This Dark Matter review contains spoilers.
Dark Matter Season 3 Episode 3
This week’s Dark Matter episode alternated between predictable twists that failed to connect and unexpected turns that lacked sufficient motivation, and although some plot points were introduced that are sure to pay off in a big way in future episodes, “Welcome to the Revolution” was a rare dud in an otherwise excellent series. It was reminiscent of some early season 1 stories in which the world-building lacked authenticity, either by being too starkly set in simple, warehouse-like backdrops or by being too generic in the portrayal of social oppression. Sadly, this episode had both faults.
In fact, the downtrodden Traugott workers could have easily been interchanged with the Ferrous mining colony that the mind-wiped Raza crew assisted in the series premiere. The dark, industrial sets suggest only a workplace, but the people are cookie-cutter NPCs with no culture, natural environment, urban or rural atmosphere, or anything else interesting to make them distinctive or even sympathetic. They are corporate drones plagued by poor working conditions, yet they all look and act like someone you’d meet at a bus stop, disgruntled rather than downtrodden.
There was almost more room to feel sorry for the Traugott soldiers, who had not only been abandoned by their corporate sponsors but were now being falsely accused of causing an explosion and killing a number of colonists. When Six negotiated terms with the security detail’s captain, the guy came across as an honorable leader who probably would have allowed the workers to claim Cepheus 5 as an independent colony. Sadly, his subordinates were not quite as accommodating once they’d been attacked.
The conflict had no heart, no core of pain and suffering to anchor Six’s insistence on helping them. The Raza came to the planet to heed the call of their hapless handler, Tabor Calchek, and when only his apprentice was present, the audience was likely siding with Two in her desire to leave the morally questionable colonists on their own, despite the new guy singing the praises of the legendary Raza mercenaries. Is Six really going to stay with this utterly nondescript group of freedom fighters, who seem about as politically righteous as a teacher’s union?
Sure, the arrival of the General, the one who forced Kal “Six” Varrik to unwittingly kill thousands of innocent people, might motivate Six to act, and act he certainly did. In an otherwise predictable story in which an insider sabotaged the workplace to place blame on Traugott (just as the General did with the Galactic Authority on Hyadum-12), the fact that Six shot what could have been a major ongoing villain in the head was a welcome shock. But with the threat removed, Six’s insistence on “making a difference” falls flat when placed in this small-scale setting. Presumably, the crew will temporarily be fleshed out by Adrian Maro, the wannabe handler, and his bodyguard, Zolara Shockley, an intriguing ex-special ops soldier, but they’re no replacement for Six.
Much more interesting was the Android’s discovery — while troubleshooting the blink drive no less — of an encrypted batch of code in the ship’s database. The VR environment we were introduced to at the end of last week’s episode now takes shape as a crude living space for what amounts to an artificial intelligence created from a downloaded human consciousness. Now we’re talking! The fact that it’s Sarah, the love of Three’s (or at least Boone’s) life, ups the ante as well. It was a small part of the episode, but it packed much more punch than the main plot.
Can’t really say the same for Ryo’s minuscule appearance, however. The emperor looking over both young potential recruits as well as the most ruthless mercenaries available for hire certainly shows us how serious he is about regaining the blink drive, but we already knew the military value of the device. His conversation with Teku did serve to make viewers aware that Misaki had been sent far away, but other than that, the Zairon enemy is in a holding pattern. Not much gained there.
One interesting detail that bodes well for Adrian Maro’s value to the Raza is his recounting of “the original members” of the Raza gang. Boone (Three) and Ryo (Four) we knew, but is the mention of two others named Shrike and Jasper important? Is the fact that “Portia happened to them” significant, either in giving us more backstory for our main characters or in deepening our understanding of Portia’s former maliciousness? Maybe a bit of each!
But these were glimmers of intrigue in an often bland, sometimes frustrating episode of Dark Matter. Ferrous Corp is still taking potshots at its rivals in the burgeoning corporate war – yawn. More worlds are throwing off their yokes and perhaps joining the League of Autonomous Worlds – ho hum. Surely the real stakes that mean something are coming soon, but it’s a shame we had to trudge through this comparative borefest to get to it. Ah well, I guess they can’t all be gems!