Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Defiance Series Premiere (Season 1 Episode 1) Review

I had mixed feelings going into Defiance, but for fans of sci-fi (the genre, not the channel), I can assure you that it's trying hard and not just preying on us for not having any good speculative fiction to watch on television.

That pic takes you to Amazon's "Defiance" season on demand and the following should take you to the pilot episode specifically: Pilot

Defiance opens without much fanfare as we're treated to some expository background by way of what is ostensibly the main character's daughter, an alien. The director wanted to surprise us with this for some reason as they look reasonably human until they pan up to do the "big reveal". OHMIGAWD.

Still, it's sci-fi, so I can forgive some questionable choices. The exposition reveals Earth is now post-apocalypse and home to seven alien species. The aliens do not appear to have FTL (faster-than-light), for which I was grateful. They travel the stars via stasis pods. Unfortunately, all their ships were destroyed, so they're stuck on Earth. Oh, and Earth has been terraformed quite badly, we see Irisa and her father, Nolan.

They appear to be standard post-apocalypse scavengers. Oh, and Defiance? The eponymous city is St. Louis after the apocalypse.

They've one-upped Battlestar by having a whole language of swear words that aren't censored even though they mean the same thing as what they are obviously replacing.

The humans and aliens appear to have 21st century mores in regards to gender equality, although many are racist out the wazoo between the different alien species. They all speak all the languages.

Enough exposition about the show already, let's get into the meat of the review. As I said in the intro, they are trying quite hard. Still, all the "main" races we see are pretty human on the inside if not the out. Am I the only person that's sick to death of the racist crap?

Nolan is refreshingly not a bigot, and in hindsight, much of the racism seems to be because of people actually being jerkwads and the insulter is just focusing on their race. Plus, they killed off one of the racist idiots, which made the show much better almost immediately.

They do a good job revealing quite a lot of threads that resolving would seem to take more than this 13 episode season. The main characters are quite deeply in debt to an off-screen lender, there is sabotage afoot in the city and the "true source" is unknown (for about 5 minutes to the viewer, although I'm sure the good guys will be carrying the idiot ball for a while until they figure it out), there's a Romeo & Juliet subplot, a set-up for a love triangle, and we also see the beginnings of a crush for the younger characters which will probably end disastrously or teach one or the other or both about love.

There's a bit of deus ex machina in the "return" scene near the end. I couldn't buy into the reasoning given, but it was necessary to give the city more to work with.

There did not seem to be any subtlety to anything. Everything was laid out and straightforward. Nothing behaved unexpectedly and many things seemed to fall into place or into established roles.

All that though, it was still rather enjoyable. I really liked that there were not a lot of "gray" characters presented (I'm sick to death of it to be honest). The action was tolerable and cool. There was enough build up for things to be suitably tense.

I'm up in the air between an A- and a B+ honestly. It arrested my attention, so I'll go ahead and grant the higher: A-.

There is a significant amount of potential, and I am looking forward to see what's happening to many of the characters (although some can fall off the screen and I wouldn't care). I'm not intrigued by the "overarc" however. Nolan and Irisa's stories will keep me coming back for at least another week or two, and hopefully they stop being so hit-you-in-the-face with their set-ups.

I read earlier today about amateur authors not knowing how to start or end their stories so they end up starting before the start (prologue) and ending after the end (epilogue). Although in general, I LOVE prologues and epilogues, the epilogue to this episode was unnecessary and detracted from what would have been a strong ending.

What did you think?

Update: Episode 2's review can be found here.

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