This Dark Matter review contains spoilers.
I had hoped this day would come. My initial less-than-glowing reviews of Dark Matter included the disclaimer that I might look back on my earlier impressions and laugh at my impatience. Perhaps I wouldn’t take it quite that far, but the improvements this show has made in the past couple of weeks has been noticeable. “Episode Seven” reveals several enticing details about the ship and its crew, and it further explores by far the strongest theme of the show: are humans only what their experience makes them, or are they good or bad by nature?
Three has been an annoying Jayne wanna-be until now, but the realization that even a prickly mercenary can be a decent guy was both surprising and refreshing. I guess I hadn’t considered the idea that the blank slate could work both ways; it could return a damaged evil-doer to a kinder state, but it could also send a decent human being on a more selfish path. Such is the case with Three (né Marcus), who cared for a dying woman for months before stashing her body in stasis aboard the Raza. Anthony Lemke brought a striking tenderness to his performance, thawing Three’s cold exterior and actually making One look like the hopeless heel of the crew by comparison.
Though who can fault One for giving in to his baser instincts and letting the new entertainment model robot, Wendy, “dunk the cosmic donut”? Ruby Rose added an interesting conflict to the episode as well as a little spice to the group dynamics on the ship, including a decidedly more human performance than that of Zoie Palmer’s Android. Contrived accent explanations aside (are Earth accents, including “Aussie” a thing in Dark Matter’s universe?) I can’t help but wonder why The Android can’t be less wooden with her speech patterns and mannerisms. Her apparent jealousy of the rival robot seemed at odds with her normal lack of emotion, and I’m still having trouble warming to her goofy delivery.
At least the mystery of the passcode to the secret vault is solved. With an influx of money and resources, the crew can get back on more solid footing, and the writers admirably left many of the boxes in the storage room locked to allow for future stories to emerge. It made sense that they would start with the stasis pod and the large box containing the android, but what other treasures, besides weapons and cash, could be hidden in the vault? It would seem that the Raza crew members led very separate lives before this mission, and the locked boxes within the locked room imply that each mercenary has his or her own secrets to hide.
A good example: Two is still hiding the fact that her neck wound is actually healed. Her lack of inhibitions and enjoyment of a good seduction seem to indicate that, although she is a natural leader, Two is not above a little manipulation. It could be that, despite her noble actions in past episodes, she may be hiding the most devious personality of all! After the last few episodes, viewers know much more about One, Three, Four, Five, and Six, but Two remains suspiciously opaque.
I love it when a show upends my preconceptions like that. It shows skillful writing and a deep knowledge of where the story is headed. Dark Matter continues to crank out fairly generic plots – even the ship headed into the star was a bit of a trope – but its foundation is solid. I was hoping this is what the series would develop into, and I look forward to delving deeper into these characters’ origins and the puzzles yet to be solved. I have the feeling that wherever things are headed, I’m likely to have my expectations pleasantly defied at least once more.