Dark Matter – Season 2 Episode 6
“Episode 19 – We Should Have Seen This Coming”
Dark Matter has been teasing out information about the two new members of the Raza crew for many episodes now but eventually one of them had to come to centre stage first. Would it be Devon and his drug habit? Maybe somebody would come chasing to bring him back to justice for killing someone on the operating table under the influence of drugs? Or would we see which corporation had perhaps built or experimented upon Nyx, also giving us an explanation for her powers?
‘We Should Have Seen This Coming’ choses Nyx, revealing, as several people had suggested, that she – along with everyone on her home planet – does have some fledgling psychic power: They possess a genetic mutation that gives them enhanced levels of cognitive predictive ability (CPA), an advanced version of human intuition and gut feeling that lets them know what’s about to happen.
When the possibility of psychic powers was first raised in Dark Matter, I’d hoped that the show would stay scientific and steer away from anything approaching magic; and thankfully I think that this is the way we’re seeing things go. The show could have gone down a spiritual route, like Star Wars with The Force, leading to Nyx having all manner of crazy powers. Better though is the described basis in probability: Everyone has experience of how the world generally works but in the case of Nyx’s people their brains can unconsciously process the probabilities of consequences playing out such that one future feels most likely to them.
And I say better here because I think the magic-like route would have all too easily threatened to take Nyx’s power to a level far beyond that reachable by the other characters. Plots might then have struggled to provide situations that could believably be a challenge to both psychic and non-psychic characters at the same time. With the route based in science any ability Nyx has, and the development of it, needs to be explained in a way that you don’t have to when you can just say ‘her magic is getting stronger now’. The background tech level itself provides an appropriate limiter.
That all said I’m not sure I fully understand Nyx’s powers yet. In the opening scene Nyx seems to actively use her power. Even if she’s just ‘giving in to the feeling’ she makes a conscious decision to do it. I got the impression from earlier episodes though, that it was a passive thing that she just felt in the moment. More than that, just before she escapes the Seers’ ship we’re shown her seeing a short way into the future, even if but half a minute, and this seems a greater ability than what’s she’s previously described. When she was talking to Four last week, it sounded more she could just predict the next move in a fight rather than the outcome of the whole battle?
I imagine this could just be a matter of interpretation. Perhaps we the audience saw the future but this was just a representation of the series of many individual predictions that made up Nyx’s responses – cinematic license. Fair play if so, it’s just that I like answers, I like knowing, if we are going to understanding the full meaning and consequence of the science in the background.
Prediction of the future must always be a bit of a nightmare to plot round. The audience is invited into the same game of second guessing that the characters are struggling with. The whole thing becomes this tangled mass of questions such that you need everything to stop for a moment to properly think it all through.
How come the Seers didn’t see Nyx’s escape attempt? Was that something else her brother Milo had been hiding from the collective mind? How come Nyx didn’t know more about the Seers’ abilities and warn the Raza crew that the original drug sale would be foreseen? Had they advanced their abilities so far in the time she’d been away?
But I’ll not worry about these too much, as any and all questions could just be more plot seeding, with important answers coming later on. This is something I’m definitely expecting from some words the lead Seer said before Nyx escaped: Who was he referring to when he said “he’ll find you”? Do we take it that the lead Seer wasn’t the mentioned rebel – Hansmeed – who lead Nyx’s people in revolt against the Electus Corporation? Answers on a postcard.
Questions aside, I got a lot from Nyx’s back plot. Perhaps more from the background information than anything about her herself though. At the moment it’s her people that have powers and she has an important brother. It was good to see her vulnerability – family does make you so – but I think we’ve still a lot more to see to really know who she is herself.
The background information was by contrast very detailed. I liked the idea that being in a collective consciousness was unpleasant and unwanted, needing hallucinogenic drugs to make it bearable. I was also interested in the idea that this was a first step into organic matter possibly coming back full circle and replacing inorganic computing. A horrible experiment certainly but nowhere near beyond the morality of the corporations we’ve seen so far. And then there was the neat connection back into human philosophy, not too overplayed, when Milo says that a small chance of success is no reason not to try.
Milo was certainly a great character to see. He proves that someone whose only contribution to what’s going on is verbal – no action, no technical problem solving – can still be interesting and give a lot to a plotline. I was slightly worried at his entrance when he says things like “you have to take me back” and “you don’t understand”. I’ve never liked it when characters are purposefully obscure, seeming to avoid specifics just because it would advance the plot too quickly. Isn’t it much better for a character to just give the information they have available? In this case it was to protect his sister after all.
I’m also not sure about the “one of you will betray the others” line too. Surely if he can do the maths he can say which person is most likely to do the betraying? I guess we’ll just have to see how that plays out, hoping that it’s a good new plot and not just an attempt to recapture a past greatness.
Those are perhaps only small niggles though, as Milo’s other interactions with, for example, Five and Four were pleasing. Four’s especially, as the effect of Four’s words with both Milo and Nyx were very subtle but very highly charged. Four’s role in Milo’s final choice is especially brutal given the friendship Four is building with Milo’s sister. And of course, she has no idea what was said. Perhaps this is a candidate for the predicted imminent betrayal even? It’s probably not but it is interesting to realise that there might be these little betrayals spread throughout the upcoming episodes that will compromise the crew’s integrity at the end of the season.
An even more important consequence of Four and Milo’s talk for me was the implication for the modelling of human behaviour. I really struggle with modern business’s need to personality type it’s workers and customers in the thought that it will lead to ‘efficiency savings’ in the business’s operations. All the tests seem to miss out that people behave differently when in different moods and in reaction to different circumstances, and also the cumulative effects of both differences together.
Here in ‘We Should Have Seen This Coming’ the complexity in modelling human behaviour is quite elegantly shown. Though the Seer’s model can be updated to cope with a strange change in Two’s behaviour it can’t easily deal with the effect of Four and Milo having a talk about affecting the future. The model correctly predicts that Four and the crew won’t kill Milo and perhaps even that Milo might see that he has to return home but did it struggle with combined effect of Four’s belief in honour impacting on Milo’s need to protect his sister?
So, philosophy and science brought together in one episode, what’s not to like? In fact I did like it, but I’d say it was only my third favourite thing about this episode.
My top pick was the return to elegant language and plot that had no need for the exposition that I thought was a failing of ‘We Voted Not to Space You’ and ‘I’ve Seen the Other Side of You’. I’ll give just a couple of examples. Three demands early on that Devon should “stop making me ask ‘what’s that’” in response to the chat about the drug Shadow. It’s a party drug – “the latest thing” in fact – and Three is believably not ‘down with the kids’ so it’s reasonable for him to ask the audience’s question. Even better though is Four’s unasked question when he says “if I showed you a history of my home planet…”. What he wants to know is obvious to the audience and the writing here trusts in our ability to understand. Love this; always want to see more of it.
My second favourite thing about the episode was also a bit of a reaction to something I didn’t get on so well with last week, which is the treatment of Six’s reacceptance into the crew. I think we could easily skip over Six’s trip in the snow to prove himself and pick the plot thread up right from here in his dealings with Two and Three.
In Two we get the whole crew’s trouble with Six’s betrayal: can we still trust you? We daren’t risk it, so we’re not taking you on missions yet, even though that means getting Three to fly The Marauder – very bad. Two then starts to work Six back into the crew by forcing him to either accept the their next mission choice or leave; and I think this is something I’d expect to see her do a few times before Six is fully reinstated as a permanent crew member.
Admittedly the choice he has to make doesn’t seem quite so bad on reflection. Though they are about to become drug dealers the show makes it clear that it’s not a particularly addictive drug, so perhaps the crew aren’t really all that evil. I can’t decide if this drugs issue was something that the show runners struggled with because they thought it might turn us against our heroes or if it was a compromise necessary for the TV network’s acceptance of the plot. Either way, it’s clearly something that Six isn’t going to be happy about.
This then builds into Three and Six’s 24 hours alone together. Three is the most unaccepting of Six’s betrayal, so if Six is truly going to find acceptance again, it’s Three he has to convince. We actually don’t get very much screen time to see this play out but what we do see works well for me. Six being on the second Marauder mission connects him to the central plot – unlike his trip in the snow last week – making his choices and actions much more meaningful throughout. Further, his interactions with Three such as “you make the call this time” are personal and give the other character a choice to make, which is much more interesting than anyone having to overcome any technical or physical problem to get to a resolution.
Possibly not as emotionally engaging as ‘We Were Family’ and possibly not as thrilling as ‘Kill Them All’, still ‘We Should Have Seen This Coming’ was for me one of the better episodes of the season so far. It was interesting and gave me lots of things to think about and consider. Did we actually see Hansmeed on screen or not? Could I have made Milo’s sacrifice? Can you really map out human behaviour or is it as complicated as mapping the movement of all molecules in the galaxy?
More than that, we also got to see some good little developments that keep all the other plotlines alive in our minds: the android’s spoken choice to want to just be herself masking her realisation that her addiction to human behaviour is putting the crew at risk; Devon’s addiction making him act suspiciously when there’s no need; and then the development of the ‘war is coming’ thread.
I’m still not sure that I like the idea of war across the whole galaxy, as I fear the plot becoming less personal, more about movements of armies and resources. Nonetheless, it’s still giving me a chance to exercise the little grey cells, as they say. I’d completely missed that Alicia Reynaud’s employer is Ferrous Corp’s Commander Nieman. For some reason I’d thought the Galactic Authority were behind all the nefarious war activity. Of course they may still be behind the Zairon–Pyr conflict, that’s the fun of speculation.
And random speculation is where I leave this blog post: Was Milo’s speech to Five about a single individual being able to change the course of history linked to his prediction that one of the Raza crew will shortly betray the others?
- Nyx’s abilities staying within the realm of science
- interesting considerations about mapping human behaviour
- a return to plotting and language that doesn’t need exposition
- Six having to properly prove himself to earn his place back in the crew
- The Android’s choice to protect her crew from her own failings
- Devon’s suspicious behaviour
- confusion over what Nyx can actually do
- not seeing quite enough of Nyx herself