‘Dark Matter’ Season 2 Premiere: Doing Scifi the Right Way

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Okay, so before we catch up with the current issues of the crew of the Raza, we have to have a tiny recap from the first season of one of Syfy’s best original series. There’s plenty of underlying drama and secrets that go on, but the upshot is about a crew of strangers who wake aboard a ship with no memory of their past lives, how they got there, et al. Even the shipboard Android can’t help them, due to programming malfunctions and such. So the crew of the Raza name themselves with numbers according to the order in which they woke, and attempt to reconstruct what the hell happened to their lives!

Spoilers in the void of space!

So, of course, season one ended on a cliffhanger, with the unconscious crew of the Raza being taken prisoner yet again by what appears to be a sellout, the man they knew as Six.  The crew has been separated, each according to the purported crimes of their past lives, and everyone is stuck here at the Galactic Authority-run maximum security detention center known as Hyperion-8.

Two, Three, and Four are all decontaminated in the most unpleasant manner possible and then sent to general population, where they immediately all start making friends and starting trouble. Three gets a shake-down by his accomplices from a botched job he doesn’t remember and, of course, Two just has to step in and defend him. Then, newcomer badass Nyx (Melanie Liburd) shows up and she and Three make a kind of prison friendship you’re not likely to find anywhere else. Four is minding his own business in the mess hall and, after some minor confrontations, hey, there’s a prison riot. Only for information gathering purposes, of course.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, One and Five are being held in the staff quarters and treated fairly nicely, but no answers are being presented as yet. One is the only one who can afford a lawyer, the sweeping and haughty Felicia Brand, because in one of his former lives, One was supposedly Derrick Moss, the CEO of CoreLactic Industries and the heir to the Moss fortune. One also gets a visit from the current CEO of CoreLactic, Darius, who promises to aid Derrick however he might in whatever he needs, only to balk quietly when One starts demanding information on his wife’s murder.

Oh, and the ship? The Android is still aboard the Raza, somewhat conveniently docked near the prison, but she is refusing to cooperate with the Galactic Authority folk as they attempt to de-bug her programming. As we recall from season one, the Android of the Raza is no longer Pinocchio, and she took it upon herself more than once to save the crew of the Raza, at the risk of her own existence. She never cared what their pasts were, and I’m betting she’ll save them once again when the crew makes their escape from the maximum security prison.

Six seems to have embraced his new name and job, Lieutenant Kal Varrik of the Galactic Authority, and keeps insisting he’s only trying to help the crew of the Raza when he sees them in their various shenanigans. But it’s Five’s reaction, when Varrik tries to explain all this to her and give her her real name back (he says it’s Emily Kolburn), that makes him realize that the fecal matter has really hit the whirling dervish. It’s been decided that Five will be remanded to the custody of a group home somewhere nearby, for her own good of course, but before that can come anywhere near happening, Commander Lee Shaddick of the Galactic Authority Serious Crimes Division shows up and takes control of everything.

It looks like the only one to truly escape is, oddly enough, One himself. He’s decided to take up Derrick Moss’ comfortable life, but before he can do that, a man wearing his own face (this would be Jace Corso, for those of you who paid attention in the first season) shows up and apparently shoots One all kinds of dead.

Whew! That is an awful lot to take in for a season opener. The show appears to have gotten a larger budget this time around, and are making strides in trying to give the scenes more of a realistic flair, which we the audience all appreciate. All our beloved amnesiacs are back, plus some new unsavory characters to run around with them, and this is how we truly do summer Scifi the right way.

Catch the furious flares of Dark Matter on the SyFy channel Fridays @10:00 p.m./9:00 p.m., Central!

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‘Powers’ Season Two Premiere: Who Really Killed Retro Girl?

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome back to the continuation of the finale from the previous season, the hunt for the killer of Retro Girl, already in progress. Powers is the show about people with extraordinary powers, their long-reaching consequences, and the ordinary folk trying to live with, and occasionally police, the powers among them!

Walker (Sharlto Copley) is still keeping very much himself, despite having just defeated the psychotic murderer, Wolf, and coming off seeing the throat-slit corpse of Retro Girl laid out in a glaring statement of hate – he curses, he rages, and he absolutely fucking refuses to sit still. The Captain, of course, wants Christian off the Retro Girl case right now, considering the FBI just walked in to breathe down his neck and Walker is far too close to her death. Walker’s partner, Pilgrim got assigned to the case with Kutter, which makes no one happy, but at least someone familiar is on it in some kind of official capacity.

Did I mention the FBI? Yeah. In walks Agents Lange (Tricia Helfer) and Schlag (Timothy Douglas Perez), a dynamic duo that are giant pain in the asses as far as Captain Cross is concerned. Schlag is very obviously some kind of Power, he looks like a walking piece of granite and never speaks. And Lange, well, she has the Helfer magic to give her that give-zero-fucks attitude, which, since she’s a season two regular apparently, is just going to piss everyone at Powers Division off.

Actually, how long the Powers Division will last in the wake of the death of Retro Girl, is debatable. I still don’t get how shutting down the PD is going to help catch the murderer, but when has logic ever held sway in this grand country of ours? Zora is still laid up in the hospital after her bout with Wolf, but when she gets wind of Retro Girl’s demise, she takes off determinedly out a window. Good thing she’d been practicing her powers quietly before trying that. Speaking of practicing, our dear little wannabe, Calista, is all grown up, mostly sorta kinda, and practicing her newborn powers out there in the desert. Where, presumably, she won’t kill anyone or flatten anything of importance, as she tries so very hard to fly like Iron Man and bench press a truck.

Everyone is trying to use the aftermath of RG’s death to push forward some kind of platform or statement. Even, amazingly, the former Cobalt Knight of the UNITY trio that Retro Girl formed to fight crime way back when; he’s now Senator Bailey Brown and is trying to put forth a bill that will make the use of any and all powers illegal and prosecutable. The last member of UNITY, SuperShock (Michael Madsen), just has to show up while Christian is taking a last walk of RG’s digs and declare for vengeance.

The re-emergence of SuperShock, or Patrick, as Christian sometimes calls him, out of a self-imposed 40-year retirement, is one of season two’s main plots and so far quite intriguing. We’re led to believe that something, or perhaps a series of somethings, horrific, led to Patrick’s ultimate retirement and swearing off the regulated cape and uniform, and indeed, as he speaks with Walker about the death of Retro Girl, even now he seems a broken man. I look forward to much rampant destruction as Madsen’s battered hero glomps his way towards the truth of her death.

Unfortunately for him, right now the only real suspect at the moment is Krispin Stockley (Max Fowler), given his known association with Khaotic Chic and general dislike for Powers folk, plus that whole wrong-place-wrong-time deal. Despite the real-seeming possibility that Krispin, his little wannabe-anarchist girlfriend, and their anti-powers radicals, I think it’s highly unlikely that all of them could pull such a thing off. If they did it, they’d have to have dubious help, and other suspects are already cropping up. Don’t miss Walker and Pilgrim and all their powers and human friends and enemies, battling them and each-other for supremacy and Retro Girl’s legacy in Powers Season Two!

Powers is being shown exclusively on the Playstation Network, but for everyone else who doesn’t have such a thing, you can catch new episodes on their website here!

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‘Agent Carter’ Season Two Finale: Is it Better to Go out With a Big Bang?

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

So, we all remember Agent Carter and her wonderful Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. prequel show, right? Peggy runs around as an Agent of the SSR post-war intelligence, aided by Howard Stark, his butler Jarvis, and various and sundry other characters in a 1940’s-style wardrobe with enough moxie to out-do every single one of these men! This season, Agent Carter was sent to Los Angeles and finds herself embroiled in strange miraculous scientific doings, dark cabal murder plots, internal agency corruption and yet there’s still time for some epic slices of romance!

Originally Agent Carter, after showing up all her male counterparts right smartly as she often does in the New York SSR branch, went to L.A. in theory for some enforced vacation time. It turns out Agent Sousa, a kind of love interest from season one, is now Captain of the L.A. offices of the SSR, and of course, Peggy has to go visit him and find out what’s hopping here in California. Unsurprisingly, smart Stark butler and Jarvis of all trades, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), is out in L.A. keeping Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) ridiculous house with his wife while Howard concerns himself with making movies. Peggy meets very smart scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) while hot on the trail of murderers and something scientifically out of this world, called Zero Matter. Secret genius and sultry starlet Whitney Frost gets involved with the Zero Matter too, causing all sorts of ripples in the secret society world of her politician husband Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham), and thug underworld boyfriend Joseph Manfredi (Ken Marino), too.

So, how does it all stack up against some of the admittedly best ever television series about superheroes, on-going right now? I adore you, Peggy Carter, I really do, but it just  doesn’t seem like enough. The expected popularity of the series was based on two things: the badassery of Agent Carter herself, and the prequel setting-up of S.H.I.E.L.D. back during the original Captain America times. And while Peggy is forever the epitome of togetherness with her smart dresses, perfect makeup and hair, always ready with a witty comeback whenever she’s slighted by her male coworkers, season two of Agent Carter proves, once again, that she simply cannot do it alone. Having Jarvis as a walking, talking helper (as opposed to the dis-embodied voice Tony Stark uses), like Watson to her Sherlock, is always a treat, and does provide a backward continuity of sorts. Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), sent by various good and bad guys from New York to L.A. to keep an eye on whatever the hell Peggy’s up to, plays a good double agent, we’re never quite sure what he’ll respond with. As Ward clearly demonstrated on Agents of SHIELD, just because I help you once, that does not make me an actual good guy. And Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), well, he tried to make a life out here in the sun, with a pretty little nurse fiancé even, which went all to Hades just as soon as Peggy showed up.

So Whitney Frost is, aside from being your typical diva starlet, a super-secret scientific genius, and as soon as she learns about Zero Matter, oh, she is hot to trot for it and anything, and anyone, else connected to it! Dr. Wilkes manages to get himself infected with Zero Matter during a tussle, too, and now has a bit of a seriously lacking-weight problem. He also has a bit of a troubling attraction to Peggy, who does seem to reciprocate his interest, at least somewhat, but this introduces the unfortunate eggshells part of the show. To “walk on eggshells” basically implies tiptoeing very carefully around mentioning anything that could offend, entice, or otherwise anger other people, right? Well, the fact that Dr. Jason Wilkes is a handsome, intelligent scientist and a black man in 1940s America means his choices for employment are extremely limited, and he’s actually generally considered lower on any totem pole than even Peggy herself. But approaching that unpleasant truth in a superhero show would be tantamount to suicide, so Agent Carter touches this fact lightly, and only once or twice, nor does Peggy for even a moment consider his race a factor in her attraction to him.

And, it does have to be mentioned, they brought back perhaps the best villainess from the first season: Dottie Underwood! Rotting away in prison with her no-longer peroxide-blonde hair, our Peggy comes to spring Dottie because, well, she’s got a snatch-and-grab job that needs help and Dottie (Bridget Regan) is the perfect foil to Peggy’s armor!

The sets used are perfectly serviceable, standard Marvel tropes as far as fighting in abandoned tenement buildings or warehouses, and the show went to great pains to have age-appropriate cars and window shading. Season two even had a 1940s musical number featuring — what else — men, and some women too, fighting over Agent Carter! But it’s the costumes themselves, given to us by designer Gigi Ottobre-Melton, that really truly make Agent Carter seem like it sashayed out of the 1940s. The men’s suits are cut from the finest broadcloth, and the women’s dresses, patterns, and even colors are just to die for. No one wears it better than Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter herself, and the sharp, bold coloring of what she wears makes her stand out nicely against the lighter and occasionally deliberate sepia tones of the surrounding show. Visually, the show is an absolute treat, there’s no question about that.

So will Agent Carter be saving the day, yet again, in season three? What will happen to Jarvis and Stark and company, now that they’ve opened (and hopefully closed) a dimensional portal on a movie studio lot? Will Peggy and Dottie finally sit down and have a Ladies’ Night that doesn’t involve fisticuffs together? What about that epic kiss that Peggy finally planted on Sousa? We’ll just have to hope for the best, but don’t forget to raise your voice and be heard in the desire to bring back Peggy’s iconic red fedora for a third round of epic feminine badassery!

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