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.
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.
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.
It 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