This Dark Matter review contains spoilers.
Dark Matter Season 3 Episode 5
Dark Matter relies heavily on its twist endings, not just with their finales but with episodes throughout the season, and “Give It Up, Princess” is no exception. Likewise, there are always peak moments in each episode, sometimes with a particular character, sometimes with a humorous scene, that ensure enjoyment. Lately, however, the weakness of the overall storytelling has been lurking behind these shining moments, leaving viewers wondering where this is all headed. Although there’s nothing wrong with a good set-up episode (and we’re clearly headed for conflict with Zairon, Ferrous Corp, or both as was wished for in earlier reviews), the journey should be more fun than it has been.
Granted, we’re meant to be frustrated along with the Raza crew as Adrian leads everyone on a wild goose chase around the galaxy, from Regulus-12 to Taliphus-8 to Bellerophon-6, but not only do the names start to run together, the settings remain completely nondescript. The mission itself fits well enough with our expectations, with Two wanting to keep Project Phoenix out of enemy hands to avoid an all-out war, but Adrian wanting to rescue the object of his infatuation doesn’t resonate. Tabor at least was charmingly annoying; Adrian is just plain annoying, as was his storyline.
His bodyguard, Solara, is much more interesting, and presumably something will come of this week’s reveal that she learned martial arts from monks who used the skill only for meditation, not for actual self defense. Perhaps it’s only meant to show viewers the self-loathing resulting from her having assassinated the bandits who killed her caretakers, but her loyalty to and patient indulgence of Adrian makes her instantly likable and a worthy replacement for Four (if not Six) in Five’s life. Plus that attempt at a smile: priceless!
Android’s role in rescuing Adrian and the others — not once, but twice — was another bright spot in the story, although the deeper mystery of her emotional nature pulled attention away from the less compelling aspects of the caper, contributing to the disjointed feel of the episode. Although the sultry Anne Devereaux’s distraction ploy may have been a bit transparent, it’s just so much fun watching Zoie Palmer break out of her robotic persona. Her frank discussion about the upgrade chip with the security android was tantalizingly brief before we were forced back into caring about the missing data file again.
Not that the location of the Ferrous shipyards, where the corporation is building up a massive attack force, isn’t important, but the payoff is as underwhelming as the mission: the 60-to-80 berths are empty. So basically this whole episode was to inform the audience that Ferrous is ready to attack in a big way? Seems a long way to go for that extra detail of scale. Can we go back to the part where Android doesn’t date guys whose asses she has kicked?
Even more jarringly separate is the Zairon story arc, which gave further development to Ryo’s character and motivations but is still in set-up mode as we near the halfway mark of the season. Having Teku as the emperor’s conscience serves to give viewers hope that some of Four’s goodness is still in there, and stressing the importance of the Ishida home system in winning the hearts of the people added a sense of political depth to Ryo’s burgeoning rule that was more engaging than in previous episodes. His full turn to the dark side in the end lent much more gravitas to the show than Ferrous Corp’s empty shipyard.
The final shoehorned plot element at least gave us a reason for Six to be embedded with the League of Autonomous Planets, even though his conversation with Five accentuated the injustice of having this great character separated from the crew in such a contrived way. Bringing back Commander Nieman as the face of Ferrous Corp’s aggression was a good choice, but his sudden worry over the independent colonies because of what Six accomplished on one abandoned outpost is a bit of a stretch.
So we’re left to wonder how Nieman’s assertion, “It’s time to use Agent Zero,” applies to Six and what effect it will have on his friends on the Raza. Is he a sleeper assassin ready to be activated a la The Manchurian Candidate? Is he the target of someone else called Agent Zero? Any possibility is intriguing, but this twist is like last week’s mystery prisoner in the tubed chair: an exclamatory question mark springing from nowhere in an otherwise mostly dull episode. Watching Dark Matter used to carry the fun of putting together a puzzle; now it brings the consternation of reassembling a broken toy.