There is a new show on Monday's at 9am on SyFy called Defiance. As a lover of science fiction and genre television, I was very excited for it to come on. After watching the premiere and the second episode, I am pretty pleased with the direction it is going.
Defiance stars Grant Bowler as Joshua Nolan, a former soldier of the Pale Wars, who made a rough living from scrounging tech from fallen pieces of alien spacecrafts (Arks) until he gets caught up in the happenings of the town of Defiance (formerly St. Loius). His companion and adopted daughter is Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), an alien from a race called Irathients. She is something of a fiesty wild child with a good heart, but clearly with a traumatic, although as of yet unknown past. There two wanders get stuck in town, and drawn into a larger conflict, that leads Nolan to become a peacekeeper in the town.
The town is run by Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz). She is the new mayor appointed to fill out the term of the previous mayor. Although she was the previous Mayors aide, she is clearly inexperienced and out of her depth in so many ways. however, she turns out to be stronger, more inspirational, and far more capable than many gave her credit. There are many other town players, the most prominent being those from the Castithan Tarr Family, and their rivals the Human McCawley family. Defiance lays out a fairly rich and complicated world, that offers a lot of opportunity for relationships and great stories as long as they can keep the history clear and the characters motivations realistic.
The show has set itself up with a lot of material. There are the intimate relationships between Nolan and Irisa, between Datak Tarr and his very crafty wife Stahma, between Rafe McCawley and his children. There are the greater conflicts in town between the Datak Tarr (in essence the mafia boss of the town), and Rafe McCowley (the owner of the town mine, and main source of income). There are the standard threats one would face an a frontier type town and the continual racial tensions that are bound to come up when several alien races live together. There is also a larger, and still very mysterious grand threat to the town that can play out over a full season or many seasons. If the writers can keep everything straight, they are certainly not lacking for possible material.
I will say that that Defiance takes a lot from westerns, space westerns, and a myriad of other scifi influences. There are aspects of the stories and elements of the world that anyone who watches enough scifi has seen many times before. The show is still working on making those influences seem fresh rather than borrowed. That said, the real charm is in the characters. In just three hours, the show has managed to create several characters who are interesting, and feel like real individuals with complexities and believable motivations. While Nolan fits the lovable rogue archetype in a lot of ways and Irisa fits the teenage rebel, they feel like their own people, and characters that you want to know more about.
Like almost all new shows, Defiance, needs to continue to develop itself more in order to capitalize on its rich potential. It succeeded wonderfully though in creating people and a place that you care about, want to visit again and continue to learn more about. I am looking forward to the rest of the season.