Review: Dark Matter, “Welcome to the Revolution” + PvE Survival Sandboxes

One of the things I love about Dark Matter is that it’s incredibly consistent. Maybe not every episode will blow your mind, but it’s always solid. In its entire run, there’s been just one bad episode: that fembot mess from season one.

A promotional image for Dark Matter season threeThat is, only one bad episode, until now. I fear it’s time to add another to the list.

“Welcome to the Revolution” has a lot of cool ideas, and some scenes are very good, but it’s trying to do way too much, and the end result is confusing, half-baked, and downright damaging to the series going forward.

While attempting to meet up with Tabor, their handler, the crew of the Raza once again finds themselves embroiled in corporate intrigue, as the local miners foment rebellion against their corporate overlords.

It’s a story that’s eerily — and I believe intentionally — similar to the series premiere, but this time it’s far less black and white. The corporate soldiers aren’t all brutal tyrants, and the rebels aren’t entirely guiltless, either. At times they seem more villainous than their oppressors, in fact.

And that part I liked. They managed to cram a lot of moral complexity into just one episode, and it once again shows that the Raza crew’s efforts to reinvent themselves as heroes will never be easy or simple. Again, being better is so much harder.

Things get even more interesting when a late twist ties the conflict into bigger plot arcs from Dark Matter’s past, but unfortunately, that’s also when things start to go off the rails.

Five (Jodelle Ferland) and Six (Roger Cross) in Dark Matter“Welcome to the Machine” is a complicated story, and there’s not nearly enough time to do it all justice. This needed to be a two-parter at least. But it isn’t, and so it feels rushed and unfinished, and the resolution honestly just doesn’t make sense given past context (this is a very hard episode to review without violating my spoiler policy).

Ultimately, the goal of “Welcome to the Machine” seems to have been to provide another cast shake-up, and that’s the worst thing about it. The show has now lost one of its best characters, who has always been essential to its core themes, not to mention arguably its most talented actor.

In exchange, the cast seems to have picked up two new characters. One has already proven himself finger-nails-on-a-chalkboard irritating, and the other could potentially be interesting but has yet to do much or display any real personality.

This is not a good trade.

In general I am now growing frustrated with the extent to which Dark Matter hemorrhages cast members. I was never the biggest One fan, so I didn’t mind his death (though it’s disappointing that mystery was never solved), and the senselessness of Devon’s end was sort of the whole point of it, but Nyx and the latest loss are just examples of wasting potential. The show is worse for their loss.

These losses are beginning to undermine the core themes of Dark Matter. It’s about the crew, about the unique family they’ve created with each other. The more those bonds are broken, the more the show loses its heart and soul.

Left to right: Alex Mallari Jr. (Four), Roger Cross (Six), Anthony Lemke (Three), and Melissa O'Neill (Two)This has to stop.

Overall rating: 5.2/10

New articles:

In other news, I’ve had some more articles published on MMO Bro.

First, I imagine the possibility of a purely PvE survival sandbox, and how it could perhaps be superior to the PvP focused games currently dominating the genre.

Interestingly I wrote this article before the Fortnite reveals at E3, but Fortnite seems pretty close to the PvE survival sandbox I was imagining (though smaller in scale than my hypotheticals). There’s still a lot of unanswered questions about Fortnite, but I gotta say the trailer made it look really fun, and it’s now on my radar.

My main concern is that it seems like a game that’s really meant to be played with friends, but I don’t have a lot of gamer friends. It doesn’t seem like a good game for PUGing, and it’s not clear to me if playing solo is even an option, let alone an enjoyable playstyle.

But I’m definitely going to keep an eye on it.

Also at MMO Bro, I list off six ways World of Warcraft still has the rest of the MMO world beat. WoW is really showing its age these days, but there are a few specific areas it’s still trouncing the competition.

Off Topic: No One’s Gay for Moleman

In my sixth anniversary post, I lamented the lack of Simpsons content on Superior Realities. I think it’d be too big a change of direction if I started talking about The Simpsons all the time, but I have decided it’s high time I do at least one post on the matter.

I always wondered if there was a god, and now I know there is. And it's me.It may not often come up on this blog, but I am a massive Simpsons fan. I’m every bit as obsessed with it as I am with Warcraft or Metric. It’s a pillar of my life and always has been. I grew up watching The Simpsons — I literally can’t remember life without it — and I’ve continued to be a fan to this day.

Yes, this does mean I’m one of those people who still thinks The Simpsons is funny after all this time. I’ll definitely grant that it’s a lot more hit and miss than it once was, but there are still good episodes, and even the more mediocre ones still usually have at least one or two excellent lines (“This simulation has been brought to you by Your Brain, a subsidiary of Your Penis”).

Honestly if you ask me the real nadir of the series was probably around seasons eight and nine. That one where it turns out Principal Skinner is an impostor? Ugh, just dreadful.

And I think some of the best episodes have come from relatively recent seasons. I’d say “Mona Leaves-a” from season nineteen is probably the most emotional episode of the series, intensely bittersweet while still managing to bring some humour to the tragedy.

Then there’s season twenty-three’s “The Book Job,” which is easily one of my all-time favourites. I’m totally biased, of course, but I think that episode is absolutely brilliant, and I’d consider it required viewing for anyone who has written or even thought about writing a novel.

The Book JobPlus you get to hear Neil Gaiman doing a terrible American accent. What’s not to love?

Normally Simpsons holiday episodes are pretty bad, but “Holidays of Future Passed,” also from season twenty-three, was a rare exception, being both funny and heartfelt. In general I’m fascinated by the whole alternate continuity that has been developed through the various flash forward episodes.

Interestingly, the one other holiday episode that I enjoy is also from a modern season: season twenty-six’s “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas.” I like it because it has a very simple premise — even if it goes to some pretty weird places along the way — and it puts Homer in an unusually positive light. For once, he’s the wronged party; he did everything right.

I can think of lots of other examples, but the point is, I’m still having fun with the show.

Of course, I also have lots of love for the “classic” days, as well. Never going to stop loving the Stonecutters, hired goons, Evil Homer, sixty-four slices of American cheese, or the cursed frogurt.

There are some fascinating things about a show that’s been around as long as The Simpsons. I’m always amused by its take on continuity.

Bart's sons in the futureYou might say The Simpsons has no continuity, and you’d be mostly right, but not entirely. Things rarely change in Springfield, but sometimes they do, and you can never predict which changes will stick. I fully expected Comic Book Guy’s wife to be a one-off character, but she’s still showing up from time to time, as is Selma’s daughter.

The Simpsons kids never age, but oddly, some of the show’s other children do. Both Ling Bouvier and the Nahasapeemapetilon octuplets have visibly aged since they first appeared, though not enough to reflect the actual real world time that has passed.

Bizarrely, though, Jamshed Nahasapeemapetilon has aged in real time and is now an adult.

Under other circumstances, this level of inconsistency might be frustrating, but at this point it’s just part of The Simpsons’ charm. Springfield exists in a surreal nether realm where the logic of our world simply doesn’t apply.

The Simpsons’ long run can also make it a fascinating sort of cultural barometer. Earlier on, computers and the Internet were treated as some novelty the characters rarely interacted with. Now Lisa’s doing research on Google all the time and the rest of the family all have smartphones and tablets.

It's like kissing a peanutHomer used to be intensely homophobic, but now he’s evolved beyond all that, and the number of openly gay Springfieldians has increased significantly. Even if no one’s gay for Moleman.

The Simpsons is, if nothing else, unique. Even if it did stop being funny, I’d probably still watch. It’s just a part of who I am at this point. I’ve probably spent at least as much time with them as I have with my real family…