Dawg Day Afternoon is a textbook example on how to properly ratchet up the tension as you approach your season finale. But why did it take season two so long to get this good?
This episode is most impressive in the way it handles the public’s growing paranoia after transgenics have been exposed. Whether it’s rowdy gang-members bullying Joshua on the street, or religious nutcases spouting off talk about “abominations off the assembly line”, it’s all realized in a compelling and ominously realistic manner. What makes it even creepier is witnessing characters we know and love – such as Normal (debatable I know) – jumping on this bandwagon of hate. Dark Angel isn’t shying away from the racism parallels this year, and it’s a powerful message – one that season two should have begun tackling a hell of a lot earlier in the season.
It’s also refreshing to have a big bad with a truly intelligent and nefarious plan. Since the breeding cult realized they couldn’t neutralize the transgenic threat on their own, they wisely decided to turn them over to the public. The plot began with exposure, and has now assumed a new focus: causing further paranoia by exposing the X-series – transgenics who hide in plain sight. It’s a refreshingly brilliant plan that’s tremendously unsettling.
Joshua assumed the mantle of comic relief this year (and not very successfully I might add), but giving him a dramatic storyline with actual weight is an inspired decision. Sure his dynamic with Annie should have been explored at a slower pace (they meet and fall in love within the span of two episodes), but her death still manages to be both shocking and moving.
In fact, the final scene of Dawg Day Afternoon just might be the single most chilling ending Dark Angel’s ever done. As Max, Joshua and Alec, regroup and watch the nightly news after the sewer chase, it soon becomes apparent that Annie has been murdered. Joshua’s painful howls are beyond horrifying. Worse still, he’s been framed for her murder. It’s a goose-bump inducing scene that capably ups the stakes and makes for one heck of a frightening ending. The final shot is particularly glorious, with Max and Alec embracing Joshua as the reporter reveals even another troubling detail: the existence of the X-series (cementing the realization that even Max and Alec won’t be safe for long). This sequence is the perfect embodiment of all hell breaking loose, and it’s downright stunning television.
Sadly, the wannabe love triangle continues (and Alec isn’t even aware he’s part of it). Nevertheless, I loved the fact that despite everything, Logan still intervenes to help Max — first using an Eyes Only cable hack that’s perfectly timed, and later when he helps her escape the sewers. I just really really wish the writers didn’t resort to this petty complication when they could have just had Max use the virus as a perfectly valid excuse to stay away from Logan. Ugh.
– Super-nifty touch with the Eyes Only hack transitioning into the Dark Angel credits. Why don’t they do this every week?
– Another week, another requisite (and useless) Asha appearance. This time she actually defends Max, but causes another misunderstanding when she refers to Alec. Oy.
– A bit too easy: Max clearing Alec’s name after last week’s debacle.
– You know things are getting serious when Max and Alec finally decide to get their barcodes lasered off (temporarily at least).
– How cool is White meeting with the infamous priestess in front of Humpback whales while pointing out the similarities of the species with their own breeding cult?
– The thugs referring to Joshua as a “tranny” is particularly harsh.
– Really Maxie, are you really surprised that Joshua’s fridge stinks?
– It’s good to see White having fun this week; he tells Otto to contain the media, then immediately calls the press and alerts them of “the wolf-man”. He also very amusingly buys an ice cream cone to properly enjoy the spectacle.
– Another nifty transition: the zoom in through the screen as the news-anchor is speaking and we find ourselves right in the middle of all the craziness.
– I was starting to think the writers had forgotten about Max’s zooming eyes.
– This might be Sketchy’s best episode in a while. First he spots Max (until White almost runs him over). Then he hilariously gets called an “idiot” by Max, White, and Normal at different instances (and knocked out by the first two). That’s how you use comedy to service the plot and tie everything together people.
– White exclaims that the whole situation is FUBAR – this term makes another appearance in the series finale. I looked it up and it stands for: fucked up beyond all reason. Hehe.
– Badass moment: Max’s pager going off as the cops spot her dangling from the ceiling. Then she pummels them of course. “Shoulda put it on vibrate“.
– Awesome fakeout #1: Max and White walking towards each other through the sewers until the Sketchy reveal. Terrific editing!
– Annie touches Joshua’s face for real this week. She still likes him (shocking, I was sure she would be a supervillain in disguise).
– And now we realize the purpose of Joshua turning off the water pump earlier; it’s so Max can gain the upper hand and kick some ass. Surprisingly, the fight scenes in this episode are minimal.
– Awesome fakeout #2: Max and Joshua climbing up the ladder only for Sketchy to pop out in front of the cops. When Max climbs out of her route, Alec has already taken care of the guards (and robbed them, naturally).
– Uber-creepy moment with Annie hearing footsteps and the terrifying reveal that it’s White who’s found her.
– It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment, but Joshua’s TV is property of Harbor Lights hospital. How did that happen?
– Seriously that ending is a masterpiece. You’re so busy catching your breath and relieved to see that they’ve made it only to realize that our transgenic trio still lost.
– White’s line at the end (“It keeps getting better and better”) perfectly represents how I feel about this season.
Barbs & Barcodes
Lawyer: As soon as we find the parties responsible for unleashing these transgenics, we’ll be seeking damages in the tens of millions.
Alec: Oh, yeah, I’m sure Manticore is gonna write you a big, fat check for that one buddy.
Joshua: Hey, little fella.
Max: Hey, big fella.
Alec: I guess that makes me medium fella.
Alec: Max come on. I’m stuck here, you know? An innocent man, framed for the murder committed by his clone. (Max rolls her eyes) Yeah, I was thinking about selling the story to Hollywood. It’d make a great TV movie. What do you think?
Harrowing and tragic, Dawg Day Afternoon is yet another excellent episode in a reinvigorated season of Dark Angel.