'Defiance' TV Review: New SyFy Series Shows Promise
In SyFy's new show Defiance, Grant Bowler stars as Jeb Noah, a grim but witty Arkfall (alien ships/technology) scavenger, along with his alien daughter, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas). He’s a character that reminds me all too well of Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) from Joss Whedon’s space western cult hit, Firefly. In fact, the city of Defiance, with the famous Gateway Arch of what used to be St. Louis towering over it, has that familiar western theme to it. There’s a lawkeeper (sheriff) who keeps the peace in town and a cowgirl-dressed mayor (Julie Benz). Similar to the Babylon 5 space station, Defiance is a town where numerous species of aliens live together, ranging from the rubbery white skinned Indogene to the orangutan-looking Sensoth. Much of the world of Defiance continues on like this, heavily influenced from past science-fiction shows. Yet, while SyFy’s newest show may not be as brilliantly written as the shows that influence it, Defiance still manages to blend together these different themes to create an intriguing pilot episode.
Defiance’s story isn’t anything I hadn’t seen before. Strangers (Noah and Irisa) who dislike living in a society, find themselves in Defiance, strapped for cash. In the town, a new mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Benz) is adapting to the job and trying to gain the trust of her constituents. Life isn’t made easy for her as the feud between two families (who are also different alien species), the McCawleys and the Tarrs, escalates to the point of violence. She loses her lawkeeper in the process, forcing her to turn to the stranger Noah for help. The plot isn’t anything special, but the cast, especially Bowler as Noah and Mia Kirshner as Kenya, have the charisma to keep you vested in their characters. Defiance is also grounded in realism, which makes the rest of the world, a strange mix of extraterrestrial and Earth influences, easier to take seriously, especially since the computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects are shoddy at best.
It’s in the town of Defiance, that the show does its best work. Yet, the pilot episode drifts in the last twenty minutes into a Star Wars-type battle for survival. Noah and Irisa leave Defiance in a Han Solo-like fashion as the town faces its imminent destruction from an invading force of Volge, a cyborg looking race of aliens. Of course, they come back in the pivotal moment to help the town repel the invasion. It appears as if the whole idea of this invasion was contrived by the writers to give the premiere more excitement. But they already had my attention with the characters and interworking stories of the town. By combining the inherent problems from a melting pot society and the political issues of a small frontier town, Defiance can establish its own identity, away from past science-fiction shows that define the pilot episode.
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