April 23, 2013



DEFIANCE:  Monday 9PM on Syfy

Previously… on DEFIANCE:  Now that the usual post-apocalyptic interstellar warfare is over, a variety of alien races live alongside the remaining humans on Earth.  In the town that used to be St. Louis, renamed Defiance, recently elected Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) has appointed peripatetic ex-soldier Jeb Nolan (Grant Bowler) as Lawkeeper, i.e. sheriff.  He comes equipped with his rebellious, adopted teen alien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas).  The town is in need of a Lawkeeper because there’s a concerted plot afoot to destroy it–unbeknownst to all, its mastermind is beloved ex-Mayor Nicky Riordan (Fionnula Flanagan), who’s after something priceless under Defiance she can only obtain if the town is emptied of its inhabitants, one way or another.  Meanwhile, day-to-day troubles are caused by nasty alien landowner Lucius Malfoy Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), who’s hoping the romance between his son and the daughter of human mineowner Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) will lead to his gaining control of those mines.

Episode 2:  Things pick up where the pilot left off, with Nicky’s henchman setting free Ben (Douglas Nyback), who spearheaded the last attack on the town (in the process killing Rafe’s older son), with orders this time to blow the town up from underneath, down in the “old St. Louis” that’s located in Rafe’s mines.  Rafe and Nolan go after him, with supposed tension arising from the fact that Rafe wants to kill Ben as much as catch him.  Meanwhile, Irisa takes it upon herself to stop Datak from torturing, according to his people’s law, one of his people who turned coward during the battle for the town, and Datak’s wife Stahma (Jaime Murray) does what she can to keep Rafe’s daughter eager to wed her son.

The episode, written by series co-creator Kevin Murphy and Producer Anupam Nigam, and directed by Michael Nankin, benefits from being half the length of the pilot, which cuts down on exposition and keeps things moving more quickly.  But it’s still all a very square, predictable western that happens to feature electronic weapons instead of bows and arrows, and aliens instead of Native Americans.  (Although actually, with the McCawley family’s ethnicity, it has both.)  It’s all too clear who the good and bad guys are–we know Rafe won’t really murder his son’s killer in cold blood (although Ben ends up committing suicide with Rafe’s gun), the same way we know that when it looks as though Irisa has saved Tarr’s captive, Tarr will kill the guy anyway.  Nicky, so far, is a completely uninteresting villain, and there’s little promise that when we find out what the nature of the unobtainium (or whatever it’s called this time) beneath the town is, the revelation will be in any way satisfying.

As usually happens post-pilot, the production values–which weren’t all that strong to begin with–shrank with a smaller regular series budget, and in this episode the supposedly massive “old St. Louis” looked like a model train set.  With nothing compelling going on in the plot, and characters who are no better than skin-keep despite the best efforts of the cast, Defiance is a collection of cliches given only a mild spin, all of it functional at best.  The show got off to a fairly strong start in the ratings by Syfy standards (1.0 in 18-49s), so unless it collapses in a big way over the next few weeks, it seems like a safe bet for renewal.   That, however, is the only impressive thing to be said about Defiance.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

EPISODE 2:  Catch Up On the Shows You DVR’d on Sunday

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."