‘Dark Matter’ (Season 3): Serialization-of-the-Week

Shows typically fall into one of two types. On one side, there are shows that are focused primarily on serialized narratives, telling a larger story while offering individual episodic adventures. On the other, you’ve got the purely episodic, programs like police procedurals that will occasional touch on a larger narrative. Nowadays, though, a lot more shows are living in some sort of weird hybridized state, where each episode both stands on its own, but is also doggedly dedicated to telling a larger story. Dark Matter is absolutely one of those shows.

Really, it’s nothing revolutionary to suggest a show is capable of doing both, but Dark Matter is doing it in such an oddly specific way that it’s worth talking about in a little more depth. With a solid cast of characters still discovering their own pasts three seasons in, there’s plenty of room to explore new storylines on a weekly basis. And the show does, just in a hyper-episodic manner.

Each episode is almost always going to be built around a specific job or mission. While those jobs are frequently motivated by the larger plot of the characters – the Android’s search for humanity, exploring the memory probe, retaking the Blink Drive – they still work as effective one-and-done tales. A new or casual viewer can come into just about any episode and have a fun, sci-fi time with the show, even as hardcore fans are learning more about the characters.

What keeps the stories so episodic is just how randomly it often feels like Dark Matter chooses to return to different storylines. Almost every episode will end with some sort of stinger reveal, a new development that will lead to a new adventure down the road. Outside of episodes leading into finales or out of premieres, though, it’s rare for these threads to be picked up on in the following episode. Instead, each episode starts from close to zero, reestablishing necessary plot details and picking a new focal storyline based on the writers’ whims as much as anything.

This isn’t a complaint, mind you, as I think it helps the show’s world feel a bit more natural and evenly paced. Instead of a breakneck pace that keeps the characters bouncing from storyline to storyline, the show allows for some downtime between arcs, allowing the characters to bond, have dinner together, grow closer as a family. Things are always moving forward on this show, but in a way that makes everything feel organic.

And it’s a pattern the show is clearly picking up again here in its third season. With Ishida Ryo still a main cast member, it’s fair to assume things may be a bit more focused around a central antagonist this time around, but we’re still getting those storyline teases, whether it’s Ryo learning of Nyx’s death or Five finding out about her sister. Things are inevitably going to come of these developments, but not as soon as the next episode; possibly not before the end of the season. For me, though, I’m excited to sit back and enjoy the ride on the Raza, wherever it may blink to next.