Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dark Angel, Season 1, episode 11: Art Attack

Logan has a family event to attend – his cousin is getting married and he is the best man. Not something Logan looks forward to since his liberal leanings make him the black sheep of the family. And he wants Max to be his date – which means Max has to steal a $6,000 dress to go to the party in, while Kendra and Original Cindy marvel that places like the dress shop even exist in the dystopian world of the pulse – where, if you had enough money, it is like the pulse never even happened.

Logan has the wonderful conflict of not linking his family very much and, objectively, finding them quite unpleasant while at the same time still wanting their respect and being worried about embarrassing himself around them. It’s an interesting conflict many people go through and I think Logan passes it off well. Up to and including him being unwilling to cause a family drama over demanding his mother’s locket back off his aunt – despite him not normally being conflict averse.

Max also has some rather grim and cynically amusing views on marriage and eternal devotion – though she does rather spoil it by melting at the end.

And we learn that Uncle Jonas, the head of Logan’s family and the source of his wealth, owns the company that produces the chips that allow Hover Drones to fly. The flying, surveillance CCTV that helps maintain the police state is only possible with the efforts of Logan’s family. Also, Uncle Jonas and Aunt Margot are deeply unpleasant snobs. And yes, Logan’s income is entirely based on this company.  We also have an old love interest of Logan’s around to ratchet up the sexual tension between him and Max with a little unnecessary jealousy.

At the same time, someone has hired Jam Pony to deliver a stolen painting through the sector checkpoints, impressing on Sketchy how very very very important it is that the package arrive safely. Sketchy listens – and then has a sword fight with the document tube at the Jam Pony offices – before Normal swoops in and tries to return things to normal, swapping the packages in the process.

When Duvalier, the buyer who is intending to leave for Singapore, gets his package instead he has an architect’s schematic and is less than amused.

He sends his men to speak to Normal about the misplaced package. Normal isn’t very helpful so, after having him eat some paperwork they search his offices. Finding nothing, they put a gun to his head and have him call Cindy, Herbal and Sketchy to try and find the package, or he’s dead.

While Cindy, Herbal and Sketchy aren’t exactly Normal’s biggest fans, they don’t want him dead (and do want an apology for the way he talks to them) so do some investigating – and find out about the packages being switched during the sword fight. The other package was delivered by Max – and they call her, summoning her from the party.

Max quickly finds the painting – and in the process finds the architect who got the wrong package and is now contemplating suicide since, without the plans, his whole presentation to his client fell apart and he’s lost his job. After smacking him for thinking of committing suicide over a job when he has a wife and kid to think about, Max gets the painting back and promises to get the plans back as well.

Original Cindy delivers the painting to Duvalier… but it’s a forgery. After the guy selling him the painting is defenestrated, he has a new ultimatum – Normal’s life is on the line again unless Original Cindy & co get him the real painting (also proving that they weren’t the ones who switched it).

Time for Max and Cindy to head out to find the guy who is trying to skip town after double crossing Duvalier. He’s conveniently in a hot tub which means Max can commence with the drowning until he talks (well she starts, original Cindy takes over so max doesn’t get her dress wet) and he reveals that he sold the painting to a Korean ship captain who intends to pass it to the president (who sounds like a not very unsubtle reference to Kim Jong Il).

Time to run to Logan to do some research – and Logan laments about the culture of the US being sold off to the highest bidder, something Max isn’t overly concerned about since she has a life to save. Max also sets Original Cindy on Logan’s ex to try and distract her and keep her away from Logan, while she goes on to the shop to have a lot of nifty fight scenes with the Korean military personnel on board until she gets the painting – it would be much more interesting to watch without the completely unnecessary “me love you long time” line thrown in before the fighting starts (and one particular move where Max, lying on her back, manages to launch herself vertically. Transgenic arse muscles with rocket propulsion? I think it’s best not to speculate)

Max returns the painting to Duvalier, gets the schematic for her suicidal architect and saves the day. Except when she returns to the party, Logan is sore because she didn’t bring back the painting and is, instead, allowing it to be sold off out the country. And the bouquet is thrown and Max makes sure it is knocked out of Logan’s ex’s hands and into Original Cindy’s.

Acting quickly, Logan goes to the morgue where he has one of the informant net working and finds the body of the man who was defenestrated (looking awfully neat for a man who was thrown out a window) and shoots it in the head – changing the cause of death on the autopsy. He then takes the gun, goes to the airport and slips it into Duvalier’s pocket. When he sets off the metal detectors, Max grabs the painting and Duvalier is framed for a crime he did commit.

And in the aftermath, Logan accidentally hurts his foot – which shouldn’t hurt since he can’t feel his legs. He has some sensation back.

We, as ever, have some nifty little insights into the way the post-pulse world works with the priest declaring the couple are married by the power invested in him by “the military authority of the state of Washington”. And, of course, there was a lot of commentary about class. The rich can buy $6,000 dresses while people starve in the street and are homeless (not very different from today) and how, for all the dramatic dystopia of the pulse, those with enough money to cushion the blow weren’t hurt by it.

There’s a similar conflict between Logan’s income and source of his money and his principles. He rails against the depredations of people like Jonas, yet he is profiting from them which is an interesting and thorny issue (one explored more in later episodes)

And speaking on interesting and thorny issues – there’s also the point about the painting. Many impoverished nations and cultures do find themselves forced to sell of their artefacts, their art and their culture to more powerful nations of private collectors. When it’s not direct sale, there’s the simple element of theft by rich people who can afford it on poor places that cannot afford security and poor, to no accountability on a global scale. It is a major issue and this dystopian wouldn’t be complete without mentioning it.

Yet at the same time we also see Logan’s class privilege in being concerned by such things. While Max, Original Cindy et al can see why this isn’t a great thing, when you’re living hand to mouth and people are starving in the street, it’s pretty low down the priority list.