"When I was a little girl, Nolan liked to say that this world has no natives, which means it belongs to everyone."
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, they can and do affect each other occasionally.After only four episodes, the show was renewed for a second season, which consists 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 a Votan cult to let them tie her to a pillar and have her bitten by poisonous snakes. She was not the only victim, 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. However, before they could finish the ritual, Nolan and his squad broke in, killing the majority of the cultists, including Irisa's parents.
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.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Kaziri's Ark Brain, which poses as Votan gods in order to manipulate and control its followers, and is planning to spare only them when it terraforms the world, killing everything else.
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.
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. In fact, three of Liberata who have appeared on the show (both male and female) were played by Jessica Nichols.
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.
And This Is for...: After Churchill is killed by a Gulanee, Pottinger insists on delivering the killing blow.
Anyone Can Die: Seems to keep killing off main characters, atleast one every season finale, first season we got Kenya and second season, Tommy.
Appeal To Tradition: Datak tried this 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.
Artificial Human: Biomen are, in Nolan's words, killing machines made up of stem cells and spare parts.
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, he 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 Riordan.
Deidre Lamb was a manipulative bitch who tried to ruin a married couple and steal the husband (who she was planning on blackmailing into going along with it). Very few are complaining about her being thrown off the Arch (just Amanda and her co-workers, really).
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...
Ate His Gun: Irisa does this to stop Irzu from making her kill more people. Too bad Irzu isn't inclined to let her stay dead.
Back for the Dead: Daigo reappears in the Season 2 premiere, and ends up gunned down by Nolan for his comments about Irisa.
Olfin Tennety reappears late in Season 2, only to be crushed to death when a section of the mine collapses.
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 is the capital of the Earth Republic. When the terraforming technology decides to get going again in the season 2 finale, guess which city gets to feel the bite first.
Big Bad Ensemble: On the one hand, there's the Earth Republic. On the other, there's the Kaziri and its cult.
Big Creepy-Crawlies: Hellbugs, dog-sized insects that suck the marrow from their prey. Then there's the queen, a house-sized bug factory.
Big Damn Heroes: The Tarrs, of all people, saving Rafe, Berlin and other prisoners from a firing squad of panicked E-Rep soldiers in the Season Two finale. Berlin can only laugh at the absurdity.
Bigger Is Better in Bed: Implied when a hostage-taker tries to guess which of Olfin Tennety's husbands is her favorite, and thus a more useful hostage, by grabbing their crotches.
Bilingual Backfire: Datak insults Christie's cooking in Castithan, unaware (or possibly aware) that she has at least a passable knowledge of the language.
Stahma Tarr as well. She plays the part of the dutiful Castithan wife but secretly plans the murder of Rafe McCawley and subtly implies that she murdered her intended fiance so she could marry Datak.
In the second season, with Datak in jail, Stahma takes over the "business" and rules with an iron fist. And then blames her harsh actions on her son's "weakness" (i.e. compassion). All the more impressive since Castithans are a very patriarchal society.
Then later on she frames a conservative religious figure for murder, and has some wonderfully undertone-laden dialog with Datak afterwards.
Bizarre Alien Biology: Liberata breathe nitrogen instead of oxygen, and can die of oxygen poisoning with similar symptoms to nitrogen poisoning in humans.
Blofeld Ploy: In "Beasts of Burden", Datak wants Alak to pick someone to die as an example to the rest, all of whom betrayed him while in prison. Alak picks himself, so Datak just slashes the throat of one of his mooks.
Blue and Orange Morality: The Votans come across this way to the humans. For instance, the fact that Stahma loves Datak because of his ambition and cruelty is totally incomprehensible to Kenya.
"In My Secret Life" has the shrill bomb. It's an improvised explosive filled with earthworm-like insects. If the explosion doesn't kill whoever's nearby, the bomb-proof bugs will finish the job when they burrow their way into the unfortunate victim.
"The Cord and the Ax" has Irisa blow off the entire left side of her cheek in a suicide attempt, complete with loving shots of the wound as the nanotech within her slowly repairs her.
Bottle Episode: "The Serpent's Egg" is this after the big budget special effects of the last four.
Break His Heart to Save Him: Irisa seems to be trying this in "Doll Parts". She brings up all his past sins in an attempt to drive him off, but Nolan emphatically believes she's being coerced into doing so by the Kaziri. Since she's adamant that not killing him is part of her deal with Irzu, he's probably right.
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.
Datak goads Nolan into a fight in "Past Is Prologue". Note that he does this after he revealed Nolan's unsavory soldier past and knows exactly how much of a badass Nolan is. Needless to say, it did not go well for Datak.
In "Beasts of Burden", Josef holds Nolan at gunpoint in Rafe's house. Rafe asks Nolan not to be too rough on Josef. Before Josef can fully question why Rafe is asking such a thing, he finds himself disarmed and kissing the floor.
Favi Kurr, a Castithan religious fundamentalist, boycotts the gambling hut because Stahma is running it, even though Stahma points out she has a loyal army of hardened criminals with which to retaliate. He sticks to his guns, so Stahma murders his wife and two other women who refused to side with her, then frames him for it.
California Collapse: Los Angeles (now called AngelArc) is no longer a single city, but a series of islands. Since the haywire terraformers were raising mountain ranges in other areas, at least it makes sense this time.
Caught Up in the Rapture: The Kaziri's plot is a technological variation of this. The people Irisa has been infecting are stored within the Kaziri, protected while terraforming technology wipes the Earth clean. Nolan actually refers to it as a "Votan Rapture", explaining the comparison to Tommy.
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.
Also a tumblr called "Defiance News" that posts canon backstories and "news accounts" or journal entries describing the Pale Wars.
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 whose homeworld he currently resides on.
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".
In "That Woman's Work", Nolan and Berlin go from drinking to sex in a single night, but she's doing it to get back at Tommy, so it's not completely out of left field.
Cold-Blooded Torture: In "Slouching Towards Bethlehem", Nolan reluctantly tortures a Votanis Collective agent by having shrill burrow through his limbs one at a time. He doesn't crack.
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 embarrassingly 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.
Cosplay: "This Woman's Work" shows that humans dressing as Votans is apparently an exotic fetish. For extra disturbing points, the two examples shown are Viceroy Mercado and Christie, with the former flirting with the latter. Then "If You Could See Her Through My Eyes" goes and tops it by showing that the really committed cosplayers go the extra mile and pay for stolen Votan organs (corneas, in this case) for that extra bit of realism.
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. This is taken to the point where a Castithan word is translated as "Capo". 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.
Castithans see nothing wrong with parents kissing their children on the lips. In the second season, when Stahma kisses Nolan, everyone instantly understands that she's basically calling him family.
Christie has shown an increasingly harder time with Casti customs. When Stahma attempts the familial kiss on her, she is extremely uncomfortable and refuses. Though given that Stahma may or may not be trying to seduce her (bearing in mind that she's her daughter-in-law), a little awkwardness on her part is warranted.
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. However, they lose points for not trying hard enough (they shot at it once then ignored it), allowing it to go off and destroy them. Although 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, he is brash and impulsive) 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 Riordan 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.
Disney Villain Death: In "Doll Parts", Deidre is thrown from the top of the Arch by Christie in a fight after Christie finds out about her attempts to steal Alak.
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.
The Dog Bites Back: At the end of "Beasts of Burden", Stahma unites Datak's gang against him for the actions he took to reassert control after getting out of jail, beating him senseless and throwing him out on the street.
Domestic Abuse: Kenya's husband, Hunter Bell, beat and possibly raped her before he died.
Double Standard: The show actually averts a number of these, most notably in the second season where both a male and female character talk about their rape experiences and both instances are treated equally seriously.
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.
Irisa tries to take her own life after she gets tired of being forced to kill. Unfortunately for her, it's rather difficult to successfully do this when your body has nanotechnology that can repair most injuries.
Yewll's lover took her life during the Pale Wars, implicitly because she couldn't stomach the experiments they were performing on humans.
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. The second season shows that this isn't typical, however, as Pottinger's Bioman assistant is at the very least reasonably well-educated.
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 Civil War: The E-Rep is not in open civil war, but it is clearly shown to have a far-from-unified policy on anything, including the city of Defiance.
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.
Energy Beings: The Gulanee, who have to wear suits to contain their essence.
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.
He also supports Amanda in a, likely, hopeless defense of the town against the Volge, promising to forgive the debt of anyone who chooses to fight. He could have easily tried to pack up and leave with his family and servants. Indeed, during the battle, he does not hide behind others and does his share of the fighting, calling another Castithan a "shtako coward" for running away.
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.
Ditto for Daigo telling an already pissed-off Nolan what he wants to do with Irisa. Nolan has no problem killing him in front of the guy's wife.
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).
Alak's Blue Devil cook, Skevur, gets beaten so badly for disrespecting him that one of his eyes is hanging out of its socket when he comes to beg pardon.
"If You Could See Her Through My Eyes" is just all over this trope. Jalina gets her eyes taken by a back alley doctor, Rynn loses one of hers to the same, and Datak uses his fingers to gouge the man's eyes out when he catches him.
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.
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.
Fantastic Drug: The first season episode "A Well Respected Man" introduces "Blue Devil", a neurotransmitter enhancing drug developed by the E-Rep during the war for soldiers, one of its ingredients is human adrenaline, in that episode obtained by scaring people and extracting it from their blood. After the E-Rep occupation of Defiance in season 2 many of its citizens have become addicted to Blue Devil sold by the Tarr syndicate, but Alak makes his suppliers use pseudo-epinephrine instead of the real thing.
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
Irathients 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.
Like a mafia don, Datak is determined to maintain a legitimate facade, such as when a poor Castithan runs up to him on the street offering money either for "protection" or a loan repayment, and the usual collector hasn't shown up. Datak's bodyguard nearly breaks the Castithan's arm for such a public display, while Stahma distracts the poor guy's children with some treats, so they don't see their father in this position. Datak orders the man to return home and wait for the collector.
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.
Fingore: Yewll loses a finger when she refuses to cooperate with Pottinger.
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.
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.
Quentin seeing Luke and carrying a conversation with him, despite his brother being dead. Suddenly, Sukar and Irisa seeing their 'god' isn't coming out of left field.
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.
God Is Evil: Irzu, the god of Irathients, seems like it actually just wants to cause death and destruction. Then subverted at the end of season 2 when it's revealed that Irzu is just an alien ship pretending to be a god and it's not evil. It's just continuing the terraforming process it was programmed for.
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. It's later revealed that her pregnancy was a result of her rape by a stranger, but she refused to admit it because it would have damaged her political career.
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 Irathients 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?
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 Alak and Christie expect to produce a child eventually. The two conceive a child by "The Cord and the Ax", set nine months later, though Christie can't be more than a few weeks along at that point.
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 Irathients 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.
In the second season, Irisa cannot tell Nolan what really happened to her at the end of the last season, because the technology inside her will kill him if she does. Nolan eventually forces the issue by slitting her wrist, knowing that she'll heal and thus removing her ability to deny it.
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.
Possibly justified since Nicollete's original plan was apparently for the Volge to have the element of surprise. If the people of Defiance hadn't known the attack was coming the Volge would have been on top of them before they could organize a defense. And in all fairness, the Volge attack probably would have succeeded anyway if it hadn't been for Nolan giving them the Core to create a jury-rigged bomb.
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.
Homeworld Evacuation: The Votan fled their home system before it was destroyed by a rogue star crashing into it.
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.
The series has an accidental example of this; when the Votan Ark ships were destroyed, the terraforming equipment they were carrying fell to Earth and malfunctioned, heavily altering Earth's environment (Antarctica is apparently tropical now) and creating entirely new species of hybrid animals.
In the season 2 finale, the Kaziri tries to terraform the Earth into a paradise for the Votan people. That both the humans and Votans not protected with the Kaziri will be wiped out is of no consequence to it.
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.
Humiliation Conga: "Beasts of Burden" has a band of raiders hijack a convoy which Pottinger is riding with. When he tries to resist, the leader has him strip then urinates on him to let him feel literally what he symbolically does to those below him.
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.
Rafe rationalizes sending away his crazy wife to protect his children as this, since she tried to kill them all with rat poison. Amusingly, when Pilar shows up, she admits he did the right thing.
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.
In "Slouching Towards Bethlehem", the Votanis Collective holds Kenya hostage to get Amanda to break their agent out of E-Rep custody. Ironically, said agent is being coerced to aid in their plot to bomb New York through the same method.
"I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Nolan and Tommy try this with Irisa in "Doll Parts". While she is in there, she can't fight off the Kaziri's influence, except to keep from killing Nolan. Tommy gets a knife to the gut.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Fittingly played straight by the Earth Republic soldiers in the episode "Everything is Broken". Nolan and Irisa even take advantage of this and kill quite a few of them. Although this trope is immediately subverted after Black Jonah shoots Nolan.
Implausible Deniability: Irisa's activities in the second season get increasingly hard for her to explain away, to the point that the only thing Nolan doesn't know about it is the motivation.
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".
Though as Season 2 goes on, she's growing out of it, culminating in Killing Dierdre / Treasure Doll without any apparent remorse. Stahma's influence is clearly getting to her.
In Love with Your Carnage: As Stahma explains to Kenya, she loves Datak because of his cruelty, because it proves his ambition.
Insult Backfire: Nolan tells Stahma that she's a more dangerous snake than her husband. She thinks it's sweet of him to say.
Interrupted Intimacy: In "Beasts of Burden", Irisa walks in on Amanda and Nolan having sex. After telling him why she barged in, Amanda asks if she's heard of knocking. Irisa counters that she was raised by Nolan, which Nolan admits is a valid excuse. This must not be the first time this has happened, because Nolan just goes right back to it before she's left the room.
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 ambiguous.
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.
Lethally Stupid: Josef, Rafe's godson, tries to start an insurrection against E-Rep but he just ends up getting a bunch of people killed, including two of his friends. He also massively pisses off Pottinger and them dumps the entire mess on Rafe's doorstep when Rafe is already under close E-Rep scrutiny. Rafe and Nolan take a great risk to keep him out of E-Rep's hands and get him out of town but he instead makes things worse by kidnapping Berlin. In the end Rafe shoots Josef dead to protect everyone involved from the consequences of Josef's actions. Even this is not enough and Pottinger punishes Rafe for what happened.
Light Is Not Good: Like all Castithans, the Tarrs have white skin and hair and gold eyes. They also consistently 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 Irathients, 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.
Lovable Rogue: Nolan, prior to becoming Defiance's lawkeeper. Deconstructed by Berlin, who explains her reasons for wholeheartedly supporting the Earth Republic, despite its heavy-handedness and police state. She even compares Nolan to Han Solo (calling Irisa his "hot Chewbacca"), but beats him over the head with the argument that this lifestyle doesn't work for most people. Most people would rather have civilization, in any form, rather than lawlessness. For reference, Berlin lost her family during the Pale Wars to a bunch of Votan deserters.
Love Triangle: Between Amanda, Nolan, and Pottinger in the second season. Nolan even lampshades this by saying that he imagines high school, had he not joined the war before that, probably would have been similar.
There's also one between Irisa, Tommy, and Berlin. Berlin seems a little jealous but accepts that Tommy wants nothing to do with her, while Irisa just doesn't talk about it even to Berlin.
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 Riordan 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.
Make It Look Like an Accident: In the season 2 premiere, two kids are arrested and sent to Camp Reverie. On the way, the driver stops to relieve himself and the doors just happen to unlock. The kids take the chance to flee... right into the Hellbug-infested forest. The flurry of coincidences necessary for this to happen is so improbable that even Pottinger, who orchestrated it, makes basically no attempt to deny that it was intentional when Amanda calls him on it.
Mama Bear: When Stahma finds out that Datak burned Alak's hand, she is pissed. At the end of the episode, she rounds up all of Datak's men - none of whom are particularly glad to see their old boss back after he damaged their community's standing - and invites them to beat the living shit out of him.
Christie throws Deirdre off the top of the Arch for trying to slip her an abortificent.
Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Amanda uses this in conversation with Stahma. Stahma, lacking proper context, dismisses the notion that Venus and Mars could have been responsible for Earth's two genders. Amanda clarifies that the phrase boils down to "men are dicks".
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. Later, we find out there is a scientific explanation—she had a Votan artifact 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.
She's now known as Pilar McCawley and will be played by Linda Hamilton in season 2.
Mix-and-Match Critters: Occasionally, characters will make reference to eating a creature called a "pow". While not seen in the show as of season 2, the game establishes pows as hybrids — mutated into existence during the terraforming of Earth — between pigs and cows.
While not a hybrid between alien and Earth creatures (they are evidently imported directly from the Votanis system), Saberwolves look like a cross between a bear and an insect.
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.
More Deadly Than The Male: Castithan culture is heavily misogynistic, with women expected to serve their husbands quietly and loyally while the men run the business and settle blood debts. But there is an unspoken rule: When the men can't or won't do it, the woman steps in and handles it behind the scenes. Stahma apparently tossed her fiance out an airlock to be with Datak, and Christie killed Deidre Lamb when she kept trying to get between her and Alak, including threatening their baby.
Stahma: Once again, the strong Castithan male fails to do what is necessary, and it falls to me to open the airlock door myself!
The Mutiny: The Kaziri was a Votan terraforming ship that was supposed to prepare Earth for Votan colonization. When it arrived in the Solar System it became apparent that Earth already had a primitive indigenous population (humans) living there. The ship's AI was set to go ahead with its mission which would kill off humanity. Some of the crew members opposed this, mutinied and took over the ship, causing it to crash and become buried beneath where St. Louis (and Defiance) would eventually be built.
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.
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 catastrophes.
The two Kaziri are nanomachine colonies, able to merge with a host. They work in much the same way as the Ark brain nanites, but to a much more specific purpose.
The EGO implant from the tie-in game use nanites. Yewll notes that soldiers were known to accidentally receive them when they were hit by fragments of the implants, which would then replicate and form new implants in the host.
Needle in a Stack of Needles: In "Painted From Memory", Datak and Stahma are headed to dig up a body Stahma buried. Stahma tells Datak that she marked the grave with a small patch of flowers. Failing to consider that it's been nearly a year since then, they find that the small patch has since spread over an entire field. They found the grave eventually, but they were digging well into the night.
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 Irathients 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 Irathients fought back. The survivors became Spirit Riders and the relationship between Irathients 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 gaping holes in it.
No, Except Yes: When Stahma reveals that Berlin smells like Nolan in front of Tommy, he asks if the two are dating. She balks at the idea, but adds that they are having plenty of sex.
The Nose Knows: Castithans have a heightened sense of smell, evidently good enough that both Stahma and Alak can smell Christie's pregnancy. Christie ends up getting this as a side-effect of her pregnancy, at least enough to smell that her drink is poisoned.
Not Himself: Irisa in the tail end of Season 2, as she falls completely under the Kaziri's influence, becomes a Dark Messiah. Once Cai absorbs one of the key artifacts from her, she's freed and returned to normal.
In "A Well Respected Man", Amanda and Nolan confront Datak suspecting him of abducting Kenya. Datak denies it, as it was apparently too subtle. For bonus points, he practically confesses to the murder of Elah Bandik.
Datak: When I wish to send a message, I rarely leave it unsigned. It's hubris plain and simple. A character flaw, but one my wife seems to enjoy.
He gets it again in "If You Could See Her Through My Eyes", Stahma thinks Datak paid Favi Kurr to boycott Stahma's businesses. He however points out Favi Kurr is far too noble to be bribed, and he wasn't involved in this.
The entire Tarr family gets this in "Doll Parts", with all three assuming one of them must have been responsible for Deidre Lamb's murder. Both Datak and Stahma end up agreeing that Alak wouldn't have the guts to do it, and Stahma bursts out laughing when she realizes it was Christie.
Rafe and Datak really aren't all that different. Rafe just knows when to control his temper.
Nolan and Yewll actually have a lot in common, both trying to do better after a life of sins they'd rather forget.
Nolan and Pottinger are both cocky, Genre Savvy charmers who act like tough guys to hide their vulnerabilities. Pottinger is just a little slimier and more petty.
Nolan and the Votanis Collective agent have this in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem". The latter even thinks they could have been good friends if they weren't on opposite sides. Nolan won't go that far, but admits he wouldn't mind him as a drinking buddy.
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,
Organ Theft: "If You Could See Through My Eyes" has a surgeon ripping out Votan eyes to make contact lenses for interspecies cosplayers.
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, and at another he uses "shtako from shinola", which implies a fair amount of language drift (both human and alien alike) due him being essentially a 2nd generation immigrant.
In "Doll Parts", Tommy actually says "Holy Shit", showing that classic human swears are still used.
According to background material, most of the common Votan swear words are Liberata in origin.
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.
Phlebotinum Breakdown: In "Put the Damage On", Amanda, Pottinger, and Yewll are infected with malfunctioning EGO devices. While the ones in the game may be entirely helpful, broken ones torment the host with traumatic visions before eventually killing them.
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 lest Datak 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. It is, however, vaguely implied in the backstory and lore (and thought by fans) to be something more sinister. Nobody can agree on what, though.
Earth was supposed to be this for the Votan fleet. Unfortunately they didn't realize that Earth was already inhabited, apparently having failed to detect any traces of Human civilization. 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.
Rape as Backstory: Pottinger reveals that he was gang-raped by Votan soldiers to Amanda, who then tells him of her own attack so that he'll know he's not alone, which he seems to be genuinely touched by.
In the next episode, their past experiences become part of the visions caused by the malfunctioning EGO devices.
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...
In the video game, fighting a Gulanee is just another boss battle. The series, however, shows what it's like to deal with such a thing when you don't have an experimental EGO or fantastic futuretech weaponry that might not be out of place in Borderlands.
In the second season finale, Berlin arrives at Camp Reverie to find the panicked guards executing prisoners. Berlin relieves the Sergeant in charge of his command and assumes control of the situation. The much bigger, armed, and pissed off Sergeant simply whacks her with his billy club and continues the executions, putting her in the next batch.
Recycled INSPACE: As the writers have fully acknowledged, it's an immigrant story WITH ALIENS!!! (the extraterrestrial kind)
Reverse Mole: the entire plot of "The Lost Ones" web series turns out to hinge on this, as Nolan gets Daigo's location from his "captor."
Rousing Speech: Amanda gives one in the pilot to convince the town to stay and fight the Volge.
Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Most of the Voton races, with the most blatant being either the Irathients and Castithans. In fact, Rubber Forehead would be generous... Irathients and Cassthians just have makeup, wigs and contact lenses!
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. Unfortunately, Datak convinces Elak that he must die to atone for his actions. Datak then dumps the body outside the lawkeeper's office.
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.
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.
Blue Devil might be a Breaking Bad reference, with the color and sharing an ingredient note adrenaline, pre-apocalypse the synthetic form is widely available in over the counter decongestants with methamphetamine.
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.
Space Jews: The Liberata used to control the banking system for the Votans, and were quite ruthless about it. However, when the banking system ceased to exist, most of them became domestic workers instead.
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.
Stealth Insult: A curious case. Nolan refers Berlin as "Barbie" a few times. This being After the End, she has no idea what a barbie even is. She eventually asks him to explain what a barbie is, so she can "decide if she should kick his ass for her calling her one."
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.
In "Bottom of the World", Rafe takes the blame for a plot to assassinate Pottinger and Tennety to keep Quentin out of jail. He also took the heat for a whole lot of stockpiled weapons, but he was actually guilty of that. Nolan realizes what he's doing, but understands and doesn't interfere.
In "Doll Parts", Stahma convinces a terminally-ill Castithan to admit to the murder of Deidre Lamb in exchange for taking his daughter on as a handmaiden since she'd be orphaned upon his death. Amanda, currently the deputy because Nolan and Irisa are busy, sees right through it but can't exactly prove otherwise since he has the murder weapon.
Nolan is frequently on the receiving end of these, not that he lets it get to him. He gets one from Berlin that's actually pretty on-the-nose, where she accuses him of actually liking the post-apocalyptic wasteland because it lets him live out his childhood cowboy fantasies. Irisa gives him a brutal one at the end of "Doll Parts", accusing him of turning her into a murderous sociopath as a child and disguising it as fatherly love. Nolan doesn't buy this one, though, since he's pretty convinced she's being coerced into saying it.
Quentin gets one in "Bottom of the World." His mother does this after he crows about setting his father up, and she tells him that his daddy issues blinded him to the truth about why his father agreed to Taking the Heat.
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.
The Kaziri was sent ahead of the Ark fleet to arrive 3000 years before and prepare the planet for the Votans. They were expecting a barren planet rather than a world that not only had life but sapient life.
There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Yewll tells Datak there are two kinds of friends: ones that will help you hide a dead whore, and her. A subtle jab at the fact that his friends currently number at two.
Thrown Out the Airlock: Datak's romantic rival. "Accidentally", of course. Stahma pretty much admits that she did it to Alak in the season 2 pilot, when Alak shows he doesn't have the balls to run Datak's business, forcing Stahma to take over.
Together in Death: While suffering from visions generated by a malfunctioning implant, Yewll's dead lover tries to convince her to do this. Yewll doesn't go for it, being more dedicated to her responsibility in Defiance than her past guilt.
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.
Rafe's godson is... not exactly a paragon of foresight and good decision-making.
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.
Resolved as of season two, at least until he locks her up so she won't interfere with his plans to sacrifice her sister, and then, several episodes later, she locks him up so he won't interfere with her plans to sacrifice his daughter. I know, right?
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. Meanwhile, she 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.
Nolan gives one of these to Amanda in the season 2 finale, when his plan to save Irisa is rejected for a plan that will kill her but also definitely work, as opposed to his running off a theory.
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 Riordan 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.
See Downer Ending above for how the first season finale qualifies.
In the second season finale, Tommy dies from his wounds, leaving Berlin distraught and putting away as much alcohol as she can manage. New York is destroyed by ark terraforming technology, which could be a huge destabilizing factor for the E-Rep. Several other cities are also destroyed, including at least one in the Votanis Collective. The technology is stopped by pointing it into space, destroying the remaining ark fragments. Finally, Nolan and Irisa are frozen inside one of the Kaziri's pods, along with all the others Irisa podded up while she was being controlled by it.
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, followed by Datak doing the actual killing. Both probably thought better of trying to put Rafe in a position where he might feel indebted to him, and it earned points for Alak.
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 of white-haired beings 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 white hair partially or wholly in human hair-colors. Doing so, Alak invoke this for their own race as human hair colors to them would be like blue hair to us.
Irathients all have fiery red hair.
The handful of other races we've seen either have no hair or typical human colors.
You Have to Have Jews: Cai is an Irathian Jew. He was orphaned as a baby and raised by a human Jewish couple. He works as a lawyer.