“The Bride Wore Black” is a fairly typical example of Defiance. That is, the story is a bit weak, but the excellent characters carry it through.
The episode begins with Alak Tarr’s bachelor party uncovering a literal skeleton in Defiance’s closet, sending Tommy and Nolan on a murder investigation that uncovers many secrets from the town’s past. Meanwhile, tensions between Datak Tarr and Rafe McCawley rise as their children’s wedding approaches.
Again, the actual story of the episode is nothing special, really. The murder mystery is pretty weak, offering nothing but a series of obvious red herrings before a somewhat underwhelming reveal of the true culprit. The setup for the wedding is a bit better, but none of it is truly surprising.
But the writers seem to have realized where Defiance’s true strength lies, because they let the strength of the characters and acting on this series carry what would otherwise be a weak episode.
Pretty much every character can be seen at their best in “The Bride Wore Black.” We have Datak being a mean bastard, Stahma being clever and manipulative, Amanda being tough and principled, Nicky being ruthless and vile, Nolan being the wily space cowboy… Even Alak showed that he’s more than a smartass DJ.
One thing I love about the characters in this show is how each one is a puzzle that the viewer is slowly solving. Each new piece of info allows us to see the characters in a new light and understand why they’ve behaved the way they have. Couple that with the fact that the characters are continuing to grow and evolve in the present day, and it makes each cast member a rich tapestry.
In particular, two characters really stood out for me in this episode.
The first is Rafe McCawley. I’m not sure if he’s yet my favourite character on Defiance — he has stiff competition from Nolan, Yewll, and Datak — but I think he’s probably the best character. He’s incredibly nuanced. He has a lot of obvious flaws, and he’s made some big mistakes in the past, but he’s also very principled in his way, and he’s proven he can grow and do what’s right despite his own prejudices.
Odd comparison to draw, but he kind of reminds me of Varian Wrynn in World of Warcraft. He has much anger and hate within him, but he doesn’t let those things control him, and his love for his family keeps him grounded.
And Graham Greene’s acting is impeccable.
The second character to impress me is Doc Yewll. She’s a good example of what I meant about each character being a puzzle. At first, she seemed little more than comedy relief. Then we started getting hints of her past, and she took on a sinister turn. Now — at the risk of giving too much away — we see that she has moved on from her dark history, that she wants to do good despite whatever wrongs she may have committed in the past.
Again, she’s a very nuanced character.
“The Bride Wore Black” might not be quite the home run last week’s episode was, but it’s a very solid episode all the same, and it deepens my appreciation for the strengths of Defiance as a series.
And the best thing about this episode? No stupid musical montage at the end.
Overall rating: 8/10