Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dark Angel, Season 1, Episode 2: Heat

Max is still working with Logan for Eyes Only, this time stealing a large sum of money from some crooks and watching them shoot each other – a gang of people who were taking money to take people across the US border to Canada and then killing them. Logan has a new physiotherapist, Blaine, who is trying to help him get the use of his legs back.

But Max has another problem (I do like Original Cindy’s advice – “you got an itch? Go scratch” this is because Original Cindy is awesome), because of Mantecore splicing her DNA with all manner of creatures (specifically cats) to make her a super wonderful soldier, it also has some side effects. Specifically, she goes into Heat. Three times a year she becomes extremely sexually driven, or, as she puts it “climbing the walls looking for some action”. Max spends the episode fantasising about Logan, worrying about doing something she’ll regret – and taking a pretty average guy, Eric, home (to the bemusement of Kendra and Cindy), doing some gratuitous body stroking – and coming out to find the guy passed out from the booze. Which provides Kendra with plenty of mockable material.

Work continues as usual, with Herbal not being happy delivering porn with poor Normal exasperated as ever – and Eric giving Max fancy presents of motor oil (dystopian world – it’s more impressive than it looks). But Logan has something to offer Max – he has found Mantecore, or how it appeared, including the elusive Hannah who helped Max escape. Logan urges patience – Max isn’t a patient person and is determined to see Hannah.

Of course that means leaving the city – which you can’t do without a pass. But Eric, who is now creeping after Max constantly, claims to have an uncle who is connected to the Sector Police and, in the commonplace corruption of the city, can easily move him around the city. Unfortunately when it comes to actually leaving the city dragging Eric along, it turns out to be a hollow boast and his uncle is a janitor – but it’s not like the sector police can keep Max in anyway.

On to the island where Hannah lives; to find some back ground knowledge of Mantecore and the X5 group (Max’s group) among the prototypes, information about the poor, often young women who were used for in vitro fertilisation. It’s also some nice history of how just being in a house was so different for Max.

Of course, Lydecker, head of Mantecore has got to Hannah (Unfortunately Vogulsin, Max’s happy private detective with his own Laundromat, isn’t doing so well, mainly because of Lydecker who is torturing him for information). Hannah has called Lydecker and told him, she’s there – and Max knows but assures Hannah it’s ok, that she had no choice – but Lydecker will kill her unless they both run. Time for some action, hide and seek with Lydecker’s soldiers. With a lot of running, action and Logan hacking into the soldier’s radio, they manage to get free. Much to Lydecker’s irritation.

In the aftermath Eric breaks up with her – far too much chaos and danger for his tastes (Max is bemused since she’s been looking to drop him for a while). And Logan gets Hannah out of the country using the Eyes Only network and asks questions about Eric to establish the whole sexual tension between them.

And Hannah tells Max that Max’s mother fought tooth and nail to try and keep her baby, but Mantecore gave her no choice.

Yes, I roll my eyes at the whole idea of Max going into heat, especially given the full difference this would make to her monthly cycles et al. It feels like gratuitous sexualising for the sake of it without any real plot development and lots of titillation. And to do that in the second episode – just after the pilot’s awesomeness is pretty poor. And really, if you are going to give her huge sexual desire, why compound that with shame and regret rather than, as Cindy says, having an itch and going to scratch it?

I also think the second episode is too soon to take us away from the established side characters, they haven't been established too long to stick that we can just leave them like this

We still have a lot of excellent world building and world establishment – just showing Max riding through the streets of Seattle really makes it clear how poor things have become, how hard and how repressive. And Kendra who teaches Japanese to kids as part of the way she scrapes a living – has one of her students ask to pay with a bag of coffee because she doesn’t have any money; and even Kendra commenting on how rare it is to see real coffee. Logan talking about the sector police and needing a pass to leave the city. These little asides are an excellent way to build the world without lecturing or info-dumping. Just as her driving without lights and seeing through her eyes and side comments about not sleeping emphasises Max’s abilities far better than describing them

I like the action scenes as well, they’re well-choreographed, look shiny in the ways that real fights never do and are exciting and fun and don’t make me think of bad guys queuing up to be punched.