A gruesome, powerful hour of Dark Angel.
I don’t think I need to tell anyone how freaking talented Jensen Ackles is. He’s been Supernatural‘s star player for the past eight years, and he’s downright exceptional on Dark Angel. He gives a tour-de-force performance as Ben, Max’s psychotic X5 sibling with a slew of slaughtered victims in his wake.
Pollo Loco is jam-packed with Manticore flashbacks, and they’re all remarkably revealing. We learn that the X5s feared the “nomalies” living in the basement, and found shelter with the “blue lady” who they hoped would watch over them. Ben’s faith in the lady sent him on a murderous rampage complete with teeth extractions which he hoped would help her fight the nomalies. The whole storyline is wonderfully dark and engrossing, with just the right bits of humor thrown in for good measure (particularly relating to Max and her relationship with religion).
In fact, Max experiences one of the series’ most monumental moments in this episode as she brutally takes her brother’s life. After a vicious fight (and Lydecker closing in), Max realizes she can’t carry her brother to safety and asks him to tell her about “the good place”. It’s there when he’s at his proudest, that she savagely snaps his neck and breaks into tears. It’s downright gut-wrenching, and a beautiful conclusion to Ben’s tragic story.
Although Logan is somewhat sidelined this week, he has an intriguing subplot with Lydecker who tries to convince Eyes Only of Max’s sinister nature. His speech to Logan via webcam is excellent (found in its entirety below) but his decision to send Logan horrifying pictures of a young bloodied Max and the slayed body of the X5 victim is an even more unsettling development. Although we know Logan won’t really turn on Max, Lydecker effectively plants worry in Logan’s mind (he apprehensively watches her at the end as she stares out into the rain). It’s quite easy to forget that underneath Max’s snarky demeanor, she was meant to be pure evil, and this episode capably reminds us of her true nature.
It’s also worth mentioning that Pollo Loco finally introduces us to Lydecker’s boss – Renfro or Madame X- played by Nana Visitor. It’s fascinating to watch the balance of power shift and the contrasts between the two big bads. While “Deck” calls the kids by the names they gave each other, she sees them as nothing more than numbers, and casually mentions how they had to put down an “entire class” (the X2s).
– Love Max and the caged chicken in the teaser. The way she wipes her lips like a cat after her meal and Cindy swipes a piece – it’s so enjoyable to watch.
– Although it’s quite cool how Max hides from Lydecker in the morgue drawer, I wish they showed us how she got out of there. After the credits, she’s already back at Logan’s.
– The first time Max goes to the crime scene in the woods, you can spot reused shots of Max wearing different clothes (taken from the final sequence with Ben).
– The scene with Max finding the teeth in the church always creeps me out.
– Max’s banter with Father Destry is simply hilarious. I wish he was recurring character.
– Utterly chilling scene with Ben in confession culminating in his punching through the panel.
– “The high place” turning out to be The Space Needle is awesome as it’s the first time we see someone up there besides Max.
– The flashback of the X5s tracking down and slaughtering the death row inmate as part of an exercise by Lydecker is immensely terrifying. It still gives me nightmares.
– I adore Max and Ben’s chat in the Space Needle (the first time we see the locale from the inside). She brilliantly analyzes his psychology by pointing out that he keeps killing himself over and over when he tattoos his barcode on his victims’ necks. Eventually, she breaks him down, calling him a “genetic mistake” and a “nomalie” himself. And what does Ben do? He begins crying that he’s a “good soldier.” It’s all terrifically absorbing (and Max throws in a punch for good measure).
– I always get chills when Ben kicks Max into the cell as she screams for Destry to run. “Yes father, by all means, run.” Wow.
– Max and Ben’s fight is undeniably the best fight scene the show’s produced so far. For once, it’s actually a long skirmish, and it’s extremely thrilling as the two are equally matched in every way – until Max cleverly breaks his leg.
– I LOVE the symmetry with Max snapping the chicken’s neck in the teaser, and then Ben’s neck in the end. As much as she jokes about her feline DNA, she’s still a predator in every way.
– Surprisingly, the episodes ends on a sombre yet amusing note with Max entering confessional with Destry and hilariously asking: “So how does this bitch work?”. I love this show.
– Just for reference: Pollo Loco is Spanish for crazy chicken. Read into that what you will.
Barbs & Barcodes
Cindy: You gonna kill it?
Max: I’m not gonna wait around and let it die of old age.
Cindy: But look at its little chicken face.
Max: Must be my feline DNA. ’Cause when I look at this little face…I see dinner.
Priest: I haven’t seen you around here before.
Max: You sniff out honeys in church?
Destry: God’s forgiveness has no limits.
Max: That’s big of him.
Ben: I’m doing what I was made to do, what we were taught to do!
Max: Hunt people down to perform amateur dental surgery? I must’ve missed that class.
Ben: You’re like a wolf in sheep’s clothing Max! You’re hiding your instincts, every minute of every day, so that no one will know what you really are. A soldier…a hunter…a killer.
Lydecker: (to Logan) You think this is all some kind of joke? These kids are like puppies you can bring home and housebreak? They were designed to kill. Coldly, efficiently, and happily. You think because she’s so pretty that she isn’t as dangerous? They’re all killers. All they need is a trigger. You may think you have some kind of relationship between the two of you, but let me tell you something, son. She’s not the girl next door. You have no idea what she’s capable of doing.
Ben: We never should’ve left. Everything made sense there.
Max: No. Nothing made sense there.
An incredibly haunting piece of television, Pollo Locco is an outstanding episode.