Dark Matter’s Premiere Is Too Familiar For Its Own Good

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 14, 2024 (Last updated: 2 weeks ago)
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Dark Matter Premiere Recap (Episodes 1 & 2)
Dark Matter | Image via Apple TV+

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

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Summary

Dark Matter is difficult to keep track of, but its lacklustre human drama is forgivable (for now) based on the strength of its multiversal premise.

These days, the word “multiverse” is pretty inexorably tied to Marvel, since we’re all simpletons. But Dark Matter on Apple TV+ hopes to fix that association by delivering a proper multiversal drama with some rigorous scientific underpinnings. Episodes 1 & 2 set the stage, introducing our protagonist on one hand and then a dark doppelganger who has infiltrated his universe on the other.

And it’s a nightmare to keep track of, let alone recap, so let’s do our best to unpack the goings-on in the first two episodes and make some kind of sense – as much as the show will allow us, anyway – of everything that’s happening.

Meet Jason

Our protagonist is Joel Edgerton’s Jason Dessen, a university physics teacher who lives a quiet, arguably boring life with his wife Daniela. It’s expressed through dialogue that he’s a bit of a shut-in, but he’s lured on a night out by his friend Ryan, who offers him a job in San Francisco.

On his way home, Jason is kidnapped and held at gunpoint by a masked man who later turns out to be… himself. Let me explain.

Schrödinger’s Cat

Dark Matter lays its cards on the table with an early scene in which Jason explains to his class about Schrödinger’s Cat, a thought experiment devised by physicist Erwin Schrödinger to explain the concept of a quantum superposition. In other words, existing in two states simultaneously until observed.

Back to the cat. In the thought experiment, a cat is locked in a box with a vial of poison and a radioactive particle. If the particle decays, it’ll shatter the vial and kill the cat. If it doesn’t, the cat survives.

The idea is that until the box is opened, the cat is both alive and dead. It exists in two states simultaneously. The key distinction here is that the cat is not dead or alive until observed, it is dead and alive until observed. Two states, simultaneously. This is the key to understanding everything else.

Jason 1 and Jason 2 Switch Universes

The key hook of the first two episodes is that Jason 2, through some kind of cube-like device, switches places with the Jason introduced in Episode 1. So, we spend the two-part premiere in a state of confusion that mimics our Jason’s, as he gradually realizes that what he thinks is his life is different in a variety of subtle but meaningful ways.

I’ll be the first to say I find this kind of thing a bit tedious – it was obviously Jason in the mask, for instance, but we plod along like we don’t know out of obligation – but I concede it’s a necessary part of laying the narrative groundwork. And that’s fine in this case since there is a lot of potential in Dark Matter’s premise, especially the thematic idea that the alternate version(s) of Jason represents all the decisions he made and did not make throughout his life and the more literal potential of having to trudge through multiple alternate versions of his life in order to get back “home”.

The drama comes from the things we don’t know yet, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Beyond having lost his wife in his own universe, we don’t know entirely why Jason 2 felt so compelled to switch places with Jason. Maybe it’s just the allure of Jennifer Connelly, which is understandable, but there’s likely more to it.
  • We don’t know how Jason can get back to his own universe, or whether Jason 2 can return to his. Does there need to be a direct swap again?
  • We don’t know how the dimensional travel device ended up in both universes when it was only invented in one of them.
  • We don’t know how many parallel universes, and how many Jasons, there are.

This is all stuff that one assumes will be tackled in varying degrees of depth in later episodes. But given that the interpersonal drama thus far isn’t all that great, this is definitely the meaty material that’ll keep viewers tuning back in.

Dawn Kills Daniela At the End Of Dark Matter Episode 2

If nothing else, Episode 2 of Dark Matter builds to a pretty shocking conclusion, with Daniela 2 biting the bullet, literally, at the hands of Dawn.

In this universe, Jason 2 chose his career over Daniela and subsequently lost her, which is his primary motivator for switching places with Jason. As the premiere closes out, Dawn, one of the employees of Jason 2’s company Velocity Labs, bursts in and shoots Daniela 2 in the head before dragging Jason away.

We don’t know why this happened, though given Dawn’s primary connection to Jason 2 is the lab, it’s likely something to do with keeping a lid on the research. Episode 3 will likely deal with the immediate repercussions of this in more depth, but it’s certainly a nice way to end things for now.

RELATED: Dark Matter Episode 3 Recap

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