Lawkeeper Nolan has a rough first day on the job, pursuing an escaped fugitive and dealing with an alien lynch mob…
Wearing its influences on its sleeve, the first standalone episode of Defiance is simply a Western populated by characters from Star Trek. The storyline here is as hackneyed as any other that originated in the American black-and-white TV Westerns of the 1950s: there’s a fugitive on the run and a posse led by the Sheriff have to retrieve him (but one of the posse wants the fugitive dead as revenge), and back in town there’s a lynching taking place, that everyone seems powerless to stop.
These mundane plot lines are dressed up in sci-fi fancy dress. So the fugitive is Ben, the traitor from the pilot, and the lynching is a ritual humiliation of a cowardly Castithan (a neat narrative pick-up from what seemed to be a throwaway moment in the pilot). Despite the alien make-up and pointy foreheads, these plot points could have featured on any episode of Bonanza or Have Gun, Will Travel. The science fiction trappings are just that: set dressing on some of television’s oldest stories and formats.
Having said that, Defiance does occasionally look spectacular. The visit to the underground remains of ‘old’ St. Louis made use of feature film quality graphics and backdrops. It is just a shame such visual elegance is put in service of such pedestrian storylines… Using a horrible, horrible cover of Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ over the final scenes did not help in making this series likeable, either.
Verdict: Still looks great, but the dialogue and plotting continue to be awful…
Episode 2 ‘Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go’: 6/10
Brian J. Robb