After pretty smart but underfunded first season, Dark Matter was renewed for a second season that, as showrunner Joseph Mallozzi announced way before the season premiere, was going to start with a...
As you most probably remember from the last episode of season one, the Raza crew ended up incapacitated and arrested by Six, who, as it turns out in the season two premiere, is in fact an undercover cop by the name of Kal Varrick. As for the rest, well, One is let free and picked up by his corporation’s lawyer, nobody has an idea what to do with Five, and the rest is, unsurprisingly, doing time.
The old cliche of Three being thrown against the wall gets played again surprisingly quickly - the first time this season, he’s getting his ass pounded by a girl. The girl, named Nyx Harper, and played by Melanie Liburd, turns out to be a combat prodigy, as when Two jumps into the fray, she has to keep up, which, as you might remember from the first season, is pretty unusual since Two is a nanite-infused superhuman whose reaction to being thrown out of the airlock is merely coming back and murderizing the shit out of everyone responsible.
The new meat antics gain the attention of pretty much everyone, from the GA, through the crooked prison warden and the corporations who pay him off, to the prison kingpin Arax Nero (Mike Dopud), who figures out that this bunch of lunatics hell-bent on escaping the inescapable moon prison might be his ticket out. So, since everyone is trying to have the team murdered, and so blatantly it even gets Six’s attention, before the end of the second episode they’re all up and running again, with Five going as far as having the Android murder one bitch of a GA inspector. They also drag one more prisoner, a hapless sickbay assistant named Devon (Shaun Sipos), along since he, comically, joins their breakout at the last second.
Twenty-One Chekhov’s Gun Salute
Remember the mysterious keycard that got all of Five’s friends killed back in season one? Turns out it’s season two’s main MacGuffin, or at least the most important part of it. This, of course, ends up with getting the rest of it halfway through the season, in another clonescapade.
We also learn who is Titch the farmboy. Unsurprisingly, it’s Three, and Six’s prediction that sooner or later shit would hit the fan in that memory is proved to be true and upon meeting his old criminal mentor, Three figures out that the story he’s been told doesn’t hold up - revealing that not only he’s been lied to, but half of his childhood was pure Stockholm syndrome.
Four, chased by Akita’s successor Knives, erm, Misaki Han (Ellen Wong), finally comes up with a plan to not only prove his innocence, but also regain his throne - and by the end of the season, Emperor Hiro is dead certain that his step-brother was framed, and straight-up accuses the Empress Dowager, proving that no good deed goes unpunished.
Finally, One’s plotline with Three being supposedly responsible for the murder of his wife gets promptly killed off, along with One himself. Basically, what we do know is that Three’s involvement was based on the testimony of a security guard, the security guard got killed off just as Derrick Moss turned up alive, and Derrick Moss got killed off by Jace Corso, who, in turn, got killed off by Two halfway through the season.
Also, in the tail-end of the season it turns out that GA, and particularly one dogged inspector named Kierken (Kris Holden-Ried, disappointingly shaven after his first bearded appearance) is seeking the people responsible for blowing up an entire planet back in season one.
However, we haven’t heard anything from Cyrus King, the man responsible for the cosmic donut episode back in season 1. Apparently the entire Wendy debacle was so embarrassing that nobody wants to remember it.
Spacey Wacey Ball
So, back to this season’s main MacGuffin: it turns out that the strange card Five stole from someone back in season one is a part of a new tech called a Blink Drive. Instead of blasting through hyperspace at FTL speeds, the Blink Drive can teleport any ship anywhere in an instant. But, since the only prototype is untested when Three, Four and Five decide to steal it from a corporate fixer Alicia Reynaud in another clonescapade, the test drive ends up shifting the Raza by a mile, but into another universe. And gets the prototype fried. So, Two, Three and Four get to impersonate their mirror universe counterparts in order to get the Blink Drive from that universe’s Raza and go home. Which would be a little less complicated if the mirror Four wasn’t the fucking EMPEROR.
So, in short, Four freaks out and gets stupid ideas that come to a head in the last two episodes of this season. But at least he gets home. The problem is, someone hitches a ride on the Raza and once the ship is back in the correct reality, a FTL-capable mirror Marauder breaks off and promptly flies to parts unknown. Oops.
Android Update 3.0: Cocky Chocolate
Better yet, in the fourth episode, “We Were Family”, the Android meets a group of distinctively human-like androids running an illegal software upgrade that allows them to pass for humans. Their leader, Victor, hands her a copy of the upgrade that is put to good use in the next episode, “We Voted Not To Space You” that starts with the Android kicking massive amounts of ass (pictured above). This leads to some startling developments that ultimately have no influence on the plot, but also answers the ages-old question whether Androids dream of electric sheep. They don’t, but happen to dream of being human at the most inopportune moments, like when a computer virus rampages through the ship’s systems and plays merry hell with the crew’s memory backups. Also, Androids love hot chocolate.
Because, uh, somehow, Two, Three and Four have their memories backed up, which comes to bite them in the ass twice. First time, they roll back to their old selves in the third episode “I’ve Seen the Other Side of You”, and with Android down for repairs, it takes Five to mentally trounce Two using Two’s worst fears and unfuck the situation. The second time, in the tenth episode, “Take the Shot”, a virus planted by (most probably) the mirror universe’s Commander Truffault, causes them to hallucinate their worst fears- which for Two is a bunch of Dwarf Star goons wanting to dissect her, for Three is, amazingly and surprisingly, longing after his deceased girlfriend Sarah (the one from the stasis box in that episode with the cosmic donut), and for Four, it’s pussying out from just throwing everything and regaining the throne of Zairon.
Two also gets an upgrade - since it turns out that her nanites are failing, and her memories happen to contain a sight of Dwarf Star’s corporate HQ on the good ol’ Earth, in the ninth episode she decides to be “Going Out Fighting” and attempts to sneak into the place - with the help of the only scientist she spared because he was good to her. But, it turns out that the weasel with a crush we met last season is smart enough and Two not only gets ambushed, but also gets her ass whooped by the new nanite-powered superhuman clone... until Three, Four and Six save her with an ingenious application of the Blink Drive and a quick nanite transfusion from the downed superclone.
However, it’s Five who goes through the greatest change, thanks to the short-lived superbitch Inspector Shaddix. She starts going in “Kill’Em All” (the title drop is her line), then manages to mercilessly knock all the sense into Two in “I’ve Seen The Other Side of You” (again coining the title drop), screw over seasoned criminal Arax Nero in “We Were Family”, steals the Blink Drive in “She’s One of Them Now”, and what she does in “I Wish I’d Spaced You When I Had The Chance”... Allow me to illustrate:
Not to mention her saving the fucking galaxy when it’s time for that in the season finale.
The FNGs and the WTFs
The new additions to the cast are very, very uneven. Let’s start with Melanie Liburd’s Nyx and her plotline: her ability to fight Two to a standstill comes from her precognitive skills - some corporation gathered a brain trust of precogs, put them on a ship, linked their minds together, the precogs rebelled under the leadership of a guy named Hansmeed, Hansmeed exploited them just like the corporation did, Nyx got pissed off, bailed, pulled some shit, ended up in the joint. So her idea was to help the Raza crew break out, then have them help her break her brother Milo out from the precog ship. That stunt succeeded only partially, because once the Raza crew figured out what they were doing, precogs also did, and demanded Milo back - but not before he spouted some cryptic prophecies and got a particularly stupid idea (and a knife) from Four. Because then, go figure, Hansmeed not only personally went and shanked Devon in revenge, but also lent his services to the imperial throne of Zairon.
Knives Han, on the other hand, merely serves as a pouty decoration with barely any clue of that weird thing called loyalty. She appears to chase Four in the second episode, “Kill’Em All”, then doesn’t show up for the entire goddamn season save for a brief hallucination where she bitches out Four for pussying out and not taking the throne, then suddenly comes up back for two episodes to be Four’s conflicted captor/smug hanging judge/loyal bodyguard (in that order).
Then, there’s Inspector Kierken. His characterization is, again, a pile of WTF. When he appears first in the fifth episode, “We Voted Not To Space You”, he’s a tireless Javert and has an off-screen conversation with Four trapped under the rubble. When he shows up in the eleventh episode, “Wish I’d Spaced You When I Had The Chance”, he’s a genius Agent Smecker, recreating the firefight at human traffickers’ wooden shack with intriguing precision, and then following the wounded Three and drugged Five through the woods. But in his final appearance in the last episode, “But First, We Save The Galaxy”, he’s merely a moronic jackbooted douchebag who gets blown up for his trouble (and not listening to Two and Six warning him that one of the corporations intended to blow up the blockaded, tightly secured space station).
Arax Nero, the prison kingpin and smuggler, exists only to help the main characters escape prison, then try to steal the MacGuffin and fail because Five, in case you forgot, is an expert pickpocket. Remember, next time don’t underestimate the little girl in a terrible sweater, because she’ll fuck your shit right up when you least expect it. Oddly, despite working for an absolute bitch like Alicia Reynaud, he isn’t as much as implied to be dead.
That leaves Devon, the supposedly talented surgeon, who does nothing aside from getting high and getting shanked like a little bitch.
But, the WTFs don’t end with the FNGs. Despite the conflict with Hansmeed and his Seers, Four seems unable to figure out that him being thwarted on every step in the penultimate episode has something to do with a bunch of precog cultists predicting his moves just like they did before. Better yet, the precogs themselves derp out in the critical moment and try to brown-nose to Four right after suggesting a solution he would never accept due to being rightfully pissed at his evil stepmother.
Someone offed One, and nobody seems to care who. Sure, I get it, some idiots were bleating that One was a fucking fedora, but that doesn’t mean that the crew’s gonna stop after braining the hired gun, without even asking that same hired gun who paid him. Particularly if the real Jace Corso managed to say it wasn’t personal and even offered to give Two the names.
Wil Wheaton’s Alexander Rook, AKA Weasel With A Crush, returns as a full-on cartoonish villain in the Two-centric episode “Going Out Fighting”. Sure enough, he figures out she’ll be needing a new shot of nanites and moves them from his orbital lab before he plays the ol’ “You Have Failed Me” cliche and sics his new boy toy on our Team Mom, thus leaving her in the room with a walking, beating shot of nanites that is promptly used for this exact purpose by Six.
Since we’re at Rook: his scientists have Three mouth-fucked by some crazy alien goop that makes Three go full Terminator, making everyone (both the characters and the viewers) ask “What the hell was that?!” when it finally pops out after Three is forcefully shoved into a stasis chamber.
Finally, Four’s plan to get his mitts on the Blink Drive and trigger the same corporate war everyone’s been warning the Raza crew about like it’s Season 1 of Crinjoys all over again. But, luckily, Dark Matter doesn’t reach the Lovretta level of sheer dumbfuckery, because Four’s plan actually makes sense based on what the viewers know, even if it’s wrong. So, Four has knowledge from the mirror universe, where the same thing happened earlier and got his mirror universe version not only the throne but also necessary peace, and boom goes the dynamite, Four just HAS to be a dick because it worked once.
What happens in the last minutes of the final episode, however, is the biggest WTF of the season. Remember that guy who was undercover with the Procyon Insurrection in Season 1 and then turned up to arrest the crew in Season 1 finale? The one who gets gunned down in the second episode of this season for his blatant idiocy after explicitly telling Six that the Galactic Authority is playing politics instead of doing their job? He suddenly shows up to save Three, who wound up getting his ass beat by Ferrous Corp’s thugs in revenge for that mining colony stunt back in the pilot episode.
That’s Not How We’re Gonna Play, Herr Baron
Ending Season 1 on a badly explained cliffhanger that took an interview with the showrunner to understand properly was quite jarring. But, worse yet, Season 2 ended up on a major change of status quo followed by a cliffhanger that looks even more improbable, with the crew in immediate lethal danger and bizarre return of the supposedly dead Lt. Anders. Again, something wasn’t communicated between the showrunner and the viewers, making the outcome strange, to say the least.