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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Dark Matter S2

Dark Matter
Series 2.

I reviewed Killjoys a few weeks ago, and as I get around to reviewing its slightly longer sister series, Dark Matter, I can't help but feel that a lot of the same points apply. Like Killjoys, Dark Matter's second series benefits from both an increased budget and much more focused storytelling, leading to a much slicker, much more entertaining series -- which is good, because of the two, Dark Matter was easily the lesser series, and now I'd say they're more or less on an even footing.

Picking up immediately after the end of the first series, Dark Matter's second series opens with the crew of the Raza escaping prison and going on the run, after One is viciously murdered. Roaming the galaxy once more, they encounter several new problems: As a war between the corporations loom, the crew find themselves targeted by both a dogged Galactic Authority agent Kierken, and an organisation of powerful Seers. Worse still, Four's homeworld of Zairon has become embroiled in a war, leading him to decide to take back his throne.

Apart from the increased budget, Dark Matter also benefits from cutting One out of the equation, having him killed off very early on -- although Marc Bendavid does show up in a few more episodes as Jace Corso, One's evil doppelganger. This is ultimately an improvement, as One never really felt like he fit into the show: Two is the main protagonist and leader, after all, and Five and Six were both more than adequate for the role of 'voice of reason/moral compass.' One's inclusion has always felt rather like a marketing gimmick, a blandly pretty white dude to draw in executives and fanboys for a first series -- and having served his purpose, it's fitting to kill him off.

Fanservice, I guess? Sort of? Maybe?

(In a slightly hilarious turn, the crew spend all of one episode investigating his death, and then apparently forget about him completely.)

In fairly nice turn, none of the remaining six who were major characters in the first series are overlooked. They all have their focus episodes, and several of them -- most notably the Android, who continues to be far and away the most engaging character from the show, in a very Data-ish way -- get their own storylines. While the show does add two new members to the crew, though, neither of them are really given much screentime -- one of them dies partway through the series anyway, and the other, Nix, is treated more or less as a background character in any episode that doesn't involve the Seers.

Admittedly, some of those character plotlines get more attention than others. The Android and Two both have a lot of time devoted to their personal stories, and Four's character arc is a major part of one of the series' main plotlines, but Six's storyline is only occasionally brought up, and Three and Five don't really get their own storylines at all.

Some of the crew.

Interestingly, while Killjoys went completely serialised, Dark Matter still remains somewhat episodic -- every episode ties in to one or more of the ongoing plots, whether it be the corporations war, Kierken, Four's desire to retake Zairon, or the Seers, but they nevertheless remain mostly self-contained. 

The series ultimately uses that to great effect, by intermingling those plots in ways that introduce well-foreshadowed plot twists. One particularly strong plot twist comes in the penultimate episode, when Four is attempting to retake Zairon, only to find that it seems like his plans are being leaked. As everyone warns Four that there's a traitor, Four refuses to believe it's so, and we're set up for the discovery that there really is a traitor and Four was wrong all along -- only for it to be revealed that there was no traitor, but that the Seers were allied with Zairon and predicting Four's moves.

That's basically a Hannah Montana wig.

All the storylines (bar the Seers, which ends slightly earlier) converge on each other during the last episode, and all of them get left on cliffhangers -- and I'm actually okay with that. Some of those stories were more interesting than others (I would have happily taken an entire series of 'and then the crew tries to navigate Zairon politics', but could honestly take or leave the Seers), but all of them were at least moderately interesting, so seeing them converge into a single cliffhanger leaves me quite enthused for the next series.

All in all, I did really enjoy this series. It's been renewed for a definite third series to start airing in the summer of next year, and I can't say I'm not very much looking forward to that. I am, admittedly, a little sad that Four, previously my favourite character (although the Android is vying to take that spot from him) is now an out-and-out villain, but I'll cope, I'm sure. Killjoys has also been renewed, so that's good too.

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