Defiance: Down in the Ground… Recap
[This recap is a few weeks late due to finals.* Kylee will be covering the series from here on.]
The second episode of Defiance opens with a flashback to twenty four hours earlier, when Elah Bandik was preparing to fight the Volge with Datak Tarr, who agreed to forgive the debts of those who fought. Elah Bandik was the Castithan seen in the first episode approaching Datak to repay a debt. He ended up running from the battle and was subsequently captured in the woods by Castithans.
They subject him to a Castithan cleansing ceremony, which was basically torture. Other Castithans put rocks into a basket that was attached to Bandik’s limbs and stretched his limbs further as the basket filled. Nolan shows up and demands he be cut down and the ceremony stop. Datak declines and explains that it is part of their culture, without this ceremony he won’t go to the afterlife according to Castithan beliefs. Bandik also chimes in that he wants to do this for his family. When Nolan doesn’t buy that, Mayor Amanda happened to be walking by and steps in to cool things down. She orders Nolan to stand down and discreetly tells Datak to keep the ceremony out of sight.
As explanation to Nolan and Irisa, who is also highly upset by the spectacle, she tells them what happened to the Irathians when Defiance tried to intervene in cultural practices. Eight years ago, the Irathians would not vaccinate their children, so Defiance made it mandatory and went door to door forcibly vaccinating Irathian children. There was an uprising, with the Irathians being on the losing end – most of them died or left the town. After that, Defiance decided to allow all eight of the races to practice their own traditional values.
Birch, the man seen at the end of the pilot episode discussing “the plan” with ex-Mayor Nicky, knocks out a deputy and to awaken and free Ben. He gives Ben a new task and Ben is seen running off without being noticed. It cuts to Christie cooking breakfast for her dad and brother, after seeing them at Luke’s memorial service the day before. They argue about her engagement and she leaves. Her brother, Quentin, then asks his father why he thought Luke was meeting Ben alone in the woods. Their talk is interrupted by the news of an explosion in the mines.
Rafe, Amanda and Nolan meet at the mines and discover that Ben is behind the explosion. They try to figure out his motives and determine that he must be in the mines to build a bomb. Amanda wants Ben brought back alive and Rafe and Nolan have a pissing contest over navigating the mines. Nolan is an excellent navigator and bets his “boots will hit the ground first.” Alpha male status confirmed once more.
The scene changes to the Tarrs’ weird bath room, where Stahma is once more discussing how beneficial it will be to have Christie marry Alak. Their son then comes into the room to pout about Christie’s dad messing with her mind. Stahma soothes him in a totally platonic-not-at-all-weird-relationship-with-mom way.
Going down into the mines, which turn out to be old St. Louis, Nolan picks up a War of the Worlds book. Nothing more than symbolism, but kind of a neat moment. Ex-mayor Nicky is shown talking with Amanda and they really want you to know that Nicky grew up in a different time. In the pilot Amanda didn’t understand the “grasshopper” reference and in this episode Nicky herself said she was the only one who remembered the rules of golf. Wasn’t the series set only thirty three years after the original aliens making contact with Earth? Mayor Amanda is definitely older than thirty three. If she’s around Nolan’s age, she would have been around twelve or thirteen when the event occurred and we’re expected to believe that in thirty three years society degraded that much?
The ex-mayor then leaves with Birch, lamenting that the purge must be carried out and insisting that there is nothing else she can do, she simply “ran out of time,” but that it would benefit all. They are counting on Ben to carry it out. Meanwhile, Nolan and Rafe are seen resting in the mines. They talk about St. Louis and their old lives. Rafe used to be in the dog food business, though he really wanted to be a photographer, and Nolan fulfills his unnecessary singing for this episode by singing the dog food jingle at Rafe.
Irisa stops a child from participating in the cleansing ceremony and cuts Bandik down, drawing ire and rocks from the Castithans. Deputy Tommy intervenes before things get out of hand and arrests Bandik for “loitering.” Back underground, Nolan and Rafe finally realize Ben’s plan – he’s going to blow up the nuclear power plant and the resulting radiation will kill everyone in Defiance. Above ground, Christie is seen waitressing while Stahma sits at one of the tables. They share a nice future in-laws moment where Stahma encourages Christie to fight her father if he objects to the marriage. She also tells Christie the story of how she married Datak by flushing her betrothed out of an airlock before they were to duel over her because she knew better than her parents.
In the mines, Nolan and Rafe finally find Ben, who shoots at them and their men, but is quickly shot. Nolan demonstrates another one of his skills that he has mastered and disarms the bomb that Ben had planned to detonate. Have another Alpha Male stamp. Ben confirms that Luke was helping him for money to get out of Defiance and away from his father – “especially after what [Rafe] did to his mother,” hinting at a darker past in the McCawley household. Rafe then kills Ben when he lunges towards him.
Back at the jail, Irisa is upset at her own actions and even more upset at Tommy for helping her to stop the Castithan cleansing ceremony. Just as she admits that, Datak and his bioman show up at the jail to take back Bandik. There’s another standoff that Mayor Amanda jumps into the middle of again. She claims they were working under her orders and that she has pardoned Bandik of all Castithan wrongdoings. Datak rightly says that is not possible and Nolan and Rafe show up to back Amanda. Datak has no choice but to step down or kill Amanda. He shows her warmth when explaining that they would have to revisit these cultural differences later and then he leaves.
Nolan then informs Amanda that Ben is dead, but the town is safe. She seems satisfied with that and says it is time to bury forty one people, who all died in the last episode fighting the Volge. Nolan and Irisa then have a conversation about her saving Bandik. She says that she “doesn’t like chains” and asks about their plans for Antarctica. Nolan says Antarctica’s not real, but that this town is, effectively undermining who knows how much of their past. Their sole motivation in the first episode was to get a terrasphere to sell to get to Antarctica.
The show closes with Amanda leading a walk through the woods, in what appears to be a memorial or a burial service for those who have died. Over it plays a cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” that grows on you, but still seems strangely inappropriate. Rafe is seen cleaning up Luke’s room, where he finds money and maps hidden away – validating what Ben had told him. He also finds what appears to be the key that Birch talked about at the end of the last episode. This episode closes out with Bandik thanking Datak for allowing him to have some time with his family before Datak takes out a knife. A scream is heard and Nolan, Irisa and Tommy run out of the Lawkeeper’s building to find Bandik dead at their door.
So what did I think of this episode? Is Mayor Amanda everywhere? Seriously, she so conveniently pops up to diffuse every situation. It’s a little bit ridiculous. She showed up twice this episode to mediate skirmishes. And no one saw Ben running through town? The guy that just tried to destroy the entire town and no one blew the whistle on him wandering around?
I don’t know about you, but it’s really difficult for me to follow the races and the history and the names without looking things up. I had to check for Birch’s name and Tommy’s name, despite them being in both episodes so far. The episodes also tend to jump around a lot. I understand things are all happening at once, but they seem to be spinning more webs than they will be able to tie up neatly. I’m still getting a Malcolm Reynolds vibe from Nolan and a Firefly vibe (Shtako is obviously the equivalent of cursing in Chinese) from the show as a whole – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… It’s just that Firefly would be the clear winner of these two shows.
I like the world they’ve built, even if it’s being introduced slowly. Seriously, I looked up some of the information on Wikipedia and I didn’t even know half of what was there about the species and the history. It’s interesting and has the potential to grow into its own – or, if worse comes to worst, they can continue borrowing from the greats!