Dark Matter – Season 2 Episode 4
“Episode 17 – We Were Family”
Dark Matter this week builds heavily on the background plots of Three and The Android. It’s easy to forget that The Android also had her memory wiped in the first episode of season 1 and so also has a past to remember. Here though, it’s revealed that her emotional responses are not a malfunction but rather an intentional design by a person or power she, as yet at least, clearly cannot recall. In Three’s case we learn some of the good and the bad of his past, seeing some things he’d love to remember and others he’s likely glad to have forgotten.
In a great cold open we learned Five’s stolen happy memory of being a young boy called Titch, growing up on a farm, was in fact not taken from One’s mind but rather from Three’s. Turns out that but for one horrible moment in his history Marcus Boone might have had a really nice life and that perhaps the good we’ve seen in him, seeming so at odds with his mercenary life, might be the resurgence of traits that were once Titch’s.
I very much liked this hail back to Episode Six. It proves that there’s a lot to look out for in the show – things that may become important later. Myself, I’ve long been looking out for meaning in every scene, even wondering in one episode if the ‘green flavour’ crisps that triggered a fleeting memory in Three would turn into something later. Clearly this could easily be a step too far but it’s always great to get that ‘oh yeah’ moment when you realise that a plot point was seeded many episodes ago. It really lets you trust in the complexities of a show’s story.
Another thing I’ve felt Dark Matter does well is its fearless delivery of an answer to a mystery, given in total confidence that the further explanation and detail of the reveal will be more interesting to the audience than the reveal itself. In season one it was the early reveal of the characters’ true identities and the confidence that their confrontation of their forgotten pasts would be more interesting than any drawn out reveal of the identities themselves. Here in ‘We Were Family’ you immediately know Tanner is lying because his story of Three’s parents’ murder doesn’t match up with what you’ve seen in the episode’s opening scene. But we were never really going to believe him anyway. Better then, is a plot covering how he became involved in Three’s upbringing and, most importantly, what affect the whole affair had on young Titch.
We know already that Three’s history made him (pre-amnesia) quite comfortable with the idea of selling Five into child slavery. Perhaps this seemed like a matter-of-fact part of life to Three because he was raised by a Fagin-like figure with a deluded belief that everything he did was for the benefit of the young boys he’d just orphaned. This is made all the more brutal when we discover that Titch always knew Tanner had killed Titch’s parents but just learned to deal with it. But of course Three can’t remember being Titch and the resolution of this side arc embodies season one’s amnesia plotline again: Without the burden of past trauma forcing him to accept the situation Marcus Boone is free to act and here chooses to take Titch’s revenge.
I think Three’s whole plotline played out in a very slick fashion. Information comes to him throughout the episode, moving him on from discovery to realisation but all the while with him making the choices. I really like that he works out Tanner’s lie by questioning the gang, rather than by just stumbling across something. The plot also has its visually stylish moments, such as the cut to the gun flare in the woods that then leads to a scene showing not only Three having survived but also having moved on to confront Tanner. It’s very elegant.
Equally of interest this week is the discovery of something from The Android’s past. I had wondered if she was going to be on the path towards a technological singularity, where she’d be the first computer to become sentient. Reflecting on The Android up until now I realise I agree that Zoie Palmer has done a good job differentiating her android from previous sci-fi shows’. She’s presented a being of great knowledge and physical power that’s limited by a childlike world experience. The Android comes across as so very innocent every time she says simply “OK” but bore an undeniably adult stance in her efficient killing of Shaddick and her GA team. And look out for these perfectly coming together in the look on her face when she wears a dress for the first time. This combination then, seems to work perfectly for a machine starting to comprehend the world for the first time with an awakened intelligence.
As it is, Dark Matter hasn’t quite gone down this route, as it turns out that our discontinued, level-3 utility-model android seems to have purposefully been given an upgrade that allows her emulate, perhaps even ‘feel’, emotion. Perhaps she was a precursor experiment to the one that created the androids that have liberated themselves. That would also fit with her being quite childlike compared to them.
We’ve yet to see if these new androids gained their intelligence by themselves or if they were given it by a human creator. But this episode leaves the question open for further development rather than rushing through it here, which I think was a great choice. There’s plenty of time for more background information to come out; better not to get it in exposition. Better still, the plot we then see keeps everything personal: The next step on the path of the Android’s self-discovery is the choice whether or not to accept an upgrade that will make her for all intents and purposes human looking and acting.
I can’t make up my mind whether I want her to take the upgrade. As a friend of mine recently said The Android is just so “ADORABLE” – her choice of capitals. And that childlike approach to situations has given us some great deadpan humour. However, with her big choice in play now, all the season one characters have been given a chance to grow beyond who they once were, so fair’s fair.
Whichever way this goes it’s great to see Dark Matter considering its universe’s technology level and playing with its consequences. In the same vein it was good to Transfer Transit again this episode. This is a very powerful technology and as such something I’d expect to naturally have consequences that affect all parts of life. In this case that includes companies having information for tourists on all manner of places to visit – including ones that might just happen to be of interest to bioengineered lifeforms investigating their past. It might seem small but these things can really make a background. Interesting as well, to get another mention of Earth, which still seems to be, at best, little more than a distant memory for some people and to mean nothing to others.
So, Three and The Android pretty much stole the show this week – their turn perhaps given Five and Two got their time in the sun last week. All the better this episode though, was that there was still some time to give us a little more information about the new guys.
Devon has drugs habit then. Such a thing never goes well, for the individual and those around them, so I’m expecting that trouble will be following after him pretty soon.
And Nyx has explained some of her superhuman powers: she learns really quickly – to the extent she can hold her own in a fight with Four with a weapon she’s never used before – and has the ability to predict her opponent’s moves in a fight. Turns out she’s really good with people too, given the empathy and influence she shows in manipulating the Transfer Transit worker. Surely she has to be a bioengineered lifeform like Two?
We don’t get much then, just teases, but I’m in favour of this choice. It’s a drip feed of extra plot points that allows stories to be seeded now for a reveal later, like that Titch reveal. Moreover, it seems like a good way of keeping all the other plotlines in our mind whilst making sure the spotlight doesn’t spread too far and dim because of it. Having TV reports saying the GA have a person of interest for Derrick Moss killing lets us know there’s more to come for Three without detracting from the story of his past. The android’s giving our Android a choice over whether to accept an emotion upgrade without trying to cram in too much information about androids in the galaxy and their historical development keeps the plot personal and avoids exposition. The androids don’t have to capture the plot with a problem to solve, they are interesting enough as they are. Again, it feels elegant this way.
The reveals are strong this episode and are still having great impact, still building on information and plotlines seeded in the previous season. It shows that the character plot of the show is still rich, which remains Dark Matter’s main strength.
At least some of the reveals must be keeping you on your toes too? I’ll have been quite slow in not realising that the power-dressing woman was really after the high-tech key-card and not Five. Many of you will have remembered the key-card plot was unresolved but I was suckered in by seeing the woman talk at Five’s picture and mentioning ‘the package’, thinking it was dehumanising corporate speech.
I’m assuming that with the Raza now being repaired and restocked the crew will be looking to make an active choice on what to do next. At least with Six now awake they’re forced to confront the problem he brings. Maybe they’ll try to take the game to the corporations and try to figure out the truth behind Five’s key-card. This will bring them directly into the “there’s a war coming” plot that presumably threatens to turn the galaxy on its edge. I do hope that the plotlines remain as personal as they have been so far though.
- a great cold open
- the hail back to Episode Six, building on a plot point seeded there
- Dark Matter’s reveals having more to them than just their immediate impact
- The Android’s new plotline providing information on androids in the background whilst keeping it personal
- the teased information about the new characters – interesting without taking the spotlight away from the main plot
- Nyx still being a very similar character to Two