Defiance Review: New Beginnings

at . Comments

Syfy made a return to its roots with the debut of Defiance, the first true sci-fi series since the network switched its branding to broaden its show selection. What a rich and engrossing two-hour return it was too!

As the pilot opens in 2046 we are treated to a narration by Irisa, the Irathient daughter of Jeb Nolan, a human. Nolan and Irisa are ark hunters, who are like modern day treasure seekers chasing the falling debris of the ships (Arks) that brought several new races to Earth 33 years ago. 

Irisa and Nolan

Nolan and Irisa quickly go from ark hunters hitting the mother lode to being robbed by an Irathient Badlands gang. This plight is the catalyst for them to end up in Defiance, the town built on the remains of modern day St. Louis. 

In Defiance we learn that on the surface the new mayor is still trying to get her feet under her, while the two most powerful families feud: the Tarrs, who are Castithans and the McCawleys, who are human. If tensions are not stressed enough between the families, the youngest child in each family has feelings for the other. 

Both patriarchs are not crazy about their children dating and it results in a clash that ends with Nolan offering to help find the killer of Rafe McCawley’s oldest son after it comes to light that Datak Tarr’s son was not the killer.

At this point I knew Nolan would be staying in Defiance as the Lawkeeper. I’m actually more curious if he will end up deputizing his daughter Irisa, or will she continue to help “unofficially."

From the moment the series opened and Irisa and Nolan got away from the bandits by a coordinated effort that showed they knew each other really... well, I was hooked. Stephanie Leonidas does such a great job of showing emotion through the make-up she wears to become Irisa that I would actually forget that she was wearing make-up.

Nolan and Irisa had such great exchanges; it felt like they have really been together for a very long time. For example: 

Nolan: Relax; it's just like Kansas City.
Irisa: You got knifed in Kansas City.
Nolan: This is a completely different situation. | permalink

Julie Benz was great as the newly elected mayor. She clearly has a talent for politics she doesn’t see yet, but the natural way she handles will make it fun to watch her grow and realize her strength. On the flip side we had her sister, Kenya (played by Mia Kirshner), who runs the local Brothel/Bar called “Need/Want."

The name alone tells you that Kenya will get you anything you need or want, which Nolan took full advantage of. Kirshner seemed to be trying a little too hard in this episode. But I’m willing to see where she takes it. Besides, I’m more curious if Kenya is really more than a one trick pony (no pun intended). 

Can she do more than play Madame? Does she really have the connections to get anything you need or want? Or is that only related to alcohol and sex? 

And apparently society has changed a lot in 30 years, as having a sister who owns/runs a public brothel had no ill effect on Amanda getting elected mayor. Hell, maybe it helped her to that position.

The weakest portion of the show was the “Romeo/Juliet” story between the Tarr family and the McCawley family. It was all so damn predictable. I realized they needed an anchor to make Nolan and Irisa get involved, but of all the ideas they could have come up with, borrowing Mr. Shakespeare’s most tragic love story seems a bit heavy handed.

That said, if they move the plot along to a different path (i.e. the kids get married in only a few episodes), I’m willing to give it a shot, as we will be into new story telling area. How do you have a happy marriage between different species? How do you survive your parent hating each other? There are just so many options on that path; I really hope they take it. 

As for the other characters, currently I’m keeping an eye on Stahma Tarr. I suspect she is actually the brains behind Datak’s rise to the powerful man he is. There were a few small scenes - like the bathtub - where she deftly guided him to the answer she had already determined and made he feel he had thought of it on his own. 

Overall, I’m very pleased with the pilot; the show has done a good job of telling an engaging story IN the future without it being entirely about the future.  Can this continue through the rest of the season? I think so, unless the shtako hits the fan! 


Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
  • 4.7 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (128 Votes)

Jim G. is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.


It has some promise. The biggest problem I see is that I think I already know who the bad guys are going to turn out to be. I'm mainly watching to see if I'm right, and to find out what this "Kaziri" McGuffin is.


I enjoyed the pilot. What struck me were the similarities to the pilot of "Eureka": a marshall/ex-marine come to town (because of a car accident/injuries) with his daughter. The daughter gets locked up in a jail cell for at least a few hours. The sheriff/lawmaker gets killed in the first episode, and the hero is offered and takes the job, this, of course, after he proves himself by solving a mystery/crime. I think the rest will be kinda different!


LOVE this show. so excited to be watching a scifi series again since they refuse to do another star trek just because the last one suck but i degress. this episode was only hindered by its time frame causing it to have some slow moments (very few but still there) other than that i really enjoyed it. great cast, writing, the characters and get this network tv, DIVERSITY, ooh shocker! lol alak and his mother are my favs for now, i mean alak is just too hot. and Stahma is like a mix of Cersei Lannister and Regina (once upon a time)so devious and scandalous ooh, i love it! and that ex mayor! what a freaking twist. it was suspect that she was missing but i just thought they killed her off (i mean the lady is carrying around an oxygen tank). and was that weed she was smoking???! lol she is mess and a half. i kinda wish they released two episodes this week but alas got to wait three more days til the next episode


@Mike T. There was a very quick blurb during one of the "making of" that St. Louis 2013 was covered in rock and earth during the terra-forming event and the new city was built on top of that. While I've never been to St. Louis, it seems reasonable that the landscape could have changed dramatically given that info. Though, having the building say "1932" or whatever behind the Mayor's speech did kind of contradict that info.... Let's hope they all get on the same page :)


So the people that made this have never even seen St. Louis it seems! Just the fact that the only recognizable land mark was the arch and the fact that it was out of place ruined the whole thing for me! For Gods sake, make a freekin effort. don't make the excuse that it is in the future, its not that far in the future and there would still be some landmarks left! Even the highways are wrong, and don't tell me that they had time to rebuild new ones in the middle of an all out war! Give me a break!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Cliched, derivative, unimaginative dialogue, logical nonsense, and bad cgi but at least it's better than Revolution or Terra Nova.


I watched the episode tonight and I really like it. I've had lots of shows that I like end after only one season and I hope this isn't one of them. I hope defiance gets picked up for a full season or if its one of those shows with only 13 or so episodes in a season then I hope it gets renewed for a second season. I really liked the first episode and can't wait for the next and can't wait to see what else is going to happen.


Doc Yewll? I wonder if that's a reference to Dune's Doctor Yuie, the man who betrayed Duke Atreides because his wife was being held captive by the evil Baron.

Eludium q36

Agree with the others that cite many derivatives from other failed SF series. But it's not for lack of effort, but that's it's problem, it wreaks of effort but has no hook. There's WAY too much talking and the costuming looks B-class, from the losers of SyFy's "Face Off". The teens are stereotypical sex hungries with the requisite "Twilight" look. "Defiance" is trying to appeal to too many demographics and not succeeding at pleasing any one of them, much like "Revolution". For me and my guy demo, not enough sci-fi action, not enough new tech, too much politics (ala Star Wars I,II,III), too much boring dialogue, blah blah blah. Prediction: either cancelled after its rookie short season or limps into an anemic second and final season. This show has the odor of cancelled on it. SyFy, renew the Stargate franchise, that's your only way out of the mess you're in.


Not feeling it. I already saw Terra Nova. All this seems to have done was substitute dinosaurs with generic, poorly introduced alien races. At least Spielberg's show had decent special effects. The stories were crap and the characters cut from cardboard, but as far as I can tell so far, this show even has that much in common.

Tags: ,

Defiance Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Tommy: [To Nolan] Come on, give me your wrists.
Nolan: You took too long, I got bored [handing Tommy the handcuffs]

Garrett: Tommy, I told you to watch him, not cuff him.
Tommy: He was armed.
Garrett: Now he's unarmed. See that patch on his shoulder? If he really wanted to hurt you, those cuffs wouldn't stop him.