June 13, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Defiance”


DEFIANCE:  Friday 8PM on Syfy

The second season of Syfy’s DEFIANCE was often jarringly different from its first, shifting from its initial post-apocalyptic-western procedural form to a heavily mythological storyline that broke up the central father-and-adoptive-alien-daughter relationship of Nolan (Grant Bowler) and Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) for much of the season, while embracing a mystical direction that turned Irisa into a messianic killer.  Based on its first two hours, it seems as though Season 3 is aiming for a tone midway between the two, bringing Irisa back to the team and allowing interstellar religion to fade into the background, while continuing the serialized storytelling.

The back-to-back season premiere (Hour 1 written by series co-creator Kevin Murphy and Hour 2 by Kari Drake, both halves directed by Michael Nankin) took care of some housekeeping.  A few characters were eliminated, notably Graham Greene’s mine-owner Rafe McCawley.  Meanwhile, there were some new Big Bads:  Lee Tergesen as General Rahm Tak, a ruthless (he killed Rafe) member of the same pale-skinned Castithan race as series regulars Datak and Stahma Tarr (Tony Curran and Jaime Murray), and the purple-skinned, vampire-toothed father-and-daughter pair T’evgin (Conrad Coates) and Kindzi (Nichole Galicia).  The General is straightforwardly planning to kill all the humans in his path, while the other new arrivals are more duplicitous, pretending to enter into a deal with Nolan and the mayor of Defiance (post-apocalyptic St. Louis) Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) to help mine the town’s precious minerals just so they can fuel up their spaceship and go home, but actually storing a planet’s worth of “family” on board their ship who will come to life once it’s fully functional and take over the Earth.

They’re a sturdy enough group for a season’s start, and in other ways Defiance seems to have learned from last season’s problematic choices.  Irisa, while suffering from something like PTSD that’s keeping her from taking even guilty lives, is back in her own consciousness, and the plotting is, so to speak, more down to earth, with evil that can be clearly understood.  The show has also been careful to preserve Datak and Stahma as its pair of schemers, currently being blackmailed by Rahm Tak to spy for him (he has their son as his captive), and the morally ambiguous Indogene doctor (Anna Hopkins) is now a series regular.

There are a seemingly inexhaustible number of fantasy adventures available in TV and its related media these days, and Defiance isn’t one of the more memorable.  (The ratings haven’t been particularly impressive either.)  It’s a decent time-waster, though, with some watchable cast members, especially Bowler, Leonidas, Murray and Curran (Linda Hamilton also provided a tasty guest star turn as the grimly determined human grandmother who’s taken the baby whose father is the Tarrs’ son, but it’s not clear how often she’ll be appearing).  The series is a good fit for slow summer Friday nights.  Shorn of last season’s pretensions, it could provide a diverting hour for fans of the genre.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."