When Syfy announced its new original series Defiance, our homo-happy ears perked right up. For starters, seventy hundred gazillion queer women have suddenly found themselves knee-deep in sci-fi love thanks to the gateway drug called Lost Girl. But also, Defiance scored quite a few lesbian loyalty points by casting the gay-for-pay trifecta of Jaime Murray, Julie Benz, and Mia Kirshner. Or, to put it another way:
That’s Gai from Spartacus getting ready to do it with Lucy Lawless; Robin Gallagher from Desperate Housewives getting ready to do it with Dana Delany; and Jenny Schecter from The L Word getting ready to do it with Karina Lombard. (Plus, not pictured: Helena G. Wells.)
But what about Defiance? Is it worth your time? Well, that all depends on whether or not you’ve ever asked yourself what would happen if Shakespeare, Ron Moore, and E.L. Doctorow sat down together to write a cable TV pilot, and then answered yourself, with much enthusiasm: “Jenny Schecter’s Tragic Post-Apocalyptic Western Dystopian Dream Come True!”
Here’s the deal: Three decades ago, right around 2013, a fleet of Votan spaceships called “arks” arrived on earth, sporting half a dozen alien races and some terraforming equipment and hoping to reshape this planet in their own planet’s image. They’d been traveling thousands of years and were kind of grumpy when they landed and found that earth was already populated by humans. The aliens and the humans tried to negotiate, but when they couldn’t come to an agreement about who got to do what the mountains and the seas, they just went ahead and blew up the whole damn planet.
At some point during the Apocalyptic nightmare, a Ninth Unit soldier named Jeb Nolan teamed up with the aliens and decided to start saving people instead of slaughtering people. They did it in what was left of St. Louis, and the rest of the world followed suit. Now everything is blown all to hell and there are all kinds of fantastical beasts clomping around and the cities that are left are crumbling and abandoned spacecraft are still crashing to the ground like so many expensively equipped meteors. Jeb’s a treasure hunter these days, tracking down the alien technology after it collides with earth, along with his adopted daughter, an alien teenager named Irisa.
You know this guy Jeb, have seen him a hundred thousand times before, have played at least six RPGs with his character. He’s the disgruntled cowboy that rides into town saying smart-ass things and sleeping with some ladies and generally trying not to feel any feelings because his past is rife with bloodshed. But underneath it all, he has a good heart, and he saves the town, and they make him the sheriff. Chief Lawkeeper. Whatever.
The town he saves is, of course, St. Louis, but now it is called Defiance. A handful of alien races and humans are living pretty peacefully inside Defiance, thank you very much — but there’s plenty of social and political shenanigans to deal with. The mayor is Amanda Rosewater and she is Julie Benz at her most badass. At one point she even quotes Omar from The Wire, talking about: “You feel me?” She’s brand new to this whole mayor thing, but she’s plucky and clever and she’s got just the right amount of empathy for the people that she leads. Amanda’s sister is Kenya and she is Mia Kirshner doing all the things that make us love Mia Kirshner, including being the bisexual madam of Defiance’s most popular brothel/saloon. There’s no animosity between the sisters just because one of them is the town’s chief politician and the other one of them is the town’s chief sex worker. In fact, when Jeb moseys into Defiance and needs to make a buck, Amanda sends him to her sister’s brothel to find work.
(Unfortunately, there will be trouble between the sisters because they’re going to get themselves into a love triangle with Jeb in about two more episodes.)