TV Review | Defiance 2.03 ‘The Cord and the Axe’

Defiance 3Defiance Season 2 Episode 3: The Cord and the Ax
Original UK Airdate: 2nd October 2014

It’s the episode where Irisa ‘kills’ Bertie and questions Irzu about her role in the deal they made and err….err….not much else.
Oh, Christie announces that she’s pregnant right at the start and isn’t involved in the rest of the episode.
And Yewll is freed from prison to serve Mayor Pottinger in whatever nefarious scheme he has going (a position she readily accepts, begging the question as why she didn’t just try and broker a deal last week – release me and I’ll help you – rather than refusing to give him any information, resulting in her finger being cut off.)
And there was much rejoicing as Rafe McCawley finally had more than two lines. It’s also the first episode of Defiance to be just about totally serialised. No story of the week – even the final run of episodes last season could be watched out of sequence, say if you watch the show now and stumble across a re-run years down the line. The Cord and the Ax, I think, wouldn’t work without the weight of previous episodes and the promise of more. It’s a piece in a larger puzzle.

The main story line leads to a wonderfully dark (set at night, pun intended), quite twisted scene in the woodlands where Irisa aims a rifle at her head, killing herself to be free from the deal with Irzu and released from her grasp, only for Irzu to heal all of her wounds. It’s a shocking scene, showing once again how brave the writer’s vision of Defiance can be; sadly contrasted with the low-budgets effects that make the sight of Irisa’s flesh and bone knitting back together after her fatal head injuries look like she’s simply got a bad rash.

I’m finding Irisa’s living weapon storyline to be thoroughly dull, which could be a problem as it seems to be the major storyline of the show. We’ve actually been told very little so far, and there is a fine line between planting seeds and slowly building story and simply not doing enough to hook viewers. Defiance is, for me, falling on the wrong side of this line. It doesn’t help that what we have seen so far has been entirely generic, derivative sci-fi shtako, and Defiance has shown in its characterisation and handling of relationships that it can be much more mature than that (not to mention the story frequently exposes just how small Defiance’s SFX budget is).

It could lead to some good character development for Irisa as she battles with her terrible role in Irzu’s plan, her lack of control in her own actions, and her subsequent guilt, not to mention having to lie to Nolan and…she’s probably just going to shoot something or kick it in the head, isn’t she?

On a slight aside: How many times has Defiance ‘killed’ a character only to bring them back? Okay, four, I think. But four times in fifteen episodes may lead to a situation when no amount of jeopardy a character finds themselves in can be taken seriously any more.

More intriguing is the mystery of just what Pottinger wants Doc Yewll to do. Genetic experiments? Biological enhancements? A manufactured virus? It has a much more interesting scope and I sincerely hope it isn’t simply a ‘big bad’ something for Irisa to turn super-powered and erase in the season finale. I think I have more faith in the writers than that, and there’s certainly many other directions the story could (and should) take. It also had the positive effect of freeing Datak from Prison to serve as her bodyguard – or rather its freed Tony Curran from having to endlessly leer at visitors through a hole in a fence.

Actually something interesting did happen – the final scene, which was easily the best scene of Season two so far saw a released Datak confront Stahma and Alak during their bathing ritual (confront being a polite way of saying ‘tries to drown’). It was a bold choice to have the scene be silent of diegetic sound, but it is a choice that made the scene all the more dramatic and memorable. When you’re left with a feeling that a character might not live much longer and that feeling is a terrible, leaden one, you know the show is doing something right.

In a departure from our regular feature ‘A word on Datak’; we now present ‘A note on Alak’. Last season he was one dimensional, bland and uninteresting; Romeo in the world’s most insipid retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Now, stuck between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (to continue the Shakespeare Analogy), his own ambitions; a pregnant wife and a sex-mad disc-jockey who tries to throw herself at him and a potentially very angry, very vengeful, very badass father-in-law if he in any way screws the pooch (or the disc-jockey) he’s suddenly in a very interesting place.

The Verdict: Last season early episodes had a distinct ‘story of the week’ while plot lines developed around them. Some were weak, some were the best episodes yet, but at least during story-arc heavy episodes there was always something definite happening to maintain interest each week. While only time will tell just how much impact the events of The Cord and the Ax will have on the whole season, as a stand alone episode it was a plodding, uninteresting watch that didn’t seem to do in 42 minutes what couldn’t have been done in 20. It has left me a lot to discuss I suppose, and many characters are in ‘interesting positions’ but they have been for weeks. I want something to actually happen.
Irisa and Irzu’s scene in the woodlands and the final scene raise it half a mark.

3/5

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