Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Defiance: Pilot Recap

Hey, did you know that SyFy has a new original series that premiered this week? It didn't get much publication so you may have missed it. It's called 'Defiance' and is about the zany happenings of a not-so-hostile alien invasion takeover apocalypse.

We open with a voice-over showing the arrival of the visitors with a young androgynous figure staring up at the sky in fascination. It's St. Louis and there's the iconic arch in the background and everything is very green and pretty. Cut to what appears to be Toad's standard ride in Mario Kart bumping along Mordor and a girl with red hair and undeniably alien features is giving the silent treatment to the human guy driving because that is what teenagers do to their I've heard. Ahem. All is very bitter and awkward until he pops in some Johnny Cash as what is better to breach the divide than a rousing C&W song? (Really, if anything could have survived the hostile alien invasion takeover apocalypse, why couldn't it have been 80s music? Just sayin'.)

They approach a hulking behemoth that appears to be deserted but take precautions anyway. Skulking, they make their way into the presumed heart of the behemoth and using a communication crystal obviously stolen from the Fortress of Solitude, they inadvertently unleash Zod release what looks like a glowing blue crystal soccer ball. This is the big prize for it will do...something and make like a tree and get out of there. Unfortunately, they run smack into the the Fabulous Alien Biker Boys who stripped their Toad Kart bare and request our human friend Nolan to open his pack. He tries to deflect by saying all the good stuff is in the kart but dumb Nolan is dumb and the Biker Boys do not fall for it. By communicating via glances to Irissa the sullen teenaged alien a fight ensues and it's very dark and chaotic and running! through the Forbidden Forest where it is revealed that Irissa has been shot. It quickly becomes clear that she can't go on so Nolan does the only logical thing: buries the soccer ball of desire and carries her because there is a settlement...somewhere around until HE can't go on either. He puts her down to size up the situation as all their gear has been confiscated when he's confronted by the unholy love child of Shelob and a water buffalo. He empties his weapon and is about to overrun when the Spider-Buffaloes are brought down by a party of lawkeepers from the nearby settlement proving with finality that men don't need maps as he was thisclose to getting them there. Nolan sees the Arch and says in wonder, is this St. Louis to which his good guide replies, 'It used to be. Now we call it 'Defiance'.'

We cut to a charming old-west sort of town on a festive day, Armistice day, the day when humans and aliens alike put down their weapons and refused to fight anymore founding the first Utopian settlement. As newbie Mayor Amanda thanks everyone, she acknowledges the assistance of some prominent citizens: the albino alien who receives token applause and the human owner of the mines making him very rich indeed, Billy Black. Billy basks in a rousing round of cheering which clearly pisses off the albino who stalks away in high dudgeon.

Irissa wakes up in the hospital attended to by the doctor who very much resembles the Gentlemen from the Hush episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and who has about as much warmth. She's...pissed and threatens the good doctor who saved her life. Amazingly enough, Doc is all, 'ain't nobody got time for that' and puts her in her place. Meanwhile, Nolan is having a meeting with Mayor Amanda as to why they are there as they don't take kindly to strangers round these here parts. Nolan tries to reassure the good Mayor that he and his adopted daughter are only passing through. Amanda the Mayor sends him to the local brothel-bar managed by her sister Kenya. Nolan and Irissa hit the bar which is a strange place to take your daughter but whatever where Nolan asks where he can make some fast money. Kenya helpfully points him to the local Fight Club and we all know how this is going to end. And it does but first after Nolan volunteers to be the next fighter, the owner, Skeevy Albino, still all butt-hurt about the human getting more airtime blah blah blah elects to sub in a Biohuman for the house champion which looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger on steroids. Oh wait....  Anyway, Nolan's getting his ass kicked but good when he does the whole sliding between the legs trick and with one punch disables the Biohuman. They collect their winnings but wait! Butthurt Albino Alien says they broke house rules (what rules? I thought the only rule was not to talk about Fight Club) and will reclaim the winnings thank-you-very-much but here's a fiver for your troubles. TTFN.

While this is going on, daughter of Billy Black and son of Butthurt Albino apparently have a thing and go to the dance together where it's clear that white people still can't dance even after the hostile alien invasion takeover apocalypse. One of her brothers takes umbrage at this and challenges Son of Butthurt with a glowing knife that looks a lot between Sting and a lightsaber. Shoves are exchanged, glares are thrown and the posturing ends. Oldest brother Alex receives a mysterious phone call and disappears.

Butthurt isn't liking his son's dalliance with the human girl and is fuming at his wife in the bath. She is the Cersei of the series and plants a seed of an idea in his mind: if their son marries the human girl and something...tragic...were to happen to the girl's brothers and father, well, the mine and all its riches would belong to them. Butthurt buys it hook, line, and sinker, never mind that the kids actually do love each other.

Another alien - Squidface - is out walking his dog when he comes upon the body of someone. This someone turn out to be Alex the Oldest and Billy is devastated about his son. Hearing news of the fight earlier in the evening, he heads out immediately to confront Son of Butthurt. The main lawkeeper, Clancy, begs him to let justice do its work but this isn't the post-apocalyptic old west for nothing. Their destination? Kenya's house of booze and boobs.

Nolan, with the exasperating habit of looking on the bright side of life, says it's enough money to eat and change clothes and by this he means engage Kenya in some afternoon delight leaving Irissa in the bar by herself but it's okay, she's journaling and drawing which is so not out of the ordinary in a brothel-bar. They emerge from an upstairs room to see the brewing fight below them. Nolan rushes downstairs, throws one of the kids out of his seat to pretend that he was gambling with Son of Butthurt. They've almost got things calmed down when another lawkeeper tries to put his hands on Nolan sending Irissa into assassin mode and from there, all hell breaks loose. When the smoke clears, Clancy the lawkeeper is the only casualty. Nolan offers that since he's a tracker by trade, he'd find the murderer...for a price. The deal is made with Irissa thrown into a jail with Deputy Lawkeeper Tommy for company and her caretaker. At this point, I'm kind of on-board with her sullenness.

Deputy Tommy tries to engage her as they seem to be of similar age and she flirts back by saying how she could have disarmed him, beheaded him and been halfway to Timbuktu if she had wanted to. Well then. He asks how she came to be with Nolan and her answer is chilling: he did the one thing she wasn't able to do. Kill her parents. No doubt this will come back into play again.

Nolan and his merry crew are investigating the scene of the crime and he's making some startling conclusions that add up to Mayor Amanda and Nolan tooling around in another Mario Kart. She's on the phone with her assistant Gentleman Ben and has to lie about something I couldn't hear because deaf. He in turn blows the power to the stasis field which was the only thing protecting the town from the mechanized threats known as the Volge. They catch up to Ben and beat the crap out of him when it becomes clear he was working for someone other than the mayor...or was he?

Nolan and Irissa are getting ready to get out while the getting is good when Nolan sees a line of children being led across the street and has a crisis of conscience. No such thing bother Irissa who says, I'm outta here and takes off with the newly acquired truck. Committed now, Nolan walks into the woods to dig up the blue soccer ball of power. The mayor is rallying the proverbial troops by paraphrasing Samwise Gamgee: This is a town worth fighting for! Everyone cheers and gets in line and they take their position. Just before all hell breaks loose, Nolan strolls back in with his soccer ball saying he's there to save their asses. The Doctor gets to work on trying to harness the power of the soccer ball and the townsfolk engage the Volge. Mayor Amanda take a hit and goes down but right before they are all overrun, the Volge are attacked from behind by the Fabulous Biker Boy aka Spirit Riders who hate the humans but hate the Volge even more. The leader of this brave attack? Irissa who didn't abandon Nolan after all. Doc finally gets something going and a huge power surge rolls through the Volge. Victory is theirs! The next day, Daughter of Billy and Son of Butthurt exchange rings which confuses Butthurt until Wife of Butthurt explains that it's a human custom, the actual wedding will come later.

Mayor Amanda asks Nolan to become a lawkeeper as he's handy to have around and the tension is simmering between them when he realizes Kenya is Amanda's sister. Well this is awkward. More awkward still is that with Gentleman Ben in a coma, they don't know who would have orchestrated this or why. Turns out, the former Mayor, Nicky, is running the show and promises mysterious glasses man that the survivors will thank them.

Irissa journals that her visions are becoming stronger and more detailed and we discover that it was a vision of Nolan in the park right before the aliens arrived she had had. Looks like they are staying put for a while.

A mishmash of themes and cliches and I found myself hoping that the humans would have been the shady ones; throw a stereotype on its ear but overall, a fascinating tale and I for one can't wait for the next leg of this journey.

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