Dark Matter – Season 2 Episode 2
Episode 15 – Kill Them All
“Kill Them All” is a title that by itself promises to put the dark in Dark Matter, one of the three things we were told to expect in season 2. Episode 14 covered the others very well I thought – there being more world building through the corporations’ plotline and certainly One was by no means safe – but I wanted to see a bit more darkness before I felt I could agree the third promise had been completely fulfilled. After seeing Episode 15, I am now more than happy to agree.
Now, to be fair the season opened with a main character death – that’s pretty bleak – and the prison itself offered plenty of chances for gang violence, malnutrition and misogyny. However, I had this fear that Three was going to become a comedy character and then there’s a moment where the cell block suddenly seems to break into a spaghetti-western style brawl. Where one guy hitting just one other guy somehow causes everyone everywhere to start clobbering each other without reason? The prison then, didn’t seem to have that stark oppression in its very atmosphere that you feel from the metal and brick frame of say Porridge (a reference for the older Brits there perhaps).
All these concerns simply fade away though in “Kill Them All”. Back on that smaller level first, Three definitely mans up with his challenging the warden’s stooge and this episode’s prison riot has complete purpose, easily arranged through Arax’s connections. On a more-important level though, I’d say such thoughts fade in the face of my thorough engagement in what was one of my favourite Dark Matter episodes so far.
A tension builds from about halfway through the episode, simmering from the point of Three getting a memory broadcast from Truffault, properly kicking off as Shaddick has a gun to Five’s head and entering full flow as Six cuts the power and the Android shows what androids can do – they are scary by the way! And even the existence of this tension alone is an interesting point for me, as we all know the crew is going to escape; and surely nothing’s going to happen to the new characters yet? So, despite these points lingering in the meta of the episode there’s still a tension: Even though we’re in no doubt of the outcome of the plot, the how, and importantly the cost, are still unknown.
Clearly the death of One allows an uncertainty to hang around the necks of the rest of the main cast but I think arguably the development of Shaddick may have made all the difference. I was convinced from the start she was the new season’s villain. Franka Potente gives Shaddick some serious threat value, the character upsets or angers all the Raza crew she meets and she’s right there in the centre of the new corporate-conspiracy plot thread. It all says main villain. But then bang! I’m the Android, this is my crew, you lose!
Androids are scary by the way – did I mention that?
Technology in Dark Matter
It was particularly pleasing to see the Android this episode, not least because she didn’t get much of an outing in the season opener and probably most because of her stunning and gratifying takedown of Shaddick and her team. There’s still something quite chilling and intimating about a computer calculating the most efficient way to deal with a room full of people. Equally pleasing though, was getting more information about the Dark Matter universe’s equivalent of the laws of robotics.
Establishing these is possibly an important point for any sci-fi series wanting to use AI but it was something I particularly wanted to see because I really believed would help differentiate the show’s developing background, and I think here it does: If we consider the rules we were shown I think they perfectly match a universe dominated by corporate thinking.
The Android must take orders from a human superior but she can freely interpret who is her superior according to her experience. The Galactic Authority were a little surprised that they didn’t count but I thought they seemed more annoyed by that discovery than shocked at an impossible breach of android programming? Assuming androids are built by corporations, this programming would fit with those corporations not wanting to give up their considerable political power that they only tolerate the GA impinging on.
Then there’s the matter of the Android being able to kill humans. Turns out there’re no rules against that, as long as you’re obeying your designated human. This would also fit with the current preference of our financial sector’s desire – and I assume Canada is similar to Britain here – for a reduction in regulation. It’s been less than a decade since the 2008 financial crash and already regulation seems to be becoming a dirty word in some sectors – it does so get in the way of obtaining money and power. Logically then a corporation may not want its androids limited by silly little rules.
Of course I could easily be reading too much into all this. It could just be that having the Android kick serious backside this episode was just supposed to be really cool – it was – but so far I’m seeing consistency between background and foreground. I’ll keep my eye out. Especially as it raises the question again of androids in the military…
Either way, as I say, I’m glad to see Dark Matter considering the uses of its presented technology. We the audience are always going to ask questions like “why didn’t they just use the McGuffin to solve that problem?” if it seems an obvious ask, so when we get to see things like Truffault’s memory broadcast to transmit data directly into Three’s mind we are satisfied.
Old plots and new
Episodes Fourteen and Fifteen felt to me like a two-parter, one that puts the old plots of season 1 to bed whilst setting up season 2. The old plot almost literally goes to bed as Five puts Six into stasis. It was a really welcome thing to see their relationship still strong, that Six would have perjured himself to protect Five and that it was her idea to put him into stasis – all very fitting somehow. It’s a shame to lose Six to stasis perhaps but his decisions did sum up the amnesia plotline and in a way that gave me that ideological debate that I always like to see in a show.
Six’s ideological trouble is personified in his discussions with Anders. This old friend still clings to their employer’s word – a straight and narrow sort of guy, as described by Jeff Teravainen in his TV Junkies interview. Anders sees the corporate fix against the Raza but thinks only to save Six, accepting the corruption with the justification that the Raza crew are just criminals. This is a past that Six rejects though, quite brutally too. I wondered if the parallel wouldn’t hold as Anders lowers his gun at the end of their discussion but Six knew his friend wouldn’t turn and the past must make way for the future.
Kind of hope Anders isn’t dead though, as I’d really like to see more of that debate play out. There’s plenty more discussion possible that would be relevant to the modern day, concerning questions of whether large corporations and compromise are needed to run a large system like a universe – or just even a planet.
Whichever way that goes however, I’m happy the new plot will have a lot to offer. Much in the same vein as the start of season 1, the show has declared the stance of all the corporations in respect of the Raza crew: Mikkei want them to get the blame for illegal tech placed back on the true criminals – Traugott – who in turn want the crew dead to prevent this and keep Mikkei in the GA’s crosshairs.
Dark Matter season 1 seemed to take a bit of a hit from reviewers for revealing the crew’s identity early on, taking away a mystery. (Check Mallozi’s recent response to this in his Sunday Morning Herald interview.) Personally I thought that a good counter was simply: that’s not the show. In season 1 the question was rather whether the crew would revert to their old identities if they had no memory connection to it.
Here in season 2, I think a similar stance holds: the show is not in the mystery of which corporations stand for and against the crew but rather how will they deal with being outnumbered and outgunned when there’s no-one they can really trust. Maybe it won’t be an issue this time round but I throw it out there anyway.
I think as we move into this new plotline several of my open questions have now been answered. Certainly around Six’s motives, even if not about Five’s key card and the man in the bed. Maybe the only question I’d still have to ask Six if it were possible to meet him would be why he, presumably, injected himself with the neurotoxin (Episode Thirteen). At the moment I’m stuck with ‘because it would create a distracting chaos amongst the crew’? A small deal perhaps and of lesser interest than the new open questions I need to add to my list:
- What did the GA do in the prison to stop the Android connecting to the Raza?
- Who’s the power-dressing woman taking an interest in Five? A long lost relative? From a new corporation we’ve not yet heard of?
Any ideas – let me know.
I’m really liking this new season: the ante is already higher and still on a deeply personal level; the show has no need to put the universe at stake to keep us engaged. Perhaps it’s all in that threat value? I really didn’t want Three to look Truffault directly in the eye. I had no idea why I didn’t want that, beyond it being an obvious ploy, I just knew it was going to be bad. And then of course it wasn’t, the point being all my years of TV watching instincts aren’t allowing me to predict the plot – very pleasing.
As a little aside too, I would add that the threat value and the emotions in the moment are greatly supported by the perfect timing of the background music’s highs and lows, matching the individual actions within scene as well transitions across scenes. It seems important to mention in recognition of it being something I appreciated from very early on in season 1.
Despite all the changes the new plots have brought we’ve still got everything we came to love from the first season in the second season so far too. The family is – mostly – back together, with Two looking out for everyone, not even wanting to leave Six behind after all that has happened. We’ve still got the dry humour in the likes of bubba’s return and a short debate over Four’s ability to forgive a little dishonour. And we still get our hit of cool in a stylish manner. Getting a sword fight into a prison escape cannot have been an easy thing to write in but I can’t fault the result: Ryo’s fight with his new/old love interest is fast and doesn’t break the flow of the escape, and its arrows-from-the-ranks ending preserves both combatants for future plot in a relevant, in-character manner.
Oh and Devon – but more on him later…
- putting the dark in Dark Matter
- a stunning build of tension
- the Android’s takedown of Shaddick and her team
- the development of Shaddick and the surprise that she was not the season villain
- the universe’s equivalent of the laws of robotics that match the corporation-dominated background
- the family coming back together – as much as is possible
- Six’s battle with Anders, a great summary of season 1’s amnesia plotline
- Devon’s seemingly random addition to the crew roster