Dark Matter: Season 3 Episode 4 review – All the Time in the World
This review contains spoilers.
This show is always at its absolute best when it pushes its own boundaries and also when it pays homage to classic Science Fiction films or tropes. When it does both of those things combined, the result is a supernova of SF brilliance and this week offered up the first episode of that ilk within Season 3.
The SF classic (it’s categorised as ‘comedy, fantasy, romance’ on IMDb, but anything with a temporal loop falls within the realms of SF in my book) that Mallozzi chose to pay tribute to this time around is very clearly Harold Ramis’ 1993 film Groundhog Day, which is the best known example of a time loop narrative.
The story of a time loop is best served when it is dressed both with comedy and with darkness. When a protagonist is stuck in an aggravating loop, they must either revel in the humour of it or sink into the darkness of that prison. Ramis’ film wonderfully explores both; Bill Murray’s Phil both enjoys the witty and powerful knowledge that a time loop affords, and he also attempts to take his life in his desperation to end the loop.
Mallozzi similarly uses both ends of the spectrum here. We begin at a point where Three has already lived through the loop a few dozen times. This is a smart choice, as it skips the slow learning curve that the first few loops would bring and instead plants at the stage where Three is already trying to figure out how to break the cycle.
We meet him wearing one of Tabor’s bath robes (not Adrian’s) and already bold enough to cross the line with Solara, because he knows that a single hit from her will do nothing more than reset the loop (upon being knocked unconscious or falling asleep, a reset begins).
Then followed a myriad of exceptional humour: Three gesturing Adrian’s fall like puppeteer (then later outright shoving him over); Three failing to remember any scientific details and having to loop once more, only to remember even less; and best of all – Three’s attempts to learn French (even though the reason was to prove the existence of the loop to the others, what a wonderful use of eternity that is – to learn a new language).
“Salon vie,” Three tries, after The Android offers “allons-y” (“let’s go”) in French, even mimicking her air punch in a pathetic fashion. Then came that brilliant (if brief) scene that we’d all seen plugged in the promo – Three (in a beanie) and The Android (with a tiny stringed instrument) cheerily singing the French song ‘Dominique’.
And when it comes to the use of darkness, Mallozzi doesn’t shy away from that either. Although he doesn’t try to kill himself, some of Three’s resets are caused by his execution at the hands of Ash. There’s also a great deal of bleakness in the episodes closing scenes, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Another amazing feat that this episode achieved was allowing the viewer to not only get to know, but also to begin to love new crew members Solara and Adrian. As I mentioned last week, Mallozzi has a tough challenge in getting us to like Solara and Adrian anywhere near as much as we all loved Nyx.
But I think he made leaps and bounds towards that this week. Solara is very clearly the powerful and quiet type. A little Chewbacca-esque, if you will – the bodyguard type, who will loyally stand by your side and tear someone to shreds for you. The only slight thing that I feel maybe didn’t fit her character here was the sheer terror on her face when Three suddenly ran at her during one of the loops. I would have expected her to take him down or to take it with less fear in her expression, but maybe that speaks to a hidden fragility within her.
Adrian is equally brilliant as the cheeky assistant who is seen as more of a hinderance on a mission than an asset. He certainly has a hint of sneaky Tabor about him, but I like him far more than I ever liked Tabor and I think – as wide-eyed and bumbling as he can be – that he’s a strong addition to the crew. Bringing him in on experiencing the time loop too was brilliant.
Even though our characters were stuck in that eternal twirl, the narrative still picked up on something important from last week. This was Ryo sending a large group of bounty bunters, mercenaries and assassins after The Raza. Although he briefed them all as a group, we only had one show up this week: a phaser by the name of Ash, who has been helping Ryo to track The Raza.
In the background last week, one of the stranger assassins was a person in a wheelchair with glowing green tubes surrounding them. At the close of this weeks episode, Ryo sat down with that person and stated that they will be the next killer to help in going after The Raza. This means that this particular mercenary must hold some strange and unique skill that means being wheelchair-bound redundant. No doubt those tubes play a part in whatever it is.
It also seems that Ryo has been briefing his assassins on what our Raza crew members are like. We know this because Ash told Five that Ryo told him all about her. This makes the vendetta even more personal and I think this back and forth tit-for-tat between Ryo and The Raza might just escalate into something outside of everyone’s control.
If Mallozzi had given us everything I mentioned above and only that, this still would have been a perfect episode. But he took everything one step farther and granted us something that is highly cherished within any show: a glimpse into the distant future, at the fate of our characters.
When The Android visited this time period she found herself clad in all in black, with a red eye – looking somewhat like a Borg from Star Trek – and found Five as an old woman. Five was very aware that The Android had just time travelled (having waited for her for “longer than I can remember”) and offered more than a little information of what lays in the future for our characters.
She states “very bad things” happened and that all of the rest of the crew were “gone… a long time ago”. The sadness with which she states “gone” can no doubt be taken to mean “dead” or perhaps fates worse than death. Here’s everything that she mentioned about the future and what they might mean:
- Dwarf Star’s conspiracy – we already know Dwarf Star Technologies and their illegal operations, so a conspiracy is easy to believe.
- The double deception – this could be very interesting. Is it one person appearing to deceive and then swinging back around (Four perhaps)? Or is it two deceivers, perhaps working in tandem and are they anyone amidst our crew (Adrian and Solara perhaps)?
- Cryden/Kryden – An unknown reference, which sounds like the name or a company or an android.
- Carina/Karina – An unknown reference, which sounds like the name of a female character.
- The Accelerated – An unknown reference, but it sounds like a group of beings who are engineered to be superior, or perhaps an organisation who think of themselves as being ahead of the rest.
- The fall of the House of Ishida – This is very interesting, as it means that Ryo won’t thrive as an Emperor and that he might indeed be killed, or at least removed from power.
- A meeting with your creator – This is Five saying that The Android will meet the person or persons who manufactured her. We already knew this was coming and this will happen in Episode 10 of this season.
- The black ships – An unknown reference, but this sounds very cool.
If you remember that Mallozzi already has a five season plan for the show, then him having already conceived of many of the villains and threats that our characters will face in those later seasons is no great leap. I’m certain that he has a concrete plan for every single thing he mentioned above and odds are than we’ll see more than a few of them this season (and the rest in Season 4 and Season 5).
This is a show with alternate timelines and time loops, so it should be remembered that the future can probably change, under the right circumstances, but this long list of future events that Mallozzi has dropped is very tantalising indeed and they will no doubt fuel the theory canons of fans for the next few years.
Ultimately, a lot of what this episode was about was Three’s unwillingness to face Sarah again, because he didn’t buy into the notion that it is truly her and because he was afraid. He visits her a few times within the loops, but doesn’t fully accept and touch her until the episode’s close (once the loop is broken). He kisses her as 80s synth music steadily build in the background, combining to make a perfect moment.
This was a truly beautiful and magnificent episode, which ranks among my favourite episodes of Dark Matter (no easy feat, given the kinds of episodes that we were gifted last season). I went in expecting this to be an episode about Three spending too much time languishing in Sarah’s company, as though he now has “all the time in the world” with her, but instead we got something much stronger – a wonderfully humorous temporal tale that is not in fact about the trappings of the present, but about the opportunities that the present holds. Opportunities that should be seized because of the threats that linger on the horizon of the future.
Image credits: SyFy