A Sashurai’s Review: Dark Matter – Season 1×05 (Some space zombies still know karate)

Dark Matter 1x05

Sci-Fi has a tricky gift in that it can usually absorb other genre’s without diluting the core aspect of it’s root tone. You can get great combinations like Blade Runner (a futuristic noir tale) or Event Horizon (horror in space). When a show tries to pull this off, it can be both entertaining and disastrous depending on the approach and plot. Tonight’s episode of Dark Matter opted for a standalone treatment that introduces a rather tired look at the zombie in space concept. The concept and mythology of the show twists more corporate agendas in the background while the cast contend with ravenous crew members aboard a derelict freighter. And for two episodes in a row, Two discovers something new about herself and we discover she’s not as into the nice sensitive guys as one was hoping.

I wanted to like this episode because I’m a huge zombie fan, but this wasn’t the best platform to try and experiment in the horror cliché quite so soon. The show is still trying to figure itself out and the only consistency thus far have been the characters, which we’re still deciding if we truly like or not. The setting and tone of the series jumps from one episode to the next with snippets of a bigger story that will be coming into play, yet there still isn’t a solid grasp of scope on this series. At any point, I half expect to find out that Five is really a princess from a land not quite dissimilar to Druidia. Before they start pumping in different types of experimental cross-genre plots, I’d like for them to be more consistent in their story telling and really flesh out these characters. This isn’t a show you can be episodic with like ST TNG, there’s an ever growing plot here and we really haven’t received our baseline yet on what this show is trying to tell us.

The Raza crew receive a message from a disgruntled benefactor who had given them the original job with taking out the miners. They receive a new mission to find and return a freighter no questions asked. After locating the ship, they dock and discover bodies, mangled and torn up. One crew member attacks and bites Two in the neck. She is quarantined back at the Raza as the crew find out the freighter had contact with a planet that was off limits due to a virus that was created through the misuse of the planet’s resources thought to make humans immortal. One and Three are cut off and trapped on the freighter while the android attempts to research a cure for Two. One and Three fight off against several infected crewmen and rejoins with Six piloting the marauder. Later, Two is scanned and found no longer infected for unknown reasons. That night, she observes the wound on her neck has mysteriously healed. Other subplots include One and three arguing over the deal Three forced One to make regarding the real Jace Corse. Five shows the android the card she found near the dead boy which is revealed to be some kind of mechanism to access parts of space. And Two has been sleeping with Three, much to the disappointment of One.

The plot as a whole wasn’t solid or well thought out. Firstly, you can’t just half-ass the zombie idea. Now granted, they weren’t “resurrected” persay, but you can clearly draw parallels with Resident Evil when you add words like “virus” and “corporation” into the mix. The crewman who fought Two confused the situation because if there’s a root need to feed, the crewman wouldn’t fight her like he did. It just doesn’t overwrite that core need to eat and sustain hunger. If the crewman tried to fight off the virus while attacking that would have made more sense, but it had already succumbed to it. The rest of the crew acted as though they were already dead and only being powered by the brain to tear flesh with teeth.

Secondly, I always find it peculiar how some space shows understand the physics of what happens when there’s a hole in a ship and what that would actually do, and those that don’t. One and Three would have been completely sucked out, no questions asked. And the build up of carbon dioxide would have made them weaker. When they passed out, they really shouldn’t have woken back up with enough strength to do what they did before the oxygen came back on. That’s just main character syndrome kicking in and Three hasn’t earned that right quite yet.

I kind of want to dive into Two mentality with sleeping with Three so suddenly, but I think there’s aspects we just don’t understand quite yet. It could be that the friction caused by One put her in a weird spot so her only method to distance herself was to sleep with the most despised character on the show to keep One from pursuing her. Or, she’s trying to gain Three’s trust to such a degree that he’ll be more receptive to whatever agenda she has. Or, her moral compass has been flipped and she’s trying to figure out for herself what she’s capable of, good or bad. That could be an interesting take, but considering she once more went to Three after the virus incident, it’s rather obvious she’s looking for a short series of no-strings-attached, where she can get what she wants and not have to worry about a relationship because that just complicate things. I have to give points to One who not only feels the competition rise, but actually believes he’ll still win out in the end. Though, his pursuit isn’t really justified because she’s not consistently showing him the same moral qualities that he found attractive to begin with. Maybe that’s the whole exercise here.

The subplot with the key card has to just go in the back of my head until something new happens. The breadcrumbs continue but the interest is very limited. And they can only face the vault door so many times and “not” open it before I start to lose interest in what’s within it entirely. I give it three more episodes. If they don’t open by then, I give up on that subplot.

FAVORITE MOMENT

I liked the ending scene with Two discovering she has an unexplainable healing factor. If that didn’t happen I would have really given this episode a low score because they almost completely dismissed the reason why Two was immune to the virus. She’s essentially a female Wolverine, as I’m reminded of the 90’s era cartoon of X-Men when Cable infected Wolverine with the techno-virus. Wolverine’s healing took out the virus and created anti-bodies that rendered the virus useless. But I digress. Two has some kind of accelerated healing or possibly something similar that keeps her from sustaining wounds which opens up all sorts of questions.

CHARACTER MVP

I can’t say anyone really stood out this time around except for One. He saved Three’s life when he didn’t have to, and declared that maybe he isn’t lost in the make-believe competition to win Two’s heart. At least he’s not backing down in his own mind even after finding out Two slept with Three. Sometimes that can affect the pursuer when events like that go down.

ENDING THOUGHTS

I’d like to get a roundabout figure with how many corporations exist in this universe. I believe we’ve been introduced to two in person and one by name giving it three total, unless I missed another one somewhere. I keep thinking there’s four total for some reason, but it’s likely a higher number considering the sheer size of space and that FTL exists. I do wonder who holds the patent for FTL in this storyline and how long its been around.

The android is trying, I get that. She throws in one or two human-like responses that come off as awkward or misinterpreted. It’s endearing and the motif is well recognized, but sooner or later they need to give her a background that helps us understand the character better. Even Data had a thorough past that gave great insight into his nature as an android. Oh, and she needs a new name.

Speaking of names, shouldn’t characters like these pick alternate names at this point? If they want to distance themselves from their murderous, piratey profiles, it’s okay to call yourself Joe or Joan, or even Green-Haired-Short-Nightmare-Lady. Number designations seem a bit trite after a few episodes.

No more breakfast/lunch/dinner gatherings about complaining about the quality of food. That’s tired and reminds me of The Matrix. Move on to other space cliché’s. And why are they so insistent on eating together anyway? Shouldn’t Four and probably Three just eat on their own or not interact as much based on their personalities? They’re not family quite yet.

Not a single character said to shoot the infected crewmen in the head. Interesting observation considering shooting anyone in the head renders them pretty inert instead of just pumping them with lead.

OVERALL SCORE

5 out of 10. It had a beginning, middle, and end, but that’s about as far as I’ll take it. Had the crew of the Raza went to this planet and did a little more digging instead of being told to locate a derelict freighter, that could have been more flavorful and interesting. But I get it, budget and what not. By not adding anything different like lingering human qualities in the infected crewmen that could have added emotional triggers for the crew, or style up the makeup so the infected look more unique, this episode suffered a very standardized tale that never really put me in the zone to care much about the result of this plot. I never believed Two was in any real danger because it’s not time to sacrifice a main character so soon. Even Ned Stark got to the ninth episode before he got whacked. (Spoilers, sorry). Two and One’s rocky relationship just skyrocketed to “sleeping with the annoying guy for any one of a dozen reasons” that will continue to make things strange for half the crew moving forward. It’s just an odd time to start introducing that kind of drama, which I’m all for, as soon as we start caring about these guys and girls and aside from Five and kind of Six, I’m just not quite there yet. I’d like Four a lot more if he wasn’t so self-centered. Baby steps to greatness, but we’ll get there, hopefully. See you next week and thanks for reading.

No more words

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3 responses to “A Sashurai’s Review: Dark Matter – Season 1×05 (Some space zombies still know karate)

  1. Or Two was not originally a female Wolverine, but rather the experiment worked on her where it did not on anyone else before, for yet unrevealed reasons. That is an equally valid possibility at this point in the mystery that is our crew of the Raza. We don’t know yet, anymore than we know her motivations for sleeping with Three. At this stage, I favor the “One would take it seriously and Three would not ” gambit. The interesting point was that when Two needed to reach out to get a little human contact after the real and/or imagine horrors of being infected, she was rebuffed. Story-wise, that says a lot and is good writing, not poor writing. This would also set up future stories detailing encounters with the research corporation that wanted the science. Two now needs to keep the fact she survived the contagion a secret, otherwise, yikes! Of course, good story telling means that very day will come…

    Also, what’s up with the Princess comment for Five? It’s pretty clear that her dream was that of Four. He was down on the beach with his brother. His stepmother killed his father (whom we now know to be the emperor) or had him killed and then she sent assassins to kill him. Four could have killed them but didn’t, carving out their eyes instead and leaving them as a message to his stepmother and her supposed allies in the coup. Four has been on the run since, not only for his life but also having been framed for the murder of the emperor (leading us to surmise that stepmommy is both very bad and very skilled at politics). Many if not most of the “100 people” Four is alleged to have killed are likely assassins sent to kill him or trying to collect on a bounty. Ahhhhh, the mystery of Four unfolds. Time will tell. Also, it sets up a really interested world-building scenario wherein that society of planets/moons/whatever is not just a cookie-cutter western model but based more on a feudal or ancient Asian take.

    As for the zombies, I didn’t have a problem with them. The show took a trope and ran with it, having some fun with the trope along the way but giving it something of a sci-fi bent. There are many different takes on zombies in literature, TV and movies. We even have a zombie heroine in the TV show iZombie (based on a comic, I believe, with changes in the adaptation to TV). In fact, the show did a decent job in getting the audience to guess how closely they were adhering to any one of a number of zombie-behavior possibilities.

    In my opinion, your score for the episode is too low. A mystery unfolds over time, and, if well conceived, is always built on seemingly incongruous occurrences and/or behaviors that make sense when more information is eventually attained. Dark Matter is doing that. It is not cheating the audience but giving us the clues.

    • Fair points. The episode just didn’t resonate with me as well as some earlier ones. As a whole the show is doing great and keeping my interest. Stylistically this one looked and felt too cheap. It’s very hard nowadays to write something compelling and not put the thought in the watcher’s mind of “This reminds me of what those other guys did,” and that’s kind of where I took the review this time.

      Two’s progression and choices are probably the most complex out of everyone and my Wolverine comment was just an observation, I’m not saying she’s a mutant, but I also haven’t read the Dark Matter comic so I won’t be privy to those future plot points.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this, I realize I might have been harsh on the episode, but those were the sticking points I chose.

  2. A reviewer has the right to review, harsh review or not. 😉 And I agree with you: To date, Two has been the most complex character in the show, moving from archetype (what seems to be a purposeful choice to give the audience something on which to hang our hats) to more fully developed “person of interest.” I hope you continue to enjoy the program. I am. It’s actually become much-see TV for me, and few shows reach that level.

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