“Defiance” recap (1.11): Tough Shtako

 
 

Once Kenya realizes she’s been played, she busts up into the Tarr’s white light castle for a little chat with Stahma.

Kenya: Stahma! Hey, Stahma! Where the fuck are you?
Stahma: Oh, hello. Did anyone see you come in here? Shut the door, please. Hurry now. Scoot along inside, little hooker.
Kenya: Dude, I am going to tell Datak all about all of our sex, and not because I think it’ll make any difference in the election. I just want to hurt you because you did a real doozy on my feelings.
Stahma: Oh, er, Datak already knows?
Kenya: Knows you’ve been schtumping the town whore? Bullshit. Writing propaganda about himself is his life’s work. You and me? That doesn’t fit his Castithan narrative even a little bit.
Stahma: My one misstep was developing actual heart feelings for Jenny Schecter. I am as shocked by this turn of events as every other lesbian in the known galaxies.
Kenya: Datak is a monster, you know.
Stahma: Yeah, but here’s the thing about monsters: They’re at the top of the food chain. My whole life has been about survival. You learn to love the beast who’ll do whatever it takes to keep you alive.
Kenya: You’re gross.
Stahma: Tell it to Darwin.

Man. Oh, man.

I am overwhelmed with what is happening on television this summer and what it means for queer women. Just, off the top of my head, here in the States, we’ve got The Fosters breaking ground in every direction. A proud, biracial lesbian couple raising a multi-ethnic, multi-faceted family that even includes a genderqueer pre-teen. We’ve got Pretty Little Liars, with three self-identified lesbian characters, one of whom has undergone had the most satisfying journey I’ve ever seen: from internalized homophobia and self-harm to planning a lesbian U-Haul life in San Francisco with her girlfriend. We’ve got True Blood exploring a relationship between a beloved lesbian and beloved bisexual character. The Killing has an androgynous lesbian character who is absolutely stealing the show. Under the Dome has an interracial lesbian couple. Mistresses has a recurring lesbian character and a soon-to-be bisexual character that are going all in with the sexed-up theme of the original series.

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And all of those shows are bag ‘em and tag ‘em with their gay ladies. By which I mean, those characters are lesbian or bisexual and have said they’re lesbian or bisexual and their writers have confirmed their sexualities by saying the words “lesbian” or “bisexual.” They’ll land on GLAAD’s countdown of LGBT characters and when your co-workers say, “Who’s gay on TV?” you can point at those women and go, “Those ones. Those ones are gay.” And when you come out and say you’re a lesbian, your mom can go, “Oh, like that sweetest little thing Emily Fields from that show you’re always hollering about.”

And that’s important. That is iron-clad Visibility reaching across networks and demographics and genres. Those women up there: Those are Good Guys.

But Defiance is doing a different thing. And Warehouse 13 is doing a different thing. They’re putting women in relationships with one another — intense, life-altering, universe-trembling relationships with one another — and inviting us to bring our hearts and brains and lifetimes of experience to bear on those relationships, and then decide for ourselves what story we’re being told. It’s not bread and butter. It’s not black and white. You can’t bag and tag Stahma Tarr as a Gay. You can’t bag and tag Myka Bering as a Lesbian. They aren’t yoked by our expectations and their stories aren’t tameable. They are the wild stories. The stories that chase, the stories that bite, the stories that hunt. The stories that get into our bones and and catch our blood on fire.

Are HG and Myka in love? You better fucking believe they’re in love. Time itself doubled back to bring them together. They have lost themselves and found themselves in each other’s desperate needs and deepest desires. Their souls are as connected as their bodies want to be. They are locked, for this moment, in a freefalling game of hyper-charged foreplay, and goddammit, I want to feel their frustration. I don’t want to sprinkle them with neutralizer and shelve them with a million other artifacts.*

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And the same for Kenya and Stahma over here. It is love? Probably not. But it’s something. Oh, Stahma has attached herself to Datak, and the web she weaves is for his ambition. That’s evolution. That’s Darwinism. But science is the opposite of poetry, and that woman has a poet’s soul. So with Datak, she survives, and with Kenya her mind and her body writhe, and it feels so good she forgets to keep the worlds from colliding. Or maybe she underestimated Kenya’s feelings for her? Or maybe she underestimated Kenya’s pride? Or maybe she still knows exactly what she’s doing. They don’t write down their poems on Daribo. Stahma Tarr doesn’t need your labels.

The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the common denominator in both of these stories is Jaime Murray?

(*Listen, I want to see HG and Myka make out as much as — maybe more than? — anybody. They are incandescent in their love for one another, and I’d love the big confession and the sexual payoff. But with WH13 drawing to a quick, six-episode close, I am basically just basking in the gloriously progressive way they’ve become our very own Mulder and Scully. What they’ve given to us is infinitely better than the dozens of relationships on TV that said “lesbian” or “bisexual” as an absolute fact and gave it to us on the screen with no soul. Lookin’ at you House, 90210, Melrose Place, The O.C., Stargate Universe, Bones, and on and on. It doesn’t get the label, but it burns so bright.)

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Before Nolan and Irisa can skip town, Doc Yewell cracks the code of the Kaziri. The golden one was down in the mines, and the silver one is inside Irisa’s body. That’s what that snake-handling Castithan was doing to her, I guess. So Doc Yewell tells Nolan she needs to operate because of parasites or something, but really she wants that second Kaziri. But in the middle of the operation, Irisa wakes up and clocks Yewell and runs out into the woods, which always ends so well for everyone on this show. There are no Hellbugs out there this time, but Rynn is, and she’s still pissed as hell at Irisa for Sukar’s death/coma.

Next week: The election happens, Irisa becomes an even bigger badass than you imagined, and Stahma and Kenya break your fucking heart into a thousand pieces.

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