***Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the Dark Matter episodes “I Should Have Spaced You When I Had the Chance” and “Sometimes in Life You Don’t Get to Choose”***
What just happened? Dark Matter concluded two back-to-back episodes with one of its most shocking and violent endings yet. After taking back the throne of Zairon, Ryo Ishida (Alex Mallari Jr.)–no longer the Four we knew–had the Empress (Mung-Ling Tsui) and his half-brother Hiro (Karl Ang) brutally executed. Those last few seconds left us with one chilling and lingering question: Will Dark Matter ever be the same?
For answers to that question and many more, read on for our Dark Matter postmortem with Joseph Mallozzi. The showrunner and co-creator breaks down the events leading up to Ryo’s fatal decision and previews what he says is the series’ “biggest shock yet.”
The TV Junkies: Oh my god, that ending! That was so great. And you’ve been sitting on this ending for seven years?
Joseph Mallozzi: Yes, exactly that ending where he basically cuts everyone’s throats, including the throat of another character who escaped the bloodletting. He echoes the Android (Zoie Palmer)/Two (Melissa O’Neil) exchange from the beginning of Episode 2 where she says, ‘Don’t call me Portia, call me Two.’ He essentially says ‘my name is not Four, it’s Ishida Ryo, Emperor of Zairon,’ and you realize: holy s**t, things are not going to be the same anymore. That moment was in my head for the longest time. I’ve got these seminal moments in my head and slowly I’m getting the opportunity to finally pay them off. This was a big one.
What’s fun about Episode 12 is when the time came for me to sit down and write it, I worked it out in my head and the pieces fell into place because we had so many balls in the air. I knew where I wanted to go. It’s satisfying paying off certain things. We introduced the Seers in Episode 6 then we bring them back in Episode 7, but they disappear. One of the challenges of any show is to keep audiences on their toes and continue to throw these curveballs at them. You want your villain to be an equal match for your hero and the Seers afforded us that opportunity through their alliance with the Empress to give her a leg up on Ryo as he attempts to regain the throne. For some reason at every step of the way they seem to know what he’s going to do. In Ryo’s mind he can’t accept the fact that he’s being duped by the people he trusts. His memories tell him that he can trust them, and if it turns out that he can’t trust them, then he can’t trust his memories and he will have made this sacrifice for nothing. In the end, he’s proven correct, though it doesn’t do him any good because his ally ends up being killed.
TTVJ: Then, of course, he gets that terrific reversal, which spelled the end for Emperor Hiro. It just kills me how Five (Jodelle Ferland) was ultimately the one to bring him there when she thought she was saving him.
JM: There’s a great moment where she comes in and says, ‘I’m here to save you.’ It’s always a challenge with these types of stories. The Seers, given what they know about the crew, can predict their actions. They know they’re going to come after Four, and there’s a scene you don’t see where Two realizes there’s a chance it could be the Seers [helping the Empress]. If that’s the case they can predict us because they know the crew of the Raza, but they don’t know Five. So many people throughout the series underestimate Five and it’s exactly the same here. She comes through in the end because they underestimate her. The Seers can’t predict that the Android has emotions, so the Android threatens to destroy the palace and says, ‘I’m just a machine, I’m just following orders,’ so the Empress decides to call her bluff. So many fun little moments in that script, it’s definitely one of my favourite episodes this season.
TTVJ: But why kill Hiro? Is it because of what the Other Portia said in the alternate universe?
JM: It’s very interesting because you can wonder why he killed the Empress, although in the back of your mind you can think of a reason for him to kill all of those people—except Hiro. Why would he kill Hiro? Then you go back to the conversation he had with Portia and Boone (Anthony Lemke) and they even tell him: he helped you, but it came back to bite you in the ass when he started to ask for democratic reform, and you dealt with that. Boone does this throat-slicing gesture if you go back to look at the episode. It’s somewhat prescient that he ends up cutting everyone’s throat.
TTVJ: Three hinted that Ryo knows something about his past. Will we find out about that this season?
JM: That’s something later down the line. We’ve got more pressing matters to deal with in Episode 13, which will bring back a number of surprising guest stars.
TTVJ: We also got that promised Android backstory, and learned that she has pre-memory wipe data stored somewhere inside her. Is that something she’ll begin actively seeking on her own or will she share that knowledge with the rest of the crew?
JM: That will remain to be seen. There are huge revelations forthcoming, but not in Season 2. You’ll have to wait until Season 3 for more surprising backstory on her whole pre-amnesiac relationship with Portia and why Portia did what she did.
That exchange with the Android is key in that Four gets his memories back but, as Six (Roger Cross) points out, he’s not just Ryo and he’s not just Four, he’s both. He has the memories of before his memory wipe and after the wipe. He’s not an out and out villain. There are those moments of compassion where he says, ‘I always liked you, Android.’ Alex did a beautiful job there in that moment where there’s that humanity and compassion in him. He leaves and the Android calls out to him to say goodbye and good luck. That just makes that final moment at the end of episode 12 all that much darker by contrast and kind of sad, I guess.
TTVJ: Obviously another sad aspect of that ending was Nyx (Melanie Liburd) finally learning the truth about her brother. Will we see more of her reaction in the near future?
JM: We’re not done with that particular revelation. Their relationship is certainly going to be very different moving forward.
TTVJ: I do want to talk about Episode 11, since it was also a fantastic episode. You said it was going to be a great Three/Five story and I feel that you delivered on that promise.
JM: That is a story that I wanted to do since the end of Season 1. I love the Five/Six scenes, but I also love the disgruntled, cranky older brother relationship she started to develop with Three. You got a hint of that very early on in Season 2 when he goes to her for some cash and she charges him interest. I really wanted to do an episode where it’s just the two of them and put them in a situation where they’re on the run and they have to rely on each other. First it was her having to rely on him, then slowly the tables turn when he’s injured and he has to rely on her.
They were both fantastic. We were shooting out in the cold and there was that scene where she won’t leave him and he says, where the episode title came from, ‘I should have spaced you when I had the chance, I don’t care about you.’ We did his coverage first, and when we got to Five, Jodelle is so fantastic that she reacted and cried on his on-camera, so when it came time to do her on-camera she was so tapped out. Anthony just raised the bar, improvised and really let her have it so the tears came. After the scene was over I said, ‘nicely done, you made a little girl cry,’ and Anthony says, ‘Yes!’
TTVJ: I have to say, Anthony Lemke did give an amazing performance in this episode.
JM: He was terrific. In these types of episodes you have not necessarily an adversarial relationship between them but a begrudging type of respect where neither one of them want to give an inch. You establish that very early. I love bookendings, so in the beginning of the episode she tricks him into eating that sour fruit and establishes in those few seconds the type of relationship they have. Then they go through all this where he saves her then she saves him, and they have that moment of coming together. Then she goes to visit him in the infirmary and they have that nice quiet moment. In the back of your mind you wonder if this will change the great relationship they have, she’s made him oatmeal and you think, ‘wow, maybe it has,’ then he takes a bite and realizes she’s put in one of those sour fruits.
Now their relationship moving forward is going to be informed by what they experienced together and they’re drawn closer together, but that’s what makes their antagonist relationship that much more fun and that much more deep. At the end of the day, despite how much they needle each other, you know there’s that undercurrent of respect and that they really care for one another.
I also want to give a special shout out to Mairzee Almas who directed Episode 11, a B.C. gal who was a delight to work with, and then Episode 12 was directed by William Waring, a former Stargate cohort who I really wanted to bring in and work with in Season 1 but he was actually busy doing Childhood’s End for Syfy. He became available and I knew that Episode 12 was perfect for him. He was great and the cast and crew loved him. Kudos to both directors.
TTVJ: What can you preview for next week’s finale?
JM: It’s probably our biggest shock of the series yet. The title is “But First We Save the Galaxy” and what exactly does that mean? In Episode 8, the alternate universe episode, they visit a reality where the corporate war is in full swing, they find out the circumstances that led to the corporate war and take steps to keep the war from happening. There were rumblings of this corporate war from the beginning of the second season and in the episode with Milo he mentions that there comes a point in history where certain individuals step up and make a difference. That’s something Five and Six have been pushing and this is their opportunity to step up and essentially be better people than they were, actually make a difference in the galaxy. How they succeed or fail is the story of our season finale.
Were you shocked by Ryo’s actions? What are your predictions for the finale? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Dark Matter airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Space Channel and Syfy.
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.