Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dark Angel, Season 1, Episode 14: Female Trouble

 With the Autumn schedule finally planned, we’ve found that we’re going to be posting up several reviews of current shows on Sunday, while Thursday is kind of sad and empty – so we’re moving the Dark Angel reviews from Sunday to Thursday.

Logan’s legs continue to deteriorate, leading him to consult a back alley doctor – Dr. Vertes secretly. Dr. Vertes explains that while the stem cells he got from Max have regenerated his nerves, his own immune system is attacking the new tissue, causing pain and deterioration. But she has an experimental, cutting edge procedure that may reverse the process – in exchange for a lot of money.

Max, naturally, notices a change in Logan and since their relationship is characterised by lots of not talking to each other then both stewing over it, she begins to stress and worry over his secrecy, his missing their dates, him not wanting to meet with her and him selling his art. Driven by curiosity, she follows Logan and checks out the doctor. The medical setting causes flashbacks of Mantecore where their transgenic bodies were often experimented on for new treatments and medical advances, adding more to the horror we know the place.

Dr. Vertes catches Max rooting around in her office and pulls a gun – which Max takes off her of course. But Dr. Vertes won’t give up info on her patients and before Max can ask more questions she has to save the doctor from being shot. A fight follows Max against – Jace, another X5 from Mantecore, one who didn’t leave during the escape. When Jace recognises Max, she becomes even more determined to attack. Max jumps into Dr. Vertes car as the doctor escapes – and recognises her as someone who worked for Mantecore – one of the doctors who experimented on her and the other X5s.

Max takes Dr. Vertes to the safe house then goes to Logan to warn him about the doctor. Logan already knew and tells Max that not everything he does it about her – while he has a point about her invading his privacy, she equally points out that if she is working with a Mantecore doctor, a doctor who used to experiment on Max, then that is certainly Max’s business. Logan tells Max about his legs failing – and his suicidal feelings about being in a wheel chair which convinces Max to go along with matters (though she does let Logan off awfully easy).

Interviewing Dr. Vertes they learn she worked with Mantecore from X3 to the early X7 series and that, after the Pulse, Mantecore is working to kill off the brain trust it no longer controls for fear they will take they cutting edge Mantecore technology they know and sell it abroad. She plans to refund Logan’s money and run – but the only other person on par with her research is in Japan. Max asks her to stay for Logan’s sake – and promises to protect her from Jace.

Which leads to Max pretending to be Dr. Vertes on her clinic until Jace appears – they briefly fight until Jace suddenly collapses. They quickly restrain her on a hospital bed and check why she passed out – not common for X5s. Jace is pregnant. Dr. Vertes tells them that it’s unlikely that the father is a transgenic because they’re routinely dosed with birth control medicine – as are most of the female transgenics. Only a few are allowed to maintain monthly cycles for research purposes. The “research purposes” makes Max snap and she accuses the doctor of treating transgenics as lab rates (not inaccurate). Dr. Vertes leaves in a huff. Logan tries to convince Max to be nicer to the doctor and “not everyone in Mantecore was evil incarnate” something max denies. And even if it were true – Max and Dr. Vertes have both confirmed that the doctor experimented on children, so I’ll join Max in side-eyeing the doctor on this one. Logan isn’t happy about having Jace around either, but there’s no way Max is going to give up on her sister.

Since Max escaped Mantecore, Jace has been indoctrinated to see her as a traitor. But, after talking about freedom, the outside world and Jace’s pregnancy – especially since Mantecore will take it off her. She comes to trust Max after a couple, well, after one conversation and she wants to be free and to keep the baby.

Dr. Vertes, meanwhile, wants to be free from the Mantecore death threat and calls Lydecker with a deal. She gets to live and she informs Lydecker about Jace’s pregnancy and promises to hand over Max. Lydecker swoops in – kills the doctor anyway (trusting Lydecker never works) – and orders Jace to lure Max in. He refers to her pregnancy as a “useful research opportunity.”

An ambush is prepared, but before Max can arrive Jace signals to her to escape and evade – and both of them carve a path through Lydecker’s soldiers. Despite being told that lethal force is authorised, Lydecker is determined to take them alive. But using tasers isn’t enough to bring them down and they both escape. Jace on the Logan train to a new identity and a new life.

Unfortunately, Dr. Vertes is now gone and Logan has no more access to treatment. Max goes to grab Dr. Vertes’s files on Logan in case they fall into Mantecore hands – and sees that Dr. Vertes considered Logan to be depressed and suicidal. She hurries back to Logan as fast as she can

Logan, meanwhile, takes out and loads a gun in clear preparation to kill himself – until he sees water dripping through the ceiling. Going to the flat upstairs to check he finds his elderly neighbour, Mrs. Moreno, has fallen and hit her head in the bathroom and calls for help. She tells him not to – she’s old and doesn’t believe she has anything to live for, unlike Logan who is young and has his whole life ahead of him. He calms her down and gets her medical help.

When Max arrives to find an ambulance she panics – but Logan is upstairs, safe – and puts his gun away.

While I have no problems with Original Cindy expressing her cynical opinion that men cheat for itself, I am not comfortable with the source. Original Cindy is a lesbian and it isn’t the first time she’s referenced what unfaithful lovers men make, how men will hurt women etc etc; for example she spoke about Sketchy cheating on his girlfriend and hoping she would “come to the all girl team.” This feeds into the idea that a lesbian is a lesbian (or a gay man is a gay man) not because they are only attracted to the same sex, but because they dislike the opposite sex. It makes being gay not about love or attraction, but about disdain, contempt or hatred of the opposite sex. And it feeds into the idea that lesbians are only lesbians because of a “bad experience.”

Again with the dystopia and world building – it’s particularly interesting to look at things like the Mantecore brain trust. Before the Pulse they were doing cutting edge research with unlimited funds – after the Pulse, in heavy depression, they can’t afford unlimited funds or these scientists which now have top secret information and every motive to go abroad. It’s another interesting twist of all the problems the Pulse causes. Even mention of the invasion of “what was El Salvador before the invasion” tells us about wide scale consequences of the Pulse.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the whole idea that being pregnant radically de-programmed Jace. She has spent her entire life being conditioned by Mantecore – she didn’t leaves as a child like Max did. Her entire life at Mantecore programmed to obey, programmed to hate Max after the escape but the fact she’s pregnant has the power to unravel all of it in, what a day? Maybe a few if we assume they spent some time together which wasn’t shown. Hmm, I think there’s a bit of twee “magical motherhood” going on there. Behold the power of the foetus! What could have been an interesting analysis of indoctrination became: “Oh my indoctrinated sister! Be free!” “grr no, I am loyal!” “No, be free, think of the baby!” “Ok, sounds cool, do I get a badge?”

There is an interesting and complicated dynamic between Max and Logan here. On the one hand, you can see Logan’s point, Dr. Vertes is the only woman who can help him, no matter what she’s done, it’s fairly unreasonable to expect Logan to shun her. On the flip side, she experimented on Max and her siblings when they were children and it’s grossly insensitive and selfish to say the least for Logan to have ignored that – let alone to expect Max to play nice with Dr. Vertes.

Logan’s depression is another delicate treatment of a sensitive area. Obviously it’s wrong to think of Logan as less of a person for being in a wheelchair and every time he speaks from depression in such terms people are quick to challenge him. He is still a full person, still valuable and still just as good in the chair as out of it. But, at the same time, going from being able bodied to disabled can be shocking, can take some adaptation and cause depression, it’s not always a simple transition and it can be rocky. I think it hit some rocky points through this story, but there is still a strong sense of affirmation of Logan as valuable while being disabled while still addressing his own depression and difficulty in adjusting to being disabled.