Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dark Angel, Season 2, Episode 6: Two

 We open with Max on a mission to steal a baseball from a museum – apparently a culturally significant one. Only she’s joined by Alec, out to steal the same thing she is. There is much snarking back and forth and a childish struggle which ends up with the baseball being dropped and the alarms being set off. They both leave empty handed – and Alec adds a bit more gall by actually asking for a ride home.

Max complains about this to Logan who is amusingly sarcastic about Max’s outraged “he tried to steal what I was already rightfully stealing!” though he does change his tune when he considers the money he needs to keep Eyes Only going.

Meanwhile a sector police checkpoint guard sees a large man who looks awfully like Joshua from the back. He follows the man who refuses to answer him when he calls. When he’s been lead among the junk and debris of dystopian Seattle, the man turns and attacks him – making growling angry dog noises.

When Max goes to see Joshua she finds him sleeping - when she wakes him up he reacts aggressively and grabs her by the throat before he sees who she is. She didn’t come to see him yesterday and he claims he went out looking for food – he has an injury on his side he claims is a dog bite; he fought the dog for its dinner. Max gives him another “you can never ever leave the house, ever ever ever” lecture.

To make Max’s life more fun, at work while she’s talking to Original Cindy, Alec walks in. He wants a job (and a sector pass), while Max is sure Normal will kick him out, remember that Normal was a fan of Alec in his foolish cage-fighter days. And assigns Max to show him the ropes – and he starts casing customers for future robberies.

At Crash, Max tries to convince Cindy of just what a horrible person Alec is, even if Mantecore does make them pretty, and Alec starts ingratiating himself – and getting Sketchy to deliver a package no questions asked. But Sketchy also tells them about a “dog-faced mutant” attacking a Sector Cop and eating the man’s tongue – and being injured in the process. Max hurries to check on Joshua. And finds him missing

Meanwhile someone who looks awfully like Joshua is busy ripping another sector policeman’s tongue out.

The next day Logan tells Max about the now 3 police who have been hit – and the survivor who described his animalistic attacker. Max tries to dodge around the issue but Logan pushes her and she admits to finding Joshua missing. Logan goes to speak to the surviving police officer, posing as a doctor. The policeman identifies a picture of Joshua – and tells Logan (well, points and shows since he’s missing a tongue) that he had a barcode on his neck.

Max tracks Joshua using her X5 senses into the sewers when Logan rings Max with the bad news, she denies it’s Joshua and Logan brings up the barcode. But Joshua doesn’t have a barcode – he’s the first transgenic Mantecore made. Something moves around behind Max which means the rules of fiction dictate that she lose her phone signal. It’s mandatory. She follows the dog man who starts growling at her. She’s surprised until he comes into the light – a dog man, but not Joshua. Joshua runs in behind them and yells “run Isaac”.

Isaac runs and so does Joshua – but a gang of Sector Police with guns and tasers mob the tunnels and attack Joshua, Max brings one down but can’t stop Joshua being taken away. At the police station the cops beat Joshua for killing police – and are shocked by him being able to talk. Max is determined to rescue him and gets his location from Logan - Logan is concerned about the murders and hunting Isaac, and Max loses her temper about him expecting her to do 2 things at once – hunting Isaac to stop the murders and preventing exposure by rescuing Joshua.

In the world of Alec’s hijinks. Sketchy tries to deliver the package for Alec and gets it taken off him by Steelheads – gang members who are heavily into implants and bionics (they’re covered in metal spikes etc) who beat him up and send him back to Jam Pony to confront Alec. Alec’s trying to sell synthetic hormones in the area and the Steelheads are irritated at someone moving in their territory – Sketchy is less than amused but Alec buys back his goodwill (and Sketchy is sure to haggle a decent price for his goodwill).

Alec goes to speak to the Steelheads about his package (interrupting their blackmarket human organ trade). They underestimate him, of course – and they completely lose their temper when he takes a phone call from Logan in the middle of confronting them – being X5 he beats them up while keeping up his conversation with Logan at the same time.

Max, posing as a journalist, rescues Joshua from the sector police easily, while Logan and Alec search the tunnels for Isaac (Alec making comments how the only reason they do things like that for Max is because she’s hot – both unnecessary and ridiculous when you consider how little Alec has done for Max). They find Isaac’s lair – including several tongues being displayed – and Isaac, but he knocks them aside and runs, locking a grate behind him, locking them in.

Max talks to Joshua about Isaac and hears his story – he was gentle but when Sandman (“father”) left, he wouldn’t stop pining and calling for him. The guards repeatedly beat him to try and silence him and eventually cut out his tongue. He attacks the police because he sees them as Mantecore guards. Max tells Joshua to stay put while she goes looking for Isaac, but he refuses, even if the police are looking for him. Further, he doesn’t want Max to hurt Isaac; when she tries to block his path he pushes her aside and runs out.

Max chases him into the tunnels and runs into Isaac – they fight and Joshua saves Max’s life by stabbing Isaac.

Post action round up, Max talks to Logan in Crash and regrets releasing the transgenics and blames herself for the police dying (what choice did she have? Leave Mantecore up and running? Let all the transgenics burn to death?). Alec is in the bar flirting with a female Steelhead called Lox who looks at his barcode and tells him they know what he is, before leaving.

Max goes to see Joshua at Isaac’s grave. He’s not thrilled with her being there but she persists and he tells her about Isaac.

I have to pretty much consider this episode a monster-of-the-week episode. Isaac’s history is very sad but what does it add to the overall plot? Mantecore was cruel and treated the transgenics like animals, weapons or tools? We know that, we know that over and over. And it doesn’t make much sense anyway – most of the animal-transgenics were stuffed in cells in the basements with the anomalies anyway, including anomalies like the X4s who violently attacked their doors. Why would anyone care how much noise Isaac was making? That people freak out when they see dog-faced people? Uh-huh. Maybe adding to the growing exposure of transgenics to the general populace? Maybe, but that could be better served as background activity opposite several plot lines. About the only meta that was advanced was Alec’s return to Max’s life after their fight.

It’s also disappointing how the diversity of Dark Angel is decreasing. Herbal is gone in season 2, Original Cindy barely counts as a background character; we still have racial diversity in bit parts and crowd scenes, but there’s a definite reduction of front line diversity. Alec’s dismissive, sexist comments also highlight the loss of Kendra, the loss of Max’s relationship with Cindy and the lessening of strong female characters other than Max (whose strength stems from her super powers) and the strong female relationships that characterised this show in season 1. Max’s most powerful relationships then were with Kendra and Cindy – her closest and greatest friends. Now it’s with Logan as love interest and even Joshua as an almost “ward”. Even her antagonistic relationship with Alec gets more time and attention – and has more important impact in her life – than the powerful female friendships that were so vital in season 1.

I’m also not sold on the drama of this episode. The conflict is that max is supposed to regret letting the transgenics out and feel responsible for them and their wrong doing – but there was no reasonable alternative. All she could have done is allow them all to die – which seems to be a number in the hundreds. It feels a little… forced.