Episode 1.03: Episode 3
Written by: Martin Gero
Directed by: Paolo Barzman
Original airdate: June 26, 2015
Spoilers. You know the drill.
It’s always a good sign when I find myself thinking about something while my brain is idle. The other morning I was thinking about the ship on Dark Matter. The Raza. Rasa… Oh, tabula rasa!. It probably would’ve been too obvious to actually name the ship The Tabula Rasa, so this is a fun play on words. It evokes images of razors and cutting edges first and implies danger, but also suggests the idea of the tabula rasa, or the blank slate. For the “you think too much about this, you should go outside for awhile” file, it’s neat that it’s only half the phrase, because they’re really only half blank slates. Their memories may be wiped, but nobody else’s is, if what we saw in the second episode is true (and it may or may not be). So everyone around them knows who they are, or thinks they know who they are, even if they don’t, and will act accordingly.
A brief visit to some of the discussion boards for this show remind me that TV needs more female authority figures, commanders, and captains. Badly. Some of the posters seem downright resentful that a woman can be in charge. I know I made the comment in my first blog about her bare midriff being a problem. I’m so conflicted on that now that I’ve thought about it some more. Honestly, if that’s what she wants to wear what does that have to do with her ability to command or fight or think? The answer is nothing. At the same time, it just seems so unnecessary, particularly since I don’t think we would see a male commander prancing around with a bare midriff, so it seems like that’s there so the men can ogle her with impunity because hey, look what she chooses to wear, it’s an invitation! It feels like it undermines her, even though it shouldn’t, and even if that’s not the intent. I don’t know. I have really mixed feelings about it. And no, I wouldn’t suddenly feel better about it if the guys took off their shirts for no reason. Definitely not! ;) There is also the reality of TV, too, which is that people tune in for the pretty, whether it’s male pretty or female pretty. It’s the same reason why we have to have long gun battles in lieu of lease negotiations, because there has to be action.
Some have also apparently taken issue with Two being able to take One down physically in the first episode. I didn’t have a problem with that at all. Plenty of TV shows and movies show the same thing (Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD), so why is this even a thing here? I did mention in my first review that I thought it was unnecessary, but now that I think about it more I realize it was an expedient way to to show that One can’t fight or do computers, and doesn’t seem to have any skillset to speak of, unlike the rest. It’s easy to forget that these folks have thirteen 42-minute episodes in which to tell their story, so there has to be some shorthand. What would happen to a story if the novelist was limited to thirteen chapters of 2000 words each?
Another fun little touch I noticed in Episode 1 is another subtle clue that Five may not be part of the regular crew. There are only five lockers. It looks like Five opens the fifth locker (last on the right), and discovers Six’s coat. Six finds Five’s coat laying across one of the cargo boxes. Yet Five is in stasis with them, and is woken up before Six. (I already feel like I have to add “presumably” to every statement with this show, even this early on.) Whoever did this to them may have awoken them in a particular order, with One, Two, and Three coming around first, though Three is the only one we don’t see come out of stasis (hmmm…). And they obviously wanted the crew to find and activate the Android, or she’d have been the first one up when the damage occurred. Was that deliberate? Were the rest woken up by the first three or was their wake-up sequence automatically timed to follow/produce the order? Is Six really Five? Is Five the reason this all is happening to them?
Interesting questions, but on to this week’s episode before this gets too long.
I love bottle episodes, and they were smart to do one so early in the season. The financial reasons to do them aside, bottle episodes also provide an opportunity for character development between the regular and recurring characters, which is the case here. The ship mysteriously drops out of FTL near a dangerous source of radiation. This group is already starting to fracture at the seams after only five days, but this situation ups the ante significantly as paranoia sets in and they begin to turn on each other.
He was less boy scout here, and has a very good idea to use the Android as a lie detector to help them figure out who might have wiped their memories once that information is made public. The answer was probably not what they wanted, since the Android concluded, assuming she was being truthful, that none of them were lying. He is a thinker, rather than a doer, I believe, and makes me think about people whose job it is to go into a situation, analyze it, and find ways to improve efficiency. That seems to be his skill set even though nobody has, as yet, recognized it. He does know how to handle a gun, so he’s obviously had some training somewhere, but he’s not a physical fighter. But he doesn’t know the first thing about CPR!
One is also the subject of the episode’s big reveal at the end, as we see another Jace Corso at a bar in a space station looking for the Raza. This Jace Corso has a harder look and feel to him than One does. This was the ending of the fourth comic, so it’s obviously part of the ongoing plot of the season. Who is One, really? Clone or sibling? Is he posing as Jace Corso? Corporate spy? Government agent? Grifter? Is he the only one of the crew who has a double?
There’s an awkward scene at the end of the episode between Two and One, in which he makes a move on her, then backs off. I have no idea where they’re going with that. Truthfully, I’m not at all interested in it, so hopefully it won’t take up too much time, or will be something interesting instead of just a side romance plot.
Two seemed more emotional throughout this episode, a fact noted by Three. She’s pretty calm and decisive at breakfast, when she informs Three they aren’t selling the ship. Once Five finds the body, however, she’s rattled. Her unease is further compounded by the Android confirming Five’s story about someone from the ship wiping their memories. Having Six discover that fact on his own and demand answers probably didn’t help matters, and from that point onward throughout the episode, Two is clearly unsettled.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when it looks like they might lose the Android, and there’s an interesting, emotionally charged exchange between them at the airlock. It strongly hinted that there’s probably way more history there, like they’ve known each other much, much longer than just their time on The Raza. Retrograde amnesia, in which episodic memory prior to some brain trauma is lost, is a very strange and little understood phenomenon. As One notes in the first episode, the facts of their lives are gone, but they still know what a stasis pod is, and can communicate. They also, very quickly, fall into particular behavioral patterns that speak of their roles and capabilities prior to the memory loss. Emotional responses are very basic physiological and psychological processes easily associated with external events or objects. In fact, memories that are tagged with strong emotion are recalled with more detail, such as people being able to tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard that the space shuttle had exploded, or the World Trade Center was hit by planes. It is unclear whether people suffering from retrograde amnesia experience emotional responses to people or things they don’t remember, but I think it’s very possible, in which case, Two’s emotional attachment to the Android is a big clue to something to come.
Related to this is Two’s theory that Five has all their memories stored in her subconscious. That did seem to come out of nowhere, but it’s an interesting idea. My working theory would’ve been that those memories were planted by some agency or individual as part of whatever this whole plot is to make the crew believe certain things. However, Five also appears to have an intense emotional attachment to the Android, too, and despite their exchange in Episode 2, I thought it was out of place. Unless she feels this way because she actually does have Two’s memories stored somewhere in her subconscious and they’re leaking out.
After the first episode, I thought I’d hate this character. Instead, I love this guy! For one thing, he drives the plot in a major way, and brings some much-needed humor to the series. Also, he was right in this episode, even if his methods were abrasive. While the majority of the crew were being ruled by their emotions, he was busy looking out for the welfare of the ship and crew. Starting with himself. The Android is expendable, and saved them, and he had the right idea that they shouldn’t risk their lives to retrieve her. He also had a point about wanting to sell the ship and split up. If it were me, I’d be like Four and stay to get answers, but I can see his point as well.
Yet, for all the ways Three claims he wants to just be left alone, he’s spent most a lot of time trying to recruit allies. That plays a big part in the first episode, not only when trying to convince Six to be his second-in-command, but also when they try to decide what to do with the miners. Here, he’s apparently given up on Six, and now sets out to recruit Four to his side. As a way to gain Four’s trust, he shows him the door (though, since the ship is an enclosed space, couldn’t anyone find the door? Isn’t anyone curious about exploring the rest of the ship? This drove me crazy in SGU, I’d be all over that ship exploring if it were me).
Three also undergoes the lie detector test under duress, largely due to his mistrust of the Android, which manifests as annoyance with her most of the time. But unlike the majority of the crew, the Android is a thing to him, a useful tool, but one that’s expendable, and I hope they keep it that way and not have him have an epiphany about her at some point. It’s unclear if he feels the same way about the rest of the crew, but the test shows he has no desire to harm any of them. And, as Two points out, he was looking out for them by taking over the bridge to get them out of there.
I enjoyed him a lot in this episode. He’s selfish, but not entirely mean about it, and while that could potentially be dangerous for some on the crew, I don’t genuinely feel he’s a threat. Five does, however, so we’ll see where that goes. Laughed when all the guys piled their trays onto his at breakfast (but notice the ladies bused their own trays). But so far, loving Three and I honestly thought I wouldn’t, so kudos to Anthony Lemke and the writers there.
Four continues to be silent and mysterious. I do have to admire Alex Mallari’s moves–he really does sell the martial arts aspect of the character, even if we haven’t seen him in much actual fighting action. We got a major insight into his character when Three tries to recruit him. He tells Three he’d just take the ship when he was ready to leave. That’s an important piece of information for Three to have, I think, and I expect he’ll try to keep Four as an ally as much as he can for when that time comes. Showing him the door was an attempt to gain his trust. I can’t decide if Four had some unconscious response to the door or not–he suddenly seemed in a hurry to get out of there.
I like the fact that he’s clearly not interested in socializing with the rest of the crew. At all. He’ll find his answers in his own way and his own time, and is obviously very patient. Of all the people on the ship, he’s the one most likely to set off on his own with no explanations or clear motives, regardless of the rest of the crew. For now, he’s staying because it’s in his interests to stay; I definitely don’t think that will be permanent.
There’s more evidence that Five was a stowaway, or at least pretended to be a stowaway to get onto the ship. Who knows what her real deal is. Bored, she goes back to crawling through the vents, and is drawn to a room that contains the body of a teenage boy who has been shot in the kidney. Five obviously thinks she’s the one who killed him, and definitely feels a connection to him because she simply knew where he was once she was up in the vents. Later, she finds a keycard and a gun. (Was that in the same room with the body? Why did nobody think to go and actually search that area for more clues? It’s obvious none of these people are CSIs)
More bonding between Five and Six, which I really enjoy. He’s very quick to comfort her when she’s upset about the body, and about the Android, which was nice. I really enjoy watching the two of them interact with each other.
And, as much as I enjoy Three, I have to admit I did enjoy Five getting the drop on him (and him subsequently welding the vent to his quarters shut because of it). While I’m normally a big proponent of showing rather than telling, telling worked for me her as a “gotcha.” We’d already seen Five crawling around in the vents and after Three accused her of wiping their memories, her concerns were justified. It’s not going to toward any trust building between Three and Five, but that’s all right with me.
As I mentioned, we get more bonding between Five and Six. But we also get his protective streak, too, I think. He tells Two that Five shouldn’t be on the ship with them because they’re bad people. He seems to think that, even without her memories, she’d be safer away from them. Two tells him that she might have their memories, and Six is rather nonplussed at that. He clearly does not believe that Five killed the boy.
Later, he goes on the EVA to rescue the Android, and is nearly killed in the process. He, too, displays a curious and seemingly out-of-place affection for the Android, which he verbalizes to Five. And he definitely sides with the group that argues that they need to rescue the Android after she is taken offline by the electricity on the hull. There are some signs that Two, Five, Six, and the Android, and possibly One, are an emotionally tied unit of some sort, with Three and Four the outsiders.
This episode clearly belongs to Three and The Android, as the two of them provide most of the driving force for the plot. I’m still struggling with Zoie Palmer’s take on the character, but I’m liking her more with each episode. Here, she plays a key role in helping the crew sort out who is and who isn’t telling the truth, assuming the Android is entirely truthful, of course (we don’t know what sorts of parameters she’s been programmed with). She also undertakes a perilous EVA to repair the damaged coupling, and is nearly destroyed in the process. She executes this plan with machine-like efficiency and a seeming lack of emotion, but Palmer is imbuing The Android with flashes of emotion here and there, or at least setting it up so that the audience can project that onto her a little bit. There’s a very brief reaction to being called a thing, and an almost childlike delight in being complimented. She also gets some of the most genuinely funny lines.
One thing I noted was that the Android says the boy has been dead “a while.” A while? From the Android who was telling them, to the second, when they’d reach their destination? That struck me as wildly imprecise for the Android, even at this stage of the game. Which means there’s obviously much more to this dead body than it appears.
Another Bechdel Test pass for this episode. So far Mallozzi’s three for three on that.
I sometimes wonder why ship designers put vital parts of the ship on the outside. But then I remember that you wouldn’t get exciting and dangerous EVA action without that. Plus, maybe putting them on the outside was safer on some way, because they had to be shielded or something. Who knows. This was an EVA on a budget here, but this was an episode less about action and more about characters.
So far, I don’t think they are breaking any new ground for the genre, but it’s been pretty solid and enjoyable. The series excels at raising more questions than it answers at this point, but that’s all right for now. I have no idea if any of my speculations are correct or not, so it’ll be fun to find out. Mallozzi has promised answers, which is good. A series just about questions, or one that throws out a bunch of things without follow-through, would be no fun to watch. I want this show to be definitive about some things, take some risks instead of leaving things open to interpretation. Too many shows are afraid of rocking the boat, or alienating segments of their fanbase, which I don’t want to see happen here. So far, I have liked each episode more than the last. The fourth episode, directed by Amanda Tapping, sounds like a big episode, with some important stuff for Five, so I’m looking forward to that as well.