Dark Matter: 2.12 Sometimes in Life You Don't Get to Choose
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Dark Matter has been building up to Ryo's long-awaited return to Zairon for weeks now; discovering his alternate self had reclaimed the throne certainly fuelled that fire for the Raza's resident sword-wielding warrior. In the penultimate episode of season two, he made that dramatic return home and it certainly did not disappoint. Sometimes in Life You Don't Get to Choose was the best episode of the show yet.
The episode took no time getting into the action; the crew were already silently reeling from his decision to take back his old memories. While it might have been nice to see their initial reactions, that sense of unease and distrust add to the momentum of the episode. Alex Mallari Jr. gave us a very subtle difference in his portrayal of this character. Colder, more ruthless and more willing to cast his crew members aside to get the job done, he was both a familiar ally and a stranger in their midst.
Some of the best moments of the episode were seeing his altered interactions with the others. He claimed still to care for Nyx but she shied away, while Five / Das ran away and hid. Three / Marcus immediately identified that he was being shut out while he was almost patronising to Six / Griffin in his statement that he was glad he had been kept alive. Two / Portia tried to emphasize but found herself confronted with someone who knew all her secrets. He claimed this version was better than the Portia of old but that deep insight into her hidden past was obviously unsettling. He was even able to suggest that the Android had memories hidden within her subroutine.
The action quickly hotted up as Ryo attempted his own, ruthless galactic Game Of Thrones. The first warning sign that he was not the character we were used to came as he executed one of the generals on the hijacked Imperial warship, forcing the others to bow to his will. But he has made hard decisions before as the end justified the means. Even when he lead his brother into his trap, there was still the suggestion that he was playing along, acting a cold, ruthless warrior to take down his stepmother who framed him for the Emperor's murder.
But this was not an episode that played it by numbers, as the show's creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie delivered a fast paced script that delivered several intriguing twists and turns through the narrative - all under William Waring's great direction. The attempted broadcast by Ryo's brother and standing emperor Hiro failed spectacularly as his villainous mother Ishida hijacked the airwaves, locking Hiro away with a tale of a bloody coup and claimed the title of Empress herself.
Mung-Ling Tsui was certainly memorable in the season one flashbacks and here she was the perfect wicked stepmother, all calm and collected with her courtiers while being ready to spit venom at her enemies. She might not be Cersei Lannister, but she certainly played as good role. The shocking explosions of the ships loyal to Ryo was a staggering twist, one that should have sent Ryo packing or at least turning to his friends for help.
But this was not the Ryo of old. Refusing aid, he launched his own attack on the Imperial Palace and failed, brought to trial before Ishida and old flame (and captain of the guard) Misaki Han-Shireikan. A stunning as his fighting skills are, this seemed to the battle that thwarted him...all the way up to his shocking victory.
As if things weren't exciting enough, Nyx led the crew on a daring rescue mission; Playing a woman betrayed but still loyal, Melanie Liburd continues to prove her worth as a key addition to the crew and the look on her face as she learned her brother was dead, at Ryo's suggestion, was heartbreaking. The addition of the seers was another thrilling moment, working with Ishida to predict the crew's every move. There was betrayal and death at every step of this episode; even Das rushing to the rescue by freeing Hiro and the Android launching a surprise stand off attack against the palace from the Raza (a proper punch the air moment) could not head off that final, bloody twist.
Ryo's ascension to the throne left my mouth hanging open. Forcing Misaki, after a tender heart to heart earlier in the episode, to turn against Ishida and the seers was a gripping moment, but having his own brother slaughtered was a step too far. This was the brother whose exile caused him to rage against his father and set up his betrayal at the hands of Ishida. So to kill him, removing all opposition was a ruthless step that seemed beyond the Ryo we knew.
But perhaps that was the point. Fuelled with rage, his old, darker memories resurfaced, this was not the cool, collected warrior and ally that became part of the Raza's crew. This was a bloody and vicious dictator. The cruel twist is that we might not have seen the real Ryo until now and his seeming turn from hero to villain will be a shocking blow to the show moving forward. Even if he sees reason, his desire to use the slipstream technology to brutally win the war against Zairon's enemy shows he is no longer willing to listen to reason. If the crew of the Raza don't stop him, he could potentially become the show's next big villain.
I am excited to see where the season finale takes us next week. I expected that Dark Matter would address Ryo's legacy at some point, but I could not have predicted this. Even if Ryo doesn't become a villain, I can't see how the show can go back to where it was. And that makes the future of the show into the now confirmed season three an exciting prospect indeed...