SPOILERS. Mostly minor, but if you don’t like any, don’t read on.
This morning, I think I dropped some of my Firefly chip on my shoulder and began watching the second half of Defiance’s pilot with a fresh perspective. I watched it more as its own entity and tried to keep the other show out of my mind while doing so. The action picked up in the second half of the pilot (and by golly the sex which was refreshing), due to a murder. I have to now admit, that with some fine tuning, I may grow to like this show.
First though, the aliens need to be more alien. It’s a rich comment coming from someone who religiously watches Doctor Who where the main alien doesn’t even look alien (humans look Timelord apparently), but for a gritty, more realistic-style Sci Fi show like this one, where they are actually trying to create convincing alien looks, some of them could be more so. Maybe they were going for understated alienness to maintain their grit, but Jamie Murray as one of the almost albino Castithian’s comes off as a slinky vampire really and the boy playing her son just looks like a garden variety white goth to me. I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t cast people who actually are blond for these parts because I think they would come off as much more freaky and otherworldy when in the makeup. I can tell that Murray’s eyebrows are covered in some kind of silvery make up, and it doesn’t look great. The Indogene aliens’ skin looks like the tread on basketballs done in white and makes me want to giggle every time I see them. Some human character should be cracking a joke at their expense. It would certainly loosen this show up to some repartee. Come on, dig deeper, folks. Punch everything up. Throw in some cheeky lines here and there.
Because despite the slightly raunchy sex scene between Nolan and Kenya, I don’t see much true spark between them. But then Mia Kirshner always seems to be chewing up the sexual scenery when she is in vamp mode, even when she has the volume on low, and that does not chemistry make. Of course the spark is probably supposed to develop between Nolan and Amanda, but Julie Benz seems to have her sexy muted for this show. That might be a mistake. She is much better at it than Kirshner, I think. By the time of the battle at the end, Nolan and Amanda have a vaguely Han and Leia dynamic, but not enough of one. Not yet. The only humor of any signifcance in the whole pilot comes in the second half, from the black deputy. Really? I mean how insulting and stereotypical for him. Ugh. But at least he is doing a good job and a nuanced one. He is playing against type a bit and I commend him for it. I have to say, he and Irisa, Nolan’s adopted Irathient daughter, have good chemistry. I might be shipping them now.
I just recommend that the volume be turned up on everything. Even when the hideous villains show up, who are supposedly so bad that Defiance doesn’t stand a chance, people are just casually packing up to leave and Nolan and Kenya stop to talk. Shouldn’t they be running for their lives? Shouldn’t the villians be running instead of marching? Or is there supposed to be some Revolutionary War parallel here with the Volge cast as the British soldiers? How very quaint and how very dull. The villains are not even threatening despite being over CGI-ed into some kind of idea of a monster (did they see any of the Hulk films? I don’t find the new Hulks to be scary or worrisome, just fake). I would mention Reavers here, but I was behaving myself with that.
So here is my recommendation to the writers and directors and producers of this show. First, get better CGI or retool those villains. Too hokey and takes one out of the realism you were going for in most of the show. See, you were starting to hook me in the second half, but kind of lost me again during the battle. Give people some individual desires and stakes to lose that we care about. Make the aliens more alien. Give us villains that give us cause to worry. And finally, make the hurting people hurt a bit more. Then I might care more. The twist at the end was a good start.
- Defiance, Syfy’s New Futuristic Series (lisanneharris.com)