I’m ready to talk about Defiance in a meaningful way, I think. I wanted very dearly to love the show, because it fills the gap in both content and aesthetic left empty and gaping when Firefly was canceled. More than this, though, it sought this noble and wondrous joining of my two favorite media; TV and Video Game. But with the show’s utter dependence on the clichéd, I am left not with the organic thing I craved, and not with a show I can adore and a world I can escape into—literally, thanks to the elaborate game tie-in—but with a show I can merely watch.
I’ve not tried the video game; the show did not convince me to. Perhaps it is a worthy experience on its own; I do not know, and refuse to speculate based solely on internet hear-say.
Actor Grant Bowler does an admirable job of filling his role; I believe his lines, and he comports himself as I imagine a Lawkeeper must. I think very highly of him as Joshua Nolan. And I am a very big fan of the world he’s acting in—an Earth broken by war, alien terraforming, and dystopia. Moreso am I pleased at the positive messages behind the show’s portrayal of sexuality; for example, Defiance’s prostitutes are not only shown as being in a legitimate business, but as generally good people. I’m down with that liberal jibe, so long as it doesn’t become a moral truncheon disguised as a story—and so far, the balance is decent.
What breaks the show for me, though, is that I can usually call what’s going to happen two commercial breaks before it does. By itself, this isn’t bad—I loved Monk and I’m a fan of Castle and other such shows that necessarily suffer from being watched by people who know how to read foreshadowing. And since this show is, in many ways, the structural descendent of Eureka, this might not even be a legitimate complaint.
This predictability is coupled with a cast of incredibly unsympathetic characters, though; Irisa, The Lawkeeper’s teenaged ward, is a raging psychopath, which makes it really hard for me to care that she’s the chosen one, and in making it hard for me to care, makes it much more obvious and distracting that plots about chosen ones aren’t especially uncommon. The same applies in many ways to Datak Tarr; he’s everything that’s bad about Snape, without the stuff that made me root for Snape—which would be fine in some respects if he was actually the villain instead of a foil for The Lawkeeper. The show has villains, and they’re very good at cackling behind their black capes and twirling their waxen moustaches. The problem is that they’re cackling at people I don’t like very much.
The show’s overall arc promises something unpredictable and wild, and this gives me a lot of hope for an improvement in season two. I think, given that Defiance will always be hard-pressed to perform well in the shadow of Firefly, just because of its aesthetics and themes. And a lot of the series I love had very rough first seasons—I’m looking at Star Trek: TNG when I say this, but there are others. With this in mind, I’m waiting patiently, with just a touch of eagerness for Defiance’s season finale.
Waiting and hoping.