About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Freelance writer, fantasy novelist, and nerd of the highest order.

Review: Defiance, “This Woman’s Work”

Normally, Defiance is a show whose sci-fi aspects are somewhat in the background. At its core, Defiance is a political and interpersonal drama. The sci-fi elements usually serve only to add spice through the way alien cultures and advanced technology influence the politics.

A promotional image for DefianceHowever, “This Woman’s Work” bucks the trend a little bit and puts the science fiction front and centre.

This episode sees a major Arkfall not far from Defiance. Mayor Pottinger and Nolan ride out to investigate, Nolan having been told that the Ark contains a powerful energy source.

Well, that much was true, in a sense. In actuality, the ship is a transport for the Gulanee, the rarest and most alien of the Votan races. Previously, the Gulanee had only appeared in the game, and then only with extreme rarity.

The Gulanee are a race of pure energy. They are extremely powerful, possessing the ability to channel lethal bolts of energy as naturally as a human throws a punch. However, their alien nature means they must be contained within mechanical suits to withstand Earth’s environment.

The trouble comes when they discover that one of the Gulanee has awoken from stasis. It’s been asleep since before the Ark fleet was destroyed, and it has no idea the war is over. Therefore, it sees humans as enemies to be killed on site.

As you might imagine, this puts Nolan and Pottinger in rather awkward position.

Nolan and Irisa in DefianceMeanwhile, Irisa continues her forced crusade for Irzu, Stahma receives backlash for her defiance of a woman’s traditional role in Castithan society, and Tommy still can’t catch a break.

After some slower episodes, “This Woman’s Work” is quick in its pacing and almost overcrowded with different plot threads. It’s an improvement, but there are still some weak points.

I find myself with mixed feelings on the main plot involving the renegade Gulanee. On the one hand, it was awesome to finally see the last of the Votan races in action, and the Gulanee itself was very well done. It was visually spectacular, and they did a brilliant job of making it seem very alien, and very dangerous. I am once again struck by how much Defiance’s production values seem to have improved since the first season.

But… we didn’t really learn anything. After knowing nothing of the Gulanee for so long, I was hoping we would learn something about them as a people or how they fit into Votan culture. It would have been fascinating to see how such an alien race views the world and current events.

But when you get down to it, the Gulanee could have been replaced with any other sci-fi monster — an unusually deadly Hellbug, say — and it wouldn’t have changed the plot at all.

Ultimately, I think the subplots may have held more merit.

The cast for Defiance for season twoIt was nice to see Irisa’s story pick up again, even if it didn’t advance all that much. She does have a confidante now, and it was interesting to see how resigned to her fate she’s become. A sad, beaten Irisa is not something I’m used to seeing, and it was good to have some variety in her characterization beyond the usual “scream/cry/stab.”

Stahma may have been the highlight, though. I’m really starting to enjoy how her character has evolved this season.

In the first season, Stahma was rather scattered. At first, I thought she was complicated, but by the end, I had come to the conclusion the writers just didn’t know what they wanted to do with her.

They seem to have made up their mind.

This season has seen Stahma become a force to be reckoned with in her own right, even eclipsing her now-estranged husband, and “This Woman’s Work” continues that.

Stahma’s rise to power has set tongues wagging. In particular, the Castithan church is offended by her defiance (hurr hurr) of her husband, flying in the face of Castithan tradition and Rayetso’s will. Stahma must find a way to deal with their opposition lest it crush her family’s business and put her on the shaming rack.

I won’t spoil things too much, but suffice it to say you probably shouldn’t get on Stahma’s bad side.

“This Woman’s Work” is a bit of a mixed bag, but there’s so much going on you’re bound to appreciate at least some of it, and for my part, I found the good greatly outweighed the bad.

Overall rating: 7.8/10

Retro Review: Continuum, Episodes 8-10

I seem to be doing an awful lot of reviews lately. I should probably work on getting some variety in my posts again some time soon.

But that day is not today.

“Play Time”:

The official logo for ContinuumHere we have another of those episodes where Continuum basically devolves into just another cop show.

In this episode, Kiera and Carlos investigate a series of bizarre murder/suicides. The one connection between the perpetrators is that they both worked for the same video game developer, so the weight of suspicion falls squarely on the company.

The developer is working on next generation virtual reality technology. Kiera and Betty, whose tech know-how and general geekiness have earned a her a role in the investigation, receive a demonstration of the tech, but something goes wrong, and Kiera collapses. When she awakes, her implants begin to malfunction.

All tech wizardry aside, “Play Time” is pretty much just a standard whodunnit. On the plus side, this one does reveal a connection to Liber8, but it’s still just not that interesting, and it does very little to advance the main plot.

About the only noteworthy thing to come out of this episode is that Liber8 now knows Alec is helping Kiera. That, and the hidden files in Kiera’s suit offer some intriguing possibilities. But both of these things are things that will prove interesting later — they don’t do much to add to “Play Time.”

Overall rating: 6.9/10 At least Betty geeking out was amusing.

Kiera, Alec, and Carlos in Continuum“Family Time”:

Now that’s more like it!

This is Continuum at its best. Tense and action-packed from start to finish, with not a moment wasted.

Wait, sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Family Time” has Kiera and Carlos investigating a large shipment of fertilizer to a rural farm. This is supposedly standard procedure whenever someone orders a bomb-worthy quantity of fertilizer.

What Kiera doesn’t realize until she arrives is that it is the same farm where Alec and his family live. Alec’s step-father, Roland, insists he didn’t order that much fertilizer, but when they reach the burn, they discover that not only is he wrong, but it’s already been turned into a bomb by Julian.

Cue gunfire, hostage-taking, and general mayhem.

What follows is an hour of Kiera and Alec pulling some clever, Die Hard-esque badassery as they attempt to escape the clutches of Julian and his thuggish friends, who seek to make a stand for their ideals or die trying.

Julian Randal in ContinuumI have to say that Continuum is really good at making me hate villains. I have come to really, truly despise Julian. I would like to see him tied to a tree and beaten with cricket bats.

Although it was a fairly small part of the episode, I also found the vignette from the future very interesting, and I think I’m finally starting to develop some interest in Kiera as a character, not just as an action hero.

It’s fascinating to me that Kiera is what most would judge to be a good person — someone with a strong moral compass who loves those close to her and wants nothing more than to provide a good life to her family — but yet she’s done, and continues to do, some awful things. She’s propping up a corrupt regime which has robbed humanity of its liberty and dignity, and she straight up murdered Kellogg’s sister.

That was shocking to me. She killed a woman who was if not innocent then at least of no immediate threat, in cold blood.

This is something that’s chillingly true in real life: Often those we would classify as monsters are ordinary people who under most circumstances would be considered perfectly decent.

Does that make them good people who are simply misguided, or bad people whose darkness is well-hidden? Is Kiera the hero of this story, or just another villain?

Rachel Nichols as Kiera Cameron in ContinuumOverall rating: 8.9/10 Very well done indeed.

“Endtimes” (season finale):

The finale for the first season of Continuum doesn’t feel much different from most of the episodes to date, which is as much a compliment to the rest of the series as it as a criticism of the finale.

“Endtimes” wastes absolutely no time and offers major reveals, high tension, and plenty of adventure virtually from the first shot onwards. But that’s been true of pretty much every episode to date. On the one hand, that’s made for a very fun ride up until now, but it leaves them with little room to ramp up the tension for the finale. Despite offering slightly more in the way of major revelations and higher stakes than ever, “Endtimes” pretty much feels like any other episode.

That’s still pretty good, though.

“Endtimes” sees Liber8, with the aid of a fugitive Julian, launching a massive terrorist attack on downtown Vancouver. On her way to investigate the threat, Kiera encounters a rather scruffy gentlemen (played by Ian Tracey, who did a brilliant turn as Dr. Jekyll/Adam Worth on Sanctuary) who recognizes her — from the future. He was pulled through time at the same point she was but went back even further, arriving in the 1990s. Unfortunately, his trials have left his sanity in a questionable state.

He does have some interesting revelations, though. He mentions there are other people who have traveled back in time, called “Freelancers” and led by someone called “Mr. Escher.”

A wallpaper featuring propaganda for Liber8Meanwhile, Alec attempts to track down Julian and is captured by Liber8 in the process, but Kagame does not react to him at all as one would expect.

I’m afraid I once again can’t help but compare to Orphan Black — last time, I promise. Whereas its season finale offered no major revelations and no closure for any plot but one, Continuum offers a flood of changes and new revelations.

There are other time travelers! Alec is the one who sent Liber8 and Kiera back in time! Kagame died and took a good chunk of Vancouver with him! Julian founded Liber8! Travis and Sonya have turned on one another!

Things be crazy.

With that being said, while “Endtimes” is vastly better than Orphan Black’s finale, it still has its issues.

As I said, because Continuum is already so fast-paced and action-packed most of the time, “Endtimes” doesn’t feel terribly special compared to the average episode. It would have taken some truly insane, “Boomer shoots Adama”-esque twists to really stand out, but while the reveals we got were good, they weren’t that good.

The question I most wanted answered is why future Alec did all this, but that’s the answer we have to wait until next season for. Although thankfully that won’t be a long wait where I’m concerned.

Liber8 activates their time device during the Continuum pilotThere were also some painfully implausible things about this episode. Apparently it takes less than 24 hours for Carlos to recover from a gunshot wound, massive blood-loss, and major surgery.

Furthermore, the aftermath of the explosion tried too hard to play on the emotion of the viewer, at the expense of logic. Those shots of the civilians caught in the blast tore me right out of the story — when the cops learned of the bomb threat, they would have evacuated the whole area. There wouldn’t have been kids around to be caught up in 9/11 North.

Still, on the whole, a worthy conclusion to a strong first season.

Overall rating: 8/10 I’m looking forward to starting on season two.