Syfy’s Defiance returns for a second season later this week, and I thought it be a great opportunity to reflect back on the shows first season and its many elements. As a television production, it brought a blend of old school Sci-Fi elements mixed together with modern touches. While the show received a range of responses from critics, on both ends of the spectrum, the show itself succeeded in delivering on the overall hype.
As technology evolves, so does the on-screen experience. Looking back at shows such as Star Trek, The X Files, and Stargate SG1, the visual effects dramatically changed the way we experienced the stories that encompassed each episode. Defiance trods on same path, using visual effects as a means to enhance the story. While the effects we see on screen aren’t necessarily new technology wise – especially with video games breaking the barriers to what is visually possible – they magnified both the world in which the characters reside and the evolution of the characters themselves. The city of Defiance, for example, is given a boost with the visual details, giving more depth to the well crafted set, and capturing the surrounding world in which it resides.
The visual treats aren’t limited to just computer generated graphics. Two things really stood out: the set design and the prosthetic make-up. Set design is an integral part of any production, with Sci-Fi shows utilizing set designs more than any other genre. Usually, a set is a combination of digital effects and tangible props, which Defiance uses for a couple of scenes where background elements need to be added. With that said, the majority of in-building scenes are actually done in fully constructed sets, each boasting ridiculous amounts of detail. Furthermore, the production kept consistent with the detail throughout the first season, never dropping the ball as each episode presented itself.
The highlight of Defiance, however, is the prosthetic make up done for a select number of characters. From Doc Yewll to Rynn, the prosthetic work is what makes the performances standout. It provides the obvious differentiating factor, of course, but also allows the actor to be physically present in his or her performance, rather than be partially CGI’d, which sometimes ruins the performance. Looking back, its the same experience you got watching Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk, which in all its cheesy right, made the show and films pretty cool.
Casting Done Right
Any production, in any genre, requires to get one element right: casting. Without solid performances, the efforts in visual design, story, music, etc, don’t have as big of an impact as they should. Defiance brought about a very interesting recipe with its casting in season one. With the production based in Canada (something we Canadians are super proud about), the show reached far and wide across the globe for artists. On top of that, you have a neat blend of veteran actors and fresh faces as part of the primary cast, which in itself is very cool to see. I will totally admit: before Defiance, I hadn’t heard about some of the actors on the show; but after watching the first couple of episodes, I was floored by some of their performances.
Each performer does a brilliant job of filling the shoes of who they present, and then take their characters forward as the show progresses. For example, Stephanie Leonidas captures the complex elements of Irisa, properly delivering that unstable character that she is. On the flip side, you have Trenna Keating who, in her extensive prosthetic make-up, presents this calm, calculating Doc Yewll whom you are always thinking about. Each cast member brings something new to the table, irrelevant of their previous experiences and credits, and that is a treat in itself. I also do like the fact that there is a balance in female and male characters; diversity is really taken into account, and powerful performers really make that balance make a difference in the overall story. I could go mentioning each and every actor, but that would just make this a book rather than an editorial piece. The new season boasts introductions of new talents playing very new characters, and it will be interesting to see the recipe extend into season two.
A Well Woven World
When Defiance first began, the story felt a little bit slow, a little weary at times. The fact is though, the show has taken its time to build a foundation. Rather than rushing and doing it in the first episode, season one started putting the pieces together, concluding with just one portion of a larger picture. The complexity with having a show based in a particular location is that, sometimes, it feels like its stuck in one place. With Defiance, each episode pushed the boundaries of the town a little bit, bringing in other locations that further crafted the overall story, as well as the individual character stories. Some episodes did lack the oomph in comparison to others, but overall, you got a very fluid TV experience.
Going back to the point about expanding the towns borders. Defiance and its surrounding world grows slowly, giving the show an opportunity to really explore new terrains and new storylines in the next season. Sometimes shows are limited to a particular setting and environment, and some work brilliantly that way. However, with a show like Defiance where possibilities are endless, keeping room for those “endless possibilities” to occur is very crucial for continuity, and they did just that with season one.
Season one created the necessary platform for the story to grow. The beauty of the overall production is that every element is an important part of what will happen later on. For example: Christie McCawley, played by Nicole Muñoz, is a very simple and straightforward character, but is as vitally important as Stephanie Leonidas’ Irisa. This balance is what makes Defiance so interesting. You are following multiple pathways within a greater story, each path revealing a different scenario with different people, creating nodes of activity that make the whole thing work. The one thing that was always sorta missing from the show was that you expected it to be darker than it was, especially considering some of the stories. However, from the teasers we have seen for season 2, that element may well be on its way.
Season 2 kicks off on Showcase in Canada on June 19 at 10pm ET/PT. Tick, Tick, Tick!