This Dark Matter review contains spoilers.
What makes Dark Matter unique and potentially great is its innovative exploration of human nature and the concept of being “born bad.” In this latest episode, Five (a.k.a. “The Kid”) believes that the crew’s sordid past doesn’t matter; only who they are now counts. After all, the android justifies its use of force as, “the result of a program directive which has since been deleted.” Five’s understated but powerful response: “Same with them maybe, right?”
Each of the characters seem to play this idea out in their own way this week as decisions are made about the fate of the miners and the threat of a takeover from Ferrous Corp looms. Two (a.k.a. “Boss Lady”), the self-appointed leader of the crew, steadfastly chooses only to turn over a portion of the weapons cargo to assist in the planet’s defense and then leave. An interesting counterpoint to her leadership is One (a.k.a. “Pretty Boy”), who wants to help the miners at all costs, perhaps to assuage his own guilt at his recently discovered past misdeeds.
And the other characters fall into place around them. Three (a.k.a. “Sunshine”) is not bothered by the crew’s criminal past but is prepared to assist as long as he gets to use his giant pulse rifle. Six (a.k.a. “Tiny”) follows orders but sees the merit in helping and appreciates the morality of what One wants to accomplish. And Four (a.k.a. “Slashy McStabberson”) agrees with young Five in his own quiet way that they should decide their own paths now that their slates are wiped clean. Two’s eventual manipulation of the situation by playing one corporation against another brings it all together beautifully.
Now if only the galactic scale of the conflict were more impactful. The Ferrous Corp obviously hired these mercenaries to keep their hands clean in the forceful planetary conquest, but they come across as fairly generic stormtroopers, not to mention the cookie cutter nature of the miners themselves, even the ones that try to betray their benefactors to save their own skins. The Mikkei Combine is likewise nondescript and far from menacing. Granted, Dark Matter is still a young series, but the character development is thus far greatly outshining the underlying mythology. I know, I should give it time, but first impressions matter.
Much more intriguing are the mysteries on board the ship. What’s the object inside the puzzle box? Why is Five seeing other people’s dreams? What’s behind the big door? Who wiped the memories of the shipmates? I’m particularly wondering why Five is not listed among the criminal crew, and I can’t help but be reminded of the equally mysterious River Tam of Firefly – not a bad association. Was Five a captive of the others? A stowaway? Or an equally dangerous member of this mercenary group – perhaps even more deadly?
I’m definitely rooting for these characters to achieve redemption for whatever crimes they may have committed, which is why I applaud Portia’s decision to keep her designation, Two. The victory that One achieves for standing his moral ground is both admirable and potentially dangerous. It will be interesting to see what alliances this crew makes now that they’ve made an enemy of their latest employers, Ferrous Corp. In the end, though, redemption is becoming the true journey of this series so far, and it’s one I am keen to continue.