Defiance, Season 1: Episode 8 – “Goodbye, Blue Sky”
Directed by Andy Wolk
Written by Anupam Nigam and Amanda Alpert Muscat
Airs Monday nights at 9 on SyFy
The IMDb editors recently released a list of eight new shows from 2013 that were surprising (mostly in a good way for surpassing expectations), on which Defiance was included. As of now, I don’t quite think it has earned a spot next to some shows like Hannibal, Banshee and Orphan Black, but it’s interesting taking Defiance into the context of some of its fellow freshmen. Vikings, which is also included on the list, shares a lot of similarities to Defiance, and I think the latter show could learn a thing or two from the former. Both Vikings and Defiance are, at some point or another, intensely concerned with the worlds they depict and attempt to make familiar those rituals that may seem strange to outsiders. “Goodbye, Blue Sky” continues in this fashion, focusing mainly on Irisa’s background as a visionary Irathient and showing us some of the customs of that race. The secondary character that the episode relies on – Sukar, another Irathient – isn’t given enough time or care to really engage us before his departure, so a lot of the foreign charm that should be drawn from following the Irathient characters around falls short. And where Vikings could pick up the slack of a misfire like that by shifting the focus back to Ragnar Lothbrok, Defiance doesn’t really have a single character that can carry an episode like that.
Instead, we’re give a few different storylines, some of which are good but none of which are great. Graham Greene has been a bit underused so far this season considering his character, Rafe McCawley, has defined principles that can be tested. If he is a bit dull sometimes, he’s a kind of dull that still makes sense to us and can be endearing. His rival – Datak Tarr, who is AWOL this week – might have a lot more charisma, but he’s still an enigma compared to Rafe. Even with the strange inclusion of ex-Mayor Nicolette in which she is being rather up front about how evil she is, the McCawley strand of the episode doesn’t reach its potential because not enough time has been spent addressing Rafe’s relationship with his remaining son.
And I was really hoping we were done with the Alak/Christie love story for a while, but DJ Tarr up at the top of the arch is giving his best bad boy impression to show off for the girl. Most of this is really cringey with the chemistry between those two not really being drawn out of the script at all. The trajectory of that entire strand for this episode was: Christie doesn’t want to do the whole family-bathing ritual with the Tarr parents, Alak is resistant and Alak gives in and says he’ll tell his parents that he doesn’t want to do it. Without trying to be too harsh, it’s a completely poor use of time that could have otherwise been spent on the A-story.
Then there’s the inclusion of the Kenya/Stahma scenes, which give off conflicting tones (mainly because we, like Kenya, can’t read or anticipate Stahma’s thoughts and feelings very well). Until now, Stahma has been a very stereotypical, conniving Lady Macbeth wife to Datak. Here, she’s given some room for her character to breathe, going as far as to tell us she used to do performance poetry (I would love to see an annual poetry slam in Defiance). We’ve been given the information before that Stahma has some amount of admiration for Kenya and what she’s able to do for other people, but it’s more than we expect when we see her go to Kenya for consultation and, ultimately, gratification. I’m not sure we can trust her at all, since her character hasn’t given us a reason to do so other than saying she misses having something of her own, separate from her family. But I’m willing to see where this goes now that the Nolan/Kenya relationship has pretty much been shut down for the season.