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Defiance, Ep. 1.12: “Past is Prologue” – A focused set-up to the season finale

Defiance, Ep. 1.12: “Past is Prologue” – A focused set-up to the season finale



Defiance, Season 1: Episode 12 – “Past is Prologue”
Directed by Michael Nankin
Written by Michael Taylor
Airs Monday nights at 9 on SyFy

Penultimate episodes in seasons are notoriously difficult (unless they’re in a season of Game of Thrones), since most of the work being done is meant to drive attention and expectations towards the finale. Defiance hasn’t really had an up-and-down first season with memorable episodes here and there. It’s mostly just been fine. It’s surprising, then, that it’s the penultimate episode that addresses some of the minor gripes I’ve been having while watching. For starters, “Past is Prologue” is much more focused. Defiance has been guilty of running parallel stories in episodes that are struggling to execute just one of them to its potential. Everything in this episode – all the scenes with the secondary characters – is connected, revolving mainly around the mayoral election between Amanda and Datak. By doing that, we got an interesting conclusion to the Stahma and Kenya story that has been running for a few episodes in which we learn that Stahma really is just another Lady Macbeth and that she’s damn good at pulling it off. Ultimately, this probably doesn’t give her much longevity in terms of development, because someone whose sole existence is plotting against other people can’t function well outside of Spartacus, but it’s at least made a character who was problematic to start off with less problematic within her season arc.

The other major thing that “Past is Prologue” excels at is living up to its pretensions. There are a couple montages set to recognizable songs (notably a cover of “Time After Time” at the very end), and Michael Nankin nails these. The first plays the Irisa and Tommy sex scene against Doctor Yewll messing around with this mysterious device that everyone’s been trying to get, Irisa’s screams quickly turning from pleasure to pain. The second, also focused on Irisa, could have easily cut to black after Irisa collapses on the ground, but we get to see the return of Rynn in a situation where we actually care about what happens to these people. The whole episode did a good job of making us care a little more than we’ve been used to. Nolan’s backstory makes him a little more complicated (in a good way), and it’s easy to get sucked into his dilemma of leaving the town that he has grown to love for reasons that we can understand but disagree with.

It’s hard to say when mystery is being evoked well or not in certain stories. Often during this season, I’ve felt like Defiance relied on not presenting information to the viewer as a way of gaining interest. But good mystery goes a long way, like not knowing what’s really going to happen in the finale given the events of “Past is Prologue.” This kind of unpredictability is what made most of the first season of The Americans so good, and while Defiance isn’t as well-written as that show, it has done what I had hoped it would do all along: it has made me interested in both the world and the people who inhabit it.