Rising is Dark Angel’s first perfect episode.
Yes the hour is filled with explosive action and a couple of monumental events, but it’s the emotional core beating beneath everything that makes it such a poignant milestone in the show’s run.
From a pure plot perspective, The Reds are back and they’re more terrifying than ever. They’re revealed to be death row inmates who’ve been seduced by money and freedom, and are now tempted by the prospect of a longer life (if they can get a hold of Max and her ova). It’s suitably creepy, and their goal makes them downright horrifying antagonists.
The episode’s standout moment is certainly Max finally telling Original Cindy the truth about who she is. It’s a development I never thought would happen this early in the show’s run (if ever) and it’s one of the best pieces of acting Jessica Alba’s ever done. It literally breaks my heart every time I watch her break into tears as the one shard of normalcy in her life fades away. And then quite realistically, Cindy doesn’t lie to spare her friend’s feelings. She admits that this revelation will undoubtedly change things, but she’ll still look out for her best friend. She sees Max’s pain and embraces her, then hilariously follows it up by checking out her “hot” barcode. The scene is just profoundly awesome in every way, and I love that Max and Cindy’s dynamic is given equal weight to Max and Logan’s relationship. That’s a wonderful move on the writers’ part as it proves that the show isn’t just about Max’s love interests. She needs the support of her friends to keep on fighting.
Just when you think one standout sequence is enough, another one comes right along, cementing this episode as one of the greatest Dark Angel’s ever produced. Yes I’m talking about the final scene between Max and Logan where he tells her to “close her eyes” before rising from the wheelchair. It’s a marvelously moving scene that feels like the ultimate culmination to the first half of the season. Alba is just adorable, and Weatherly is the most charming he’s ever been. And for the second time, a touching scene is punctuated by a funny moment: Logan zooming through the streets of Seattle on Max’s bike as she holds on with a grin. It’s worth nothing that the sequence is underlined by a harsh truth: Manticore, whether our heroes would like to admit it or not, is quite capable of doing good – as evidenced by creating this utterly magical moment between our two lovebirds.
– Love the romantic candlelight setting with Max transfusing Logan with blood. There’s a wonderful, ethereal mood to it as Max drifts away, passes out and we cut to the credits. Also, it links this episode to the previous transfusion in Blah Blah Woof.
– Very nifty yet ominous shot with Max’s pager being tracked as the camera zooms in out of the sky onto our heroine riding through the streets.
– Who else wanted to punch Logan for shoving Bling when he tried to help him after his fall?
– So we finally discover the identity of Mr. Multiples and it’s none other than our favorite corrupt cop Walter. How creepy.
– You can tell the Jam Pony crew is depressed when Cindy mentions her new job. It’s interesting that they’re all aiming for something more.
– Badass sequence: The Reds arriving at the bar as Max fearfully runs for her life through the alley and (awkwardly) jumps onto a truck. The ensuing fight is short, but I love how she impales one of the Reds.
– The actors playing The Reds are pretty darn atrocious, aren’t they? I do love Cindy calling them “girls” though.
– How awesome is Cindy warning Max about the Reds by referring to the “boy” she’s going out with? I vividly remember not catching this hilarious bit when I first watched it.
– “I have a date with a couple of Reds and I need to be all that I can be.” I get goosebumps every time I watch Max rush into the lab and insert the implant in her neck (which sends her into a mini-seizure).
– One of my all time favorite Dark Angel moments: Max crashing through the glass with that glorious panning shot and epic score as she raises her bloodshot eyes and utters the perfect line “How do I look in red?”
– Much like Max’s last encounter with the Reds, the episode’s set-piece with an amped-up Max is the best fight the show’s done so far. It’s brutal, filled with people flying and crashing into walls, and brilliantly bookended with Max pulling a grenade and jumping for cover.
– It’s fun to see Cindy and Logan working as a team and electro-shocking Max. “(This is whack!”)
– There’s a strong message with both Cindy and Herbal altering their speech pattern to fit in, and finding themselves miserable in the process.
– I hate to say it but the final voiceover (which basically consists of one line) is lame and unnecessary. There’s really no need to spell things out with Max worried about what “tomorrow” will bring.
Barbs & Barcodes
Cindy: (to Herbal) Forget to put water in the bong, boo? You talkin’ strange.
Normal: (to Cindy) Well, I am so pleased – one less disrespectful, uppity, loud-mouthed, deadbeat hooligan to ruin my day. The door’s that way.
Cindy: I happen to be blessed with mad verbal skills. Kids used to pay me cash money to come up with dis they could use. So, in a way, I guess you could say I sold insurance against catastrophic tongue failure.
Sebastian: My guess is they want you so they can harvest your ova.
Max: Like being a girl isn’t hard enough; they want me to be mommy to a whole army of these guys.
Cindy: ‘Cause Original Cindy’s got you covered all over like foundation makeup on a drag queen.
Logan: So what are you gonna tell her?
Max: The truth.
Logan: Is that wise?
Max: Maybe not. But after today, I think she’s earned it.
Max: (to Cindy) I was scared that if I told you what was up, it would all change… and that you would look at me like you are right now… like I was some kind of freak you didn’t even recognize.
Normal: Well, well, well. Someone who’s two hours late for work looks like they were a dirty little party girl last night. My God, girl, look at your eyes. Whaddaya been drinkin’, gasoline?
Max: I had to have radical emergency amateur brain surgery to remove a nanochip from my cerebellum before I stroked out from a neurochemical overload.
Normal: This is all one great big joke to you, isn’t it? You’re late one more time, missy, you’re gonna be fired. Get some eye drops.
Cindy: How ’bout you leave her alone? Maybe she don’t feel so hot.
Normal: Well, ingesting petroleum products will do that to you every time.
Max: Mmm… flowers? Jewelry?
Logan: Since when do you wear jewelry?
Max: I’m open to the idea.
Max: It’s like some kind of miracle.
Logan: You’re the miracle. You did this. You gave me back my life.
Max: Thank the clever folks at Manticore… I’d forgotten how tall you were.
Max: You’re gonna have to take it slow.
Logan: I don’t wanna take it slow, I wanna go fast.
While Rising might have a couple of off-beats here and there, the emotion is so on-point that I have no hesitations in labeling it the show’s first bonafide masterpiece.