Dark Matter, Season 2, Episode 1 premiered last Friday, July 1st. I suspect that, due to it being the holiday weekend, there was a delay in the episode arriving in various digital online stores for purchase, either as an individual episode or even as a full season’s pass. Good news. It was well worth the wait. And at least we’re getting you this review before tonight’s airing of episode 2 (?)
I spent the weekend before the premiere binge-watching all of season one of Dark Matter, which was 13 episodes. Season Two has been commissioned with the same number, so it will be a Firefly-length ride of intrigue, conspiracy, betrayal, mistrust, and…oh yeah, stuff getting shot up and blown up. The entire cast of Season one is back (so far; more on that later). Keep in mind that the show is produced by the creative team from Stargate, and Amanda Tapping herself directed the Season 2 premiere.
When last we left our intrepid heroes, they were unceremoniously being dragged off the RAZA by the Galactic Authority like so many sacks of potatoes. And we saw a cut to Number Six walking behind them, dressed in a military or law enforcement looking outfit. When Season 2 opens up, we find out that Two, Three, and Four are being placed in a maximum security prison. One and Five are being detained, but, since they are not mercenaries like the others, are being set up for release. The Android is undergoing data recovery, and then is likely due for a master reboot that will wipe her personality matrix and reset her to factory defaults.
Dark Matter is one part Firefly, one part Stargate, and one part The Blacklist. It’s a wonderful combination that often leaves me so unable to solve the mystery that I’ve given up trying and am just content to watch the show. One thing that show creators Mallozzi and Mullie have expertly done is that they have kept all of the face-cards to themselves. Sure, they reveal a bit about the characters from episode-to-episode, sometimes so much that you feel they’ve revealed all of the baseline information that you need to know to define one of them. But the reality is that they always hold the face-cards back and close to the chest. So that at any point, they can drop an entirely new character twist that you could not have possibly seen coming. I am not sure how long a creative team can keep something like that up in a conspiracy-theory oriented show, but so far, it’s being done so incredibly well that it frequently leaves me gasping and out of breath as an episode closes.
In the premiere, the team is fragmented into mini-teams to allow for more setup, character building, or story flesh-out. Five does not do much at all, but there are some quiet dialogue scenes between she and Six, evolving their relationship in the wake of Six’ betrayal. One is the…one (sorry) that gets the most solo time. He starts to get the sense that not everyone is as glad to see Derrick Moss return as he has been led to believe. And that the circumstances of his wife’s murder, including the attribution of the crime to Three, may also be a misdirection. I know that we are getting new regular characters this season, and it appears that the first one has shown up, as Two, Three, and Four meet a convict named Nyx, who appears to be up to rolling with the heavies of the RAZA.
Great character moments in this episode include pretty much every scene involving Six. The anguish he is going through trying to determine if he has actually done the right thing by turning in the crew of the RAZA is superb. The mess hall scene with Two, Three, and Four, contemplating whether or not they are going to try and jailbreak their maximum security prison is also great. After some discussion and then an awkward pause, Three asks “So are we going to actually do this thing?” Two responds, “We’re the crew of the RAZA. Of course we’re going to do this thing.” I love that scene because of the notion that, with as little as they know about the truth of their past lives, they commit 100% to embracing their identity as this badass ship’s crew known the galaxy over. The third great scene from this episode is the one with the Android and a SysAdmin who is tasked to extract her memories of the past 47 days on the ship. The Android refuses to give up the memories, and the SysAdmin threatens to reboot her in order to clear her obstinate personality. But the Android responds by reminding him that that will also wipe the memories that he so desperately desires. I love this scene because there is just no explanation for this willingness to sacrifice herself and the defiance in the face of authority other than a sense of loyalty to the crew that exceeds any desire to comply with her programming. Of all the characters that are on the show, I feel like the Android has the greatest potential for growth. I predict that by the end of the show, we’ll see her with a full-on personality; possibly via some means of “borrowing” some of Two’s more advanced nanites.
Production quality has clearly stepped up this season. CG is much improved and clearer. Exterior scenes in space and flyovers of the moon-based facility are much more well lit. I am hoping to see other improvements this season that are hopefully the result of having a larger budget due to the success of the show’s inaugural season. I am also hoping that the extra money means being able to afford guest stars from the Stargate crew, such as Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, and Christopher Judge. We got Stargate: Atlantis guest spots last season from David Hewlett (Dr McKay) and Torri Higginson (Dr Weir). Here’s hoping for more.
I bought my season pass on XBox Live Video. A nice solution because it means I can view it on a large screen on my XBox One, or on a laptop either at home or on travel. Other than the weird delay in availability, which was the same for iTunes and Amazon, this solution to watching the show is working well.
Dark Matter is off to a (subtly) roaring start, with the closing scene of episode one leaving me literally breathless. The best thing about this show is that I have absolutely no idea of where the show might be heading next. Zero. Zip. Nada. It is so incredibly hard for a creative team to invoke a sense of mystery and wonder on a television show these days, as the least bit of intel leaking out can derail a closely guarded reveal. But somehow Malozzi and Mullie are doing it, while assembling a team of writers who are weaving action, treachery, and misdirection into a beautifully delivered package. Let’s hope they can keep it up. I really wanted to give this episode an 8.5, in order to make sure I had a bit of headroom on scores for the rest of the season. But that closing scene puts things over the top, and so…