Inside 'Defiance's' Central Love Story

Showrunner Kevin Murphy talks with THR about Datak and Stahma.
Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy

Before he became the showrunner for Syfy's Defiance, Kevin Murphy spent years as a writer and producer on ABC's Desperate Housewives — which is one of the reasons he considers the Syfy drama less of a "space opera" than a show about relationships that just happens to be set in a post-apocalyptic Earth.

Of all the relationships on the show, the most complex dynamic might be between Datak (Tony Curran) and Stahma Tarr (Jaime Murray). They've moved from arrogant small-time Castithan crime lords to their current fate, which has included Stahma being forced to kill her daughter-in-law Christie (Nicole Muñoz) in order to save her own life. This week, things take an even darker turn when Stahma's clandestine relationship with the Omec T'evgin begins to spin out of control.

Murphy said that from the very beginning of the show, he was striving for a series that at its core was a story about family. “When you take away all the yelling, the aliens, the latex and all the crazy science fiction out of it, the show is really about the schism that comes between family and culture,” he told THR. “What happens to the family when you put it into a new cultural context. How the families that we have are tested and reconfigure themselves. And how we form new families with people that we didn't think we could.”

While Defiance might not seem like a reimagining of a classic immigration story, at first glance Murphy says that you could do a version of the show that takes place in the late 19th century and find analogs for most of what goes on in the show. “A wealthy, well-placed woman from a higher caste who would normally have never interacted with a lowly lesser-class man like Datak Tarr. Bur they came together because of the immigrant experience. They find that all of those things that were so important on their home world really don't matter anymore.

Season three has upended the Tarr family and threatened their very existence. Murphy says that it's easy to ease Datak and Stahma over into a very dark place and forget that no matter what, these two love one another. “Datak was clinging to the remnants of the patriarchal dead culture they had left behind. He was refusing to admit that and it threatened his ego,” Murphy explains. “We really blew them apart in season two and in season three we're seeing them working in tandem. They fight among themselves but they are very much on the same page about what they're after."

Murray tells THR that her character isn't as purely evil as she might appear to be. “She does have redeeming qualities and she is genuinely trying to make the best of the situation. You can kind of understand why she had to kill that person or why she had to keep that terrible secret and put everyone in danger. But it's still very morally reprehensible."

In the coming weeks, tensions between Stahma and her estranged son Alak escalate, as he struggles to deal with the fact that he witnessed his mother kill the love of his life. “I don't think she's fully aware of how angry Alak is with her. Or what Alak is thinking or knows about what has happened to Christie," Murray says. “That will come to a head in midseason and you wonder if they'll ever be able to come together. Maybe that will clear the deck for a new, more honest relationship. But it will certainly never be the same as it was before.”

Murphy says that level of uncertainty and complexity is why the Tarr family may be his favorite characters on the show. “Datak and Stahma are a love story I am very fond of. They fight among themselves but they are very much on the same page about what they're after. Datak has learned a lot since last season and Stahma has learned a lot since season one when she was terrified of her husband. She now realizes that he needs her as much as she needs him.”

Defiance airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on Syfy.

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