Defiance Review: Must-see science fiction television

Defiance Review: The Town that Survived

Syfy’s Defiance is the science fiction event of the year

Syfy’s new series Defiance was one of the most-watched scripted series premiere for adults since 2006. So, obviously, there’s something good about it. But was it all hype and marketing? Because, let’s face it, Syfy has thrown a lot of money its way. Was it due to the ground-breaking MMO game integration? Or was it something much simpler – is it just a really good show?

You’ll be happy to know that the answer is the latter (although the marketing and game integration don’t hurt). Defiance is one of those shows that, when you first watch it, gives you goosebumps because you know you’re in for something special. No, Julie Benz was not lying when she said that Defiance was epic and unlike anything on t.v. It’s all of that and more.

First up, if you’ve played the accompanying Defiance MMO game at all, you’ll have a much better feel for the pilot episode of the series.┬áThe first episode of Defiance, which serves to present us this new world and all of its wonderful characters, begins with two Ark Hunters: Jeb Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adopted daughter, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas). Irisa is an Irathient, one of a dozen of different alien species that now calls Earth home. The two find themselves in a town that was once St. Louis, a place now known as Defiance. Earth itself is unrecognizable as the alien invaders have terraformed the planet to meet their own needs (for example, Antarctica is now a beach destination).

In Defiance, Nolan and Irisa meet the mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), along with the rest of the town, which includes a variety of characters, including Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) and his wife Stahma (Jaime Murray), the alien Doc Ywll (Trenna Keating) and the Hatfield to Tarr’s McCoys, Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene). In the end, Nolan and Irisa have to decide if they’re just passing through the town or are planning on staying, especially after Nolan is offered the badge of Lawmaker. Hint – they stay.

The first thing I noticed about the series was its scope. Epic is such a small word to describe the massive scale of this television series. From the opening scenes when we see massive space ships with alien invaders coming into view to the vision of the Arks (which were supposed to be mankind’s escape pods – but somehow most didn’t make it) still floating in space. The town of Defiance itself is so fully realized that no detail has been left unturned. Everything is perfectly rendered and it is easy to believe that this is the Earth of the near-future. The special effects are brilliant and very reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica.

The races of aliens are also so varied that no two are alike. They might all be humanoid, but each has their own specific characteristics. From the motorcycle gangs of Irathients to the wonderful Doc Ywll, each alien is infused with its own species’ personalities. Each species, too, has its own language, which could not have been easy for actors to tackle. It’s exactly the sort of detail I like to see.

The acting, as expected, is some of the best on television. Julie Benz shines as the compassionate (but bad-ass, to quote Benz) mayor – doing her best to keep the city going, in spite of odds against her. Bowler as Nolan is a new sort of Han Solo – the kind of rough-and-tumble guy who seems to be selfish, but turns out to have a heart of gold. Leonidas (who I loved in Mirror Mask), has an unpredictability about her that makes Irinis one of the more compelling characters of the series. Curran and Murray are nearly scary in their mafia-like makings, with Murray being the Lady MacBeth to Curran’s Richard III – I was also impressed by how beautifully they both handled the made-up language their characters speak. I was delighted to see Greene in the series, as he’s one of those character actors I have always loved to watch. Finally, Trenna Keating is the no-nonsense Doc Ywll – she also delivers some of the funniest lines in the pilot episode.

In fact, it’s the female characters that really stand out in Defiance. Only in science fiction do we get these sort of strong women figures that are so wonderfully thought out and acted. I wish other non-genre television series would figure that out.

Defiance is one-of-a-kind television, the sort of thing you absolutely must-see. So go run to Hulu or Syfy or Amazon Video On Demand and get this one now. Trust me – this is the series you do not want to miss.

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