Dark Angel 1×17 – Pollo Loco

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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).

Post-Pulse Bits

– 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.

Conclusion
An incredibly haunting piece of television, Pollo Locco is an outstanding episode.

Nad Rating
A

8 comments

  1. Baby Dean! Baby Dean! Baby Dean! Why are you being so bad, Baby Dean? So here, Jensen Ackles plays a self-professed “hunter” (his words, not mine) with a religious obsession. Where have we seen this before? Hmm.

    Seriously, though, I really liked this one. I think one of my biggest problems with the show so far are its weaker actors (sorry, often including Jessica Alba). Jensen Ackles is obviously not a weak actor and thus my enjoyment of the episode increased ten fold. This was the first Manticore centric episode I liked. I really like the idea of their being a bigger, badder big bad. That should be interesting to watch.

  2. Really glad you loved this too. But I don't agree about Jessica Alba. I think she's PERFECT on Dark Angel. (Her movies are a whole other matter). But she owns every nuance and one-liner on this show and it just makes her one of my ultimate favorite TV characters. Hopefully she'll grow on you more as you continue to watch sunbunny.

  3. She already has a lot; I assume that trend will continue. She's good in the more emotional moments, but I'm not a big fan of the moments when she's trying to be all tough. I just don't buy it for some reason. I don't think I've ever seen anything else she's been in, so I can't speak to her movies.

  4. Oh my, that was heartbreaking! Max crying as she tells Ben to talk to her about the “high place” before breaking his neck is already a scene I've watched twice now. I love how gut-wrenching it is by also being a LONG scene. We watch her just sitting there with him after he's dead, and it's a tough image. My goodness, I loved this episode so much.

    It had a bit of a Daredevil vibe. Like, I really enjoyed Ben's scene in confession about being a soldier and murdering people. Not something I would usually love to watch, but it was downright compelling. And really, it's all thanks to the terrific acting here (made me think of Zack and how captivating his storyline would've been if he someone else was cast for the role). I've never watched Supernatural but I did recognize the guy immediately. Looks so young here though.

    Ben and Max's scene at the Space Needle was definitely a highlight. I love how he tells her that they need to go back (did Lost steal that Jack/Kate scene from here? It was literally the same thing) and Max analyzing him. Terrific writing here, I can't praise the writers enough honestly.

    And I loved Logan's subplot, especially the way he looked at Max in the end after receiving the pictures. Sent chills down my spine and that development should definitely make the show about twice as more interesting now! The fight sequences have been surpassing my expectations, by the way. How was this just in 2000? Max and Ben's fight in the woods blew my mind… This show was definitely ahead of its time.

    “So how does this bitch work?” Ahahahaha. Max is turning into my favorite TV character of ALL TIME. She's so sarcastic and badass and awesome! I'm very glad the show is back on track after 2 weak episodes.

  5. Makes my heart warm to hear you say that Max is becoming your “all time” Fave character 😀 hahahah! Love that line/ending!

    Very interesting that you mention the Daredevil parallels, – so true! Even the Lost thing! It really was ahead of its time!

    I'm also ecstatic that you're appreciating the fight scenes! They were simply phenomenal! And the one between Max and Ben in the woods is one of the show's best EVER! The leg, the neck breaking etc…WOW!

  6. Oh and din't you love the chicken stuff? hahaha love that teaser how she circles her prey, and then how she snaps Ben's neck in the same way. Mindblowing parallels!

  7. Hahahaha yes that was an incredible teaser! Honestly didn't notice the neck snapping parallels until I read your review, so that was a real eye-opener! Great, great writing.

  8. This to me is the perfect episode so far & my favorite of the series. Ben is such a tragic character & has a tragic end. Jessica, John & Jensen especially were all fantastic! This entire episode was so hauntingly beautiful. It’s the 1st time the kids speak in the flashbacks which is really cool. Max & Ben’s fight in the woods is my favorite: good choreography & the scenery is breathtaking. I’m a sucker for nature, especially in this show, being filmed in beautiful Vancouver. The church was so beautiful & my absolute favorite music is the beautiful female vocals heard when Max enters the church & walks up to the Virgin Mary statue. I wish I could find that music somewhere. Everything in this show is so original & fits for this show only.

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