Reviews: Defiance, “Upon the March We Fittest Die” + Dark Matter, Episodes 12 and 13

Defiance, “Upon the March We Fittest Die” (season finale):

A promotional image for DefianceAs Defiance’s third season comes to a close, Nolan and company rush to defeat the Omec before their invasion can spread beyond the town of Defiance. Freeing Doctor Yewll has cut off their supply of food and left them temporarily weakened. The time to strike is now.

Yewll hatches a scheme to repeat history and destroy the Omec ship from within, and Nolan, Irisa, and Datak accompany her on her mission of sabotage.

Meanwhile, Stahma attempts to bury the hatchet with Amanda.

If I was to describe “Upon the March We Fittest Die” in a word, I’d go with “adequate.” It’s got enough intensity and excitement to be satisfying as a season finale, but it doesn’t particularly excel. The final confrontation with Kindzi is fairly by the numbers and doesn’t especially thrill.

The ending doesn’t make a lot of sense, either. Irisa’s plan is just ridiculous within the context of what has been established about the Omec so far, and Nolan going along within it is even more confusing. I can’t imagine them writing Nolan out of the show permanently, so I have to wonder what the point is.

I did like Stahma’s scene with Amanda, though.

Overall rating: 7.1/10

The Omec in DefianceAll in all, I would say that Defiance’s third season was still significantly better than its weak first season, but also significantly less interesting than the excellent second season.

Season three suffered from two major flaws, the first of which was that it tried too hard to be dark. I enjoy dark storytelling, and Defiance was never exactly a show full of rainbows and candy-canes, but season three was just relentless grim, to the point where it became more wearing than entertaining. Even Battlestar Galactica knew to give the characters a break once in a while.

I’ve heard a lot of people say the writers were trying to turn the show into Game of Thrones, and one does get the impression there’s some truth to that. The writers often did seem to value shock value over good storytelling. Did we need the Omec incest? Did Rafe need to die?

I don’t think so.

The other issue was the Omec. I’ve said it before, but they’re just not interesting. The Defiance world is so rich in cultures, history, and mysteries that have yet to be explored, all of which would have been more compelling than the Omec. Instead of expanding on pre-established but underdeveloped things like the Votanis Collective, Liberata and Sensoth culture, the Gulanee, or the Volge, we get this totally random out of nowhere new race that turns out to be little more than one-dimensional villains.

General Rahm Tak in DefianceOn the other hand, the Rahm Tak story was far more entertaining. Still too brutally dark at times, but on the whole very strong, culminating in the utter brilliance of “My Name Is Datak Tarr and I Have Come to Kill You,” which was undoubtedly the highlight of the season and one of the best parts of the series to date.

Unfortunately, after that, the season lost momentum, and the following episodes are far less memorable.

So the end result is a fairly mixed season with some incredible highs, but also a lot of lows.

Dark Matter, episode twelve:

In what is by now a familiar pattern, the crew of the Raza accepts a dangerous job out of a desperate need for allies, only for it to turn out to be a set-up.

In this case, it was all a trap to lure out Two so she could be abducted by her mad scientist creator, played by Will Wheaton. The facility is heavily defended, and only Sally the android has a chance to infiltrate it and free Two.

The logo for Dark MatterThis was on the whole a pretty underwhelming episode. For one thing, it’s pretty much just filler. In theory we learned a bit about Two’s past, but none of it’s terribly substantive. We still have more questions than answers.

Filler isn’t terribly welcome at the best of times, but this is the second last episode of the season, and given the luck of sci-fi television these days, very possibly the second last episode ever. By now they should be building to a climax. There should be shocking twists and major reveals.

The ending hints at that a bit, but it’s just a tease. Not enough to make this a memorable episode.

Also, the fact is Will Wheaton just isn’t that intimidating. Despite being all Bond villian-y and doing weird, creepy stuff the whole episode, he never stopped being Will Wheaton the lovable nerd. The other doctor working on Two was far more frightening.

I did like getting to see the android play a larger role, though.

Overall rating: 6.9/10

One and Two aboard the Raza in Dark MatterDark Matter, episode thirteen (season finale):

There is a saboteur on the Raza, and the android is just the first victim. As more and more crew members fall prey, the remaining crew members begin to turn on each other, suspicion destroying the trust they worked so hard to build.

One and Three of course immediately turn on each other, while Five takes a page from my book and suspects Two, and Six and Four prove surprisingly blase about the whole thing.

It’s another very tense episode, and one that will keep you guessing. I certainly didn’t see the twist at the end coming. It does make sense in retrospect, though.

It also trickles out a few more answers to the mysteries of Dark Matter, though still not the full reveal I’ve been hoping for. We do theoretically know who wiped their memories now, though why is still not entirely clear.

It’s a solid episode, and on paper it does tick all the boxes for a good season finale — mounting tension, a nail-biting cliff-hanger, significant reveals and unexpected twists — but it doesn’t quite hit the heights I expect from a great sci-fi season finale. I should be scraping my jaw off the floor, but I’m not.

One, Five, and Six in Dark MatterPerhaps I’ve been spoiled by how stellar the last few Continuum season finales have been.

On the plus side, Dark Matter has already been renewed for a second season, so this isn’t the end. There’s plenty of time for the story to continue to grow and evolve.

On the whole, the first season of Dark Matter has been pretty strong. It’s had a few stumbles, and the last two episodes were somewhat underwhelming, but mostly it’s been a very fun ride, and considering that sci-fi shows usually need a season or two to fully find their voice, I look forward to what is to come.

Overall rating: 7.2/10

2 thoughts on “Reviews: Defiance, “Upon the March We Fittest Die” + Dark Matter, Episodes 12 and 13

  1. Defiance seemed more of a series finale than a season finale to me. Nolan set himself up to be permanently gone with telling Amanda that *when* the Votanis Collective decides to come get him, he’s dead, so heading off to the stars seems simply a survival strategy for him. Add in that it makes it so that he gets to fulfill his boyhood fantasy of being an astronaut and it’s a huge win for him. Doc Yewll now being hardwired into the ship makes it seem that she’s gone too. Meanwhile, back in Defiance, the Tarr’s have some measure of redemption, and Irisa and Berlin can move on with their lives. Maybe even go to Antarctica. And of course Amanda will keep on keeping on, as she always has. I dunno… with how that episode ended, it seemed like a big goodbye, no season 4. I will however be very pleasantly surprised if it is renewed again.

    For Dark Matter…. I liked the story of the penultimate episode, but as you say — WW just isn’t scary. As to the final episode — I’m glad it’s been renewed so we can see how this cliffhanger gets resolved. It feels to me like the writers painted themselves into a corner on it and I just can’t see how it’ll turn out, so… I’m glad I don’t have to imagine my own scenario and will eventually be able to see what the writers come up with.

    I still think you need to catch up on Killjoys. I really have enjoyed its entire run too.

    • I think Dark Matter’s predicament is pretty easy to solve, myself. Currently my thinking is Six betrayed them because he felt they deserved it and was trying to redeem himself — note he only started on this after they destroyed that planet. I’m guessing the Galactic Authority will turn out to be no better, and when Six sees them abusing his former friends, he’ll help spring them. Onward with the adventure!

      Killjoys is something I may check out if it shows up on Netflix or something, but I’ve got something of a backlog of things to watch right now.

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