“Good Bye Blue Sky” isn't notably worse than several previous episodes of Defiance, but it frustrated me much more than those did. There are some cool moments, some disjointed ones, a lot of interesting ideas, and a famous song covered at the end. I normally enjoy that. But my problem with this episode is that it doesn't serve a larger purpose. Even with the mediocre episodes, I could see what they were building toward. Defiance has a fairly complex setting, for example, and not every component of that is going to be introduced smoothly.
Even a wheel-spinning or low-stakes character episode would be fine, of course, but the big mistake “Good Bye Blue Sky” makes is that it immediately raises the emotional stakes as high or higher than they've been in the series, when Sukar, aka Top Hat Guy, appears to die. Sukar isn't a main cast member, but he is one of the more commonly recurring characters. More importantly, he's been directly connected to many of the show's best recurring storylines: Irisa's visions and her need for an Irathient mentor, general Votan struggles in assimilating, and of course, him wearing a top hat. His death isn't immediately confirmed, as there are a few fake-outs going in multiple directions, but the episode is still Sukar's episode, and apparently a goodbye at that.
Yet it's ultimately meaningless. The problem that kills Sukar (kind of), razor rain, is only introduced in this episode. He heroically sacrifices himself (kind of, again) in order to prevent a ship large enough to destroy the town from hitting Defiance during the razor rain. The problem that killed him didn't need to be introduced, so why did he need to die? Why raise the emotional stakes for something that ultimately doesn't matter? Perhaps it was intended to give Irisa more motivation to examine her culture and her visions, but I don't think it adds much to episode that introduced those ideas.
To make it worse, the show can't follow through on those emotional stakes at any level. Sukar's resurrection in order to save the town is described by the doctor as being based on nanites repairing his body and taking over his brain—so he wasn't even really himself being the hero. And then Sukar isn't actually even dead. According to the doctor, he's in a coma with recovery being essentially impossible, except that we know technology exists that can repair him because we just saw it in action. Perhaps it's just that Defiance is suffering from airing the night after one of the most emotionally intense death scenes in recent television history on Game Of Thrones, but I really can't help but feel that everything was done backwards with Sukar.
The episode's other plots fare only slightly better. Alak and Christy struggle with her ability to deal with Castithan ceremonies, like the family bathing together. He eventually decides to accept her issues and tell his family. It's one of the better scenes those two have had, but that is damning with faint praise. Meanwhile, Stahma visits Kenya, one thing leads to another, and they're in bed together. I liked this scene when they were talking and Kenya was encouraging Stahma to describe her wants. It was a good way to deal with the issues of cultural assimilation that theoretically were woven through the episode. And then it ended in a bit of softcore lesbian making out. Which I'm not opposed to, in theory, (especially if it ends up being equal opportunity via men kissing later), but it feels rather tossed-on. A friendly conversation turns to sex without us actually seeing the critical part of the seduction process. (That's not the only story-skipping jump in the episode; Tommy is severely wounded and almost dead, a couple jumps later, he's in stable condition.)
Oddly, it's the long-running mythology plot that manages to salvage a bit from the episode. Quentin is home, stewing over the fact that he's killed a man and trying to hide from his father that he did so, when former Mayor Nicki comes to visit. Nicki, for the first time, shows her true, vicious face to others, admitting that Birch likely broke into the house, then deceiving and threatening Rafe. This was surprising to me, as she's seemed reluctant to be the villain, explaining herself by saying the ends justify the means. Here she revels in the villainy and succeeds in making the antagonists' plan, and the McCauley family, seem much more interesting as a result. It may not be enough to rescue the episode, but it does make the rest of the season seem more interesting than it had.
- I liked the scene where Rafe supports Quentin's killing and disposing of Birch. “A man protects his home. And his family.” It's also a good indicator that the world of Defiance is significantly more violent than our own. And ghost Luc's little thumbs up at the end was pretty funny.
- Defiance video game update: I did not play this week. (Crusader Kings II got an expansion.) However, I did receive several press releases about a new crossover event in the next couple of weeks, with a plague appearing in the Defiance world. I'll try to hop back in for that.