It’s time for you to start watching “Defiance” now

When Syfy first announced that Julie Benz, Jaime Murray, and Mia Kirshner had joined the cast of their post-apocalyptic original series Defiance, we were very nearly overcome with the vapors. All three of those women have played gay at some point in their careers — Kirshner and Murray more than once — so in our very fertile imaginations, a lesbian storyline was inevitable. And lo, it came to pass two weeks ago that Kirshner and Murray’s characters slept together. And last week, they did it again. But their relationship is (and will continue to be) way more layered and complicated than your standard human-alien scissor-shenanigans.

In other words, it’s time for you to start watching Defiance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, here’s a quick rundown: In the not so distant future, several races of aliens and humans battle it out for possession of the earth. In the end, they kill most of the earth’s population and terraform the rest of it, so not even the climate or the landscape is recognizable to us. Defiance used to be St. Louis. The arch is really the only thing left standing. Inside Defiance are several races of aliens and also humans who are trying to learn how to co-exist with each other.

Jaime Murray’s character, Stahma Tarr, is the oppressed wife of the most powerful Castithan in town. Castithan are the most patriarchal beings in all the solar systems, apparently. Women are inferior. They exist only to serve their husbands and sons. They’re not even allowed to bathe alone. Mia Kirshner’s character, Kenya Rosewater, is the human owner of the local brothel, the Need/Want. She is also the mayor’s sister. Defiance (the show) doesn’t engage in any slut-shaming or weirdness about sexuality. In fact, Kenya is the most sympathetic character on the show. Her gift is empathy and intuition, and she uses that gift to help people find peace and happiness, sometimes through different sexual situations.

In episode seven, Stahma visits the Need/Want to procure a prostitute for her son, so he’ll know how to please his human wife on their wedding night. Instead, she ends up sharing secrets and drinks and slow-dances with Kenya, who seduces Stahma’s mind as much as she seduces her body. They end up in bed together. But their shared night of passion isn’t a one-off.

In episode eight, Stahma goes against the Castithan code and takes a bath alone, where she engages in some self-pleasure while fantasizing about her time with Kenya. It’s mind-boggling that the scene made it past Standards and Practices, to be honest. Later, Stahma returns to the Need/Want — which she has been doing on regular, apparently — and enjoys more time with Kenya, after which she asks why Kenya is now refusing her husband as a client. The reason is that Kenya has started to develop feelings for Stahma, and she wants her to be free. She means “free” in pretty much every way. Free from the patriarchal oppression of being married to a Castithan man, free of her husband Datak’s specific brand of cruelty, free to pursue her own dreams and her own life, free to pursue something deeper with Kenya herself. Stahma tells her she enjoys their time together very much, caresses and kisses her as proof, and then tells her to keep it locked up or she’s going to get them both killed.

I’ve watched the last four episodes of the season, and while I can’t say much about it, I can say that the Stahma/Kenya storyline is far from over. It goes way beyond the sex. In fact, in the end, it’s the romantic/sexual relationship that is explored most deeply on the show. The two don’t share a lot of screentime, but the time they do share is intense and tender and fraught with duplicitousness and misunderstanding and a whole lot of cat-and-mouse games about what they actually mean to each other. The finale left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut, which is something I never, ever expected when I started watching this show.

Defiance doesn’t make a big deal about sex or sexual orientation. Stahma never freaks out about sharing a bed with a woman, and neither does Kenya. It’s a non-issue. What freaks them out is how their relationship is changing them individually, and how Datak will react if he ever finds out. And if you’re not watching because you’ve got residual anger about Jenny Schecter, shelve that for a minute and give Mia Kirshner a chance. She is absolutely magical.

You can catch up with Defiance on Hulu, and watch live when the show airs Monday nights on Syfy at 9:00.

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