Defying Gravity (“Kiss”)

Season 1, Episode 13
Date of airing: October 23, 2009 (Space)

I don’t know whether I’m happy or not that the show was over for good after this episode. I don’t know if I could have handled everything that was intended to come following this episode, according to James Parriott. I don’t know if the show would have kept the mixture of partially hard science-fiction and esoteric storytelling with religious undertones, which made this one and only season such an interesting television drama. Because this episode kind of showed a downturn in that regard, as the narrative became something else with the collection of the Gamma object. It became an object filling in the blanks of your very own miracle slash fantasy. It became a life saver, as it kept alive Zoe for long enough to join the Beta object on the Antares. It became a plot device to the astronauts’ changing genomes, which by this point could mean anything, but will definitely mean that Zoe was fated to survive the experience of being almost fried to death on this hellish planet called Venus. It becomes the way for writers to explain things happening on the show, whether it makes sense or not, and all of this begins with Paula’s miracle was being filled in with the cold hard facts of her being sexually abused. Not that the objects weren’t guilty of uncovering most of the characters’ back stories already, but it seemed quite convenient that the Gamma object would show Paula what memories she has been repressing, and it’s convenient that those memories would have served to become the plot device in her character arc. And with that, the writers would have used the fractal objects more often for sudden changes in character development, whenever the writers were having a great idea and needed to get it into the show pronto.

Jen is having a meaningless conversation with a planet.

It was an intriguing hour for television, but I think that is only the case for the few dozen people who have come to adore this show and its characters, the story and its mysteries, the esoteric mixed with religion and fate. It’s intriguing, because something was off during the narrative, and something made the experience watching it kind of weird. Four episode ago we got to learn what Beta really was, and the writers decided to focus on the mystery of it all. But it was still not explained what the objects really want from humanity, and thanks to the early cancellation of the show, it will never be explained whether humanity is about to embark to its darkest hour, to its more difficult life. The comparisons of Zoe carrying Gamma to Crossbow, and Paula and Evram talking about Job were definitely punching their way through the episode, and you can certainly say that DEFYING GRAVITY is something of an adaptation of God’s trials for Job, but that wasn’t really part of the show’s narrative before the Venus landing, yet it happens to be the main reason for the objects’ existence after the Venus landing. As a non-believer I don’t have a problem with religion in scripted programming, but when it becomes the main focus, then there might be a chance of the show losing itself – especially when the writers were about to marry the hard science of this science-fiction show with the religious subtones of some of the characters, as well as their explanations of the objects’ existence. I don’t know if we would have come to accept this kind of show, and I don’t know if it would have been the death of it, if it had survived another run or two.

She’s coming with their baby boy.

With all that in mind, the episode continued to focus on Zoe and Donner, kind of making this episode part 2 of the two-part season finale. It’s noticeable with the flashbacks, which continued right where they left off at the end of the previous episode, as if there wasn’t a cut at all. The thing is just, the episode focused a little too heavily on Zoe and Donner. Again I wondered if their relationship was the one to rule them all, and if the other characters were a little less interesting and important in comparison. Paula’s miracle moment was placed at the end of the episode, Jen was between yes and no when it came to “Can she at least see the Gamma object?”, Nadia was emotional, and with that Florentine Lahme became a bit worse in her portrayal of the character (or it might just be the fact of her, as a Native German, acting in another language), and the rest of the character pool wasn’t at all developed. It was all just Zoe and Donner. It was all that one relationship, which happened to be working since the beginning of the show, and maybe the writers noticed, so that’s why they gave those two lovebirds the season send-off.

But hey, at least Donner’s realization that he was a father for a few seconds worked to perfection. His face, the quick flashbacks to “Bacon”, and his decision to stick around until Zoe is in the lander, or else he will perish on this hell planet like Zoe, who, by a miracle, did not stumble over her feet and fell down, making it much harder for her to continue walking. You know, that scene in SUNSHINE that had Capa flipping out inside his Kenny-style suit, while the clock of payload separation was running out.

Every miracle is filled with holes of reality.

Best part of the episode: Paula’s reaction to her narration of the fairytale, right after Wassenfelder lowered the camera, signaling the end of the broadcast. It’s almost like she was about to break out in tears for sort of having gone against her belief here.
Worst part of the episode: Zoe was 100 meters out. Next cut, she seemed close to the lander. Next cut, her suit had a breach. Next cut she stumbled onto the lander. How fast did she manage to go those 100 meters?
Weirdest part of the episode: What exactly was it that made this finale so anticlimactic and underwhelming in hindsight? I don’t know what it is, but it makes for a weird viewing. It probably would have made for a weird second season, because in a way, this episode was defining the rest of the show.
Player of the episode: Gamma wins this round, for successfully leading Zoe to it, and back to the lander. That fractal object really wanted to be saved, and it did all that it could.

Defying Gravity (“Venus”)

Season 1, Episode 12
Date of airing: October 16, 2009 (Space)

Please buckle up now and prepare for the landing, as this plane is going down on Venus right now. When you look out the window, you can see it’s a stuffed and hot day on this planet. Clouds are forming above you that will constantly give you thunder and flashes, so beware of electrocution. Also watch out that you don’t fall to the surface, otherwise you will have it hard to get back up. Move as slowly as possible to preserve energy, and as soon as you walked your 20 minutes, please get back into the airlock immediately. Other than that, have a fantastic day on Venus, the planet from hell.

286 meters between the reality and a pre-recorded fake mission on Venus, just to keep the humans on Earth happy and not flipping out over God or the devil directing the Antares mission. And with Zoe now walking the distance between the reality and the created story, things should be getting pretty ugly in the season finale, especially since Paula, who is narrating the Venus mission, will have to juggle between looking at the screen of Zoe going for Gamma, and narrating the screen with the fake Venus rock collecting mission – which by itself is already hard for someone who believes she is dealing with something evil down on Venus. This almost is a story deserved of a two-hour finale, but it’s clear that you can’t just fill an entire hour with the Venus landing itself (although I would have loved to watch that), and there still needs to be a narrative. And honestly, there isn’t much of a narrative with only Zoe walking on Venus, Donner watching her and talking to her, the crew of Antares sitting there in panic mode, watching it all, while Paula is in the middle of being a news presenter here, trying to decide whether to tell the fake story, or just go with the truth. All that is quite a premise to work with for the season finale. Once more I am disappointed that the show never managed to pick up viewers, because I would have loved for the depiction of the other landings. Especially Mercury. According to James Parriott, Nadia was supposed to land on the terminator of the planet, and that by itself is a scientifically awesome premise. Put in one of the fractal objects, and the whole thing turns into a thriller.

Would you like to compare continuity with the episode “Rubicon”?

Anyway, this was a great episode. Lots of emotion, lots of drama, and even a little bit of thrill, because you never knew where the story is about to go. Was the Venus landing enough of a finale premise for the writers, or did they think that revealing the objects to the world through Paula’s live presentation on the ship was also a potentially good final point to the season? Was the changing of the astronauts’ genomes good for more than just Evram and Claire connecting over a shared secret, or is it going to be the beginning of an entirely new storyline, two-folded (changing astronauts, and Claire revealing mission secrets to those who aren’t supposed to know)? Is the addition of the Gamma object on Antares going to change anything? After all, two fractal objects being neighbors on the ship should maybe mean something.

The emotional level of this episode was surprisingly high. There is this whole spiel of Zoe being ejected from the ISO program five years ago, obviously making you ask the question how she became part of the program again and who had to exit in her place (Arnel, most likely, as he lost a leg in-between). I never considered that a flashback story could still work in surprises like that, as Zoe’s eject from the program was unexpected, and added a great character arc to the show, even though you know where that character arc will end up. And as it turned out, Zoe’s eject from the program led to her relationship with Donner being levelled up as well. It seemed like they shared more emotions and love with each other while Zoe was post eagle, and maybe that’s exactly what is going to be important after Zoe and Donner come back from Venus. They shared their love five years ago, and maybe it’s this kind of love that will save them.

A happy moment with two astronauts, looking at the symbol of America and freedom.

Besides that, the chemistry between Zoe and Donner was magnetic. I was already sobbing in my mind during Donner’s “It’s not gonna be the same around here without you,” and things got even worse from here, considering Zoe’s giving up on her constant rejection of Donner, and just inviting him to her bed, knowing that this will be the end of their story, according to her. That’s almost a cute romantic story, and it’s definitely an interesting way to tell a romantic storyline on a television drama. One loves the other, the other might not love the one, ut they keep themselves on a distance, because they know one wrong move might ruin everything. I don’t really know what makes the romance to captivating, but Ron Livingston and Laura Harris might be two of the more important reasons. Seeing them together gives me life.

The whole episode being mostly about Zoe and Donner’s relationship, you might almost forget that the former was cut from the program, and the latter is about to drive the former to the surface of Venus. You might also forget that they are there to pick up Gamma, which the writers had to nicely remind us of by constantly mentioning it, least alone having Paula in the story to remind us all that she is supposed to lie for ten minutes in front of the whole world. Well, I hope she knows how to do that, and she picked up some pointers from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, because I can’t imagine for religious people to easily start lying like that, even though it should be easier when the fate of the world is at stake. You can easily glance over the fact that this is still an ensemble drama show, and not just a big fat romance novel. I don’t quite know if that is good or bad writing though. I guess you’re allowed to bring that every once in a while, but the way DEFYING GRAVITY has been making the Zoe/Donner relationship a mainstay makes me wonder…

Welcome to Venus, the hell of the solar system!

Best part of the episode: I am a space nerd, so everything around the Venus landing gave me spacegasms. If I ever get to see the real-life Mars landing on television (and I hope the crew will transmit every second of it), I will be so in, and hopefully so without all the narrating voices around it.
Worst part of the episode: There always is a bad thing about every episode, but this time I have it a little harder to come up with one. Maybe it’s Ted for not showing up to help Zoe move, even though his girlfriend asked him to (probably). Maybe it’s the fact that Zoe had five hours to kill before her train leaves, and she thinks that’s enough time to get a tattoo. Maybe it’s the inconsistency of the ascans’ names between the preliminary ranking from “Rubicon”, and the 20 names that are left on the first screencap, which weirdly have Donner and Ted’s names excluded.
Weirdest part of the episode: I guess the press room doesn’t have a live feed to the happenings on the mission control floor? Because if so, they immediately would have picked up on something going on, after all of the ground crew was disappointed and mad that Donner didn’t land closer to the specified target.
Players of the episode: Ron Livingston and Laura Harris can share their award for Most Working Chemistry Between Two Cast Members in a Television Show Cancelled After the First Season.

Defying Gravity (“Solitary”)

Season 1, Episode 11
Date of airing: October 9, 2009 (Space)

The writers knew how to keep themselves close to one of the targets of the show’s journey through the solar system. Antares is already in orbit of Venus, and if the show would have been renewed for a second season, I can imagine Antares would have been in orbit of Venus for additional episodes, simply because Venus is the first target of the crew, the first target of the mission, and the first real effort to bring some solar system science into the show, for the writers to turn the narrative into an educational hour (or hours) about Venus. If I had been part of the writers’ room of DEFYING GRAVITY, I would have pitched that science lesson to James Parriott and the producers, and maybe the Venus landing could have turned the show from a somewhat esoteric science-fiction soap opera to a science-fiction drama with scientific elements. DEFYING GRAVITY is already surprisingly grounded for a science-fiction show, has a few elements of hard science in it, but with me in the writers’ room, I would have expanded on the hard science. And going hard on the science during planetary orbits and storytelling would make for a highlight of the show’s season, whenever Antares is in orbit. Even more so after I’ve read that if and when the show had gotten to Mars, most of the season would have been set in orbit or on the planet.

A romantic coupling for only one or two scenes, because another man needs to be held back.

This episode was essentially a teaser of things to come. Antares is in Venus orbit, the preparation for the Venus landing has been ongoing, and the characters are on edge, both emotionally, and probably even physically, when you take a look at Donner during the simulations, and how he pretty much had two strains of sweat rolling down the side of his face, when Zoe joined him in the lander. Nobody of us can’t even imagine how freaking hard it must be for a pilot to steer the plane or a spaceship towards its target – it makes me wonder how much salty fluids Neil Armstrong lost during the Gemini 8 mission, let alone his decision to fly over that one crater of the Moon, because the perfect landing spot for Apollo 11 was on the outskirts of said crater. Those scenes in FIRST MAN were killer, and I wouldn’t mind seeing similar scenes like that on DEFYING GRAVITY. Well, there is at least one episode to showcase Donner’s piloting skills, and how close he lands on target, or how far off he comes.

And I loved those preparation moments of the Venus landing, since it gave the characters time to develop their own arcs. For once in her life, Nadia was not the hardcore woman we came to love and appreciate. No, she broke down in the shower after the sensory deprivation test, and she was terrified on Antares, because of what (who) she saw, and how easy it is for Donner and Zoe to get lost on Venus, all while she still hasn’t gotten any answers about what the fractal objects want from her. After eleven episodes, it’s quite the timing for Nadia to become a real character in this show and develop a field of emotions, making her more of a relatable character – at least for the women viewers of the show, who maybe might not have appreciated Nadia’s quite masculine behavior during the first batch of episodes. But how am I supposed to know what women were thinking of a particular character in a specific science-fiction show not more than three million people have watched or can remember?

The wettest of all emotional breakdowns.

Because of all the preparations for the Venus landing, there was some extra time left for the flashbacks to five years ago, which developed some steam after not being purposely followed up on during the previous two episodes. Jen had an entire story in here, Wassenfelder went through his comedic moments, Zoe and Donner had a quiet moment of friendship and partnership that doesn’t need to end in sex, and while Nadia got her first real share of character depth, the relationships of Jen and Rollie, as well as Evram and Claire, were teased upon, in addition to Evram’s alcoholism being depicted for the first time here. The question still remains though, whether Evram started drinking around this time, during the first year of training, or if he was already addicted to the bottle way before that, and if it started shortly after he couldn’t save the girl in the rubble. Judging by how quickly Evram got away from Claire during the final moments of the episode, it can be said that he was already a full-blown alcoholic here, making me wonder why the ISO never saw that coming. I guess Evram went dry for as long as it took for blood tests to make him a viable candidate? But then he wasn’t really an alcoholic back then, was he…

Paula’s back story was also given a lot of spotlight, and by now it’s really obvious (thanks to Evram’s out-loud thinking) that something is still hidden within Paula’s mind, although focus has to be given to Evram’s realization that Paula isn’t hiding another truth, she has been repressing it. Which means there is a whole lot of emotional Paula coming up, when she learns what really happened to her, and what preceded her miracle with Hector. It might be predictable where the story goes from here, but I am appreciative towards how she is reacting, and where she goes to for consolidation, when she couldn’t hold back her emotions. Not that I am a big Paula/Wassenfelder shipper, but Paula finding solace with Wassenfelder makes him a much better character, and it would develop him towards becoming a more important figure on the Antares – if not for the sake of the mission, then maybe for the sake of one or two characters.

You’re not even landing on Venus just yet, and you’re already leaking salty liquids.

Best part of the episode: Step by step, the writers paint a picture of what Earth in the 2050s was really like. Abortion most likely illegal, because Zoe had to sneak around to get the pill, and lets not forget the whole secrecy thing, when she had the abortion. And during this episode, Wassenfelder mentioned sleeping “through World War Four”, and Rollie was scared to land for a guaranteed two and a half decades in jail because of vehicular manslaughter. The episode “Bacon” also had a gunshot victim coming in, with the doctors proclaiming they haven’t had one in a while. The Antares mission is the sole focus of the show, but with each episode, there is a tiny bit of what Earth is like, and it’s an interesting way to do some world-building.
Worst part of the episode: Ted was a crappy boyfriend in this episode, leaving Jen out to dry to take care of herself during the sensory deprivation test. How can he disrespect an attractive woman like Jen and not take care of her emotional needs, let alone not realize that she has emotional needs?
Weirdest part of the episode: No one took in Wassenfelder during his life and told him that his sexism and misogyny was showing? It’s a good thing Zoe was there to tell him off, but no one else was?
Player of the episode: Nadia, but not because of her back story delivery, or the fact that she was terrified. But when she was at the control panel while Donner repeated the simulation over and over, failing over and over, she kept her cool, was not annoyed, and didn’t tell him to just quit it and move on. She was as professional as Donner was wanting to ace the simulation. Then again, the scene wasn’t much about Nadia, right?

Defying Gravity (“Deja Vu”)

Season 1, Episode 10
Date of airing: October 2, 2009 (Space)

When I almost start crying at the end of the tenth episode of a television drama, does it mean I really love the show, that I am connected to the characters, and that I am invested in the events unfolding on the small screen? Or is it just because the editing of the episode was splendid, and the music happened to hit the right marks when it comes to emotional manipulation? I’m pretty sure the final scene with Sharon’s “The sky is red, Donner” would have been less emotional with the slow guitar song, but it was accompanied by an acoustic song with an emotional punch in it (is it obvious that I am too lazy to google what song was played?), and the scene itself was delivered with an emotional punch. Knowing that DEFYING GRAVITY was a show that crashed and burned with audiences hurts even more now, especially after this episode, which managed to get me involved more with the characters, all while those characters live crazy lives right now. A lot has changed since the revelation in the previous episode, and it shows in the narrative: Jen uncouples herself from everyone, Arnel is falling apart like a house of cards over the sacrifice he made during training, Paula is seeing the devil in disguise, Rollie has probably killed a woman, Nadia’s don’t-care attitude is being shattered by the fact that the universe doesn’t care about giving her answers to the many questions she has (how about them apples, Nadia?), and in the meantime, the suits at the ISO mission control are about to fear the inevitable leak of Beta to the public.

Under an orange sky, hallucinations will give you tears and nightmares.

And the latter was only one of the stories being introduced in this episode, which could have enriched future seasons, if they would have ever existed. Granted, Arnel’s insecurity about what happened to him, and whether Trevor successfully gets the big Antares secret out of him, has already been part of the narrative in the previous episode, but this hour made it more obvious than ever. Not only was it shown what exactly Arnel sacrified, and why he had to sanctify his leg, when he was never even supposed to be on the mission in the first place, but his get-together with Claire, Ajay and Rollie showed that he might not be the only one currently thinking negatively about the Antares mission, or how it will change everything for the worse. Rollie has already sort of lost his wife to all that, Ajay is probably still in the middle of finding his place and fate with the ground control crew (after all, he should be equally disappointed and angry like Arnel, since they both never had a shot at being part of the mission), and Claire is carrying the weight between the ones at ISO who run the mission, and those on the floor of mission control, essentially carrying twice the weight to keep an eye on the mission, while also keeping the secrets she still has to keep, even though mission control knows about Beta already (but they will never know everything, right?). Ten episodes into the show, and the characters are being tortured with a changing environment, a world that is different now.

I found it intriguing that this episode decided to forego the flashbacks from five years ago, and instead went even further back in time, straight to the failed Mars mission ten years ago. And it was not just intriguing, as it was also a perfect opportunity to enrich that back story of the show after the Beta reveal in the previous episode. Back then Donner already asked himself and Eve that the failed Mars mission was about picking up Alpha, and back then the viewer might have realized already that the mission failed, because Donner wasn’t the one at Sharon’s side. The way this show has treated fate so far, it seems obvious that Zoe and Donner are the central couple of the universe, and that the fractal objects want them to run the show and no one else. It’s why the Mars mission failed according to Donner, and it’s what the viewers learned with this episode. Hence Paula’s crash in the Venus lander, just to show that she was indeed never intended to fly the lander – she was sick when the first test of the Venus lander was scheduled with Zoe, and Zoe tested the lander with Donner. Paula lost her thumb, just to make sure she won’t be in full and complete health by the time the Venus landing comes around, simply because Beta and Gamma wanted Zoe and Donner. In a way, it wanted Donner with the love of his life by his side, making me wonder whether Zoe was “fated” into the ISO program, simply because Donner needed another love of his life. Does it mean Zoe was always destined to be with Donner, after Sharon was left behind on Mars? Did Zoe’s life change completely after that failed Mars mission? Did something tell her to go for ISO and the Antares mission after the failure of the Mars mission? Does Beta’s reach go that far?

Oh, by the way, there was a general election happening in this episode.

Besides all that, seeing Sharon having hallucinations, without fully seeing or hearing them, looked interesting as well. After ten episodes, we finally get to see what it looked like for Wassenfelder and Jen up there, who did not have had a hallucination, and who had to witness their colleagues and friends going nuts while experiencing hallucinations. For the first time in the show we got to see what it’s like to witness an astronaut colleague potentially going crazy through hallucinations. Still, the writers couldn’t hold back here and had Donner know what Sharon probably saw and heard back then. Who knows, maybe she did tell him, but maybe he just deduced it all, now that he knows what hallucinations around the fractal objects are all about.

Meanwhile, Jen, Paula and Nadia went through their own emotional minefield, with each believing in a different way why they think that they are unworthy of the mission, or even see Beta as a threat to their jobs or livelihoods. I especially appreciated that Jen was put front and center during this episode, as she has always been sort of the background star of the show, only being put to the front, when the scene needed an attractive woman in her 30s, or when the viewers needed to be reminded that there are two married people on the Antares, and both their spouses have been left behind on Earth. And Paula specifically taking the devil’s word in her mouth could also show that the writers were very much interested in depicting the religious side of the journey through the solar system. Now that we’re all wondering whether the fractal objects are God or not, it’s only fair to have one of the main characters carry the position of a believer.

Arnel’s story got a little deeper and emotional with this screencap.

Best part of the episode: The flashbacks from five years ago were replaced by the Mars flashbacks, and I didn’t even miss what was not going on five years ago. In fact, this is the second episode in a row, during which the flashbacks from five years ago didn’t add anything to the character arcs. That makes you think whether the flashbacks were really necessary to begin with. And they were.
Worst part of the episode: Nadia’s change of heart in piloting the ship after she came to learn about the objects came out of nowhere, and didn’t really fit with the nature of her character. Okay, maybe her “fuck ‘em and street ‘em” attitude is also being accompanied by a fussy attitude, but she kind of went on strike without asking the more specific questions, and then went back to work without her mind ever being radically changed.
Weirdest part of the episode: Wassenfelder wins this award, because I have no idea what’s going through the kid’s mind right now. Maybe he can finally deliver something to this mission, how that his theoretical physics and mathematics come to play, but he built a structure and he didn’t even explain it. Did the writers know what the straws and dental floss with some tomatoes were going to be in this episode?
Player of the episode: Lana Gilchrist is crush material. She has been given a pretty minor role in this show, but when she was also given a back story to her character, she delivers. Besides, she is kind of my type, so there is that. I am wondering whether she would have continued to be part of the show, if it had been renewed past the first season, as her Mars story might have not been finished with Donner and Ted’s liftoff ten years ago.

Defying Gravity (“Eve Ate the Apple”)

Season 1, Episode 9
Date of airing: September 18, 2009 (CTV)

Many answers, a new back story, a third timeline, and a pair of characters pushed to the front of the Antares storyline, whom you were expecting to always be in the background. At least there is a reason why journalist Trevor and ground control member Arnell have been in front of the camera every once in a while. The scene they shared near the end is the prologue to an entirely new storyline about to uncouple itself from the Antares mission. Meanwhile, Jen’s inability to see the object (no answer is given whether she can hear the interstellar singing, or is unable to do that as well) highlights a character arc that has been teased previously, but is now about to be fired up. And all this while the revelation of the Beta object changes the show’s narrative (albeit not really), the characters’ interactions with each other, and essentially the goals for them, as well as their fates. To think that only four more episodes exists almost hurts my feelings, because the show really managed to pick up steam now. It’s about to change, and there are only four episodes left.

And the thing is, this episode feels like a slight reboot, even though it absolutely isn’t. Beta has always been the back story of the Antares mission, but the characters did not know about it, therefore they were living their lives and executing their mission like nothing was changing them in the background, like nothing was directing them. But Beta has been changing the genome of the astronauts, as it was also directing the mission from its little hiding place in Nevada, and who knows how long it has been on the Antares before the Venus burn (although when Donner and Ajay were communicating about what’s in storage, and who put the pod up there, it was mentioned that the corporation Eve works with loaded it up at the last second). Still, it has been directing everything that has been going on ever since it was found in the desert in Peru. This object really must have patience, although things might be a little easier when you’re able to communicate with your kind, even though you’re planets away. It’s certainly convenient.

Jen has her very own experience with the Beta object.

Jen’s inability to see the object is definitely interesting. She helped give birth to Rufus the bunny a few episodes ago, knowing that she will have to keep herself busy getting her mind “on Rollie and off Ted.” She mentioned in that same episode she would be lonely, and it turns out she is quote lonely now, as she seems to be the only one unable to see Beta. Things will be getting weird and horrible for her, because she doesn’t know what everyone else will be talking about, what they will be connecting over, and all this will turn into an even bigger nightmare for Jen, for as long as she is keeping her secret a secret. Besides that, her decision to cut the fractal tomatoes makes for a good way to create a crazy person on the Antares, “seeing things” and “hearing vices”, even though in this case Jen neither sees things nor hears voices or sounds, while everybody else can, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be any less of a crazy person in the future. But would that crazy element in her character arc turn into an act of desperation at one point? Is that going to be her destination?

Mistakes are being made again, and Donner is the only one realizing it.

Explaining the hallucinations was also a good move, and associating those hallucinations with deep guilt was an even greater move to explain what the characters are dealing with when they aren’t part of the action right now. It seemed obvious already that the characters were facing their fears and failures with the hallucinations (Donner’s inability to save Sharon Lewis and Jeff Walker, Evram’s inability to save the girl in the rubble, Zoe giving up on the life inside her, the death of Paula’s dog, Ted and the unsuccessful Mars mission), but that still doesn’t explain Nadia’s hallucination, or why Jen and Wassenfelder never had one. Okay, with Jen you could tell yourself that not having hallucination was an additional part of the mission she can’t connect with her friends over, but the other two still stand. All this does tend to show that the writers knew what they were doing from the beginning. They knew the deeper meaning of the hallucinations, and they knew how to connect them to the Beta object and therefore the overall mystery arc. Although the question remains why Beta wanted the characters to constantly relive their deepest shame and guilt over past events in their life. Is it really about overcoming something? Is it about hitting rock-bottom at life, which is the only way to save the objects? Is it about turning into the person you are supposed to be when recovering the objects?

A little piece of music for the universe.

Best part of the episode: Paula did a Mantis during the flashbacks, when Mike Goss told the ascans to be extra smiley to the sponsors. Mantis put her mean face on in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR when asked, Paula put her special smile on when asked.
Worst part of the episode: All those lies. Finally those are being lifted by the truth, and yet a new lie was created. Jen, have you not come to realize that maybe opening up and not keeping secrets is best right about now?
Weirdest part of the episode: It seemed quite convenient that everybody on the floor at ISO was given a better and bigger security clearance, now that they have come to witness what the mission really is about. I guess all the other mission control workers won’t get the same treatment? Don’t they work in shifts?
Player of the episode: This time, it’s religion. Paula was definitely invested in looking up answers for her questions in the Holy Book, and I must say, it intrigues me. Paula as the only obvious religious character of the crew has some weight to carry on her shoulders now, as she will become the center of belief in the narrative. And as it turns out, putting religion into the story was super important, as you couldn’t have gotten out of the way of it. You’re dealing with higher beings and a higher purpose now, of course religious people will ask God what all of this has to do with them. Despite being an atheist, it turned out to be a great story development.

Defying Gravity (“Love, Honor, Obey”)

Season 1, Episode 8
Date of airing: September 11, 2009 (CTV), September 13, 2019 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.53 million viewers, 0.8/2 with Adults 18-49, 1.6/3 in Households

In which the crew of the Antares gets a look into the storage bay pod 4, and the only thing we see from it is the yellow/orange light illuminating out of it. It’s not much of an ending, considering the characters get to see what the viewers don’t get to see, even though some things can be said about how the characters were reacting to the light. Paula looked like she was witnessing a religious moment within the light, while Donner and Ted seemed to be happy they are currently not dealing with one of their traumatic hallucinations. It’s great though that the characters are about to have some of their questions answered, even though most of those questions will be asked between this and the next episode. Still, with the writers going forward with one of the show’s mysteries and have it be depicted, have it be established, and have its back story start developing, the show levels up, the characters are dropped into a different mission, and essentially, DEFYING GRAVITY isn’t just a show about a bunch of astronauts on a mission to visit some planets any longer. The show is about to change with the mystery being revealed to the characters and the viewers, and no matter what kind of mystery everyone is facing now, it can only advance the show.

Ascans are taking a trip to the running track.

Until the closing moments of the episode though, the writers made it pretty hard on the characters to even get to that end, and because the episode was destined to close with the yellow/orange light, the episode needed to be filled with another premise, so the writers came up with the story of following order, and how painful it can be, how conflicting it should be for your own good, and how evil and torturous and barbaric it is being seen by the astronauts. Ted and Donner already know that following orders means the death of their friends, so they know what Mike Goss’s repeated “follow orders” mantra really means, but the way the flashback story captured the theme of the episode, even I was wondering whether the characters just swallowed the moral, and didn’t even think about asking questions about the order, no matter how appropriate or not the questions were. I mean, following orders that mean distress to someone else… Are you allowed to stop following orders, to question the order? After all, that’s how Nazi Germany came to be, and that’s how six million Jews and even more million soldiers lost their lives between 1939 and 1945, simply because some Germans were following orders, without asking questions.

The question can be asked whether this episode was somewhat of an allegory to Nazi Germany during World War Two, and whether the idea of genocide can be repeated, after a superior person taught their underlings to always follow orders and never question those orders. The ascans certainly weren’t questioning those orders, but when they did, they were reprimanded for it. Wassenfelder had to run an extra two kilometers, and even Zoe defied the shock therapy test after a short while, before being ordered to follow Wassenfelder on the tracks. And we might not have seen how Jen was reprimanded for going back to look for Zoe during the fire alarm, it’s certain that she was paying for it somehow, and maybe not just by running another two kilometers.

Not every hallway on the Antares is evacuation-ready, as evident in this screencap: One hallway still isn’t orange.

The continuity of this episode was splendid though. All this time, Mike Goss was teaching the ascans about orders, and every time those orders were questions, life were in fact at stake, even if the emergency happened to be a drill. During the fire alarm, Jen and Zoe could have died, if it had been a real fire, and all this because the two women didn’t follow the order to go up the stairs for evacuation. On Antares, if the solar flare had been a real one, Jen and Zoe would have been close to dead, simply because they didn’t follow the order to evacuate tot he radiation shelter. Of course, one can say that in emergency situations where lives are at stake, orders have to be followed, but the notion of Zoe and Jen being the two potential victims during the two potential crises both in the flashback and on the Antares shows that the writers knew what they were doing here, and how they were putting a mirror between the flashback and Antares story. A thing happened five years ago, and on the Antares, the characters follow the lessons they learned five years ago. It’s pretty easy storytelling for a show like this, but the way the continuity lines up is astonishing.

Meanwhile, the thrill that came out of a potential solar flare was great as well. After eight episodes, you were probably asking yourself what would happen during a flare event, and here you got the answer. I am however surprised that DEFYING GRAVITY didn’t copy that one thing from BBC’s SPACE ODYSSEY, in which the ship was surrounded by a magnetic field, protecting the crew from radiation. The Antares has so many weird and hilariously far-fetched tech to explain the gravity on the ship, but the one science-fiction element from the BBC two-parter they didn’t take over, and I wonder why. It might have been due to budget constraints, because a magnetic field needed to have been animated during all the exterior shots of the Antares (and out the windows of the observation deck), and maybe the money wasn’t there for that. Besides all that, the run to the radiation shelter, and the crew’s efforts to turn off all electronics, was pretty cool. It’s a simple, yet effective little action scene.

In the valley of fractal tomatoes.

Best part of the episode: Ajay is Team Antares, assisting Donner and Zoe during their efforts to find out what’s in Pod 4, and not at all following Mike Goss’s orders during the final moments of the episode. The guy has been rehabilitated completely after his probable suicide attempt from the pilot, and now he just wants to find out the truth like everyone else.
Worst part of the episode: The ascan program is pretty shitty when it comes to giving certain ascans privileges. I know that Donner and Ted are already astronauts and have been on a mission, but seeing those two guys not run a 5k, not do the shock therapy test, being the ones giving out orders during the fire drill, would have made me icky. They are ascans for the Antares missions, shouldn’t they have been doing all the training as well? Some training elements, like the 20 minutes in the pool, were unnecessary for Ted and Donner, who have already proven they could swim, but if I would have been an ascan, I would have asked some serious questions about the two men during the whole “following orders” lesson, as maybe Ted and Donner stopped following orders after the Mars mission. ESPECIALLY after the Mars mission.
Weirdest part of the episode: Someone in the writers room had the idea to put Schrödinger’s Cat into a dialogue scene, including the explanation of the experiment. As if someone in the room heard about the experiment for the first time and thought it was so cool, it needed to be in a script. Also, how could Paula not have heard of Schrödinger’s Cat before. Even I heard of it in physics class before, and that was at least half a decade before I watched this episode for the first time.
Player of the episode: The writers deserve this award, for having cut back on the sometimes ridiculous character interactions in the form of romantic relationships in this episode. Zoe and Donner were basically separated during the flashbacks, and even Ted and Jen were ready to put a break on it. The show flows even better, if the story isn’t filled with all the romance crap.

Defying Gravity (“Fear”)

Season 1, Episode 7
Date of airing: September 4, 2009 (CTV), September 6, 2009 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.16 million viewers, 0.6/2 with Adults 18-49, 1.7/4 in Households

The show is still young, the characters are still being fleshed out, the hallucinations have been upped the ante, and it seems like it now is time for the characters to learn the truth what the Antares mission really is about. It might not happen in the next episode, it might not happen in the episode after that, but as the Antares gets closer to Venus, so do the characters, who are nearing the revelation of the secrets the ISO suits have been keeping from them, and it all begins in this episode, with the astronauts realizing they are experiencing hallucinations, with Donner and Zoe sharing their months-long dream, and with Eve and Mike slowly realizing that the secret might not me a secret for much longer, after Beta essentially ruined the financing of science projects during the mission, which should even piss Mike off to the fullest. Mike might sound like he doesn’t want his mission to be directed by Beta, but the fact that he just lost $10 billion should anger him as much as it does Jen and Zoe on the Antares, and it should lead Mike to think about revealing the secret, simply because Beta can’t be directing the entire mission, and at one point the mission still has to be financed. If Beta can make money rain within the walls of the ISO, everything is fine, but I don’t think Beta is interested in making money available for the astronauts it’s manipulating.

Antares has a new passenger and only one eighth of the crew can see him.

This episode was fine. Some reactions to the hallucinations may have been off for me, but it was fun to look at six of the eight astronauts and one of the ISO commanders being stricken with guilt of their past, and how those hallucinations happened to finely define this Halloween episode of a science-fiction drama. The hallucinations were certainly scary, and the depictions of the Mars footprints in the airlock (which Donner saw), the constant creepy baby cries (which Zoe heard), and the Martian storm (which Ted faced when stepping out of the airlock) certainly had something horror-tastic, fitting well int a television episode that was also supposed to be a Halloween episode, although it did air in the wrong month. I wouldn’t be counting this episode among the better Halloween offerings of broadcast television, but it’s certainly not a failed effort.

This episode successfully managed to include two more astronauts into the world of hallucinations, with Paula and Nadia starting this process as well. Paula’s might have been a bit too convenient for my taste, since she even played out her hallucination, and fully believed she was witnessing Hector die yet again, but I guess that was necessary for this narrative, due to it having been filled up with hallucination developments already – at least one of the new ones needed to be introduced quicker, just so the viewers can follow the narrative and witness that the hallucinations are indeed becoming a potentially life-threatening issue for the astronauts. Still, Evram reacting to his and Paula’s hallucinations, while being able to communicate his inability to move to Claire on the ground seemed a bit off to me – when you are able to realize you are experiencing a hallucination, wouldn’t you be able to move past it, and forge your own path through the hallucination, to your own safety? Evram was experiencing a hallucination, but he knew he was, and he was able to both hear Claire on his comm, while he also saw the girl he has been haunted by these past few episodes.

Naked, color-coded men in the 2050s.

Paula looked like she wasn’t able to separate her hallucination from what was really happening, which contradicts what Evram was going through. Same goes with the hallucinating astronauts in the airlock, with Ted being forced to stand still on the spot, while Donner was able to communicate with the people around him, even though he was basically speaking to Sharon, even mentioning her name once. It looks to me like the victims handle the hallucinations differently, with some able to realize they are experiencing one, and others not even knowing that what they are going through is not natural, and definitely not real. I mean, shouldn’t Nadia have deducted that the person she was seeing was not real? Isn’t she the most neutrally smartest on the Antares? Or is her emotional disconnection from all the characters the reason she believes that the mysterious man in the hatchway is real. And with “emotional disconnection” I mean the fact that she was never interested in a proper relationship with Donner – she was always only interested in sex, and not the relationship stuff around it, which says something about her.

Even the air molecules want to be treated like a pet every once in a while.

Best part of the episode: Close to the end, at least two of the Antares crew members were lying about not seeing any more hallucinations (Donner still had a Martian-dusted helmet, Nadia still saw the mysterious man). Damn, those people keep secrets extremely close to their vest, and it happens to be extremely realistic, because they believe that speaking the truth would get them off this mission. They want to fly, but any sign of a weakness, and they believe the will be pumped with medication, unable to fly any longer. That’s a storyline the writers haven’t gotten into, but a quick succession of scenes involving Donner and Nadia still hallucinating shows that they don’t trust their superiors not to cut them from future missions on the Antares. Everyone is scared on this ship.
Worst part of the episode: I know the writers haven’t com up with half of the stuff why Jen and Wassenfelder weren’t going through this ordeal, but having them be normal throughout the hour and not react weirdly or shocked or worried that their colleagues and friends were definitely not well makes them look extremely bad. Jen and Wassenfelder: not helpful at all, when you have a hallucination. At least Evram followed Paula, and stayed with her (even if he couldn’t move himself).
Weirdest part of the episode: The candy commercial was supposed to air live? Damn, how is that possible, even 40 years into the future? Can someone explain this to me?
Player of the episode: Laura Harris was great during her final flashback scene, when her character was listening to Ajay talk about having made the right decision, and a path followed. I could honestly believe Zoe was in the middle of an emotional breakdown, believing she made the wrong decision, believing she will never have a kid of her own, believing that she ruined her life, because she rather wanted to fly than be a parent.