What I’ve Been Watching II: Swords, Tats, and Amnesiacs

“One: What’s your name?
The Android: I possess no personal designation.
Six: Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of that going around.”

Over the past couple months, I finished watching the first seasons of three new TV series that I thought you all might be interested in. (Of course, maybe you’re already watching them. I dunno.) As it happens, they represent three subgenres (or more) and, as I realized later, they are all tied together.

Well, no official ties, which would be kind of difficult, given that they are on different networks. But, I noticed plot elements that connect them… sort of. The stars of “Dark Matter” (Syfy) — the characters, not the actors — are amnesiacs and one of them wields a sword; one of the main characters in “Into the Badlands” (AMC) wields a sword and has lots of tattoos; and the central character in “Blindspot” (NBC) has lots of tattoos and is amnesiac. See the thread? Well, I thought it was interesting….

BLINDSPOT-- Pictured: "Blindspot" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

Blindspot: Some of you might remember that I already wrote about this series in the first “What I’ve Been Watching” post back in January. Of course, at the time I had only watched 2 episodes, so it was just my first impressions. I repeat here my opening description: “The lovely Jaimie Alexander (“Kyle XY”, Thor) plays a mystery woman with amnesia and tattoos all over her body. The tattoos lead to (potential) prevention of crimes and acts of terrorism, and Sullivan Stapleton (“Strike Back”) is the FBI agent assigned to her case.” [Note: There are other members of the team, too.] I then went on to express concern about the story already revealing some of the mystery of “Jane Doe”‘s past.

I stand by what I said then about my preference for waiting several episodes before doing this. But, by spreading out pieces of the mystery via multiple flashbacks and occasional revelations to Jane herself, they have done a pretty good job of keeping the audience engaged and wanting more — sort of like “Lost”. Of course, there is still plenty more to reveal, as I’m sure they are doing now in Season 2. There have been twists, subplots, and confrontations along the way to heighten the tension and the anticipation factor. My only real gripe is that I wish Alexander would/could show a little more range in her acting; on the other hand, many real people have a limited range of expression, too. Maybe that’s just how she’s playing the character….

into-the-badlands-poster-on-parchmentInto the Badlands: I really wasn’t sure what to expect for this show. The genre-mix is post-apocalyptic feudalism with martial arts and a slight Western flair. It follows Sunny, the regent (i.e., chief clipper, or warrior/enforcer) for Baron Quinn, and M.K., a lost boy with a dark secret, who wants Sunny to help him reach a legendary city beyond the Badlands. Of course, considering Sunny’s job, his murderous and slightly paranoid boss, and all the scheming and precarious alignments between barons, there just doesn’t seem to be a good time to sneak away. Factor in Sunny’s girlfriend, Quinn’s family and health issues, the baroness (Emily Beecham’s “The Widow”) looking for the mystery boy, etc., and things get quite complicated.

Hey! I just remembered that M.K. seemed to be missing some memories of his childhood, so he fits the amnesiac thread, too.

I found myself equally intrigued by what might happen next and frustrated that Sunny and M.K. still hadn’t managed to plan, let alone carry out, their escape. (Yes, Sunny does eventually decide he wants to leave, too. If only….) The talented Daniel Wu (Europa Report, Warcraft) exec produces and plays Sunny, which gives him an opportunity to show off his sword-handling and other Wushu skills. Baron Quinn is played with sadistic glee by Martin Csokas (LotR: The Return of the King, Kingdom of Heaven). It really is a fascinating concept, with all the personal and political intrigue, and it needs a larger canvas to give one the full picture. Maybe the second season will do that.

dark-matter-posterDark Matter: Originally, I was going to talk about “The Expanse”. But, I lost enthusiasm for the show about half-way through. I followed it with “Dark Matter” and enjoyed this one much more. I fully admit that the other show is more complex, but that was actually part of the problem for me. I was in the mood for a sci-fi show whose premise and environment I could grasp relatively quickly and whose main characters I could (mostly) like. That’s why “Dark Matter” fit the bill.

The pilot opens with six individuals awakening from stasis, the only inhabitants on a medium-sized spaceship in the middle of nowhere. They have no memories of who they are or how they got there. Despite the fact that we (and they) discover in a later episode that they are a rag-tag team of mercenaries with serious criminal pasts, and two of them are not easy to get along with, they are still an intriguing and generally likable crew. Each is a very different personality type with a certain set of skills, and they somehow manage to work together (usually), as they search for answers about their pasts and try to survive the present. The crew each also struggles internally with what they were and what they want to be, now that they essentially have a second chance at life. It makes for some fun episodes. Oh,… they also have a “female” android to help pilot and maintain the ship, monitor sensors, etc. She has turned out to be a valuable member of the crew and an intriguing character, as well.

I realize that by comparing it to a “more complex” show, you might assume “Dark Matter” is poorly written and has two-dimensional characters. But, that would be a mistake, ‘cuz it isn’t and they aren’t. Also, despite what some have said, I think the F/X — minimal though they may be — are just fine.

Action, mystery, suspense, drama, romance — it’s all there! These three series aren’t perfect, and I’m sure there are people who hate them or think they are stupid or boring. But, I (obviously) think they are pretty good and enjoy them for what they are — genre-themed, escapist fun. Maybe you will, too.

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