The demise of Defiance after three years was surely not the end result Syfy was looking for from its expensive investment. Yet, it’s not really surprising as the third season offers good reasons to conclude that this was not the ideal show on which to build a multimedia franchise.
For one thing, Defiance is yet another series that focuses on people constantly fighting for survival after an apocalypse. Emphasising this is a brutal premiere that introduces the season’s main antagonists: a genocidal Votan military extremist and a race of aliens that relish pleasures of the flesh in every sense.
Both are credible threats thanks to top performances by Lee Tergesen as the nutty general and Conrad Coates as the aliens’ imposing leader. Their extraterrestrial origins, however, draw unhelpful parallels with Falling Skies. Moreover, both groups are shown committing horrific acts that wouldn’t look amiss on The Walking Dead.
The fact that danger comes from extraneous sources again this season also points to a more fundamental problem. The town of Defiance isn’t just a home for the show’s principal characters, it’s a symbol at the heart of the series’ mythology.
The importance of collective responsibility is reiterated throughout this season when characters find themselves weighing personal interests against the survival of the community. Because everyone is expected to put Defiance first, it stands to reason that the show will keep retreading the same ground.
In what amounts to a modest reboot, several recurring characters are killed off in the season opener. Wisely, these don’t include Doc Yewll (Trenna Keating) whose sarcastic wit never gets old, or Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), whose ordeal this season should see him go down as one of sci-fi’s most sympathetic bad guys. Oddly though, Defiance’s established characters aren’t given the opportunity to grow through the arrival of new faces.
This only reinforces the impression that Syfy’s bold experiment has run its course.