop it.

And good grief, could the E-Rep characters have been any more cartoony short of having moustaches to twirl? Sure, with Barry Flatman as the colonel, it was a given he'd be mean and nasty to the point of camp, but that "Black Jonah" guy was deep into the camp... uh, camp. He was a total caricature of malevolence. The one mercy here is that they just had him talk about torture rather than giving us gratuitous torture-porn scenes on top of everything else wrong here.

Oh yes, here's another thing wrong: The loose ends from last week were completely forgotten. Last week, Alak felt betrayed that his participation in Datak's plan had gotten his friend killed. He was torn between his loyalty to his father and his new obligations to his wife and her family (and the threats from Rafe). It seemed he might foil Datak's plan by revealing what he'd done. Also, Kenya knew how Stahma (and, she thought, Datak) had tricked her, and she had no reason to conceal it now that she no longer believed Stahma needed protection. So either or both of these characters could've revealed what Datak did and saved the election for Amanda. But Alak was shilling eagerly for his dad and didn't seem the least bit troubled, and Kenya didn't say a word to save her sister's campaign. It's incongruous, inconsistent. It's having the plot shape the characters' choices, rather than the reverse.

(And Kenya was sporting an oddly Morticia Addams-esque makeup design this week, her skin almost Castithan-pale. Maybe foreshadowing her imminent death?)

I'm not sure there's anything about this episode I liked. It left me feeling betrayed and disappointed by a show I thought was finally earning my respect.
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 4/8/14 including annotations for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

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