*** This article contains major spoilers for the Dark Matter Season 3 episode “Built, Not Born” ***
Have you picked your jaws off the floor yet? Dark Matter just dropped what might be one of its biggest reveals yet, by not only giving us the Android’s (Zoie Palmer) origin story, but painting an even clearer picture of what led Two’s (Melissa O’Neil) past self Rebecca to become the fearsome Portia Lin. It turns out the reason for their connection has everything to do with Dr. Irena Shaw, whom the Android was created as a potential substitute body when Shaw’s began to fail. Instead, Portia brought her onto the Raza and made her an official member of the crew, shown by the Android’s memory flashbacks provided by Victor (Brendan Murray).
The emotionally packed “Built, Not Born,” written by showrunner Joseph Mallozzi and directed by Melanie Orr, delivered Dark Matter‘s signature big reveal moments, punctuated by a terrific number of personal character moments between the crew and the Android, with strong performances across the board.
We spoke with Mallozzi to undertake the monumental task of unpacking the episode to answer at least some of the big lingering questions about Two’s past, Dwarf Star Technologies, and what will happen next now that Sarah (Natalie Brown) has a body of her own.
The TV Junkies: This was a big episode in the making, so was there a lot of pressure when you had to finally sit and write it?
Joseph Mallozzi: It wasn’t really the pressure of writing the episode, but the pressure I’ve had holding onto all these secrets and reveals and wanting to get them out in a cohesive episode. There’s a lot that is revealed in this episode. We get Two’s backstory, we get her connection to the Android, we get the Android’s backstory, we get hints about the Android Liberation Front, we find out about Dr. Shaw, we get glimpses of life on board the Raza before the mind wipe. We also get a little hint of what’s to come, in the flashback to Ryo (Alex Mallari Jr.) and Portia, which sets up our next episode, and sends us to Dwarf Star.
There’s a lot going on in the episode, and one of the ways I find that you can really reveal this information in an entertaining way is through the connections between the characters. In this case it’s the Android who finds out about her past and she reacts how she reacts. It’s interesting to see how she plays off the different characters. She has a great scene with Six (Roger Cross) when she’s in the Marauder and they have a really nice chat. We rarely get to see those types of scenes between them, so that was nice. It was also nice to see her in the infirmary practising her smiling, and Five (Jodelle Ferland) having that discussion with her. There’s another discussion at the end with Three (Anthony Lemke), and it always goes back to family and the fact that this crew is a family unit, but it just goes to show how far Three has come from the guy who referred to her as the robot, or bag of bolts.
TTVJ: That scene between Three and Android was a really good payoff. Obviously there has been mutual respect between them, but it was great to see his original attitude toward her addressed.
JM: Yeah, he’s come a long way.
TTVJ: You had a new director for this episode with Melanie Orr. What made her the right fit for this episode?
JM: We’re always eager to try out new directors. We always interview and we have a limited number of spots. She was one of two directors, the other one was Craig David Wallace who directed Episode 309. Melanie has worked on Orphan Black, and they do a lot of twinning, so she’s very knowledgeable. She knows the crew, she knows the camera team, and she’s fantastic. She ruled the set. As a first time director you never know how they’re going to be, but she was incredibly comfortable, always had things under control.
TTVJ: Going into some of the reveals, it was great to learn more about Two’s backstory, and really get the sense of how Rebecca became Portia. Was losing Irena her breaking point?
JM: There is something that certainly hardened her. One would assume the loss of Irena could be part of it. The fact that she, as Portia, was so driven… there’s a little more to the backstory that will be revealed before the end of the season that will add another piece to the puzzle.
TTVJ: This isn’t one of the first times a member of the crew met someone they had a romantic relationship with before the mind wipe, with Three reuniting with Sarah back in Season 1. This one played out a little differently, whereas Three and Sarah’s connection grew fairly quickly, Two and Irena remained pretty distant. What was going through Two’s head at that point?
JM: I guess it’s interesting in that Three and Two reacted different to these long lost unremembered loves. In the case of Three, I guess it was guilt that drove a lot of it. He took the time and embraced the possibility of letting someone in, whereas Two has always been rather closed off, and even moreso as time has progressed. She’s very protective of the crew, who are her family, but in terms of that one-on-one connection, she holds those cards close to the vest. The fact that she doesn’t remember is a forcefield of sorts and allows her not to have to make that emotional connection. As much as she respects Shaw, I think the fact that she doesn’t have those memories or emotional connection is almost a relief to her. It’s nothing necessarily personal against Shaw—it could be in regard to anyone from her past. She’s an incredibly focused individual who doesn’t allow romantic feelings to dictate her actions.
TTVJ: It goes to show how Melissa O’Neil is able to play these characters all so differently, as both Portia and Rebecca certainly seem to have more of their emotions on their sleeve.
JM: Yeah, Portia was very calculated, very hardened, but also very emotional, and Rebecca was very vulnerable, very emotional. Two is different; not that she lacks emotion, but they’re under the surface.
TTVJ: It was never really confirmed whether Two’s nanites cured Dr. Shaw, but will we find out later on?
JM: Oh yeah, we will. Eventually.
TTVJ: One thing I would love to see, though I’m sure it won’t happen since it would mean two very different storylines converging, is alternate dimension Portia and Dr. Shaw meeting one another.
JM: That would be interesting.
TTVJ: I appreciate that you didn’t immediately shut that down. In that case, I’m going to keep hope alive.
JM: Who knows? Anything’s possible. I want to say will have two more seasons to finish our story. Maybe we will.
TTVJ: Five rejected Chase’s offered to adjust the Android’s emotions. He specifically mentioned how that wasn’t her call to make. Had she been given that choice, what would the Android have said?
JM: Chances are the Android will get that opportunity, since chances are they will cross paths again, so I will pass on that question.
TTVJ: Do you think it was reasonable for Five to immediately reject his offer, considering her past with the Android?
JM: I don’t know if it’s reasonable. You could call it a little selfish, perhaps. Part of it is her not wanting her friend to change, which is something we can all empathize with, that idea that you like the way things are and you don’t want to mess things up. There’s that, but there’s also the fact that she’s protective of the Android and sees it as a threat. Chase sees her as potentially less than she could be, whereas one of the things we’ve constantly empathized in regards to the Android is that she’s special. What she saw as flaws at first were strengths because it made her unique.
TTVJ: Sarah finally got to leave the ship thanks to a new android body, but the interference from the GA meant she had to separate from the crew. We’ve seen in the past that Three doesn’t handle emotional stress very well, so how will Sarah’s disappearance affect him?
JM: Well, he’s going to be worried. He’s going to have his hands full for the next little while, but he’s going to be concerned about her. Then when they reunite somewhere down the line it’s certainly going to be complicated for him. Our Android not withstanding, he’s always had an issue with artificial beings, and now the fact that the former love of his life is one is going to make things very interesting.
TTVJ: We could immediately see Sarah’s reaction to this new, more powerful body. Will this have a mental affect on her?
JM: I don’t see how it couldn’t. It certainly looks like it will.
TTVJ: We also saw that Victor wasn’t exactly what he appears to be—
JM: Well, he’s not what they assume him to be, not fully. You meet someone for the first time and you make your first impressions. The fact is they don’t really know Victor, what he has to go through, or to what extent he will safeguard his friends. In terms of parallels, there are parallels to Two or any other member of the crew, with the only difference being that Victor’s crew are made up of androids.
TTVJ: I don’t know, maybe it’s just my perception, but between the reveal that he killed Anya’s previous owner and taking out the other android’s upgrade, which may or may not have led to his eventual death, I’m pretty wary.
JM: You can assume he knows how to cover his tracks and, like we talked about Two, not beholden to his emotions. He could potentially pose a threat down a line, or certainly a complication.
TTVJ: Since next episode deals with Dwarf Star Technologies, will we get some answers about that alien incident from Season 2?
JM: All the pieces are there, and they become even clearer after next episode. Then they become super clear by season’s end.
TTVJ: The Android went through a lot in this episode, and I think ultimately came out stronger for it. Moving forward, are we going to see her trust her emotions and express herself a little bit more?
JM: I wrote a special scene for Episode 311 where she’ll do just that.
TTVJ: Was there anything else you wanted to add about this episode?
JM: It was a lot of fun. It was one of those episodes that allowed me to do the writing I love to do, which is those character-centered scenes. Those moments where the characters open up to each other. There are a lot of them in this episode and two episodes from now in Episode 312, what I’ll call an unhappy family reunion of sorts, there’s an opportunity to do very similar and reveal a bunch of secrets.
Were you surprised by the reveals about Two and the Android? What was your reaction to the episode? Sound off in the comments below.
Dark Matter airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy and Space Channel.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.