Dark Angel: Heat

"It's recently been brought to my attention that I don't have a great deal of patience - and what little I do have is now gone."

It's a tough job following up on a pilot, particularly with one as impressive as Dark Angel's. Thankfully, 'Heat' is an effective and confident second hour.

It's striking how effortlessly Dark Angel manages to balance an overarching mythology (Max's quest), with little side-stories and engaging moments of character development. The series makes it seem so easy, yet so many shows stumble out the gate unsure how to deftly balance both sides of the coin.

Quite amusingly, it's revealed that Max frequently goes into heat thanks to her feline DNA. It's a strangely lighthearted touch so soon into the show's run, but the development provides a welcome dose of humor and enjoyment when contrasted against the show's bleak setting. Jessica Alba gets a bunch of fun moments while exuding an enormous amount of charm and likability in the process. Of course this subplot can't exactly keep a whole hour afloat, so the writers went on ahead and had Max find Hannah right then and there. I remember watching this for the first time and being completely taken aback that such a pivotal moment didn't come at the end of the season. This type of forward momentum wasn't very common in TV ten years ago and it reminded me quite a bit of the speed in which The Vampire Diaries operates today. The reunion between Max and Hannah, a woman who aided her after the escape, is a touching event that soon evolves into a thrilling chase with Lydecker and his troops in tow. Here the James Cameron production gets to show off its enormous budget and stunning cinematography to great effect. Suffice to say, the episode manages to do cram a lot of material into its 40 minute running time and that's mighty impressive.

Speaking of our favorite villain, this episode does a great job of further building up Lydecker as a terrifying force. His conversation with Vogelsang is horrifying with everything it doesn't show - from the implied nail-torture to emphasizing just how much Lydecker wants to get his hands on Max. The scene is magnificently edited - slowly raising the tension with cuts of Max revving up her motorcycle and zooming down the streets of Seattle. As a viewer, you're filled with dread as you wonder when the two will eventually cross paths. Bravo writers.

The flirty banter between Max and Logan is a real staple of the series, and the sparks really fly in this one. She hugs him when he finds Hannah, he asks jealous questions about Eric, and she ultimately offers him a Space-Needle visit in a neat bit of foreshadowing. The chemistry between Alba and Weatherly is still golden, and they're a delight to watch together. In the end, Max tells Hannah she's staying in Seattle (a risky choice) because someone "needs" her. Hmm... that couldn't possibly be Mr. Cale right?

Post-Pulse Bits

- Love Max's opening boat heist (which is the mission Logan assigned her at the end of the pilot). Max brilliantly gets the smugglers to kill each other, culminating in her perfect dive off the boat and that gorgeous shot of Alba staring at the camera and then submerging.

- This episode marks the debut of Max's new catsuit (although I did love the one from the pilot) and the show's opening credits. I do love that funky theme song with shots of Alba as a pretend-fetus (it's much hotter than it sounds).

- Hilarious moment with Cindy convincing Eric it was all "just a strange and beautiful dream" as she steals his beers.

- It's brief, but as we see Logan undergoing physiotherapy with the newly-introduced Bling, we sense he's not handling his current situation very well.

- Gorgeous panning shot of Alba in front of the mirror in that blue top. It's quite exploitative but fitting of the subject matter. Love how she later strips off her shirt and gets into bed with Eric who falls asleep. "There is a God".

- I'm not Herbal's biggest fan. His "most high" shtick gets old quick.

- Little bits of world-building I love: Max getting motor-oil as a gift (it's a rare and expensive commodity), and Kendra receiving coffee as payment (for her Japanese lessons).

- Reused stock footage of Max cycling. I guess it's expensive to shoot more of those. The different clothes gave it away.

- A recurring aspect of the show: Max determinately heading off to a mission and Logan trying to stop her to no avail.

- More Max skills: She can see in the dark (hello kitty), she doesn't sleep, and she can swim to islands.

- Badass Max moment: after realizing Eric's uncle is just a janitor, she casually slips on her yellow sunglasses (in the middle of the night) and crash-drives through the checkpoint like a badass as the Dark Angel theme blares.

- Take note people: Max's group was called X5.

- I love Max calmly revealing that she knew Hannah had already alerted Lydecker. It's pretty thrilling with all the Hummers and helicopters approaching as they run through the jungle.

- Logan's tech wizardry is in full force here as he tricks Lydecker using voice recognition and sends Eric to save Max.

- Quite amusing how sweaty Hannah gets during the escape while Max remains all clean and pretty throughout. It sure looked like Max was getting her revenge and allowing Hannah to take a few falls.

- Epic moment with Max arriving at the dam, sensing that they're surrounded through her enhanced hearing, and jumping over the dam with Hannah. Of course, she then confidently does the impossible and uses a metal pipe to slide to safety while carrying Hannah with one hand. The girl's an outright superhero.

- Creepy/cool moment with Lydecker looking proud of Max for escaping his clutches.

- Eric was annoying, but he cracked me up trying to break up with Max at the end. And she still let him believe they slept together.

- Heartbreaking scene with Hannah telling Max about her mother who didn't want to give her up. It's a shame we never actually meet Max's mom. Thank you FOX. Beautiful work by Alba though.

- Gorgeous final shot of Max on the Space Needle. I love how these scenes always bookend the episodes with Max reflecting on a new piece of the puzzle that's changed her life.

Barbs & Barcodes

Lydecker: Mr. Vogelsang, I want you to be very clear just how important this young girl is to me. I would peel every inch of skin from your body, if it would bring me one heartbeat closer to her. I know she's out there. Eventually she's going to have to come up for air. And when she does... I want to be there.

Original Cindy: You got an itch? Go scratch.
Eric: Hey.
Original Cindy: We are talking, bitch.

Max: Kendra was right; I am in heat, or something like that... all because they spiced up that genetic cocktail called "me" with a dash of feline DNA. So I can jump fifteen feet of razor wire and take out a 250-pound linebacker with my thumb and index finger, which makes me an awesome killing machine and a hoot at parties. But it also means that three times a year I'm climbing the walls, looking for some action.

Max: It's amazing what happens when you put three dirtbags in a room and money disappears. Tempers flare, guns are drawn, three dead dirtbags.

Kendra: There's only one word for you. It starts with an "s", ends with a "t" and it's got a "u" and "t" in the middle.
Max: Sult?
Kendra: A dyslexic slut at that.

Logan: Let's assume for a second you can somehow make it past the sector police without a pass and get out of the city.
Max: A fair assumption.

Kendra: I like well-connected guys.
Eric: I'm already taken.
Max: No you're not.

Hannah: You are so beautiful.
Max: It's in the genes.

Max: So now I know; I had a mother who loved me. And maybe she's still out there somewhere. Like that changes anything in my life, only it changes everything.

- Exciting and frequently funny, Dark Angel's second hour is a strong follow-up to the pilot.

3.5 out of 5 Space Needles.

Previously posted on Nad's Reviews.

4 comments:

ChrisB said...

Great follow-up to the pilot. Like you, I was amazed that Max found Hannah so quickly. There is a lot going on there and I can't wait to see more of her.

Having spent the morning reviewing new cable shows, I have to agree with your comment about the horror being greater in what is not shown. If this were being filmed today, we would have to endure three minutes of Vogelsang being tortured. For me, the implied threat is much creepier than anything that could be shown on the screen.

The chemistry between Logan and Max is as electric as I have ever seen on a television screen. The sparks just fly -- even when they are just looking at each other. Is it possible to ship a couple you've just met?

Nadim Safieddine said...

So true. That Vogelsang nail thing still haunts me today and we never even saw a single frame of the act! So effective.

The chemistry IS phenomenal! It has a lot to do with the fact that Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly were really falling in love during the course of the first season and I believe got engaged in between seasons :) I believe they lasted around 3 years after that. Max and Logan are probably still my all-time favorite shipping on any TV show!

arie said...

It always bothered me that the "Max on heat" thing was never really mentioned again in either season. She says in this episode it has her "climbing the walls three times a year" and yet nada for the next two years!

I also liked her comment about how Logan was attractive even "given the givens." Dark Angel was always so creative with language and never seems to get the props Buffy and Veronica Mars do for clever dialogue.

I've just finished the second season, so I'm enjoying reading your reviews: the tone between seasons is so different and I'll admit to being a season one girl, although I do love me some Joshua and Alec. :)

Nadim Safieddine said...

Hey Arie,

The two seasons are indeed so different and I've engaged in SO many discussions throughout the past decade comparing the two and which one was better. Season One is universally praised as the stronger one but I think season two has some amazing strengths (Alec is definitely one of them!) I can't wait to continue my rewatch and further discuss each episode in detail. I do love both seasons immensely.

And yes you're right, the "heat" thing is only brought back in "Meow" and then never again. Too bad.

And finally, I 100% agree about the dialogue. Dark Angel (unlike Buffy for example) never gets props for creating SUCH a distinct style that's so very different and fitting of James Cameron's world. Glad to know you appreciate it too and that you're enjoying my reviews. Thank you so much :)