Review: Defiance, “I Almost Prayed” (Season Finale)

The final episode of Defiance’s second season is very much a continuation of the previous episode. “I Almost Prayed” begins where “All Things Must Pass” left off, with the Arkfleet waking and using its terraforming technology to devastate the Earth. In minutes, New York suffers the same fate as San Fransisco, the heart of humanity’s waning power extinguished in an instant.

A promotional image for DefianceBut Irisa — or, more accurately, the Kaziri, which controls her — isn’t finished. The entire world is to be cleansed in the Devouring Mother’s flame.

The race is on to stop her. Doc Yewll finds herself pardoned of her crimes as she offers a plan that will stop the Kaziri in its tracks. Unfortunately, her method will also kill Irisa in the process, which is not something Nolan can allow to happen. One rule and all.

Nolan has a competing plan: to use Mordecai to absorb one of the Kaziri’s keys, thus ending its control of Irisa. But his plan is not supported by the Earth Republic, and the order comes to go through with Yewll’s plan.

Surprisingly, Amanda sides with the E-Rep against Nolan, shattering the trust they once had for each other and rather lowering my opinion of her as a person.

Irisa isn’t the only source of trouble, though. Pilar McCawley has decided she’s had enough of Defiance, and especially the Tarrs. She tries to convince Alak and Christie to leave the town and move instead to a commune to the south… which doesn’t exist. She goes to increasingly extreme lengths to get them to agree to her plan, with Quentin assisting because he’s a jackass.

The ruins of New York in Defiance, "I Almost Prayed"Much like the previous episode, “I Almost Prayed” is an epic thrill ride showcasing nearly every member of Defiance’s cast at their best. I even kind of liked Berlin this time around.

Nolan, in particular, hits the ball out of the park this time around, and I was reminded why I like his character so much. Nolan isn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but when the cards are down, he’s someone you can count on to do the right thing, at any cost, and to go to Hell and back for the people he loves.

Something that surprised me about this episode is how funny it was. It’s full of epic, apocalyptic danger, but the writers still find time for plenty of the one-liners and wry humour that are so common in Defiance. They manage to do it in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the tension of the episode, which is a very difficult tightrope to walk.

A lot is resolved in “I Almost Prayed,” but a lot has changed, and there is no shortage of potential for the show’s future.

The destruction of New York is a game-changer — or it should be if the writers are smart. With the heart of the Earth Republic’s government shattered, can they continue to be one of the world’s powers? Might their tenuous grip on the land fail?

Most importantly, what is the Votanis Collective going to do? This seems the perfect moment for them to strike. They’d be stupid not to, frankly. Their greatest enemy is at their weakest point since the end of the Pale Wars.

The cast for Defiance for season twoI do have a few minor issues with “I Almost Prayed.” Most notably, I am disappointed Amanda never found out what a scumbag Pottinger is. It’s a reveal I’ve spent the entire series looking forward to, but now we’ll need to wait at least another year to see it, if we ever do.

I also wish we’d gotten a few more answers about the Kaziri. What was its purpose? Why did it arrive at Earth so long before the rest of the Arkfleet?

Overall, though, “I Almost Prayed” is a strong finale.

And thus Defiance’s second season came to an end. It was a transformative season for the show, a time when Defiance found its legs and went from being a show that was worth watching when there’s nothing better on to one of the better sci-fi series in recent memory.

The most surprising thing to me about this season was that the Earth Republic stayed in power through the entire season. I thought it was going to be an “occupation of New Caprica” kind of thing where they’d be in charge for a few episodes, and then the people of Defiance would rise up and take back their town.

I think it was a good decision, though. It added an extra dimension to the show’s politics, and if nothing else, it was unexpected, and avoiding the formulaic solution is almost always a good thing.

The town of DefianceI do hope the next season — should there be one — sees Defiance throw off its chains, though. With the E-Rep reeling from New York’s loss, there’s never going to be a better time.

It did occur to me to wonder if Berlin’s experience at Camp Reverie was a way of opening her eyes to the dark side of her organization, which may allow her to side with Defiance and thus stay on as a cast member if the town splits ways with the E-Rep.

Although I could also see Defiance needing to stand with the Republic against a newly aggressive Votanis Collective if they decide to seize the moment.

I also wonder what changes the apparent destruction of the Arkbelt might herald. I particularly wonder how it will affect the game, as the Arkbelt is a major visual set piece of the game world, and Arkfalls are a cornerstone of its gameplay. I suppose they’ll probably just wave it off by saying there are still enough wrecked ships left to cause regular Arkfalls.

All this talk of the future brings us to the elephant in the room: the question of whether Defiance will have a third season.

Considering the uphill battle sci-fi television always has and Defiance’s lackluster ratings this season, the odds are not looking good. I’m already preparing myself for a cancellation announcement that feels almost inevitable.

But I hope I’m wrong. Despite its weak start, Defiance has matured into a very good show, and in a world starving for decent sci-fi television, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Time will tell.

Overall rating: 8.9/10

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