And here’s where season two finally kicks in.
Dark Angel had a few stumbles this year with a multitude of freak-of-the-week shenanigans and irritating standalone plots. Thankfully, Medium Is The Message capably revitalizes the season with a distinct focus on the show’s mythology and the burgeoning threat that White’s cult represents.
It’s worth stating that in order to properly enjoy Dark Angel‘s second season, you have to let go of the show’s first year. What was once based on some semblance of a realistic tone with genetic engineering and government cover-ups, has now been replaced by breeding cults and a more noticeable sci-fi flavor. If you can manage to give in to that monumental change as a viewer (a big portion of the DA fandom couldn’t), then this season certainly makes for intriguing television.
It all starts with Logan taking on a missing persons case, only to discover that the kidnapped boy in question is none other than Ames White’s son (Gill Girl). As the conspiracy grows thicker, Max and Logan soon discover that White orchestrated the whole shebang, and that he in fact hails from a cult that’s been selectively breeding superhuman individuals for generations (using the Manticore symbol no less). Shockingly enough, these warriors rival (and even surpass) transgenics in terms of their abilities. It’s a compelling and mysterious storyline, and it’s immediately unsettling seeing as how Max loses both fights she engages in this week (something we’re definitely not used to seeing). It’s definitely refreshing to have a Big Bad properly take center stage for the second half of the season, as the show lost a lot of a focus in its opening stretch.
As a contrast to this creepy plot, Joshua discovers the artist within, and Alec begins selling his masterpieces for a fortune. Enter Rita, a loving and inspiring art collector who surprisingly doesn’t run for her life when she comes face to face with Joshua. On the contrary, she caresses him, and spurs his extraordinary talent. It’s a wonderfully uplifting subplot, and it’s the best storyline Joshua’s had since his introduction. Also, it gets dog boy interacting with Alec which is an enormous plus.
– The notes which Max tries to decipher are the ones the Manticore tech gave her before running off.
– The creature White abuses in the teaser is the same freaky one we saw at the end of Designate This. It’s hard to forget those eyes.
– I love that Alec doesn’t even notice Joshua’s art; he just wants to sell the frame.
– Logan is still trying to contact Lydecker. Too bad we never hear from him again.
– It’s fascinating that art galleries are still prevalent in a Post-Pulse world. Even with all the poverty, there are still people willing to pay a fortune for art.
– Interesting callback: Wendy mentions that she’s had two miscarriages, while Lydecker had previously stated in Proof of Purchase that the breeding cult’s modus operandus consists of killing the first two children.
– The scene with Alec egging Joshua on as he paints is pretty darn epic (especially that Alec hands him Max’s virus papers in the process). Plus Ackles’ delivery of “I got a headache” is spot-on.
– I love Max’s reaction to Logan telling her about White’s kidnapped son. She’s not some idealistic hero, and she actually doesn‘t care at first. “Bad things happen to bad people too.” Indeed.
– Who else wanted Max to snap White’s neck when she got the chance to subdue him in his house?
– The kidnappers have RCF cards; that’s the same ID badge Renfro had which effectively proves she was part of the cult.
-Max is back to wearing sunglasses at night while riding her bike; and that’s why she’s a loveable badass.
– Since we haven’t gotten proper fight scenes this year: it’s satisfying that we get two this week. The first is Max against the two kidnappers and it’s impeccably choreographed. In fact, it’s the best fight of the season so far. It gradually intensifies with the revelation of the villains not having barcodes, and ends with Alba’s priceless face as she falls down the chute (and stumbles onto the burial site).
– The scene with Max discovering the conspiracy with Logan on the phone, and Ames shooting himself in front of his wife is wonderfully atmospheric and unsettling. The way Max crashes through the glass in the nick of time always gives me goosebumps. Surprisingly, White turns out to be a competent fighter who lands several blows and ultimately leaves our heroine with a bloody face. “Pain is a phantom of the mind”. Brilliant!
– When White bids his kid goodbye, does anyone else get the feeling that the old man in the limo could be Sandeman?
– The ending with Joshua painting Max is strangely fitting, although I detest the song choice.
Barbs & Barcodes
Max: Maybe when Father was mixing you together, he put some Picasso in your DNA.
Joshua: Picasso in my cocktail.
Logan: Organic chemistry?
Max: Bedtime reading.
Max: Yeah, well, you spend ten years of your life running from someone, you kind of miss not having him around.
Logan: At least you still have White.
Max: Good old Ames. Somehow it’s not the same with him.
Alec: Look, Josh, you’re a great artist, apparently. But you’re also, to be frank, a dog-boy.
Max: (choking White) I should take you out – break your miserable neck and pretend you never existed. But I’m not that kind of animal.
Alec: Can we, uh, crack one of these windows open? ‘Cause I think the paint fumes in here are turning your brain into oatmeal.
Alec:(to Joshua) Now, look, as soon as we start selling paintings again, you can get Max a new doctor. Heck, you can buy her a whole hospital, okay? You know, but just tell her you lost the papers. Tell her, uh, I don’t know, tell her your dog ate ’em. Tell her you ate ’em. Max will get over it, all right? You know why? Because underneath that–that sadomasochistic leather and that–that tough-girl image, she’s nothing but a big softie.
White: (to Max) You think you and your little Manticore progeny are special? (He punches her). Transgenic scum… You think those geeks with their chemistry sets and their gene banks and their greasy little paws are the future? You have no idea what you’re up against.
Brimming with forward momentum, Medium Is The Message is the strongest episode since the premiere and the most impressive hour of the season thus far.