When I was a little girl, Nolan liked to say that this world has no natives, which means it belongs to everyone. —Irisa, "Pilot"
Defiance (2013—) is set on 2046 Earth, badly damaged from a war with alien colonists called Votans and continued bombardment by the wreckage of their ships. The Votans are a loose alliance of seven species from multiple planets in the Votan solar system, whose sun has gone nova. The Pale Wars started when they arrived at Earth seeking shelter and were refused, and ended when soldiers on both sides gave up fighting out of disgust at the pointlessness of it, and set about rescuing the civilians caught in the cross-fire. The series takes place in a settlement named Defiance built on what used to be St. Louis. The town of Defiance is inhabited by both humans and Votans, in a tenuous state of coexistence. Planet Earth's environment has been drastically altered and filled with alien flora and fauna by the terraforming equipment that crashed when the Votan spaceships were mysteriously destroyed during the war.The TV series stars Grant Bowler as Chief Lawkeeper Joshua Nolan, Julie Benz as Mayor Amanda Rosewater, Tony Curran as Castithan community/underworld leader Datak Tarr, Jaime Murray as Stahma Tarr, Stephanie Leonidas as Deputy Lawkeeper Irisa Nyira, Mia Kirshner as town madam Kenya Rosewater, and Graham Greene as industrialist Rafe McCawley.The show has a rather novel approach in that it was developed alongside a Massively Multiplayer Online Game, also called Defiance. While the game is set in the San Francisco Bay area (at least currently) in California and the show is set in the remains of St. Louis, Missourinote About 2000 miles apart, the developers of the game and the writers for the TV show have stated that each can and likely will affect each other. The extent to which this will be true remains to be seen.After only four episodes, the show was renewed for a second season, which will consist of 13 episodes.
This series provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: Irisa implies this of her biological parents, saying that Nolan saved her by killing them, and that (at the time) she couldn't do it herself. We later find out that her parents were convinced by religious whack-jobs to let the whack-jobs tie her to a pillar and have her bitten by poisonous snakes. She was not the only one, but she was the only survivor, which they took to mean she was a messiah of destruction, and they tried to make her sacrifice a supplicant. She didn't want to, but Nolan and his company broke in before they could force the issue, shooting the nut-jobs, her parents among them.
Actor Allusion: While discussing whether Robert Pattinson was the vampire or the werewolf in "Twilight," Rafe says "Don't look at me." Graham Greene played Harry Clearwater in the Twilight movies.
After the End: Most nations have fallen after the war and the changes caused by the terraforming machines. It's a brand new world, to the point that anything from human culture prior to Arkfall is referred to as "Old World".
Alien Blood: Castithan blood is white with a slight hint of pink, and Indogenes have silver blood.
Nolan says "You don't know what we had to go through to get that" when the Spirit Riders take the crystal he used to retrieve the Terra Core. Players of the Defiance game will know exactly what he's talking about, and likely be a little upset, since he and Irisa stole it from the player during the events of the game.
Information on the various races is on the website, so far most of them haven't even been named in the series.
After the events of "The Serpent's Egg", Rynn is set to show up in the game. And does, continuing her arc.
Always Chaotic Evil: The seventh Votan race, the Volge, an extremely hostile and war-like race that the other Votan planned to leave behind during the evacuation. They reappeared on Earth during the Pale Wars and became hostile to Human and Votan alike.
The Alliance: The Votanis Collective was a loose coalition of alien species from the same solar system, and still exists on Earth in some form (Datak helps facilitate relations with them in Defiance). Comments in "Brothers in Arms" would suggest they control South America. The Earth Republic is another powerful alliance on the new landscape, mostly of what remains of the old human nations, but reportedly open to all immigrants. In practice, though, it's clear they are either terribly corrupt or extremely forceful in their recruiting, given they pretty much sanctioned their ambassador arranging a murder in order to force Defiance to join them. Their territory seems to be the East Coast, based from New York.
Alien Invasion: Subverted. The Votans aren't so much invaders as desperate refugees trying to find a new home. Negotiations were almost complete for their peaceful settlement on Earth when the Votan ambassador to the UN was murdered on live TV by a human assassin. People on both sides believed that the other side set it up note The game reveals fairly early that the assassin was actually part of a conspiracy by human and Votan representatives that wanted a war, and were working together to start one for reasons unknown, causing fighting to break out world-wide. Thus, the Pale Wars began.
Ambiguous Gender: Nolan has difficulty telling male and female Liberata apart. It's to the point when the Liberata teacher at the school thanked him with a kiss after he fixed the roof, he told Irisa later he hoped the teacher was female. In his defense, both genders have a large amount of body and facial hair. And in fact, both Liberata who have appeared on the show (one male, one female) were played by the same female actress who also plays a human role as well.
AM/FM Characterization: Our first encounter with Nolan and Irisa, the two main characters of the show, has an awkward silence broken with Nolan turning on the radio, only to hear Johnny Cash and June Carter singing 'Jackson', which, in the year 2046, is more than a bit country and old-fashioned.
Appeal To Tradition: Datak tried with with Alak in "The Bride Wore Black" by telling him how Alak's grandfather stayed on their homeworld to ensure the scrolls in the holy temple were still taken care of because the man made a promise to Alak's great-grandfather. The moral of the story being to honor the elder's wants and promises to the elder. This is his reason for expecting Alak to follow his order about canceling the wedding. However, Alak sees it as a Senseless Sacrifice and points out how he isn't like his father. He may be Castithan of blood, but Earth is his home, not that dead world his parents grew up on.
Artifact of Doom: The golden device Luke found in the mines, that mayor Nicky wants. Its silver counterpart is revealed to be located in Irisa's back, having been planted there by Daigo's cult. As it turns out, they're the activation keys to the Kaziri, a Votan ship that was somehow buried on Earth three thousand years ago, which has weapons capable of wiping out all human or Votan life.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: A lot of characters tend to be generally careless with their firearms. One particularly egregious example is former soldier Eddie in "Brothers in Arms" pointing his pistol directly at Nolan while handing it over to him.
Ascended Extra: Sukar. Although intended as a one off character was given a more prominent role because the creators were impressed by the contributions that Noah Danby made, behind the scenes, in defining the Irathient race
Even before being introduced, Kenya's former husband Hunter Bell certainly doesn't seem like the nicest guy. When it's revealed he was an abusive spouse and Datak's predecessor (of sorts), Nolan isn't terribly interested in finding his murderer, convinced that he had it coming.
While the characters in-universe may have differing opinions, no viewer is going to feel sorry for Nicolette Riordon.
As You Know: At the beginning of "Goodbye Blue Sky," Nolan radios back to Defiance about the approaching Razor Rain storm...and proceeds to explain exactly what Razor Rain is, just in case anyone who's grown up in this post-apocalyptic world just happened to forget what it was...
Back for the Finale: Rynn returns in the last scene of the penultimate season 1 episode, and plays a role in the season finale.
Joshua Nolan, through and through. Accomplished fighter, war hero, scavenger, survivor, marksman, and leader. He's completely unflappable, never once panicking even when surrounded by giant mutant bug-wolf-things while out of ammo. And as if all that's not enough, he's also a loving father and role model. But he's not a good guy. Just a decent one.
Sukar is similar. When Rynn (his adoptive daughter) shoots and wounds him, he's more disappointed by her apparent poor aim than the fact that she shot him in the first place.
Badass Biker: The primary mode of transportation for the Spirit Riders, and they more than qualify for the badass half when they ride through a group of Volge guns blazing.
Bare Your Midriff: In "The Devil In The Dark", Irisa does this while practicing martial arts. Her regular outfit does this to a lesser extent.
Be Careful What You Wish For: A non-magical version for Datak Tarr. He accepted E-Rep's help in his campaign for mayor, which symbolized his ultimate goal of achieving respectability and recognition. It bites him when on the night of his mayoral victory, E-Rep takes over Defiance, making Datak look like the mere puppet he is and costing him everything he's worked for.
Beware the Quiet Ones: Tommy in "The Serpent's Egg". As in the previous episodes, he doesn't say much. But when he gets a chance, he comes out swinging and ready to the kick the shit out of Daigo.
Big Applesauce: New York appears to be the capital of the Earth Republic.
Big Creepy-Crawlies: Hellbugs, dog-sized insects that suck the marrow from their prey. There there's the queen, a house-sized bug factory.
Bigger Is Better in Bed: Implied when a hostage-taker tries to guess which of Olfin Tennety's husbands is her favourite, and thus a more useful hostage, by grabbing their crotches. Though with the reveal that she set them both up to be killed, it's unlikely his impressive equipment made her any fonder of him.
Bilingual Backfire: Datak insults Christie's cooking in Castithan, unaware (or possibly not) that she has at least a passable knowledge of the language.
Bond One-Liner: Datak after killing two Hellbugs that invaded his home during dinner:
"Perhaps we should dine out."
Bottle Episode: "The Serpent's Egg" is this after the big budget special effects of the last four.
Brick Joke: In "Down in the Ground Where The Dead Men Go", Nicolette says she's going to take up golf as a retirement hobby, since she's the only one left who remembers the rules. In "Everything is Broken", Black Jonah threatens to scalp Yewll's "golf ball" head if she double crosses the E-Rep, causing Yewll to ask what a golf ball is.
The Cavalry/Gondor Calls for Aid: Though Defiance doesn't know about it, Irisa has a change of heart and comes back with the Spirit Riders to help fight the Volge. Fittingly enough, they even come riding bikes and other vehicles, the spiritual successor to the original horse-based cavalry.
Character Blog: There seems to be twitter accounts for many characters including relatively minor ones like Sukar.
The Chosen One: Sukar believes Irisa has been chosen by the their people's god for some greater purpose. Daigo also believes she's been chosen... but to be a Dark Messiah.
Closest Thing We Got: Amanda makes Nolan the new Lawkeeper at the end of the pilot because he's the only one remotely qualified. He snarks a bit about her lacking sales pitch.
Closer to Earth: Stahma to Datak. Almost literal in fact, since most of the time she's trying to curb Datak's sheer irritation at others for acting non-Castithan and his expectation that people will automatically respect him due to his caste. Datak even expects this from Humans, apparently forgetting who's homeworld he currently resides on?!
Coitus Ensues: Irisa rather abruptly gets into it with Tommy after they've dealt with the cultist who abused her as a child. Not that this is all that surprising for Irisa. Also seen once or twice in the episode Past Is Prologue.
Color Motif: Practically everything the Tarrs have is a flawless perfect white. Even the interior and exteriors of their house, which is impressive considering the ragtag state of the world.
Con Lang: Linguist David J. Peterson, who created the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones, has created full languages for the Castithans and Irathients, as well as outlines of languages for other Votans.
Conscience Makes You Go Back: Both Nolan and Irisa go back to help Defiance defend against the Volge, though Irisa takes a bit longer to come around.
Continuity Nod: In "The Bride Wore Black", just before Datak storms in to his house completely pissed off, we see Stahma writing in a journal to which she quickly and almost embarassingly covers up when Datak arrives - the poetry writing Kenya convinced her to take up again.
Convenient Coma: Mayor Amanda's traitorous assistant falls into a coma shortly after he's caught, staying conscious just long enough to indicate a larger conspiracy but not to name names.
Cool Car: Classic cars apparently survived the wars, since Datak and some weapon smugglers from the Votanis Collective have them. Nolan also has a Dodge Charger courtesy of his Lawkeeper gig.
Cool Shades: Birch wears a pair with the lenses slightly detached from the rims.
Irisa is shown wearing a pair in "The Bride Wore Black", with extra lenses on the sides.
In "A Well Respected Man", Datak wears more ordinary looking (but still cool) shades.
Cozy Catastrophe: It's implied that New York was not nearly as affected as other cities, since everyone from there still dresses nicely and cares about modern niceties and entertainment.
Creepy Child: The little Irathient girl Irisa sometimes sees in her visions. Identifies herself as Irzu, one of the key Irathient gods. This is not necessarily the truth, however; Sukar believed he was kept alive after being impaled by razor rain, and directed by the will of Irzu, but Doctor Yewell identified it as the arkbrain shard that had lodged in Sukar's neck, transferring nanites with an agenda into him. Irisa unquestionably has Indogene-manufactured nanotech in her, and what better for a thinking nanite colony to get a sapient whose actions it can't actually control to do its bidding than by impersonating a deity?
Cruel Mercy: In "The Serpent's Egg", Irisa lets Daigo live despite him being responsible for the abuse she suffered, because being forced to live a normal life is far greater a punishment than any torture or execution she could give him.
Culture Chop Suey: The Tarr family, our main viewpoint on Castithi culture combines traits of the Italian Mafia, the Hindu caste system, Japanese bathing rituals and stereotypical Arabic Muslim attitudes towards women. Increasingly Irathients are coming to stand for a hodge-podge of historically oppressed races.
Culture Clash: A key part of the series are the difficult interactions between the different races.
Irathients don't trust inoculations for their children, partly because they're immune to just about everything (though can still be carriers), which ended in a slaughter when Defiance was first foundednote the game reveals that they might be justified: they were literally being killed with intentionally bad inoculations before the Pale Wars started. Nolan also mistakes Irisa's visions for PTSD, though the fact that she does have issues with her past confuses the matter.
Crazy Cultural Comparison: For Castithans, bath time is a family bonding ritual, and the kind of naked physical closeness they demonstrate seems almost incestuous by human standards. Bathing alone is actually considered deviant, or at least eccentric, behavior. In one scene, Datak is annoyed that Christie insists on bathing alone.
Culture Blind: Somewhat justified as some races or individuals simply don't care to learn about other races customs.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Nolan versus the Bioman, a Pale War-era Super Soldier. Played with in that while it looks like this is going to (Painfully) happen to Nolan, each of Nolan's attacks are designed to hit the Bioman's off-switch. He just had a bit of trouble remembering where on this particular model that switch was. Turns out, in a moment reminiscent of Dr. McNinja, it was the butt.
Cut Himself Shaving: In a flashback, Kenya uses an excuse like this for the latest sign of abuse from Hunter Bell. Amanda, naturally, isn't buying it.
Cyborg: It's apparently commonplace for the Indogene to have some sort of cyberization, though they're not immediately obvious. To go with that theme, their skin even has hexagonal 'scales' rather than more organic shapes. Biomen are another example, though they lean more heavily to the machine side of things.
Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: There seems to be the belief that one of the reasons Indogenes are so emotionless is because they've got a lot of cybernetic implants.
The Volge in the pilot get points for recognizing that a tower with something glowing on top placed directly in their path is probably bad, and ordering it shot down. They lose points for not trying hard enough (they shot at it once then ignored it), allowing it to go off and destroy them. They they did have an excuse: their leader was the one who recognized the danger, and he was killed.
Stahma is the real brains of the Tarr family (although Datak isn't exactly an idiot) and seems to always know how to leverage a situation for maximum advantage. She is also more perceptive and culturally-aware than Datak.
Irisa and Rynn are both war-orphans, for different reasons. Irisa's parents were killed by Nolan when he rescued her from a bloody cult ritual, while Rynn's were murdered for their land.
Pol Madis' comments to Dr. Yewll suggest she did some unpleasant things during the Pale Wars. She's also apparently a former member of whatever group ex-mayor Nicolette is in.
Eddie comments suggest that Nolan did some dark things as well.
Confirmed: "No Man", in his younger days, participated in a massacre that saw almost two hundred civilians, Votani and human, gunned down, and even boasted aggressively about killing a child at his own court-martial. Anti-Hero he may be, but when you consider what a monster he was back then... Amanda even says, when she hears about this, that that's who he was, not who he is.
Dating What Daddy Hates: Neither Rafe McCawley or Datak Tarr are happy that their daughter and son, respectively, are dating. Datak is willing to go along with it due to the business opportunity it presents, not to mention the fact that he knows Rafe will be much more uncomfortable with it. Rafe is willing to disown his daughter, though Quentin tries to talk some sense into him. Some charitable story-telling from Stahma and Datak help smooth things over between them by painting Alak as a heroic protector, allowing the rift between Rafe and his daughter to fully heal while simultaneously getting some respect out of Rafe for Alak.
That being said, once Rafe realises that Alak is not merely an entitled punk like he'd originally thought, he quickly becomes far more accepting and supportive of their relationship. His real issue is more with Datak and the fact he's clearly attempting to use their children to inherit the mines.
Dead Person Conversation: Quentin has this with Luke, though it's more likely just Quentin's internal monologue represented visually. Though there's some vague subtle suggestion that it may not actually be that.
Death from Above: Razor Rain, a storm of small Ark fragments that can cut right through anyone standing outside.
Death of the Hypotenuse: The minor one of Conner/Amanda/Nolan is resolved in this way, courtesy of Datak, though Nolan is unaware. The slightly more major one of Amanda/Nolan/Kenya is briefly derailed when Kenya apparently dumps Nolan for Stahma but is ended via this trope when Stahma apparently murders Kenya.
Death World: Terraformed Earth. With the destruction of the Arks, the terraforming equipment onboard was severely damaged, causing massive geological and ecological devastation when it was accidentally deployed. Another result, is that there are now very large, very hostile and very mutant animals everywhere. The woods near Defiance are home to creatures that looks like a combination of a bear, a spider, and an armadillo. The Hellbugs are dog-sized crab/bug monsters, and their matron is the size of a house. This is on top of the constant Colony Drops from Ark wreckage, deadly storms, Always Chaotic Evil Volge, and the raiders, criminals, and so forth common to an After the End setting.
Deep Cover Agent: A rogue faction of Indogenes ran a project dedicated to this during the Pale Wars, kidnapping humans and transferring their memories into Indogenes who were then surgically altered to match the captured subjects. Gordon McClintock turns out to be an imperfect prototype; Nicolette Riordon appears to have been one of the final products.
Depopulation Bomb: The white and gold artifacts are revealed to be keys to an ancient Votan ship beneath Defiance. Its weapons could either purge all human life or all Votan life.
There are ambiguities, in that it looks like it could go either way. Stahma was evidently ordered by Datak to murder Kenya; as of the final episode of the first season, she's either murdered Kenya, or drugged her and left her in the roller with a note pleading for her to leave and not look back. Stahma seems to genuinely be falling for Kenya, which is a problem since she clearly still loves Datak.
Colonel Marsh also gives Datak this treatment for thinking he and the Earth Republic would be equal partners.
A common profession among nomads is "ark hunting", which involves scavenging technology from pieces of the arks which crash into Earth every so often. The remains of the alien arks in orbit are extremely valuable and useful for a large variety of reasons, and everyone wants a piece. Players in the tie-in game are all ark hunters as are Irisa and Nolan before settling in Defiance.
Amanda and her mother were more general scavengers during the war.
Disc One Final Boss: Nicolette is set up as the Big Bad in the pilot, being behind the Volge attack and the conspiracy to get at whatever is buried under Defiance. However, near the end of the season, Yewll decides she's gone too far and kills her, leaving Datak, the Earth Republic, and possibly Yewll herself as potential Big Bads.
As of the season finale, Datak was reduced to being Colonel Marsh's puppet and killed him in retaliation, meaning the E-Rep will probably kill/arrest him and Stahma, while Yewll turns out to be The Atoner. So it looks like the Earth Republic as a whole will be the Big Bad.
Disney Death: Nolan is gunned down in "Everything is Broken", only for Irisa to somehow bring him back with the Kaziri.
Doctor Jerk: Dr. Yewll is extremely good at what she does, but she does not brook any kind of resistance to her orders, and has no problem speaking her mind and calling people idiots.
Domestic Abuse: Kenya's husband, Hunter Bell, beat and possibly raped her before he died.
Downer Ending: Hoo boy, the first season finale. Datak wins the election, then learns that he's going to be nothing but a puppet for the Earth Republic. In a fit of rage he kills Colonel Marsh, signing his own death warrant and giving the Earth Republic the pretense for moving in and taking over the town. Meanwhile, the affair between Stahma and Kenya is revealed, and Stahma poisons Kenya to save her own skin. Rafe has the mines taken from him by the E-Reps and is shot in the struggle, possibly fatally. And Irisa basically sells her soul to Irzu in order to save Nolan's life, accepting her destiny as the activation key for the kaziri and possibly dying herself.
The Dreaded: Jonah Keller, aka Black Jonah, is this, due to the Torture Technician skills he developed during the Pale Wars. Just look at Yewll's face when he introduces himself.
Duct Tape for Everything: Kenya actually seems to use it in place of a bra, at least during her session with Nolan. She does have more conventional lingerie when walking about. (This is a bad idea in real life, especially when done regularly, as it compresses the ribcage around the lungs and can lead to pneumonia and other problems.)
Dumb Muscle: Biomen are extremely tough, but not very bright. When Ulysses is trying to keep a low profile while rounding up victims to be drained of adrenaline, he kidnaps Kenya Rosewater—who, in addition to being one of the most important women in town in her own right, is also the mayor's sister and the lawkeeper's girlfriend. In his defense, though, she had caught him red-handed and letting her report him would have been equally bad.
Easily Forgiven: Irisa is actually pretty pissed that Nolan keeps screwing up their chances to get ahead due to his stupidity or unrelenting altruism, but never for very long.
Embarrassing Nickname: Nolan is called "No Man" by Eddie. It's suggested that rather than being a reference to "No man left behind", it's actually a reference to "No man left alive" - as in, kill any and all on the battlefield that isn't an ally.
Enemy Mine: Irisa recruits a band of Irathient raiders, the Spirit Riders, to help defend Defiance against the Volge, reasoning that they held greater disdain for the latter. They are later shown enjoying a drink in the town brothel after the battle is won, and as of "Devil in the Dark" they are openly welcomed again in Defiance as well as gifted their original settled land back to them.
Minor (and not very nice) one but when Datak starts up a talk about how Irathients are, in more flowery words, dirty plague ridden mongrels in the eyes of other Votans, you can see Rafe in the background nodding and gesturing in agreement.
Seven years earlier, Dakak and Rafe allied with each other against Hunter Bell, a powerful local businessman who had it in for them both. It quickly fell apart after their "common ground" died.
Enforced Method Acting: In "The Bride Wore Black," Nolan doesn't tell Tommy he knows Datak didn't commit the murder they're arresting him for or that the plan is for him to lead them to whoever framed him, so Tommy will be more convincing.
Defiance was named for the Battle of Defiance, which occurred in the San Francisco Bay area, when soldiers on both sides called a cease-fire to rescue children trapped inside a building, ignoring the orders of their superiors to keep fighting. That one incident eventually led to peace when news of it spread. Nolan, one of the Defiant Few (the soldiers who participated in that battle), is not especially impressed when he's told that the town is named after the battle, pointing out that pretty much everything is.
The Spirit Riders are another example. On one hand, they come into conflict with Nolan and Irisa over some salvage. On the other hand, they also help defend Defiance against the Volge after being convinced by Irisa. Several of their own were also killed by these particular Volge not long before, which probably aided their decision.
Evil Gloating: Pol Madis would have likely lived to see that nice mansion and pool given to him by the Earth Republic if he hadn't gloated to "No Man" Nolan.
Eviler than Thou: Colonel Marsh makes it clear to Datak that he's just a puppet ruler for the Earth Republic... and is promptly killed in rage.
Expy: The various species of Votans can come across as this of typical fantasy races.
The Biomen are Expys of GREL: Bald, muscular humanoids with a distinctly inhuman skintone (blue instead of purple), with individuals tending to be named after their series designation (Presidential first names instead of Arthurian or Roman-themed names).
Fainting Seer: What occurs after an Irathient with "The Sight" has their vision. Most notable when Irisa convulses after being brought to the field where her visions kept leading her.
Fanservice: Jaime Murray in a thong bathing with shirtless Tony Curran. If the first two episodes are any indication, this might be a Once an Episode event. Kenya is likewise performing some kind of fanservice whenever she appears.
"Goodbye Blue Sky" includes both of them in a C-story. And wouldn't you know it, they end up in bed together. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like.
Fantastic Caste System: Castithans are organized into "liros", though the system fragmented somewhat when they arrived on earth. Part of Datak's motivation stems from being born into a low-ranking liro, while Stahma was a bit higher on the ladder.
While Rafe McCawley does not like the Tarrs, it appears to have less to do with the fact that they're Castithans and more to do with the fact that Datak is an underworld crime boss and rival. He certainly doesn't have anything against Irathients considering he's leaving the mine to them in his will
Irathiants get a heavy dose of this from everyone, on account of being thought of as savages and plague carriers. To the point that dogcatcher devices are used when 'escorting' them to the mines 'for their own good'. It's rather... unsettling to watch.
Colonel Marsh displays a lot of this; he tells Amanda the Earth Republic can help protect against "alien bandits," and later comes up with a way to get the mines from the Irathients, by claiming they are not the original inhabitants of the land, and thus it never belonged to them.
Fantastic Slurs: Castithans are sometimes derisively called "Haints"note A Southern US term for "ghost"; literally a "haunting spirit". Another word thrown around is "Casty," which is either a milder slur or a nickname.
Castithans come across as nonspecific "foreign immigrants," with all the positive and negative stereotypes that come with themnote With its strict class system and its emphasis on family and tradition, Castithan society has a vaguely Asian or Middle Eastern vibe to it. Datak Tarr is basically a mafia don, a poor man back in the "old country" who became wealthy and powerful doing whatever he had to do. On the other hand, he loves his family and dreams of a better life for his son, and he will go out of his way to, ahem, "protect" his fellow Castithans if need be.
Fiery Redhead: The Irathients are a whole race of them. Every time Irisa does something typical of a Fiery Redhead, like stabbing Sukar, Sukar says this proves that she is a true Irathient.
Five Races: Several of the Votan species have been noted to resemble fantasy races:
Castithans have an entry on the Space Elves page, but they act a bit more like High Men, or Fallen in the case of the Machiavellian Tarrs.
Irathients are a bit of a blend; they're strong, proud warriors (or at least the Spirit Riders are, we saw some peaceful homesteaders in a flashback) like the Stout. They are deeply spiritual, some even have clairvoyant abilities, and have a connection to nature like Fairies. Possibly even some shades of the Savage. But they also seem the most human-like of the Votan.
Indogenes are highly intelligent and responsible for most Votan tech like the Arks, force-blades (intended as surgical tools, converted into weapons by the Castithans), and their own cybernetic implants. Kind of Fairy or competing with Castis for High Men.
Liberata actually resemble dwarves physically and were once an economically powerful and war mongering race. But were conquered by the Castithans long ago and have turned towards generosity and servitude since then.
Sensoth are hard to categorize, a big hairy and peaceful servant race. The Gulanee aren't even humanoid and have yet to appear in the series. And the Volge would belong fully on the Fantasy Axis of Evil.
Foreshadowing: In a subtle example, the jogger from "The Devil In The Dark" is seen wiping at his red running shoes just before he's attacked in the woods. Presumably they're a bit damp from the hellbug pheromones that Rynn applied to them.
Genre Blind: When Stahma tells Christie how she and Datak were married after his romantic rival was 'accidentally' thrown out an airlock, Christie takes away from the story how much Datak loved Stahma and his determination to win her heart, instead of taking the hint that Stahma murdered her fiance to be with him.
Despite their close relationship, Nolan and Irisa never refer to each other as family in public. Based on the reactions of the Spirit Riders and Amanda, not to mention the Tarr/McCawley feud, then this may be for safety reasons due to racial tensions - better to be traveling companions and get robbed than father and daughter and get lynched (by aliens or humans alike).
Datak gives Nolan a lesson on how his knowledge and power in Defiance are based on knowing the relationships between people in the town. Nolan in turn recognizes when Datak is trying to play him and deduces from Datak's own lesson that Stahma is the brains of the Tarr family.
Nolan realizes that Datak is working with Madis under duress when Datak is nice and cordial to him.
Going Native: Alak clearly prefers humans and their culture to Castithan traditions.
Gone Horribly Right: The terraforming machines worked perfectly, but they were deployed by accident when the Ark fleet was destroyed and so were operating totally out of control.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: Lampshaded in "A Well Respected Man". When Datak takes Nolan to a potential informant, Nolan quickly recognizes that Datak has already intimidated the man into staying quiet so Datak could play the good cop to Nolan's bad. Datak counters than he never intended to be the good cop at all, then lets the informant speak.
Nevertheless, after Nolan figures out the setup, Datak makes his one liner before putting on his sunglasses and walking off. Yeah. He went there.
Tommy and Irisa have developed into this in "The Bride Wore Black." When standing outside a suspect's locked home, Tommy notes they need to get a warrant. Irisa just breaks the window and unlocks the door.
Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted with Amanda, who is one of the least ambiguously good characters and had an abortion years ago. The abortion itself is treated as an understandable choice given the overallsituation, but her handling of it—not even discussing it with the father, Connor Lang, beforehand, even knowing he would have a problem with it—led to the destruction of their relationship.
Good Old Ways: Because Defiance is filled with so many different cultures, an unspoken rule is "As long as your traditions don't mess with people outside your group, you can do it." This is what permits the Castithans to use the "cleansing rack". They justify this because years ago, when trying to impose a vaccination law, the Irathiants rebelled and many died during the fighting.
Grey and Grey Morality: To an extent. Was Nolan in the right to kill someone in cold blood? Was Yewll? Is Rafe really unambigiously good despite his racism and politicking?
Nolan tried one on a Bioman. Though many winced, the Bioman just shrugged it off.
Irisa uses one on Daigo before Pistol-Whipping him unconscious, and later against a miner in "If I Ever Leave This World Alive".
Nolan recalls an incident where his war-buddy Eddie was nearly castrated by an angry woman.
In "Everything is Broken", Yewll subtly threatens this to an Earth Republic scientist arguing that they remove the keys from Irisa via glorified electrocution.
Scientist: It's survivable.
Yewll: So's castration.
Gun Safety: Nolan is pretty good with this compared to many other shows. In "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", when he gets his gun back from Rafe (who's had it overnight), he promptly checks the chamber and unloads the clip.
Justified since he's a former soldier, plus the gun is special to him. (He and the lawkeeper in the video game (both members of the Defiant Few) have the same gun.)
Implied in the pilot. When Nolan claims to be Irisa's father, it's quickly pointed out that she's a pure-blooded Irathient, which suggests it isn't unheard of.
In "The Bride Wore Black", it's outright stated that a human/Castithan couple expect to produce a child eventually.
The Inside Defiance extra for "The Bride Wore Black" on the Syfy website says that hybrids do exist, but such pregnancies carry a great deal of risk for both mother and child. It lampshades the fact that this should only be possible with some kind of common ancestry, and says the issue hasn't been properly studied due to a general lack of medical research in 2046.
Happily Married: Datak and Stahma. For all their Machiavellian pretensions, they are clearly very much in love with one another.
He Who Fights Monsters: It's implied that most of Datak's hatred for humans stems from being lorded over by local crimeboss Hunter Bell, back when he was a penniless refugee. Considering his own actions in the present, he apparently fails to appreciate the irony.
Connor Lang gets offed by Datak for being witness to his "negotiations" with the Irathiants over the cure to the plague Defiance is suffering from. Nolan almost suffers the same fate, but was unconscious from late-stage infection and Datak decided that his death would be more difficult to explain away.
Hunter Bell was killed by Nicolette because he discovered that she was really a surgically altered Indogene like Gordon McClintock. Jered the bartender was also killed as the only other witness besides Nicolette and Yewll to Bell's murder.
History Repeats: When a plague comes to Defiance, most everyone's first reaction is to alienate and "quarantine" the irathients. Pretty much the only reason a second uprising doesn't occur is the small number of irathients in Defiance to begin with and the E-rep barricading the town.
Hollywood Tactics: The Volge in the pilot. Faced with a broad flat valley floor with overlooking cliff faces on both flanks as the only way into town, the Volge politely march up the middle where they are then ambushed. Did their only scout get bored after being seen early in the same episode attacking Spirt Riders? Were they on a time budget? Can they only climb cliff faces while under fire? That said, it's suggested and implied that the pass is the only safe and reliable way into the city which is why the stasis field was more than enough to defend the town from outsiders. And being an army of machines with spiderbots among them, trekking through mountains might not have been logistically possible.
The spray and pray firing tactics of most of the defenders also fits nicely into this category although this could be explained away mostly that this is a more of a town militia and less of a defending army. People who have fired a gun before however, especially a trained soldier like Nolan or a crime boss like Datak, have no excuse.
Honor Before Reason: Nolan, who is willing to give up his own well-being and security for others, if not necessarily immediately. He's called on it by Irisa, as he has apparently set back their plans several times under similar circumstances. Given his background, howevernote As previously mentioned, he was one of the Defiant Few, who refused to fight when innocent people were caught in the crossfire, it would be stranger if he did not do this all the time.
Hostile Terraforming: The series had a somewhat unintentional example, when the Votan Ark ships were destroyed the terraforming equipment they were carrying fell to earth and malfunctioned, creating deadly hybrid creatures such as Hellbugs and those bear-spider-armadillo things.
Hot-Blooded: Irisa is pretty volatile when she isn't being quiet and stoic, and seemingly has no in-between.
Nolan as well. Irisa mentions that his hot blooded nature has ruined things for them before, and it is causing some problems in Defiance.
I Did What I Had to Do: This is Amanda's reasoning for allowing the Castithans to publicly torture a man for cowardice. Previous attempts to force the Votan races to abandon parts of their cultural heritage resulted in the deaths of the majority of their Irathient citizens.
Datak also uses this excuse, citing that his actions as a mafioso are to ensure that his son has a good life without having to do these things.
I Have Your Wife: This is what motivates Ben to betray the town. if he doesn't, his family dies.
Kenya tries to set this up in the finale as a way to make Datak leave Defiance forever. Unfortunately for her Stahma is clever enough to anticipate her and poisons Kenya before she even gets her plan in motion.
Improbable Weapon User: Rynn in "The Devil in the Dark" murders people by painting them as targets for Hellbugs using pheromones.
The Ingenue: Christie has shades of this, particularly how she seems completely oblivious to the fact that Stahma all-but admitted to having thrown her former fiance out of an airlock so she could marry Datak. Instead she believes the story was about how "Love Conquers All".
Insult Backfire: Nolan tells Stahma that she's a more dangerous snake than her husband. She thinks it's sweet of him to say.
Interspecies Romance: Christie (human) and Alak (Castithan), as noted above. Irisa (Irathient) and Tommy (human) kick one off in "The Serpent's Egg". People also assume this is one possibility between Irisa and Nolan; given the state of relations between the different species, it's in their best interest not to correct anyone on the matter unless it's absolutely necessary.
Stahma and Kenya though whether it's an actual romance or they're just using each other is ambigious.
Karma Houdini: The Earth Republic ambassador hatches a scheme to steal Defiance's deposit for a railroad, then gets released by her people after she's foiled by Nolan and Amanda.
Laser Blade: A type of Votan weapon, apparently generalized as a "charge blade". Alak and Datak have rather ornate knives which can extend into swords, and Dr. Yewll has one she uses as a scalpel. Supplementary material states they were originally developed as surgical tools by the Indogenes and adapted into weapons by the Castithans.
Light Is Not Good: Like all Castithans, the Tarrs have white skin and hair and gold eyes. They also consistantly dress in white or pale gray and their entire house is white but they are also the local equivalent of the Corleones. Significantly Alack, the son and arguably the Token Good Teammate of the family has dark streaks dyed into his hair. Also, back before the Pale Wars when the Castithans ran the Votan Collective according to Word of God they kept the other races in subservient positions and attempted outright genocide on the Irathians, gathering them into caves and then gassing them.
Loophole Abuse: To get the mines away from Rafe, Datak and Colonel Marsh plan on using a very liberal interpretation of some of Defiance's laws to invalidate the will and have Datak claim them as Defiance's property.
Lost in the Maize: Played with in the third episode with ankle-height vegetation in the woods, just high enough to hide the dangerous Hellbugs.
Lotus-Eater Machine: In "A Well Respected Man", this is used as a method to induce fear in subjects, producing adrenaline which is then harvested and processed into a stimulant.
The gold and white artifacts, though only the gold one has been found so far. Whatever they do, "genocidal" has been used to describe them. The silver one is revealed to be in Irisa's back, possibly being the cause of her visions and linked to her destiny as Daigo's "Angel of Death". As it turns out, they're activation keys for the Kaziri, a Votan ship buried beneath Defiance that could potentially wipe out all human or Votan life.
The McCawley mines are a lesser example, being the single largest supply of Gualanite. This is why the Earth Republic is so determined to fold Defiance into their ranks. Then it turns out they, or at least Colonel Marsh's faction, are really interested in the above-mentioned ship buried under the mines.
MacGuffin Delivery Service: Colonel Marsh knew exactly what Nicolette Riordon and Doc Yewll were looking for under Defiance. He waited for them to do the hard work of finding the MacGuffin and then swoops in to take it away.
Major Injury Underreaction: In "A Well Respected Man", Miko finds himself with a slashed jugular courtesy of a beaker upside the head from Kenya. His last words are "I'm gonna kill Ulysses." in a perfectly calm voice. Might have something to do with the drugs he was on.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In "Goodbye Blue Sky", while it turns out there's a perfectly scientific explanation for Sukar's resurrection and actions, the same can't be said for Irisa's visions.
Or maybe there is, now that we know the silver artifact was implanted in her spine
Meaningful Name: They don't call the city "Defiance" for nothing. In addition to the incident in the backstory which helped found the city, the town remains independent despite attempts by the Earth Republic to integrate it.
Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Olfin's surviving husband leaves her at the end of "The Serpent's Egg" after he learned she set up the hijacking and planned on killing him as part of the ruse.
Missing Mom: Mrs. McCawley is conspicuously absent. It turns out she had bipolar disorder, and when she became a threat to her own children, Rafe had her locked up, then lied and said she was dead.
Monumental Damage Resistance: The St. Louis arch. This is even lampshaded in the pilot, where it's used as a metaphor for the town standing firm despite adversity. Especially notable is the fact that St. Louis is buried beneath the Earth, but the arch is still above ground and upright, though this is probably aided by the fact that it's the tallest accessible building in the city and located near the water. Even the interior is still accessible, if somewhat weathered. Alak Tarr runs the local radio station from the top.
My Eyes Are Up Here: Played with in "A Well Respected Man", when Nolan says the line to Amanda while shirtless after a session with Kenya. He's just messing with her.
Named After Their Planet: Played With for the Votan species. They come from the Votanis system for starters. It is played straight by the Irathients (Irath) and Gulanee (Gula). But the Liberata and Sensoths were also native to Irath and the Castithans and Indogenes came from Daribo while the Volge originated on Omec. Though the Castithans had a terraformed colony planet called Casti.
Nanomachines: Ark brains have them as part of their design, presumably for self-maintenance. In a living host, they grant a Healing Factor that can regenerate severe physical injuries, including bullets wounds and large puncture wounds. However, this is merely a beneficial side-effect of their primary mission, which is to protect Votan life from potential catastrophies.
Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Averted in "The Bride Wore Black." In the flashbacks, Datak and Hunter Bell get into a fistfight. When Hunter draws a blade, he manages to wound Datak and the fight instantly shifts in his favor.
Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: In the present, when Datak got angry at Rafe, he drew his energy blade. Rafe just lifted his jacket to reveal his pistol at the ready.
Never Suicide: To stop her insane ambitions, Yewll murders Nicollete then makes it look like she asphyxiated herself in her car, in addition to leaving a suicide note admitting responsibility for the murder of Hunter Bell.
Nice Hat: Sukar has a spiffy top hat with goggles on it.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Defiance was first founded, inoculations were given to everyone. The local Irathiants refused as it was against their beliefs and they didn't trust the humans anyway. When the mayor at the time forcibly did so, the Irathiants fought back. The survivors became Spirit Riders and the relationship between Irathiants and Defiance has never been the same since. Amanda wants to make amends and avoid a repeat but most seem unwilling to forgive just yet.
Something similar happens in "If I Ever Leave This World Alive". Though problem of the week in the episode resolves itself, the ramifications of the events of it are likely to be long term.
No MacGuffin, No Winner: When Pol Madis makes it clear that both major powers intend to put him to work designing weapons instead of punishing him for his crimes, Nolan murders him in cold blood rather than let his weapons be used in another war.
The pilot opens with Nolan trying to apologize to Irisa for an incident involving a married alien woman.
Similarly, Nolan seems to have a great reluctance to talk about the Battle of Defiance, despite his (implied) heroism for being one of the Defiant Few. When directly asked what it was like, he simply says "It was what it was", and moves on.
Players of the game will know why he doesn't want to talk about it. As a last resort to protect human and Votan refugees from Votan extremists within their military, the Defiant Few activated a terra-spire, reducing the entire city of San Francisco to an uninhabitable wasteland of bizarrely twisted stone, horribly killing both the attacking army and countless innocents in the process. Only a handful of buildings in San Francisco survived the process remotely intact, and it's one of the more disturbing areas of the game.
He has another good reason. He's guilty of committing numerous acts during the Pale Wars that border on war-crimes.
No OSHA Compliance: Despite the fact that Alak has a day job up there and his family alone would be able to at least fix the observation deck, the interior of the Arch has massive gapping holes in it.
Not So Different: Rafe and Datak really aren't all that different. Rafe just knows when to control his temper.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr. Yewll is not only a physician, but also a skilled engineer. Then again, this is her species' hat. "Brothers in Arms" would seem to imply she switched majors, so to speak, after indulging in less savory scientific endeavors during the war.
One World Order: The Earth Republic seems to see itself as this, many of the world's nations having collapsed during the wars. The Votanis Collective was something like this apparently, though spread across their system.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Irisa (played by a British actress) suffers from this very noticeably in the third episode, during the scene where she is arguing with Nolan.
Despite Nolan being American, Grant Bowler's native New Zealand accent can be occasionally heard to slip through,
Out-of-Character Alert: Nolan is quickly clued in that something's not right when Datak acts polite and friendly when called upon at his house, given the usual antagonism between them. Pol Madis slipped a nanite into his food which allows him to induce severe pain, using it to force Datak's cooperation.
Pardon My Klingon: Humans and aliens alike use the term "shtako" liberally, as something of a universal swear word (and not just the "shit" it clearly is meant to translate as - for example, in the pilot, Datak at one point yells, "You shtako coward!") Datak uses the word "shtek"; it probably translates to something like "SOB". "Gwoke" has also appeared as a Castithan swear word; considering Datak's temper at the time, it probably goes past 'shit' all the way to the F-Bomb on the swear scale. "Chup" is a word for "shag", but it's unknown which species's language gave rise to this. Also, humourously, most of the swearing on the show comes from Datak.
Alak uses the phrase "Holy shtako!" at one point, which implies a fair amount of language drift (both human and alien alike) due him being essentially a 2nd generation immigrant.
Parental Abandonment: In episode 4, it's revealed that Amanda and Kenya's mother abandoned them during the war. She and Amanda were out looking for supplies, and when the fighting got close to them she wanted to merely run. Amanda insisted on going back for Kenya, and had to do so alone. Amanda told Kenya that their mother was dead, but admits the truth in the present.
Parental Marriage Veto: Both Rafe McCawley and Datak Tarr separately attempt to veto Christie and Alak's relationship. Datak comes around quickly when Stahma suggests he can use it to gain control of Rafe's mines through Christie after Rafe and Quentin have an "accident" but changes his mind again after Rafe wills his mines to the Irathients in the event of his death, while Rafe comes around when he sees Alak truly loves Christie to the point where he makes sure they get their wedding in spite of Datak trying to call it off.
Patron Saint: Kenya wears a Saint Christopher (the Patron Saint of travelers) necklace that Amanda gave to her, but believes it to be Saint Finnegan the Patron Saint of lost children. When another character corrects her, she confront Amanda about it. Amanda reveals that she took it from a dead man named Finnegan, and told Kenya the lie to comfort and reassure her.
The Plague: At the end of "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" Nolan goes to Yewll's clinic for one plot reason, only to be interrupted by her handling the start of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever outbreak (which sets up the plot for "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" and also ties in with an event in the MMOG involving the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever).
Planet of Hats: Each of the seven Votan races has its own theme. Irathients are warrior types, Castithans are more classy, Indogenes are scientists, Liberata are usually servants, etc. However, individuals can stand out from these generalizationsnote For every instance of a Hat-Wearer in the pilot alone, there's another instance of someone shunning it.
The Plot Reaper: Gary Clancy, Defiance's Chief Lawkeeper, gets shot in the pilot so the position will be open for Nolan.
Polyamory: Culturally accepted, at least among some humans. The Earth Republic ambassador has two husbands whom she intended to kill off in her plot to bankrupt Defiance (though it's suggested that they're a gay couple who use the ambassador for protection), and Nolan and Amanda have a discussion on the potential benefits of group marriage (which might have been her way of suggesting that she was interested in him, despite his sleeping with her sister). Stahma mentions that her husband frequently visits the NeedWant, and doesn't seem to care. On the other hand, when Stahma visits the NeedWant (initially to get Alak a human prostitute so that he doesn't embarass himself on his wedding night with Christie) and subsequently ends up in bed with Kenya, she warns that they have to keep their relationship a secret less Datar kill them both.
Poor Communication Kills: In "Goodbye Blue Sky", Nolan shoots Sukar to prevent him from activating a device that is communicating with an incoming Ark fragment. The device actually instructs it to fire its thrusters and crash outside of town. An extreme case because even Sukar doesn't know what the device is supposed to do, since he is being compelled by Ark brain nanites to make it without conscious awareness of the fact.
Before settling in Defiance, Nolan and Irisa were trying to make their way to Antarctica, which has apparently been terraformed into a tropical paradise. Everyone tells Nolan it's a pipe dream, and given the current state of the world that we see, it's likely that very few people have been there to confirm it. In general, however, ark hunters are trying to make enough money to get to Antarctica, if the tie-in game is to be believed.
Earth was supposed to be this for the Votan fleet. Unfortunately they didn't realise that Earth was already inhabited, apparently having failed to detect any traces of Human civilation. Though that might have something to do with the fact that they launched their Arks around the same time Humans were building the Pyramids and mastering the art of writing.
Irathients. Not too proud, though: many of the ones we see in the pilot are bandits or scavengers. At least in context of the show, it's justified since the local Irathient population is extremely small. Other than the small group of citizens, the only ones around are the Spirit Riders, who used to be locals until a forced inoculation caused them to revolt.
Castithans have shades of this, as well, what with their custom of public torture for cowardice on the battlefield and fondness for bladed weapons.
Reality Ensues: Plague episode. Okay, lots of shows have that. Irathients get blamed; that's pretty normal for a show with Fantastic Racism. Then the forceful rounding up of irathients into a makeshift internment camp (occasionally using guns, dogcatchers, and force) begins, some irathients discuss the possibility of them being gassed to death, and one ends up dead because their captors don't like a harmless religious ceremony...
Recycled INSPACE: As the writers have fully acknowledged, it's an immigrant story WITH ALIENS!!! (real ones)
Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Datak Tarr represents the "House" in the underground fight club in Defiance. When Nolan decides to participate for a quick buck, Datak shows some genre savviness and has the regular champion substituted for a Bioman, who logically no mere mortal should ever be capable of besting. When Nolan wins by hitting the Bioman's off-switch, Datak claims it's against House rules and confiscates most of his winnings (he was at least charitable enough to let Nolan walk off with a slight profit). Nolan lampshades this during their confrontation.
The Defiant Few. Both sides of the conflict ignored their orders, stopped fighting and started rescuing civilians trapped in the crossfire. This single act ultimately led to the end of the Pale Wars.
In "Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go," Irisa rescues Elak from being tortured in a Castithan rite as punishment for deserting the battle from the previous episode, even though the rules require that all residents of Defiance be allowed to practice their own native customs unhindered.
Sentient Phlebotinum: The Kaziri artifact, although not directly. Rather, it manifests to certain individuals as something they can relate to (so far manifesting as the late Lucas McCawley to his brother Quentin, and showing up as Irzu (and possibly Sukar) to Irisa).
Shame If Something Happened: While trying to convince Datak to accept his son's relationship with Christie McCawley, Stahma points out that mining is a dangerous job, and if Rafe McCawley and his remaining son were to suffer an accident of some sort, then it would only be right of them to help Christie with the sudden burden of running an entire mining operation.
The Lawkeepers find a dismembered corpse that they cannot identify the gender of. Tommy and Nolan flinch when Irisa tells them it's male because of something she found near a tree.
Shout-Out: To the Twilight movies: Robert Pattinson apparently played the commander of the Bravery 9 in a movie about the disaster, which results in Amanda, Rafe, and Nolan trying to remember whether he played the vampire or the werewolf. Amanda, who was apparently a Twihard in her youth, is able to give the correct answer. Also counts as an Actor Allusion since Graham Green (Rafe) actually had a part in Twilight New Moon..
Walking up to a cliff overlooking fantastic molten lava, about to throw in a MacGuffin for the greater good, but then experiencing great temptation.
Sleeper Ship: The Votan's Arks were launched sometime around the construction of the pyramids, the colonists in "hypersleep" for millennia.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The opening scene of "The Devil In The Dark" has a guy jogging in the woods, listening to nice classical music, all while a Hellbug is crawling through the greenery around him unseen. Only when it actually attacks does the music shift to something appropriately dark and foreboding, at which point it is, of course, too late.
Space Cold War: This is happening between the Earth Republic and the Votanis Collective. Very uneasy truce? Check. Regime Change on a neutral territory? Check. Recruiting war criminals for weapons technology in the manner of Operation Paperclip? Check.
Space Elves: Castithans have the aesthetic. The older Tarrs, with their slightly decadent airs and Machiavellian tendencies come across as Dark Elf types but it's unclear as to whether this is true of the race as a whole. The Irathients arguably are Wood Elf types.
Many of the same people that worked on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica are involved in writing and producing Defiance and have commented on the scripts being just as tight. Bear McCreary is even doing the music. The frontier aspect has also engendered comparisons to Firefly and Farscape. The show was developed by Rockne O'Bannon, who also created Farscape.
Rockne S. O'Bannon was also the writer of Alien Nation and the associated series which featured alien refugees arriving on Earth and assimilating as immigrants. The protagonists were also a human cop and his alien partner.
Stock Legal Phrases: "I take the Fifth" was discussed in "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" by Rafe, Nolan, Amanda, and Gordon. They all decide that among the things lost during the Pale Wars, that amendment was one of the worst things lost. Of course, all parties considered, it would do wonders for their life expectancy to have that protection.
Stranger in a Familiar Land: It's implied at the end of the pilot (and confirmed in the next) that Nolan was from St. Louis before it became Defiance.
Super Soldier: Biomen, complete with a number on their chest and an off-switch.
Terraforming: The Votan Arks contained terraforming technology, which was accidentally released when they all mysteriously exploded during the Pale Wars. Hence why Earth has become something of a Death World as a result.
Tomato in the Mirror: Gordon McClintock learns that he isn't actually Gordon, but an Indogene surgically altered to look human then implanted with the memories of the original Gordon, who was killed by the procedure that took his memories.
Going running alone in the forest with your headphones in? A bit iffy. Doing that after Earth has been terraformed into a Death World? Little surprise he got eaten, although the Hellbug that did it was deliberately set on him.
Alak's friend for agreeing to carry out a plan to shoot Amanda at the debate with a realistic-looking paintball sniper rifle. Alak himself counts for not realizing how utterly idiotic this is.
To the Pain: While stuck in jail, Irisa describes in great detail how she could have escaped and killed Tommy when he says she might as well make conversation while locked up. He responds by asking what the heck is wrong with her.
Town with a Dark Secret: There's something buried beneath Defiance which can supposedly change the world, and interested parties want the town either evacuated or razed so they can find it. One of the tunnels has a bunch of cave paintings depicting an artifact Luke had discovered in the same area, and Quentin's historical research seems to suggest that Votan involvement may stretch back further than anyone knows.
Trigger Happy: Nolan used to be this way, and kind of still is. It's used against him in "Past is Prologue", where Datak arranges the "assassination" of Amanda with a realistic looking paintball gun, counting on Nolan shooting first. The kid he gets to do it is killed, then Datak reveals his bloody war record to make Amanda look bad for supporting him.
Typhoid Mary: Irathients have truly Blessed with Suck immune systems; it's almost impossible for them to get sick, but they often carry numerous diseases without showing symptoms - an entire race of Typhoid Marys. It's the primary cause of prejudice against them. A few years before the series began, Defiance tried to perform immunizations in response to a plague; lacking the other races' history with epidemics, they just responded as you would expect any Proud Warrior Race to when approached with sharp objects - a riot that led most Irathients to avoid Defiance like, well... the plague.
On top of that, if their immune systems are that good, it's possible that they don't even need sepsis to prevent wounds from getting infected - but that would logically lead them to be less culturally concerned with cleanliness.
Under City: The actual St. Louis is mostly intact, buried under a large mass of land created by the terraformers. Other cities are indicated to have just been wiped out, making St. Louis an oddity.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Pretty clearly set up between Nolan and Amanda, which might get interesting since Nolan pretty unabashedly sleeps with her sister even after learning of their relation. "Brothers in Arms" has Kenya break it off with Nolan, though, leaving the path clear for development between him and Amanda.
Villain Team-Up: Datak allies with Colonel Marsh in "Past Is Prologue" in order to discredit Nolan and Amanda and help Datak win the mayoral election. In exchange, the plan is that Datak will give the Earth Republic access to Rafe's mines (with Datak getting a sizable chunk of the profits). Then it turns out Marsh was just using Datak to take over the town and get to the ancient Votan ship buried underneath it. When Datak realizes this, he kill Marsh in a rage.
Villainous Valor: Whatever else he is, Datak shows at the ravine battle that he's no coward (unlike one of his men who flees and who he scorns for it). He shows that he's, if nothing else, a real O-G when he takes on two Hellbugs to protect his family, and when he has one last brawl with Nolan.
Visual Pun: At the end of "A Well Respected Man", Nolan recognizes Stahma as a Lady Macbeth and tells her he now knows how dangerous she really is. She meanwhile, is knitting/weaving a spider-web.
Warrior Monk: Sukar, leader of the Spirit Riders, is something like this. Though a scavenger and a rebel, he is also deeply religious and guides Irisa on a spiritual rite, as seen in "The Devil in the Dark".
Irisa chews out Nolan for assuming her visions to be PTSD after they turn out to be real.
In "Brothers in Arms", Eddie rants at Nolan for getting away clean from the military while he went to prison for stealing a roller and knocking out some MPs so Nolan could escape with Irisa.
This seems to be a running theme with Nolan, as Irisa does this again when Nolan kills Sukar, not knowing that he was trying to save Defiance.
In an example where Nolan actually has some ground to stand on, Tommy gets on his case for his flippant attitude about Hunter Bell's murder, which happened many years earlier. Nolan counters that his job is to keep the peace, and that Hunter Bell obviously had it coming.
What the Hell Is That Accent?: With the exception of Irisa (who was raised by Nolan), the Irathient characters all speak with a vaguely Eastern European-sounding accent, in contrast to the generic American and/or Canadian accents everyone else has.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: A broader version, but Datak's overriding goal in life is getting people to recognize and respect him in any and all circumstances. He's seemingly unaware, chooses to ignore, or believes that him being rather ruthless and feared is enough to be comparable to liked and respected.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ex-Mayor Nicolette Riordon sees herself this way, claiming that while their goals will cost many lives, the survivors will be grateful for the better world that comes as a result. This would probably extend to whoever she's working with/for.
Written by the Winners: Stahma and Datak tell Rafe that Alak valiantly saved Christie from Hellbugs. In actual fact, he was cowering on the floor while she held them off with a flaming torch.
On the other hand, it's unquestionably true that a member of the Tarr family did valiantly save Christie from the Hellbugs - Datak. Rafe may not have forgiven Datak for having put him in a position where he'd have to forgive him.
You Can't Go Home Again: Everyone really. The aliens' homeworlds were wiped out when the sun went supernova, and Earth has been terraformed so haphazardly that virtually nothing remains of the original. As Nolan puts it through Irisa's opening narration in the pilot: "This world has no natives, which means it belongs to everyone."
The Castithans are an albino race who are the most human-looking and among the more attractive of the Votans. The males also wear their hair long. Subverted by Alak and some other Castithan teens, who dye their hair partially or wholly in human hair-colors.
Irathients all have fiery red hair.
The handful of other races we've seen either have no hair or typical human colors.