Well that was something! I'm not sure "Episode Six" could have been more tonally different than "Episode Five," not necessarily in terms of quality (though "Six" was a far better outing than "Five"), but in series direction. The space zombies of "Five" didn't add anything to the overall series other than the knowledge that the infiniteness of space does allow for zombies, and probably vampires, Creatures from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein monsters somewhere out there, too. But "Six" delved deep into the essential question of Dark Matter: WHO THE FUDGE ARE THESE PEOPLE?
"Episode Six" definitely moved in the right direction and had a ton of potential, but things probably could have gone better if Dark Matter really wanted to push it and deliver some solid answers. And "Episode Six" was the place to do it, with Five spinning her own version of the film Dreamscape or, for a less flattering comparison, ABC Family's Stitchers. Through onboard adapted medical equipment, Five was able to access her lost memories and jump between the uploaded memories of her amnesiac crew mates (just go with it). And we got answers in fits and starts, one that worked fairly well (Four's past as a prince), one that just got started (Six's), and one that was thrown in for good measure (One's).
"Episode Six" gave us the most information on characters yet, so it was very satisfying in that sense since that's the cruz of the show. Interestingly, we know more about the quietest character—the human Ginsu Four—than we do everyone else. His story of a being a fallen prince who killed his dad (which we learned about a few episodes ago) continued with the truth, as discovered by memory-hopper Five. He didn't actually kill his dad, he was framed by his evil stepmother and killed a few guys during his escape from the palace. Sure, okay. On the revelation scale, it's about a five, but it's big progress for his character and the rhythm of the series (more on that in a sec).
Because Four was having some issues while memory jumping that may have made her brain explode, Six was also sent in to Super Memory World to fish her out. Upon being zapped in, he got a look at one of his own memories (look, it's science fiction, not science fact, just go with it again) and we learned the truth about him: he was a renegade freedom fighter trying to expose the greed and corruption of the Galactic Authority (which needs a logo update, STAT). But his plan to get their attention was changed by a cohort who decided to go extra extreme and blow up 10,000 people to send a message. Oops! I don't know why, but Six then killed everyone and tried to kill himself, but was out of ammo because he used it all to shoot the others. We can only assume that he took the blame for all those murders, and that's why he's on the S.S. Space Murderers with the others.
Sense a trend here? That's two out of two backstories that showed that these so-called most-wanted space killers were actually set up and weren't the bad and dangerous people they thought they were. Let's call it Orange is the New Black syndrome, where every character in jail was in jail because it was someone else's fault and not theirs. I don't know about you, but it's kind of disappointing to see that. I was all in on a sci-fi series about outer-galactic space felons getting a second chance to go straight as they battled their inner evil nature, but we might get a series that's about these characters looking to clear their innocent names and engage in some ho-hum "I been done wrong!" redemption. That seems sort of... plain? This is just me theorizing here; there could be plenty of twists and turns in store a few episodes deeper.
But I hope I'm wrong, because when "Episode Six" discussed the idea of breaking away from who you used to be, things were instantly more interesting. When Six told Four—as she was having a blast living out One's idyllic childhood life—that she was living in an unchangeable past that would almost certainly end badly because One was on that ship just like the rest of them, and that back in "reality" she could at least try to change things, it nailed the show's themes of the good and evil within and the opportunities that come with a blank slate. It also flew in the face of the idea that these characters ended up here because of someone else, whether it be an over anxious rebel or an evil Asian stepmom. And if one of these concepts has to go, I'm kicking out the blame game. Own up to your mistakes, TV characters! Everyone writing television out there: it's okay to write an evil character, and they can be just as interesting as a "good" character. We don't have to entirely root for them in order for a show to be compelling television. In fact, Dark Matter had a chance to have the best of both worlds by taking these evil characters and set them on a believable path of good because they didn't remember who they were, and all their negative influences that pushed them to a bad space could be forgotten. That sounds like a great idea for a television to me.
What we're also starting to see here is that there's a lot of backstory on each of these characters that Dark Matter wants to sprinkle out very slowly, probably because once we find out everything about everyone, the show may grind to a halt. I get it—no one wants to blow their load in the first half dozen episodes. And "Episode Six" gave us the most information on characters yet. But how much longer can we handle tidbits of information before we get restless? Ensemble dramas are tricky, but they almost always get better the deeper the show gets into its story. That's a definite possibility here.
So far, we know a lot about Four and some about Six, as well as the news that Five was just a stowaway onboard the ship and that her friend T.J. was the dead boy in the cargo hold. We know One has an evil twin somewhere out there in the galaxy, and Two—in addition to being very sexually liberal—can heal from zombie bites very quickly. The future of the show depends on ifDark Matter can dole out information on these mysterious backstories while keeping the present interesting. It's not an easy task, and to Dark Matter's credit, it's done a decent job of it up to now. But I'm starting to wonder if there was enough material in the story to keep things intriguing through a few seasons, let alone one.
"Episode Six" had some great concepts and made for one of the series' better episodes, particularly since it distilled down what the show is about. But there are long-term questions, particularly about whether or not all these people were victims rather than cold-blooded murderers in their pre-sleep lives.
**review by By Tim Surette for TV