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 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 likeability 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 cram a lot of material into its 40 minute running time and that’s mighty impressive.
Speaking of our favorite villain, Heat 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 elevating 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 Max and Lydecker’s paths will eventually collide. And when Max barely escapes his clutches in the end, he actually seems proud of her in a creepy sort of way.
The flirty banter between Max and Logan is a real staple Dark Angel, 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?
– Love Max’s opening boat heist (which is the mission Logan gave 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. The theme song is funky, and there are 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.
– 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 in these times), and Kendra receiving coffee as payment (for her Japanese lessons).
– Reused stock footage of Max cycling (the clothes are a dead giveaway). I guess it’s expensive to shoot more of those.
– 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 far-off islands with ease.
– 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 dash 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.
– 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: (to Max) 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.
Max: (after Eric falls asleep) There is a God.
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.
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.
Max: (to Eric) 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.
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.