To be totally honest, it was with mixed feelings that I leapt into Pandora Season 2 Episode 1
Don't get me wrong. Pandora Season 1 was a wild ride, and I couldn't resist seeing it through to the end despite some of its more frustrating features.
What kept me hanging on (when I've cut loose shows for much lesser sins in terms of continuity and logic) was the sense that Jax's story was worth the wait.
What can I say? Hope springs eternal.
This premiere hints at a more focused and centralized season to come.
Season 1 had us looking in a lot of different directions and at a lot of different plotlines -- from Atria's clone rebellion on Adar to Thomas's daddy issues to Ralen's wife (what now?) -- and that made for an often confusing jumble of different political conflicts.
Pandora Season 2 has centralized its focus to the hunt for Tierney and stopping the Pandora-makers from destroying the universe. Mind you, Tierney appears to be on a destructive bent, as well.
Ah, Jax. Once again, you appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved relative.Tierney
With the connection between Tierney and Harlan Fried (uh, Junior, I guess?) revealed at the end of Season 1, Earth Command has, apparently, made the former Public Enemy #1, while swallowing the latter's oath of contrition (along with some shiny new ships and toys).
Everything about Harlan's involvement with Earth Com's new fleet, and the new Admiral is sketchy as hell.
The model of the Dauntless is obviously a bug, and I wouldn't put it past him to make it a bomb, too.
One thing the writers of Pandora do exceedingly well is create unrepentantly evil villains. Harlan Fried would be cartoonish if he didn't exude such an aura of malice.
The Courier, whatever his real name is or isn't, is a good example of a multi-tasking single-use character.
His job was to find the plasma weapon -- describing it in weirdly affectionate terms on his audio com journal -- and to reveal its location to Xander when the transaction with Tierney doesn't work out.
Oh, he also conveniently does some name-dropping when he and Xander have their stare-down in the prison(?) cell.
The Courier: Captain, anything happens to me and you'll answer to Bey Terahn.
Xander: The terrorist?
The Courier: Freedom fighter.
Xander: Agree to disagree.
His role in anti-Earth Com activities (and the Admiral's comment about how Earthers are thought of on the Outer Rim) foreshadows a labor conflict that I could see Fried or Tierney (or both) exploiting down the road.
The Courier sets up a lot of plot elements in his short dance with Jax and Xander, but I doubt we'll see him again.
His capture seemed to trigger some unrest, but I'm more interested in whether Eve meant to take him herself as the first two sightings Jax had of her mother was when she was seated with him and then when she was chasing him through the processing plant.
So our first question of the season is how Eve, Jax's presumed-dead mother, is mixed up in the whole plasma weapon thing.
Was she on Ipcress 5 to interfere or assist in Tierney's exchange?
I suspect she's working with Harlan (if not also Tierney), as the location of Xander's extraction mission would've probably been discussed in Admiral Lucas's office where the ship model would've transmitted that all to Parallax Galactic Headquarters.
Now lookalikes aren't a new concept here, what with Adar being mostly populated with clones and Jax having her own doppelgänger running around, so Eve actually being Jax's mother is questionable.
After all, Parallax and Tierney did figure out last season that Eve is Jax's big trigger. Having a physical version portalling in and out of the action is a sure way to throw her off her game.
The Courier: You have no authority here, Earther.
Jax: Technically, I have no authority anywhere.
Not that she ever really follows the rules set for any specific outing.
And this is probably my biggest quibble with the world of Pandora as sci-fi. There kind of needs to be some consistent rules.
If we're going with the idea of Earth Com running as any sort of a military outfit, Jax and Xander having an intimate relationship while she serves as a cadet under his command (no sexy innuendo intended) is so beyond suspension of disbelief, it's gone to plaid.
Not only that, but why is the CIS even sending a cadet -- never mind a cadet that was shipped in a box from an unknown dimension to judge the worthiness of this universe to exist -- into high-priority missions like the Tierney take-down on Ipcress 5?
And I know this isn't Star Trek and there isn't 54 years of tech specs to fall back on, but shouldn't the CIS communicators work even when they aren't being used to flirt?
When Jax and Xander are discussing his school days' turn at Shakespeare, their signal's loud and clear, but when they're in pursuit of Tierney and The Courier, suddenly no one's hearing anything?
And, more importantly, when Xander launches himself into space to escape the plasma weapon that apparently disintegrates all matter it comes in contact with, how does he not have a transmitter capable of getting a signal back to the Admiral?
Dauntless Com Operator: Welcome back, Captain Duvall.
Xander: Oooh, never get tired of hearing that.
Jax and Ralen: We know.
I'm also a little confused why his retrieval team needed to cut through the transporter's bulkhead. If it was an Earth Com vessel, shouldn't they have been able to access a loading bay or something?
There could've been a perfectly logical reason for all these tech issues, but reasons were never given, and in order to really sell a sci-fi show, the science/tech needs to be as strong as the fiction.
And the fiction (aka story) game remains strong. Whenever they're back on Earth, I'm fully immersed in the newness of the post-Vokk attack Fleet Academy vibe.
Osborn's licking his wounds and skulking about, while Admiral Lucas yucks it up with Fried and orders Jax to stop shtupping Xander. (If you recall, Osborn tried that last season by warning Xander off, and that didn't work out, did it?)
We can't leave the fate of the universe in the hands of bureaucrats.Osborn
As for the new roommates, color me interested.
Zazie's got a bit of Atria Nine's bubbliness combined with Delaney's close proximity as Jax's roommate. Her optimistic approach to curveballs like her new love interest having a sordid history with her new roommate is admirable.
And, in contrast to Atria, she has a (slightly) better sense of safety and self. Setting her boundaries when she find Jett under her desk in the middle of the night was the sensible thing to do. At least, as long as that intention lasted.
And Jett. Oh, Jett. His return is probably the biggest surprise of the premiere.
Ralen's unwelcoming reaction to the news that the man who humiliated Delaney Pilar last season was completely understandable. His hissing at him was hilarious.
But it was Matta who truly put Jett in his place.
Matta: It was a ... pleasure to make your acquaintance, Jett.
I suspect Jett's reinstatement to the Academy, being Ralen's roommate, and being under Zazie's desk are all part of something Schral's cooked up.
When we last saw Jett, he was being chased by Jax and Ralen down an Academy hall. It was Schral who tripped him up, allowing our intrepid heroes to capture him.
Gotta wonder how the Fleet Academy recruits their faculty.
I'd comment on Jax's bad luck with boyfriends except that I'm not that worried about Xander since he's clearly alive and well in the trailer for the rest of the season.
Unless they've cloned him, too.
However this season plays out, I can pretty much guarantee that it won't be boring.
Be sure to watch Pandora online, and leave your thoughts on the new season in the comments below.
For more insights on new series regulars, Zazie and Jett, check out TV Fanatic's exclusive interview with actors Nicole Castillo-Mavromatis and Akshay Kumar.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.