Dark Angel 2×18 – Dawg Day Afternoon

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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.

Post-Pulse Bits

– 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?

Conclusion

Harrowing and tragic, Dawg Day Afternoon is yet another excellent episode in a reinvigorated season of Dark Angel.

Nad Rating
A-

10 comments

  1. Another great review, and so handy to vividly remind me and help me separate episodes in my mind… all a bit of a blur when you watch a bunch in a row. I loved the “idiot!” bit with Sketchy too. “That's how you use comedy to service the plot and tie everything together”. I couldn't agree more. The three-time repetition thing worked better here than in the Alec/Max/Josh-give-up-someone-to-protect-them parallel from last ep, huh? 🙂 Maybe repeating something 3 times suits comedy & running gags more than drama… well, it wasn't actually too repetitive, since the circumstances were different enough with Max/White/Normal. It was clever. 🙂

    Like you said, “why did it take season two so long to get this good?” I criticize, but I still think these last eps of season two are good. 🙂 Gotta quote you again: “Dark Angel isn't shying away from the racism parallels this year, and it's a powerful message – one that season two should have began tackling a hell of a lot earlier in the season.” So true…but at least it's there now. I can see how a strong ending would make up for a lot, and make fans remember the whole season more fondly. Plus, later developments sometimes actually improve/shine a new light on what came before (like the Max/Alec/Ben scenes we both loved). Yup, I think I'm starting to understand your defense of season 2. 🙂

    Okay, back to ep 2×18 specifically. I have conflicting feelings. It was compelling and moving, like you said. But at the same time I feel a little emotionally manipulated and annoyed. 😛

    On a visceral level, I must admit you're right…Annie's death was chilling. White approaching her in the sewer and saying something like, “it's all over, Miss”. Yikes. She thinks he's a police officer reassuring her, but *we* know his words have a more sinister meaning! Very effective reveal at the end. I think the decision to not actually show him killing her was a wise move on the writer's/director's part. The suggestion of violence is often more horrific, as Val Lewton knew. 🙂

    Btw, without explaining exactly why I'm reminded of it all of a sudden, and spoiling the movie, I highly recommend watching the Val Lewton/Robert Wise classic, “The Body Snatcher” (1945), starring Boris Karloff. Hmm… Now I'm wondering if someone who worked on Dark Angel was a fan… I love all Lewton's RKO movies. He was the master of horror, in that subtle/suggestive/chilling way. And I really admire how he made the most of his small budget and had hits when nobody expected much from his “B Movies”. Sorry, off-topic-ish!

  2. Anyway, as I blurted out prematurely in an earlier review comment, I dislike the Women in Refrigerators trope, and the fact that Annie was basically a plot device, not a fully developed character. My dislike of women dying to give men more angst/depth, aside… if we'd gotten to know her earlier/longer/better, her death would've had an even greater impact, right? The writers could've broken our hearts *more*! Yay! 😉 But they kinda hastily sketched out Annie, instead of making a detailed character portrait (unless you count Joshua's paintings of Annie..haw, haw ;)) – See, I can accept that sort of quickly drawn character in a movie (like “The Body Snatcher”…Watch it! :)), 'cause I understand you've gotta compress your story to fit under 2 hours. But a TV series has tons of time to flesh out characters, so why the shortcuts? Poor planning or wrong priorities?

    To me, it felt like the writers were a bit lazy, relying on the obvious tearjerker of putting a Sweet Blind Girl in danger and assuming that's enough to make us care. How about a Snarky Girl In Glasses? Hey, I'd still worry about her, since I love Daria 😉 I realize the tension was heightened because she was blind, thus more helpless, plus it's all symbolic and stuff, 'cause… blind/oblivious to real situation with transgenics and the threat from White…oooh :)) Anyway, yeah, it worked, of course we were scared for the Sweet Blind Girl, 'cause we're not heartless monsters. But it bugs me that the writers themselves didn't seem to really care about Annie. More concerned with moving the plot along… and trying to make us feel sorry for Joshua. I don't like to see female characters used to prop up supposedly more important male characters. And I'm almost always irritated with Joshua, so I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I was just angry at him for getting Annie killed, instead of going “Aww!PoorJosh!” like the show wanted me to. 😛

    I was raging at Joshua's stupid decisions throughout this ep. It was like a horror movie where you yell at the screen, “No, don't go there!” I wish he would express some guilt for putting Annie in danger. If he had only stayed away from her as planned, instead of being so selfish, she'd still be alive. Not to mention how stupid it was that he left her behind in the sewer *assuming* she'd be found/okay. I don't care if it was Annie's idea…she didn't really know anything about transgenics, or White/the Breeding Cult. Poor girl didn't have all the information to make a smart decision. From her perspective, staying behind and waiting for the cops made sense. She was trying to protect Josh by not slowing him down (even though he could carry her easily). But Joshua *did* know White was out there, even if he didn't know for sure that White was on the scene – Dog-Boy should've made sure Annie got home safely. Heck, he should've figured White might go after her *later*, if not right then. It's only logical to assume White would use Annie in some way, dead or alive, to get to Josh/Max/etc. Even if the police had found her in the sewer and escorted her home, that's no guarantee of her future safety! Joshua (with the help of Max & Logan) should've helped Annie go into hiding after dragging her into the spotlight and making her a target! But nooo… he leaves her behind. Arrgh.

    But I agree it was touching the way Max and Alec held Josh and tried to comfort him. It was almost like they both assumed a parental role in that moment…if Max is the Worrywart Mom, I guess that makes Alec the Fun/Irresponsible Dad. 😛

  3. “It's also refreshing to have a big bad with a truly intelligent (and nefarious plan)”

    YES! I still laugh when I remember your comparing him to a toddler throwing a tantrum… heh… White wasn't scary when season 2 began, but he's a much better villain now that we see him being diabolically manipulative. I almost admire the way he keeps escalating tensions between humans and transgenics. Stupid Dog-Boy, playing right into White's hands and making things worse for everyone. :/

    Hey, you know what might've worked better and served the same purpose in the plot? If Joshua had been an actual child (instead of just acting like one most of the time :P)… and if Annie was a child too. The writers didn't go there with a full-blown romance anyway. Why not have Josh be a lonely little kid who snuck out to see his friend…maybe the first/only friend he's ever had? Bam! Instantly more sympathetic. 😉 As it is, he *does* have Max and Alec as friends who visit him frequently. But if they really were the adults/authority figures, while he was a child… you could see why that wouldn't be good enough, and Josh would seek out someone his own age to play with. It'd be easier to excuse a child for not understanding the danger… to himself or others. You couldn't really blame a kid for not anticipating White's moves, or for feeling restless/rebellious/petulant over being cooped up inside. Kids are self-centered and don't see the bigger picture. But I do expect better from supposedly-adult Josh. Maybe that's why the writers made him act as childlike as possible, throughout the season? But it really would've been better to hire a child actor instead, in my opinion.

    “Worse still, he's been framed for her murder (since the killer was superhuman after all). It's a goose-bump inducing scene that capably ups the stakes”

    On second thought, maybe Josh couldn't be a child! Maybe he had to be an adult to make it more plausible that White could frame him for murder, and that the media/public would believe it? Even a superpowered/freaky-lookin' kid might be harder to turn people against, because just as I, as a viewer, would be more able to forgive Joshua his mistakes, if he were a child, so too would the characters on the show! Doh! Which means… White would fail in his machinations. And he has to succeed at this point in the story. Probably less likely for a kid to kidnap another kid as well. And the writers do need people (in the show) to believe Joshua kidnapped Annie. Dang. My mind is blown. Maybe the writers put more thought into all this than I gave them credit for. Well, I already admired the way they planned and explained other characters' arcs & motivations, like Max and Alec. Just thought Joshua was a bust. But I guess they did the best they could with him. EXCEPT. They could've obliged me by making Josh an outright BAD GUY. 😉 He could still move the plot where it needed to go, and screw things up for our heroes. And we'd be free, nay, encouraged, to hate him for it! Alright, alright, I know that would interfere with the storyline of unfairly persecuted transgenics. Joshua can't be a villain. He has to be an Innocent Victim. Then again…some humans are good, some bad…(or to be more accurate, we all have both good and bad in us to varying degrees), so why can't some transgenics be Bad too? Or flawed anyway. Maybe the problem with the story is…not enough shades of grey? But only with the transgenics (at least, the ones who aren't Max and Alec…they both have flaws, which the writing acknowledges.)

    I've got to stop over-analyzing now thisisinsanelylong. I'm sorry! This show! And your reviews! Making me think too much. Need to lie down now. 🙂

  4. Love reading your elongated comments 🙂 So many intereting theories, especially if Joshua was a child haha! I am glad you finally see why I'm so defensive of season two; sure season one was more focused and even, but two also become spectacular television at the end. It's too bad it happened so late when people had already given up on the show.

    By the way, I've never read DA fan-fiction. There's A LOT of it but I was too sad after the cancellation to read any. But lots of fans wrote entire season threes. There were lots of collective initiatives as the fanbase was SO devout back then. Too bad. I just remember people going really crazy after the cancellation. Alba gave a lot of hope for a while after as she would says she'd love to work with James Cameron again. A little part of me still prays they'll one day reunite to finish off the series with a little movie. But yeah, wishful thinking on my part.

    Also, Fox hired some random writer to write 3 books after the show was cancelled (Skin Games, After the Dark, and some prequel). I remember reading them and not being very pleased about how he continues the show as he didn't really tap into the tone properly. If you want closure, you have to watch the dvd commentary on the finale with the writers discussing their plans for season three. I'll be sure to mention everything they say in my finale review if you don't have the official dvds 🙂

  5. Yeah, considering how FOX was pressuring them to make all these changes in season 2, the writers did a pretty good job after all. 🙂 I can understand being more devastated experiencing the cancellation as it was happening (especially after FOX jerked the cast/crew & fans around by actually renewing it at first!)… so I guess I'm at an advantage discovering the show years later and knowing it only lasted two seasons… I was sorta prepared for the End. 😛 But I still need cliffhanger-closure, so I'm definitely gonna explore fanfiction. Sounds like they should've hired some of those passionate fans to write the official tie-in novels instead…

    I'm big on physical media…never gonna give up on CDs and DVDs, no matter how little room I have for my collection. 😛 I want Dark Angel but I'm not sure which to buy… I heard region one had extras but wasn't released in widescreen, meanwhile region two was the right aspect ratio but didn't have any extras? Is that correct? Damn you again, FOX! I don't think I can afford to buy *both* versions right now. :/ So please do tell me about season three plans. 🙂

  6. Yes so true. Region one is full screen and not as good looking as widescreen for region 2. However Region 1 has all the extras :S So frustrating. Not to worry, I am including all that info in my finale review which I'm writing now (it's a tough one since there's sooooo much to discuss).

  7. I really liked this one, despite its being Joshua-heavy. They did a really good job; just the right amount of tension. I saw the ending coming, but that didn't make it less heartbreaking. 🙁

  8. THAT ENDING. HOLY CRAP!

    I mean, seriously! Just when you think it's all over and they've won…Annie is revealed to be dead. What a twist. That was a real jaw-dropper and makes you think the show really still has so many good stories to tell. I don't think it was too late because I've enjoyed season 2 a lot as well, but it's frustrating when you think how much of our time was wasted on vampires, mermaids and unnecessary subplots like that.

    The final shot of the three of them hugging like that while we pan out and there's Joshua's paintings of Annie everywhere…so beautiful. I can't believe I'm so sad to see her gone, and we like just met her! Ugh.

    I loved that zoom out of the news-anchor as well…once again the set production is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It's tough knowing that I'm finishing Dark Angel just in time for Gotham to start, so what am I losing and what am I getting instead. Ugh, I just threw up a little. Imagine, what if Gotham becomes SO good all of a sudden and we look back at these comments and laugh, and laugh, and laugh?

    No, that'll probably never happen. Anyway, great great episode! I still probably love “Hello, Goodbye” more but still, what a great hour. The “idiot” thing was hilarious! What a show..

  9. Yes that ending is such a chilling shot isn't it? It's a miracle really that Annie's death is so affecting even though we just met her. Imagine if they introduced her halfway through the season for example?

    Hhaahhah more Gotham hate. Love it! I shall barf as well 🙂

    ” I've enjoyed season 2 a lot as well, but it's frustrating when you think how much of our time was wasted on vampires, mermaids and unnecessary subplots like that.”

    THIS. Sums up the season perfectly!!!

  10. Thrilling episode! I noted when White was 1st introduced in the season that he was already more ruthless than Lydecker & he proved that here. I like that we didn’t see Annie’s death, but found out with the characters watching the news. White walking toward Annie was very chilling, by only hearing the footsteps. Sketchy was so hilarious! Him climbing out of the sewer, pulled out by the cops & the look on his face was the funniest thing ever! Especially because of how dramatic the moment was 😂

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