Defiance Review: “History Rhymes”

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Here’s my review of Defiance season three episode “History Rhymes” 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.

If I thought last week’s “Dead Air” was a bit of a detour with Pottinger, this week’s “History Rhymes” definitely made up for it. This episode gave us a chance to explore Irisa’s character even more while also filling in the blanks of her relationship with Nolan. Now that Defiance is in it’s third season, it really is time to explore the history of that dynamic. Even though the flashbacks were conveniently caused by more crazy alien tech in their heads, it doesn’t matter because the flashbacks themselves were so good and full of important character moments.

The problem with flashbacks sometimes is that they can feel very random if chosen poorly. But not these flashbacks. Like Irisa said, the tech in their heads was trying to show them something. There’s a progression in each flashback to show how both Nolan and Irisa have changed over time and, more importantly, are not as similar as they once thought.

Before we dive into Irisa’s part, let’s talk about Nolan. At times, his character almost borders on unlikable because of his harsh survival-minded attitude that always puts himself and Irisa before the wellbeing of anyone else. He’s not your typical “good guy.” He’s not like other protagonists who might take the time to think before shooting someone and then regret it afterwards. So it’s nice that we finally get to see a glimpse of the child Nolan was before the war started; the wide-eyed excited child who thinks it’s easier to fall down instead of fight back. The flashback that follows is a very important one because it marks a turning point in his life. At the time Nolan still trusted people and considered the good in them, so that’s why he makes the mistake of letting the Votan soldier surrender resulting in the death of his sister. This is probably his most important flashback and you can tell because this is the most emotional we see Present-Day Nolan. He pleads with his past self just to shoot the soldier and cries a few tears as he watches his sister die again. While the loss of his parents may have been terrible, nothing compares to losing Rebecca because of his own mistake.

What follows after this flashback is his his descent into a hardened soldier. In the bar flashback, he doesn’t care that they’re using a live person as a dart board, and he says he keeps Irisa around because she’s tiny enough to fit into hard-to-reach places. In the next flashback, he forces Irisa to kill the bounty hunter after them because it’s the only way to keep them safe and he wants to teach her about survival. That kill-first-questions-later attitude stems back to the death of his sister, and it’s chilling to watch him pass that lesson on to young Irisa. But as we get to the last flashback, we see that he really has come to care for Irisa. Present-Day Nolan tells her that was the night he felt like they were a real family.

Things were different from Irisa’s perspective, however. We already know from previous seasons that Nolan rescued her from a bad situation and took her in. But we didn’t know much about how she grew up. We only knew that when she came to Defiance, she was cold and ruthless and very good with knives. The flashbacks show us that she wasn’t okay with the killing. And she was scared of Nolan and wanted to kill him but couldn’t. The flashbacks do a good job of showing how the two of them were similar growing up but also drastically different. Nolan became ruthless once he lost his sister; Irisa became ruthless because Nolan thought he was teaching her how to survive and not make his mistakes. But without the same experience of loss, she resents him for it.

I really enjoyed the ideas presented and explored through these flashbacks, like the consequences of being too trusting or too ruthless and how it explains their characters better. It filled in the gaps. Yewll reveals in the end that the two of them can’t be separated even though Irisa wants to leave, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this dynamic explored even further.

There were a few other storylines in this episode such as a hilarious bit between Datak and Stahma arguing over T’evgin, Yewll still being angry over the skinning incident (as she should be), and Berlin finding Irisa’s unconscious body not because she wants to help her but because she wants to help Nolan. None of these moved the plot forward very much but they were still important. But the best of these side stories was Alak’s. He finally got to take charge of his situation and escape on his own. I was afraid the writers would send someone else to rescue him like he was a damsel in distress. Alak’s been through a lot recently so it’s nice to see him with a bit of control. Now I’m curious to see if he’ll be able to resolve things with Stahma.

Beyond the Stasis Net

  • I cracked up at child!Nolan’s excited “Jon Stewart says they’re friendly!” and I’m still laughing about it. It’s just a random reference I never expected to hear on this show. (I also enjoyed the “All her friends loved Taylor Swift but all she lived for was Johnny Cash” line too. Slightly disappointed no one sang any Johnny Cash songs in this episode)
  • It’s nice to see Kindzi again. I was getting kind of worried they’d all forgotten about her.
  • Wow, Berlin really did leave Irisa in the snow to die in that last episode. How rude.
  • Predictions about what Alak will actually do to Stahma?
  • I hope the veterinarian guy sticks around just so Yewll can snark at him some more.

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


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