Grant Bowler Grant Bowler

When Defiance returns for Season 2 (Thursday at 8/7c, Syfy), the town has been drastically transformed — and not for the better. In the nine months that've passed since the catastrophic mayoral election, the Earth Republic's reign over Defiance is in full swing. "It's an occupation," Julie Benz told reporters at New York Comic Con. "Everyone has lost their role in town and everyone is either struggling to get back the role that they had or define a new role for themselves."

Along with the Earth Republic's tyranny comes a pervasive Big Brother security system, increased pressure on and mistreatment of the miners and even a booming drug trade (which will rope in a few addicts who will surprise you). But the citizens of Defiance aren't taking the oppression lying down. Throughout the first half of Season 2, a rebellion slowly begins to form against the ruling government — though the insurgence isn't a simple case of David taking on Goliath.

"Season 1 had to render the Earth Republic in very black and white, simplistic terms," Grant Bowler told "They were in danger of becoming storm troopers where they were just faceless people you shot down in a row." This season, the E-Rep will be humanized, with a few of its members — such as new mayor Niles Pottinger (Jim Murray) and the spitfire soldier Berlin (Anna Hopkins) — lending a face and heart to the previously sterile organization.

TV's most outrageous deaths

But it's not just the town that's been transformed. Each citizen of Defiance has been deeply affected by the events that transpired in Season 1, but none so more than Amanda. After losing her sister and her job, Amanda struggles to redefine herself in the new world. "She doesn't know how to survive," Benz said. "It's hard to have been in the position of power and then to all of the sudden have that power stripped away from you."

When Nolan returns to Defiance, he will provide a certain source of comfort for the former mayor (if you know what I mean). But Nolan will face some competition in that arena from Niles. Bowler admits he was initially worried about the introduction of Niles "because there's nothing more boring than the two guys going chest to chest all year," but he's happy with the surprising direction the character takes. "You'll start to see that he's a twisted, freaky, underdeveloped English schoolboy in armor," Bowler said. "The character is emotionally and developmentally stunted ... Fundamentally, he doesn't know how to deal with other men. There's a big backstory there."

Though Nolan slips seamlessly back into his old life in Defiance — even reclaiming his lawkeeper badge from a begrudging Tommy — he's lost the altruistic motivations he previously had. "This time he's not trying to create utopia. He's not trying to keep everyone happy and safe. He's not trying to make friends and influence people," Bowler explained. "It's all just to get what he wants." Which, in short, is to protect Irissa.

Odd couples: Real-life celebrity roommates

Following her leap into the mineshaft, Irissa disappeared from Defiance, leaving a recently resurrected Nolan beyond confused. When Nolan finally does catch up with her in New Los Angeles, the reunion is awkward, to say the least. "She's markedly different and he doesn't know why she's not talking," Bowler said. "He's actually furious that she's lying to him ... and his ways of dealing with her get more and more drastic and simultaneously unsuccessful."

As the Season 2 premiere quickly reveals, the deal Irissa made with the Kaziri, who's believed to be the sentient intelligent of the dormant Votan ship, comes with a slew of consequences she never imagined. Irissa soon finds herself locked in a battle over her own body and mind, too afraid and ashamed to tell Nolan the truth. "It's like she's possessed," Bowler said. "And as the season goes along, the relationship between [Irissa] and what's in her changes until eventually that part of her is running the show."

But while Irissa fights for any semblance of control, Stahma finally tastes true power. With her husband Datak imprisoned, Stahma seizes the opportunity to challenge the patriarchal status quo and assert control over the Tarr empire. "She is definitely very much like a cat where she always lands on her feet," Jaime Murray said. "Whatever situation she's thrown into, she will make it work. Unfortunately for Datak, if he's taken out of the equation and she's doing really well, that's going to have consequences for him."

In fact, when Datak is released from prison — thanks to his surprising new ally Doc Yewll — he finds himself on the wrong side of a family coup. "Datak is ousted in his own family and he's forced to try and get his position back," Bowler said. "He has a season-long battle on his hands with that because each and every member of his house is much stronger or more devious than we thought."

What are you most excited to see when Defiance returns? Season 2 premieres Thursday at 8/7c on Syfy.

Watch This Tonight: Defiance