Image courtesy Syfy. Editing by Tom Gardiner.

Dark Matter: Episode 2 Review – It’s Bubba Time!

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When we last left our space cases, they had just found out they’re supposedly a bunch of really nasty criminals, with the possible exception of Five who’s face and name are not included in the recovered data. The truth is still sinking in as episode 2 opens. Three wants to use that reputation to their advantage and Four says it’s an opportunity to leave the past behind them and begin anew.

Where the first episode was busy filling in the blanks, and with wiped memories in both the crew and the ship, it was pretty much all blanks, this episode began filling in the personalities. We got a nice taste of who they each were in the premiere, but learning even more about them is making them all so much more likable. Being a strong character-driven drama, this is the strength of Dark Matter – characters you love and can relate to. Characters were the heart and soul of the Stargate franchise and Mallozzi and Mullie are artists at creating lovable, memorable ones. Judging by fan reaction after only two episodes, this is shaping up to be some of their best work ever.

The chat between Android and Five was ironically one of the most “human” conversations the show has had so far. Five’s worried, but not because she may be sharing a ship with a bunch of murderous outlaws. No, she’s concerned because her name wasn’t part of the recovered data. She doesn’t know who she is, how she fits in, or even if she fits in. I loved the advice each gives to the other, with Android telling Five there might come a time when she’ll be glad to not be considered part of the crew and Five telling Android she shouldn’t tell people she can smell their pheromones. This was reminiscent of the kind of conversations Data and Geordi La Forge would frequently have. I smiled … a lot.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

“But I can smell them.” (Image courtesy Syfy)

Three’s first scene was a “typical Three” moment. He’s asking Six how he’d rate each of them on a badass scale, putting himself at the top and making up nicknames for most of the others. Boss Lady has a “baditude”, Four is Slashy Stabberson, then there’s Pretty Boy and The Kid. Six just takes it all in with a sense of amused disbelief. He’s probably the most grounded and level-headed of all the crew. It says a lot about the quality of writing that we already find these characters endearing barely into the second episode.

There’s an old trope that says, “Never bring a knife to a gun fight”, but Dark Matter proves it wrong. In the Marauder, Three is giving Four a hard time about his choice to use a sword over a gun, but Four shows him that in close-quarters combat a blade is quicker than a bullet. Later in the episode, he gives a practical demonstration when they run afoul of the Ferrous Corporation goons.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

“I’m gonna have your head cut off before you can even unholster.” (Image courtesy Syfy)

One of the funnier moments was when Android tried small talk with the Ferrous Corp guards. On top of her stealth subroutines she apparently has some socialization subroutines, but they might need debugging. Or maybe it’s the guards who need to work on their social skills? At least Android is trying.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

“So, do either of you possess offspring?” (Image courtesy Syfy)

So the slimy Ferrous Corp dude makes a deal with Two, telling her to just leave and they’ll call it even. He even offers to sweeten the pot with some extra pay. Our boys on the planet find this out the hard way when, as they’re firing up the Marauder’s engines, they discover the Raza is gone. The gals must be Steve Miller fans because it looks like they opted to take the money and run.

A very enlightening and informative scene comes when Four goes to interrogate the captured Ferrous Corp goon, Corporal Weasel.  (That’s what I’m calling him, so shut up and deal with it.) Four’s already figured out that the company was using them for plausible deniability in the demise of the mining colony. Weasel says torturing him won’t work and Four agrees it probably won’t, but he’s going to enjoy it anyway. That’s how you silence a slimeball.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

“I personally find it incredibly cathartic.” (Image courtesy Syfy)

Thinking they’ve been abandoned by the Raza, our boys hunker down for a fight they probably can’t win when Six comes up with a surprisingly selfless solution. He’s willing to take the Marauder up to the Ferrous Corp ship and blow it up, probably killing himself in the process. The respect the other guys give him proves these are not bad people and makes me pretty certain the crimes they’ve supposedly committed are falsified or at least exaggerated.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

“I don’t name the knife in my boot. What do you think I am, a psycho?” (Image courtesy Syfy)

Ferrous storms the reactor room and our boys show off their impressive fighting skills. Four’s hand-to-hand combat skills and ability to improvise by hanging a man with a chain are scary good. Bubba can not only stop a man in his tracks, but stop him in freefall and literally blow his ass backward. Now I know why Three is in love with Bubba. He’s as sharp with his shooting as he is with his tongue.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

“Say hello to my little friend.” (Image courtesy Syfy)

When the goons get the drop on Six and hold him hostage, the other boys decide to go all Butch & Sundance on the baddies, but it’s for naught. The troops have gone, leaving Six alone to calm down his compadres and keep them from accidentally shooting him. Their salvation comes courtesy of Boss Lady who didn’t abandon them, but instead made a deal with the Mikkei Combine, one of the competitors to Ferrous Corporation. She played both companies against each other in a clever deal that would impress even the keenest business minds. Two is cunning, smart, decisive, confident, and compassionate, making her the perfect leader of the bunch.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

“Deal or No Deal? ‘Weir’ just here to help.” (Image courtesy Syfy)

We also got our first Stargate guest star in the form of the lovely Torri Higginson playing Commander Truffault. I don’t know why, but I can’t read that name without my brain seeing “Commander Truffles”.   And while Commander Truffles would be a much more adorable name, it doesn’t conjure up the fear and respect a high-ranking Mikkei Combine officer demands. But, still, Commander Truffles! It would be so cute.

The episode closes with more of Five’s ominous memories that aren’t her memories. She “remembers” planting a virus in the stasis core while everyone was sleeping, but it was not her, it was someone else. She said they did it “because we’re dangerous” which begs questions. Dangerous how? Dangerous to who? Why wipe their memories rather than just kill them? The fun is going to be in having these answers presented to us and I really like fun.

Dark Matter is a character-driven show that’s well-written and full of great dialogue. Only two hours in and I already feel like I know these people even though they don’t quite know themselves yet. There were probably good reasons for not doing it, but Dark Matter’s premiere would’ve benefitted from having the first two episodes presented back-to-back. With everyone starting as a clean slate, the second episode really helped flesh out the characters and give viewers more to love. Online response confirms this with fans excitedly tweeting their love of the show over the course of the night.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

Damned gorgeous VFX (Image courtesy Syfy)

I also want to take a moment to recognize the amazing VFX and stunt work in this show. Every time a ship is on screen I just want to pause and admire the intricate detail that’s put into every one. These aren’t impractical intricacies for the sake of being eye candy, these are ships that look quite practical and I could believe any one of them is orbiting the Earth right now. The stunt work, especially the fight scenes, is like watching a ballet; a very, very violent ballet, but a fun one to be sure.

From writing, to VFX, to stunts, to direction, Dark Matter is pushing all the right buttons and we fans are responding with an almost unanimously positive reaction. Don’t worry, we’ll win over the rest before Four figures out what the ring inside the puzzle box is for.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

That didn’t come out of a cereal box. (Image courtesy Syfy)

Dark Matter held a press conference phone call earlier this week, talking with several of the actors and creator Joseph Mallozzi. That discussion, which you can find in two parts here and here, gives you a lot more information about the plans for this season and beyond, the characters, and the direction. Plus, we’ve got a photo gallery of ship schematicsand drawings – take a look!

For the rest of our extensive coverage of Dark Matter, CLICK HERE.  You don’t want to piss off the android, do you?

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Dark Matter airs Fridays at 10/9 central on Syfy

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Tom Gardiner