Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dark Angel, Season 1, Episode 19: Hit a Sista Back

 Max starts her day by seeing a missing person on a milk carton – by the name of Penny Smith. But the picture is of Tinga, her sister and fellow X5 who is on the run from Mantecore and fled Portland when Zack was captured. She left a husband, Charlie, and a son, Case, behind and they’re looking for her.

Max tries to call them to tell them to stop looking, that Charlie’s wife was really Tinga with bad people after her. Naturally, Charlie thinks she’s talking rubbish and hangs up on her, returning to getting his small son ready for school and away from his jigsaw – a large and complicated jigsaw designed for adults that Case is doing on his own.

When putting Case to bed that night, Charlie tries to tell him the story “Penny” tells him – a story about a princess stuck in a castle, a princess called Tinga...

Max tells Logan about Tinga’s family and, after the obligatory warnings and “oh no don’t go!” she head’s off to Portland on a rescue mission. Once there she quickly uses her super-duper senses to pick out Lydecker’s men watching Tinga’s family – and runs into Tinga herself. She asks if Zack has come as well but he, unsurprisingly, warned her not to come back, that her family was a risk yadda, yadda, typical Zack spiel. They start to plan and spy on her family to see when it’s best to get them out of the trap – but while watching them they discover just how far Lydecker has gone.

The trap is pretty advanced – not only does Lydecker have a large number of Mantecore goons watching the family, but he is posing as a tutor for Case at his school, testing his extremely advanced abilities and telling him about all the wonderful happy fun times he could have at Mantecore. He passes on his findings to Renfro who seems to be much more hands on these episodes, lurking over Lydecker’s shoulder. She’s surprised by Case since previous offspring of humans and X5s have resulted in mundane humans.

That night everyone makes their move – Lydecker has to bring them in because he hears Charlie is planning to move to his sister’s – he’s been tipped off. Tinga and Max hit the building with Mantecore skills, setting off the fire alarm and a smoke bomb and taking down the goons with classic X5 skills. Charlie’s a little shocked by his wife ripping her emergency machine gun out of the wall, but he manages to stay with them when they collect him. More goons go down – fight scene after fight scene and Tinga certainly doesn’t have Max’s issues with guns or killing many many many Mantecore nasties. Until they’re pinned a stairwell firefight, unable to move forwards until… Zack moves in through the window with his own machine gun. Yes he’s showed up to help, yes he’s grumpy but that’s classic Zack – be grumpy and moody and disapproving while still being there to back his siblings up.

They reach the top of the building and Zack, Charlie, Tinga and Case rappel down the side, leaving Max alone to confront Mantecore’s agent in charge – Brin. She has been brainwashed and is back on Team Mantecore. After another fight scene, Brin gets the advantage (seemingly rather easily) but, since Max saved her life in the past she lets Max go. After all, she isn’t the mission, retrieving Charlie and Case is.

The gang meet up in Logan’s penthouse in Seattle, where everyone says their predictable lines. Zack that family is a vulnerability, a weakness, blah blah. Logan on how secrecy is damaging and how Charlie had a right to know what he was getting into. Max and Tinga on how hard it is to actually tell someone their secret, especially since it’s hard to believe. Charlie’s anger at being dragged into the whole thing while Logan assures him Tinga’s still the same person… (yes, there’s a lot of parallels in these conversations that I find uncomfortably close to conversations around the GBLT closet which is… inappropriate). Nothing particularly revolutionary is discussed but the emotions and the acting is good.

The collected souls searching is interrupted by Case having a sudden, severe fever and, worse, him developing a barcode on the back of his neck – only it’s 14 digits not the standard 12 of Mantecore barcodes. More arguments follow in which Charlie takes a swing at Zack for correcting his “Penny” to “Tinga” (taking a swing at an X5 doesn’t go well) and Logan interrupts pointing out that it’s a phone number – probably to Lydecker’s private line.

And sure enough, at a secret Mantecore lab, Logan is discussing things with Renfro – especially his little nano-machines that cause illness, death and barcoding. Max calls him and Lydecker gives her his terms – he’ll swap the cure for Tinga. Renfro is surprised that Lydecker is going to give up on getting Max and the boy as well, but Lydecker has dealt with max before and thinks if they over-reach they won’t get anything. Besides, Tinga is the interesting one since her DNA is the one that can be passed on to children.

Tinga, feeling she has no choice, makes her tragic goodbyes to Charlie and Case and tells Max to make the call. Zack, classy man that he is, points out this is the price of making herself vulnerable with a family in the first place.

Time for a meeting at opposite sides of a chainlink fence where Max and Lydecker talk – even Lydecker seems disturbed by Max’s unconcealed contempt. They exchange the cure and Case is cured – and Tinga goes with Brin to the car. Once Tinga is secure, Mantecore goons make a grab for Max (which fails) and a much more successful grab of the kid. As they drive off, Max accuses Lydecker who protests his innocence – but they don’t get far, Zack swoops in with a machine gun (really? You stop an unarmoured car leaving with someone you want to protect by spraying it with a machine gun? On the plus side they didn’t get away! Minus side, Case now has multiple bullet wounds) again doing the classic Zack stunt of washing his hands of something and then getting involved.

On the road, Brin kills the 2 guards in the car, Tinga thinks she’s free – but Brin then punches her out as well. When Lydecker catches up, he finds Brin, unconscious, with a wound on her head

Lydecker confronts Renfro and she claims she just wanted a hat-trick – Lydecker plans to report her.

But Max and Zack wonder who double crossed them, believing  Lydecker’s protest. Zack has a tantrum moment where he announces how tired he is of them being picked off – Tinga, Brin – that, to be safe, they need to take Mantecore out.

And Brin meets Renfro in a super super super secret Mantecore lab, secret even from Lydecker, where Tinga is floating in a tank, attached to tubes.

I still think the X5s shouldn’t be split up and being picked off one by one. They should all gather in Seattle (because of Logan’s extensive contacts – they can quid pro quo with him, his helpful net for their help on his crusades) and watch out for each other). Sure Mantecore will find them and… what? Exactly how many goons would they have to send to take down 10 X5s? Especially since most of them wouldn’t have Max’s squeamishness about guns. When you consider that Mantecore wants to remain secret it seems like the easiest way to be just written off and ignored.

There were a lot of emotional moments in this episode but I think they largely trod paths that have been trod before. I don’t really think it developed anything new even as the Mantecore dynamic changes with Renfro taking a more direct hand.