Defiance Review: “Broken Bough”

photo credit: @DefianceWorld

photo credit: @DefianceWorld

Here’s my review of Defiance season three episode “Broken Bough” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.

I picked this particular header photo for this week’s review because of the quote on it. Ever since the whole being-controlled-by-an-arc-brain incident from last season, Irisa’s been pretty shaken up. She’s clearly suffering from some sort of PTSD after killing and almost-killing all those people against her will. I’m very fascinated with her character arc right now because she’s basically gone backwards since we first met her in season one. “Broken Bough” effectively demonstrates how she’s currently feeling.

Generally as a basic rule for creating characters, you begin by giving them some sort of character flaw. As your story continues, your character develops and tries to fix or move past that flaw whether they are aware of their actions or not. When we began in season one, Irisa was strong but anti-social. A woman of few words. She was not afraid to fight back and be fierce when necessary. But over the course of the past two seasons, her experiences have changed her, damaged her. In last week’s season opener, she tried to talk down the guy threatening her and avoid more bloodshed, but Nolan coldly shot that guy in the head. Before, Irisa would not have been so hesitant to fight back. Being less violent might be an improvement for her character, but it’s also a great struggle for her. And struggles are what make stories interesting.

This week we see even more examples of her struggle. Her confidence has been broken. She hides behind the roller when she and Nolan were first attacked by the V.C. soldiers. When she and Nolan restrain Pilar, Irisa automatically says “don’t kill her” when Nolan pulls a gun. When she has Rahm Tak with a knife pressed against his throat, she can’t bring herself to do anything. All of these moments are great ways to show how she’s feeling without having her directly say it out loud. Irisa is still a character that doesn’t often talk about her feelings, so she won’t be opening up to talk about her guilt with anyone any time soon. And we can’t see into her thoughts like we would be able to if this were a novel. So the only alternative is to have scenes like these.

I’m curious to see what direction her character arc will continue it. Near the beginning of the episode, Nolan says “I need to know I can count on you” and she brushes off his concerns. But by the end, he can see for himself how much trust he can put into her. And that’s why he says she’s an unreliable partner. What will she do next? Will she overcome her guilt and fear to fight back again or will she continue on this new path? Unlike the arc brain incident, the choice now is Irisa’s.

In addition to Irisa herself, the change in her attitude makes for an effective contrast with Nolan’s character. With Irisa being softer and less violent, Nolan looks a whole lot more cold-hearted than before. We know he’s done some terrible things while he was fighting in the army, but in Defiance, he had always seemed to still be doing things with at least some compassion. But now, he looks more like the Butcher he was called as he gives out head shots left and right. He even shoots Pilar dead (probably dead) when she attacks him. It was self-defense, but like Irisa points out, Pilar was the baby’s grandmother too. This doesn’t seem like the same man who would have taken in and cared for Irisa all those years ago when she needed someone.

In terms of plot, this episode didn’t move any of it forward much: Rahm Tak is still in his camp and Defiance is still going about its daily business. But in terms of creating some effective character moments, “Broken Bough” did it just right and made up for the slow plot momentum.

Beyond the Stasis Net

  • The other highlight of this episode was just watching Datak and Stahma interact. They’re still slimy snakes as always but it’s so fun to see them interact and struggle over who will be the dominant one in their relationship. (Obviously Stahma. Datak remains in denial)
  • Speaking of Stahma, it occurred to me when she told T’evgin that she fell in love with a human that Stahma kills everything that she loves. I’m assuming she was referring in that line to Kenya, who she killed. And we saw her kill Christie last week and she liked her a lot too. So… interpret that however you wish.
  • “I’m looking for this thing they call… sugar bread.” Who told T’evgin about sugar bread??
  • Are you gonna miss Pilar? Be honest. (I’m not.)
  • If I didn’t like Rahm Tak before I definitely like him now just for his delivery of “I am the Butcher of TulsaaaAAAAAA”
  • My favorite moment of this episode: “We can’t leave a baby,” Irisa says. “Why not? He’s happy,” Nolan answers. “He’s a baby.” “So? Where’s he gonna go?” “…He’s a baby.” (How did Nolan ever manage to raise Irisa at all??)

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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