When an often fatal illness nicknamed the Irath Flu — because the Irathients carry it, although they aren’t affected by it — breaks out, secrets are revealed, some great character moments are had, and a lot of people make tremendously stupid decisions.
Let’s start with the stupid decisions. Because the sense of community and equality that Defiance was founded on is apparently bullshit, the town council decides to quarantine the Irathients in internment camps, because that's a great idea that always works out for everybody. Rafe McCawley decides to lead this Power Posse himself and doesn’t inform the town’s actual sheriff, Nolan, but also still tries to take his daughter Irisa (admittedly, he’s very polite about it until Irisa throws him off a roof). This pisses off Irisa, the Irathients and Nolan, and it ends with Nolan pointing his gun at Rafe and Rafe pointing his gun at Irisa; only the mayor and Irisa’s common sense keeps things from going sideways.
Outside Defiance, the Earth Republic is extremely quick to put the town under quarantine. Nolan and Mayor Amanda go find Connor, who is getting shit-faced. Despite being initially portrayed as a slimeball, Connor is absolutely the MVP of this episode; he begins with inviting Nolan to get equally drunk with him, because he knows the E-Rep won’t let anyone leave — including himself.
Before long Rafe’s daughter Christie is sick, Mayor Amanda is sick, Nolan is sick but not admitting it, and there are several dozen people dead and many, many more in the infirmary. But there’s hope! Doc Yewell got a relay message to San Francisco, where the plague originated, and where a cure has been developed. They’ve sent a care package of medicine to Defiance via ICBM missile (do not think to hard about this) which has landed a bit outside the E-Rep’s blockade (seriously, I told you not to think about it). Nolan and Connor head out to recover the medicine.
Meanwhile, more bad decisions are being made. The Irathients are doing their religion chanting dance in their jail, as they are wont to do, when a single human female takes offense. Now, the Irathients have literally all been imprisoned at this point. This lady opens the cage, and as soon as she’s surrounded by aliens her people have jailed out of pure discrimination, she runs over and kicks their holy rock stack. Believe it or not, this turns out to be a bad idea. One of Irisa’s Irathient pals jumps her, although the human lady is able to draw her gun and kill him while they tussle. JUSTICE AT WORK!
Nolan and Connor treat themselves to the world’s worst smalltalk as Nolan asks what happened between Connor and Amanda. Connor, surprisingly, opens up, explaining that he got her pregnant, he was ready to raise a family, but she was too freaked out about the idea of bringing a child into the new, fucked-up world and aborted it without telling him. Yikes. Speaking of Amanda, she’s sick as shit, but announces that Rafe McCawley as the next senior member of the town council, is in charge while she’s passed out, then passed out. Unfortunately, Rafe’s daughter Christie is just about to kick it, so Datak Tarr (the Castithans are immune to the disease) happily takes charge of Defiance, with a little prodding from his wife.
Nolan and Connor thankfully reach the E-Rep blockade, where they meet an older E-Rep military dude named Colonel Marsh, who will almost certainly be important in these last few episodes, and that horrible bitch Tennety from episode 5, who continues to be a horrible bitch and wants them both shot on sight. Connor manages to talk Marsh into letting them retrieve the nearby cure while keeping snipers trained on them, in case they try to escape and thus spread the plague.
And here’s when Nolan makes a bad decision. Rather than take maybe five whole seconds to get a vial, inject himself, get cured, and be able to drive all they back to Defiance (or even just letting Connor drive), he decides it’s much more important to get to Defiance five seconds earlier, yet risk crashing because he’s far too ill to be driving. This is possibly why he misses the trap set by a small group of Irathients (Sukar’s crew) who take Nolan, Connor and the medicine hostage until Defiance releases the other Irathients.
With Datak (and Stahma) in charge, the problem is solved in a very Datak (and Stahma) way. He releases all the Irathients, meets the medicine-siezing Irathients in their hideout, admits that one Irathient was killed (unfortunately this leader’s best bro), blames the humans, pours gasoline over the medicine, pretends he’s going to set it on fire, and then has his minions kill the shit out of the Irathients. Well, except for one, who gets Datak in a chokehold; Connor, while still bound, tackles the Irathient, saving the Castithan.
But we all know what Datak is like when he feels that people below his station have offended him, right? He empties his clip into the Irathient, beats the shit out of the corpse, and screams obscenities at it until Connor politely coughs and announces the dude is dead. Datak stands up, straightens his outfit, and shoots Connor in the head just for seeing his breakdown.
For Datak fans, tonight was great — he gives Rafe an almost certainly illegal drug to keep Christie from feeling pain, which, sure, he probably still wants his kid’s marriage to go on so he can take Rafe’s mines, but he’s also a family man, and recognizes the pain Rafe is in. So it could go either way, or both ways, and such is the complexities of Datak. But it’s his freak-out at the end that confirms my idea that the class-obsessed Datak, who rose from the dregs of Castithan society cannot abide anyone or anything that makes him feel like he did in those painful early days, and pretty much Hulks the fuck out. Stahma is devious but loves poetry; Datak plays at being noble and wise but has a beast inside them that probably confirms every terrible thing an upper-class person told him when he was young. More than anyone else in Defiance, the Tarrs are real, complex characters, and no wonder they’re the break-out stars of the show.
But the bigger event us that Quentin, keeper of the Thingie, find Evil Ex-Mayor at her mobile home diner and asks her what the hell happened to his mother. After a trade of the Thingie, (which is called the Kaziri, but which I will continue calling the Thingie anyways) for info, Evil Ex-Mayor reveals that Rafe’s wife was bipolar, and when the Pale Wars started she couldn’t get her medication. Datak and E.E.M. (who also slept a bit with Rafe!) provided medicine as best they could after the war, but after Pilar McCawley “buttered [Quentin’s] bread with rat poison,” Rafe sent her to Mendicino (in California, I presume, which is a super-long way for an insane asylum) and told his kids their mom died. So now E.E.M. has the Thingie, which is almost certainly bad news, and Quentin abandons his father (and the visions of his dead brother that the Thingie provided) to search for his mother.
I love this. Well, the trading and leaving part is pretty standard, but Defiance is in so many ways an old-school scifi show — aliens in slight forehead make-up, completely arbitrary rules, a lot more vocabulary than actual backstory — that details like wondering what people on psychotropic medication would do when the world effectively ended is fantastic. Of course they’d go crazy, and of course people with the resources of Rafe McCawley would send them somewhere, if not to be treated, but to be watched over. And of course a guy as stolid as Rafe, knowing his wife would never, ever truly return, would tell his children they died. Not only is it a revealing moment for the McCawley household, it’s a fantastic sign that Defiance can get into more subtle yet realistic issues beyond “WHAT IF WE DID INTERNMENT CAMPS AGAIN WOULDN’T THAT BE BAD YES IT WOULD.”
Anyways, back to the episode: Datak stages the scene to make it look like the Irathients killed Connor (Nolan missed the whole thing because he was unconscious), recovers the cure and is the hero of the hour, everybody besides some nameless, faceless extras are saved, Amanda mourns Connor and the life she could have had, Nolan and Irisa make up over the Sukar thing, and Datak announces he’s running for mayor too in the post-plague radio wrap-up with Amanda, which is awkward but still genuinely funny (especially the way Alak cuts Amanda’s mike without her noticing it).
Oh, and then Evil Ex-Mayor meets with… Doc Yewell in a car in the pouring rain. In a wonderful scene for anyone invested int the show so fair, it’s revealed that Yewell used to run with E.E.M. and Birch, left (presumably because they were too evil), refuses to work with E.E.M. again, even after E.E.M. reveals she has the Thingie. Doc begs her to destroy it, but E.E.M. explains it has the power to reshape the world (giving more credence to you guys who think the Thingie is part of the Votans’ terraforming machine).
Look, there was a lot of dumb stuff in this episode of Defiance, but there was enough really good stuff that I have to admit I’m actually, genuinely invested in some of the characters. That’s no mean feat for any TV show, especially a show as decidedly goofy/retro as Defiance, and it should be commended. I think I'm hooked, people. And it's thanks almost entirely to Datak Tarr.
• Have the Irathients always bumped foreheads in greeting like the Coneheads, or was that new?
• For a virus that’s transmitted by flesh-to-flesh contact, that human was awfully grope-y with Irisa.
• Speaking of flesh-to-flesh contact, so what, did that girl from the end of last week’s episode shake a lot of hands on the way into town or what?
• Connor with the line of the night, to Nolan: “She’s wrong about the hope thing. We’re all gonna be dead very soon. So! Wanna get drunk?”
• Why didn’t Nolan just drive around the E-Rep blockade? It’s not like they had the entire town surrounded.
• The blood-seeping out of Christie’s eyes was a nice touch. I’m a sucker for bleeding eyes.
• So all Nolan needed for Irisa to forgive him for turning Sukar into a vegetable was for another human to kill another Irathient? I still don't buy their relationship.
• Datak Tarr with the even better line of the night: “It doesn’t fit my narrative.” I can't tell you what a tremendously awesome line this was. It was legitimately brilliant.