Defiance Season Two Episode One: The Opposite of Hallelujah
Original UK Airdate: 18th September 2014, SYFY Channel.
The Opposite of Hallelujah rolls the story forwards nine months from the end of season one: The Earth-Republic (or “E-Rep” for short) have taken control of Defiance and have appointed Niles Pottinger (newcomer James Murray) as temporary mayor, Datak and Yewll are in a prison camp to the east of the city and Nolan is tearing across America searching for Irisa whom apparently he never reunited with after the events of the previous episode.
It’s the first time we properly get to see what other parts of this strange new world look like, as we get scenes in Angel Arc (Or Los Angeles to you and me) and New Chicago (guess where) and they actually look quite good. Whether this is just a case of money being splashed on the season première or if Defiance actually has a raised budget remains to be seen, but the establishing shots of these cities certainly look as good as anything seen so far. Okay, they look good for a low-budget SYFY show and not more, but even the Hellbugs make a reappearance and don’t look as comically bad as they did last year.
The performances of Grant Bowler and Stephanie Leonidas and the writing of their relationship were among the praiseworthy aspects of season one and this is equally true here, but as an audience it is hard to feel any sense of relief, happiness, or euphoria when they ‘finally’ reunite, as the concept of them being separated in the first place was new to us twenty-minutes ago, and Nolan’s on-screen search has only compromised a couple of brief scenes.
Moving the story forwards nine months certainly gives the writers plenty of scope to explore the changed dynamics for the characters and for the town as a hole (Amanda and Stahma certainly seem to have a closer relationship then they ever have before) and leaves them plenty of intriguing ways to go now that the E-Rep run the show (even if the early illusions to them being an unwanted occupying force become blunt instruments when they are openly referred to as Nazi’s several times later on).
New Mayor Pottinger fits right in. It would have been easy to write a bland villain and move on with the other characters: a token bureaucrat or a generic commander – like a Nazi in a cheap war film; but Pottinger arrives fully rounded. Keenly aware of the importance of perception, he is a smooth, confident (perhaps too confident) upwardly mobile operator who is already turning the charm (and the creep) onto Amanda, blackmailing Rafe and barely hiding his contempt for his immediate superiors. He’s obviously morally flexible and could end up being on just about any side, with anyone anywhere by the end of the series. It’s a huge strength that the struggle between Defiance and the E-Rep and how the major characters both affect it and are affected by it, could play out in many different ways.
The time-jump does leave a few questions unanswered (chiefly, If Irisa is so hell-bent on going back to Defiance then why hasn’t she gone back of her own accord these least nine months?) but overall leaves things in a very interesting position.
The old Defiance problem of characters spouting exposition rears its ugly head once or twice, but far less often than the show has been guilty of in the past.
As for Datak – while I’m undoubtedly going to enjoy his struggle to rise up from having lost everything, he only held ‘everything’ for seconds at the end of the last season. Personally I would have loved to have seen him as the Mayor from Hell for a while (obviously with Stahma pulling the strings behind the scenes) and out of all the main characters he feels the most sidelined to push the E-Rep storyline through.
The Verdict: Hard to rate as a single episode. Defiance has changed so much from its stand-alone story-of-the-week beginnings to its serialised nature now. The Opposite of Hallelujah is just a piece in a bigger puzzle, laying the foundations for what is to come. It doesn’t exactly make for a thrill-a-minute episode, but it sets a lot of things up for what has potential to be a very interesting season.