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In Which We Are Repeatedly Defied



creators Rockne S. O'Bannon, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Taylor

Thrones. Defiance. If you are an enterprising young actress and your agent asks you to consider a role of a madam in a brothel in St. Louis, do you politely decline or is there violence involved? This exact situation happened, to Mia Kirshner. She portrays a war torn orphan who decides to sell women's bodies to the strangers of terraformed Earth on Defiance. Sometimes, if the customer is attractive enough, she refuses payment and handles the sale personally.

needs better agenting
This is sadly not the most hard to believe thing about the SyFy channel's costly original project. Despite having enough adaptable material in GRRM's garage (what about a Tuf Voyaging with Steven Wright?), it was important that the channel create its own original series so they could financially benefit from marketing it.

Defiance largely feels like the back end of a trend, only it's unclear who exactly was asking to see aliens on Earth at all. Putting creatures from another planet on this one is the most boring of premises, or maybe it's second after "make the aliens slightly paler/darker than the humans, and cosmetically alter their brows so we know they aren't us." Sadly Defiance features both of these clichés as part of its rich mythology. Aliens on Earth fails because it's obvious the person with the idea wanted to save money on sets by shooting in Vancouver.

Julie Benz's Knowing Smile is at your service (her sister's a whore)
The premise of Defiance is that the Votans came to Earth in order to negotiate a resettlement of their people. The humans offered the Alaska area, but the Democrats saw a moose there and decided it would not be environmentally sound.

The war between the humans and the Votans was termed the Pale Wars, even though it really only was one war. (Stop trying to make Pale Wars happen.) Earth's surface was destroyed, including Kristen Stewart and at least half of One Direction.

ffs call up oscar taveras
In Defiance, which is set in St. Louis because no other American city has any distinguishing landmark whatsoever, a veteran of these armed conflicts becomes the sheriff. The mayor of the camp (Julie Benz) was murdered by John Lithgow during the fifth season of Dexter, brought back to life through Votan technology, which is called Arkfall, and cast as the disapproving sister of the brothel madam.

Benz and the sheriff (Grant Bowler) routinely compete to see which of them has the most limited range as an actor. The show's supporting cast is a bit better, but the writers seem to have no idea what to do with them. The parallels to Battlestar Galactica get old quickly, from the way Defiance handles its alien language (subtitles and curse words that are borderline anti-Semitic), to the camera-shaking, to the insulting Edward James Olmos clone.

feels like an MMO
In private, I call Battlestar Galactica "Baby's First Television Show." I really hate how seriously it took itself, and I found the concept of the Cylons terribly dull. Reducing all the wonder of space to a machine-projection of humanity goes against everything that makes up good science fiction: saying the word spice a lot in a desert setting. The only thing I have to admit was done well on the show were the performances and the sound design. The cast was great to make you believe anything on Battlestar Galactica was real, and the right sound is better than the right set.

alien makeup, got it

Defiance lacks both. This new terraformed Earth, constructed on top of the old one, is largely silent and dull. I guess the aesthetic they were going for was, copy Firefly almost completely. The Western aspects of the town and the people are so pathetically overdone at this point that having them as subtle parts of the background is somehow worse than if everyone talked like Tommy Lee Jones in Lonesome Dove.

kind of weird relationship there
Whenever Defiance rubs up against something original, if almost by accident, it quickly turns away from that so that you immediately remember you're watching something you've seen before.

In one long scene, the married Votan couple Datak and Stahma Tarr (Tony Curran and Dexter's Jaime Murray) lounge in elaborate baths. All around them is white, their arms and legs, the walls, the servants who assist their relaxation. Their teenage son enters the refuge to relay pressing news, and Stahma rises, nude, to embrace her son. It is the only time so far we could conceivably imagine we are witnessing an alien culture rather than human actors portraying one.

still enmeshed in the terraforming process

Grey/white moments like this are few and far between. Defiance is a show badly in need of a protagonist; the type of mysterious individual whose actions at any given moment are impossible to predict. Instead Grant Bowler's Joshua is less Picard than Riker, and if you know anything about the world of interplanetary travel, you know Jonathan Frakes is boring as dogshit.

I just looked up how old Mia Kirschner is, she looks amazing for her age.

the answer to Lost was Arktech

The overarching plot of the show involves a well-meaning former leader of the town, Nicolette (Fionnula Flanagan), bringing destruction to it in secret. She is portrayed by the old woman Carlton Cuse forced to portray Eloise Hawking. You really didn't think there would be a Lost connection here? I'm honestly surprised Hurley was not the embattled pharmacist of this town. Along with her junior agent, Nicolette lives in a train designed to give her scenes a steampunk flavor, as if the drama required one more additional cliche.

So much of what we consume seems conveniently designed not to offend our senses. Of course this is the easiest way to accomplish the opposite. Creativity only begins at the level of the personal; it cannot take its marching orders from anything else. Having character motivation at the level of "I want to live in a peaceful town" makes Defiance more like Andy Griffith than Rio Bravo.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He only watches the SyFy channel at gunpoint except for when Smackdown is on. His next review will appear when Mary Tyler Moore finally returns to series television.

"Breath" - Sweet Random (mp3)

"Digital War" - Sweet Random (mp3)

if this turns out to be the afterlife i swear to god


In Which We Journey To The Jacuzzi Beyond The Wall

A Weird, Complacent Feeling


Thrones. Right before something you will remember occurs, or immediately after it happens, there is a sensation. Previously undescribed in the literature outside of Kathy Acker and, at some length, Proust, this urge contains two parallel desires:

1) To undo what has taken place, in order to restore events to their previous berth;

2) To go wild in celebration at the very simple idea that the world is changeable.

It's always like that for Jaime Lannister. He's a punch bowl full of regret, a lion with eleven manes. He loves saying the word wildfire even more than his beneficent little brother.

Quickly, before you know it, something hard becomes very soft. A politician (any politician) enters office with the promise of closing an infamous prison, where criminals in an ongoing war are incarcerated because of presumed danger to society. When this politician hears of their tales, he could end their lives with dark purpose, prolong them with an even greater absence of mercy, or set them free.

People are always whining about Ned Stark's lessons, but at least he picked one and went through with it. Tywin Lannister, at his core, is a similar creature. When Tyrion asks Grandma Tyrell to fund the wedding, she changes her mind and agrees to pay half the cost. Tywin would never make such a concession, no matter its actual merit. It's more important to say what you're going to do and go through with it; that's the type of person that can really be trusted.

the hand of the king's office leaves something to be desired

Tywin Lannister and Grandma Tyrell had an extremely high level meeting. For some reason they had never actually met before; do you find this believable? As believable as someone caring enough about Bran Stark to find him in the wilderness and guide him to his bastard half-brother? As believable as the idea that Littlefinger's revenge on Catelyn Stark now extends to marrying off her identical-ish daughter to the only bookkeeper in King's Landing worth a damn?

"...you're marrying an accountant."

Tyrion had to break the bad news to his girlfriend and his wife at the same time, which is never easy. He should have led with "where do whores go" or maybe his material about Jamie telling everyone his betrothed was a prostitute, god knows he hasn't got enough mileage out of that story. Peter Dinklage's arsenal of resigned or cautious facial expressions will be sorely tested with this engagement.

I think there's more on redtube along these lines
It's always a pity when the only glimpse of Joffrey we get is him putting a crossbow bolt through Varys' ginger spy. The guy's had like three lines of dialogue; usually all they let him do is giggle when he sees blood.

Along with the Freys, Joffrey gets the most unfair rap of anyone in the Seven Kingdoms. I mean the guy repels Stannis Baratheon's fleet, is able to make a very generous and inquisitive woman attracted to him, and he didn't have to throw his daughter's illiterate best friend in the dungeon to make it happen.

boo hoo you have to marry a beautiful, generous gay man, he is betrothed to a ginga

Rhetorical questions are the refuge of cowards. I had an instructor, when I was first trained in intelligence work, who told us to never ask a rhetorical question, because it was a distinctly Western appendage. In other parts of the world, the person who asks a question they don't want answered is considered relatively rude.

still trying to get the memory of Stannis Baratheon's wife stillborn babies out of my head

On occasion, a question that appears merely a polite gesture can have greater significance, most often when it is asked of the god. It's unclear who exactly Melissandre plans to bring back from death; maybe Aegon Targaryen? If not, the concept of "light" has never been a more confusing symbol in any fictional work, applied as it is to about half the factions in this Thronesing.

bran this will be you. shut your face bran.

Thoros of Myr is identified as Peter in early Christian literature. The Brotherhoods Without Banners stuff is not to be trifled with, these guys all have serious long personal backstories. They care for each other maybe a bit too much. It was weird how Melissandre read Arya's fortune, doesn't she usually charge for that? "We will meet again" is pretty dumb.

do they not have foreplay in the south Jon Snow???

Actually a far worse symbol was a never-ending, phallic wall that the wildlings climbed, at length. Jon Snow, to me, really elevated his acting skills. He basically used a grimace as his main featured expression and agreed with whatever his ginger girlfriend was saying the rest of the time. There was still a lot of loneliness there. I guess she felt like she couldn't trust him. I wouldn't know.


The political machinations surrounding Littlefinger's departure from King's Landing eluded me. Clearly something very bad is going to happen there, something to put his own life at risk. He wanted to take Sansa with him; but he wanted even more so to punish her for not wanting to be with him. There's a Chris Brown joke there somewhere, but I'll leave the racist and bigotry to Howard Kurtz because it comes more naturally to him.

It's hard sometimes to realize that Sansa and Arya are of the same uncaring and uncooperative mother, who basically allowed them to flee to the winds of time for no reason. Despite the fact that she's been in King's Landing for years now, Sansa is not even the least bit wiser. This is proof positive that GRRM has never met an actual living teenage girl, who can sniff bullshit out more quickly than her dire wolf.

"put Hot Pie's belly out of your mind"

Meanwhile, Arya is telling an archer how to shoot arrows, or a priest about how to show mercy, or a smith about how he should be her family. Her emotions are just everywhere, and yet she gets a noticeably better reaction from the surrounding world than her passive creature of a sister. If you want something, it's best just to take it. It's because of the sensation I described; the very human urge to see what happens. People, even the best ones, get tired of both saying and hearing the word No.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He has composed a steak sauce meant to mimic the blood of Theon Greyjoy. It was roundly mediocre.

"The Three Of Us In The Dark" - Carly Simon (mp3)

"Take Me As I Am" - Carly Simon (mp3)



In Which Our Timing Was All Wrong

Bran I Don't Care About Your Warg Dreams


Thrones. The moment someone starts telling you their dream you can assume it's all gone wrong. In Bran's juvenile dream he sees his mother, which is one of the more pathetic things about Bran. You just know inside Bran there's a voice saying, "I'm special, aren't I?" It doesn't help to sleep on a featherbed, you're still going to dream of a three-eyed crow and Jaime Lannister breaking your legs. If someone got me a featherbed I would just thank them.

you know you're having a warg dream when the anti-semitic three-eyed crow pops in for a how are you
This episode felt so empty, it felt like they were just riding on the solid wave of not having Catherine Stark on the show whining about how she's a bad mother. It's just unrealistic: have you ever once heard a rich woman admit to being a bad mother? It's never happened once to Dina Lohan and that means it's not going to happen at all. God I hate you Bran.

crowds of people just milling about on the off chance Margaery shows up

We did have to have another person recall the death of Ned Stark ("And Ned Stark died HO HO HO"), I mean Christ get over it, he died years ago now. There's a few things that repeat often enough on Thrones to become tiresome. For example, saying the name of the person in the next scene at the end of the current scene so the plebes can keep track of the characters. This only works when people know or care who Theon Greyjoy is.

Trying to make the house mottoes happen is even lamer, I mean just run it on a crawl: "...CNN is reporting the words of Riverrun are 'suck on a squegee'..." "Winter is coming" makes no fucking sense, it's certainly not coming when you're in it and according to the temperature it already came. Please stop saying this.

this woman is a hero and a thinspiration

You have to put your tragedies squarely behind you. At least Arya has totally forgotten her dad's death, she's still crying about some dude named Micah. Look, your white dog did attack Joffrey, and for that honestly it deserved to die. This is how it was meant to happen. If Joffrey had been killed, we would not be experiencing the absolute heaven that is his pending nuptials with Margaery Tyrell. Cersei's face during this was absolutely priceless.

emmy for best look of mingled hope & utter desperation
You'll notice GRRM routinely kills off or maims his gay characters; I believe the guy who wrote Nip/Tuck has a similar problem. Renly is long gone (killed by a shadow/ manifestation of his secret life), the sorcerer that cut off Vary's parts is alive but near death, Hot Pie is fat and alone, and Loras is getting absolutely shit on by Grandma Tyrell and possibly forced to marry a ginger.

"wait a second here Marge, YOU WANT TO BE BEST FRIENDS?!??!"
Then again, reports are out that Daenerys has been fingerbanging her translator. I mean what is the point of having a translator when you can speak a bunch of languages you presumably learned sometime before your brother sold you into slavery. I really don't buy that she speaks Valyrian, I've never seen a Rosetta Stone course for that.

what command of the language my queen

Slavery is the least controversial of issues; for that reason, making someone an enemy of it is the basest assault on their calling we can imagine. It says nothing of us that we are willing to be merciful; it is the least we should be.

It is the way of civilization to offer a respite, a corrective to anarchy. Justice is a fiction invented by the revengeancist, it reflects the weakness of a mind that has no motivation within it, like the castrated spymaster of King's Landing, Varys. He too speaks from a moral view that says he is the victim whose sacrifice brought about a god, and once you have seen something immortal, it is very easy to imagine you cannot die as well.

talking bad about your menfolk is the new giving sansa stark lemon cakes smh

I think I just lapsed into Varys-speak for a second there. Varys received a special UPS delivery. He had to wait the entire weekend to get it and it was just sitting at the edge of the narrow sea all that time, so frustrating. I think there were like 60 adverbs in the scene between Varys and Grandma Tyrell. Would I be totally shocked if Grandma Tyrell and Craster were portrayed by the same actor, no I would not.

was I the only one expecting a talking testicle named Samwise?

Imprisoning the sorcerer who burned your testicles seems only fair, but if you really want to punish him, let Joffrey become his friend. Good god, that boy is like this one girl I dated in high school who always made a point of telling me everything she knew about butterflies/The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

"only I can imprison you kingslayer"
It was actually poor timing to make amputation the centerpiece of Jaime Lannister's existence. Plus they made him seem so sad about it. I get that it was the sword hand, but having your already mutilated hand sworded off by Roose Bolton is a pretty minor inconvenience. It's not like he has to attract a woman; he is already in a pretty major LTR with his sister. Once on a safari the locals honored me by giving me a necklace with a lion cub on it. Not only was I impressed, but it made me feel safer.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.