I can’t help it, I adore She Ain’t Heavy. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.
This is where Max reaches her breaking point. After a season of trying to defy the odds, she finally gives in and makes the monumental decision of leaving Seattle for good. In fact, she makes a perfect case for the decision (see below) and it’s one of the series’ most impactful moments. Naturally Dark Angel can’t really function with our heroine out of town, so who better to teach her a lesson than another X5? Enter Sam, a transgenic who remained on the outside during an “industrial espionage” mission after Manticore’s destruction. Oh, and she’s also Max’s clone.
I urge anyone who thinks Alba is a bad actress to watch her nuanced performance in this hour. Jessica effortlessly assumes the persona of Sam, and it’s an utter joy to watch her transition between the two roles. The cherry on top is Sam displaying qualities that are very reminiscent of season-one Max. She might be a “cheap knockoff” in terms of her DNA, but she’s got the sass and spunk of last year’s Max with none of the angst that’s plagued our heroine this season. And in case you get confused regarding which Alba you’re watching, Sam smokes AND wields two kickass pistols. Damn.
She Ain’t Heavy is also a very significant episode where Logan is concerned. For the first time in the show’s run, one of the baddies (White) manages to trace Eyes Only before completely demolishing Mr. Cale’s iconic penthouse. It’s an unforgettable scene, as the locale has a been staple of the show since the pilot, but it’s a necessary move that elevates the stakes as the show approaches its endgame.
Quite compellingly, transgenic paranoia continues to rise this week – particularly in Jam Pony. What starts out as a bunch of rowdy kids stamping barcodes for fun, culminates in Max almost revealing her superhuman abilities in front of her coworkers after Normal withdraws a firearm. It’s a fantastic turn that showcases the hate that humans are capable of, and finally puts a target on Max’s back.
Joshua really comes into his own this week. After Annie’s brutal death, he begins snapping at Max, eager to cut himself off from “ordinaries”. It’s difficult to watch him be so aggressive with his little fella, but his move to Terminal City is effectively realized. It also helps that Terminal City was introduced earlier in the season as a safe-haven for transgenics who are immune to its bio-hazards.
As much as I hate to admit it, something stops this episode from being truly perfect. The entire hour is tautly constructed, but it almost falls apart in the end with an immensely anticlimactic resolution. Couldn’t we have had something a tad more exciting than a run-of-the-mill trade? Why not have Max and Sam team up and kick ass together? Or at least keep the clone around for a couple of episodes? Ultimately, She Ain’t Heavy could have been an A+ episode, but the ending lets it down.
– A ton of cool continuity bits: the senator mentions the viral agent from Radar Love, Logan is doing well after the Joshua transfusion, White gives Sam the Dr. Carr lead (a direct reference to Harbor Lights), and he uses Ray’s kidnapping as proof of Max’s evil.
– Anti-transgenic shirts with Joshua’s face – not cool people!
– I love how Normal is being integrated into the plot with his suspicion of Max (along with Sketchy). “Girl’s got quite an arm on her”. Indeed she does.
– Brilliant fakeout with Max on the Space Needle wondering if she should have gone somewhere else as we transition to her with a husband and kid living the ideal life. Then White busts in, apprehends her, and the clone bombshell is dropped. Seriously it’s one of the best teasers the show’s ever done.
– Awesome detail: both Max and Sam are unisex names. And we’ve now met two sets of twins (Max/Sam & Ben/Alec).
– Excellent shot with Joshua painting the windows (and consequently the camera) black as Max tries to reason with him. It’s terrifically foreboding.
– Too many shots of Alba on motorcycles looking gorgeous this week. I can’t believe I’m saying this but she even makes smoking look hot – and I detest smokers.
– Both of Sam’s scenes with Logan are highly amusing. The first time she simply walks past him (since she doesn’t recognize him) and he thinks she’s ignoring him given everything they’ve been through. The second time they meet (at Jam Pony), Logan is shocked by how careless she is about potentially touching and infecting him (while Sam is oblivious to the virus).
– As Sam interrogates Carr, there are little sound effects signaling all the intel she’s gathering about Max’s life (Logan, Jam Pony etc..). It’ s a nifty touch I’d never noticed before. Carr then goes to inspect her back (since she was tasered) and he notes that the gunshot wound is gone (which is when she swiftly knocks him out).
– Badass moment of the week: Sam spotting White’s men, then taking out her Lara Croft guns and decimating their car. It’s awesome because we’ve never seen Max wield firearms (she’s averse to them), so it satisfies a craving that began with the pilot.
– The scene with Joshua telling Max he doesn’t need her anymore is extremely powerful. In fact when her voice breaks and he kisses her goodbye, it cements the scene as the best one they’ve had all year.
– Awesome visual callback to the pilot: Logan standing on the same rooftop Max was on before she broke into his penthouse.
– Normal calls Cindy “Nubian princess”. Ha!
– Joshua meets a number of transgenics in Terminal City, chief among them is Mole, and finally finds a place where he can feel at ease. Alec naturally follows him there.
– The musical montage set to “The One” is a thing of beauty. First there’s Cindy’s heartwrenching speech to Max about family, and it reminds how integral she is to the show (and how underused she’s been this year). Then there’s Logan skipping town as well until he’s cut off by the two Maxes. And then, the music comes to a halt as Sam pulls up next a shocked Max, takes out a gun, and BAM: Max’s Ninja crashes towards the screen. It’s one of the show’s most epic and exhilarating action moments, because seriously, when has anyone ever thrown Max off her bike before?
– Great touch with White spotting his name on Logan’s whiteboard and erasing it.
– Another favorite scene of mine: Max and Sam’s verbal confrontation. How does Alba pull it off? The scene is impeccably directed and edited, and the dialogue is spot on – with Sam’s animosity at Max for leaving Manticore shining through. It’s also the episode’s most enlightening scene as Sam schools Max on being a ditcher and always thinking only of herself. Fantastic.
– Love how Logan isn’t sure who the real Max is until Sam ominously lands from above and knocks him out. Naturally Max is very protective, and very awesomely rips off the chains (the music is thrilling) and utters that badass LINE (found below). Now I have some issues with the fight scene; too many shadows and too much blur. However, both Albas look gorgeous and you can barely spot the stunt doubles. Plus it couldn’t have been easy for Alba to memorize both sides of the choreography. But then the fight fizzles out; how did Max win? What does “fighting dirty” mean exactly? And that’s where the hour starts falling apart. A pity.
– I don’t get it; why did Max change into Sam’s clothes? It’s not like White saw Sam before and knew what she was wearing. She could have just played the part. And then back in Terminal City she changes AGAIN! Really? We’re to assume she kept stripping Sam left and right? What a mess. At least Logan gets his hero moment by bashing White on the head with a crowbar
– White tries to turn the tables during the trade but the transgenics unite and hold him at gunpoint. It’s fine, but doesn’t make for very exciting television.
– Sam doesn’t want to thank Max, until Alec points out how much she’s done. Also, I’d love to hear how Sam plans on “explaining” everything to her husband.
– So Max is going to be Logan’s cat burglar again? Ah, back when the show’s premise was so simple.
– White’s speech facing the senate is excellent. I love how he blows the cover-up wide open as we realize the Senator is affiliated with the cult. And then Max shuts off the TV, further arousing Normal and Sketchy’s suspicions.
– Max’s final voiceover is accompanied by that stunning piece of musical score from the pilot. It’s so haunting and poignant.
– There’s an admittedly huge goof in this episode. If Max has always had a clone, wouldn’t Lydecker have known exactly how she looked like in season one? Because a big deal was made in Cold Comfort when he finally got a look at her. Oh well…
Barbs & Barcodes
Sam: (after shooting out Otto’s car): If I’m on to you, then she’ll be on to you, got it? Good boy. Tell your boss to work alone.
Logan: (after Max and Sam both drive by) Great I’m seeing her everywhere.
Max: (after Sam knocks out Logan) HEY!
Sam: Guy’s really stuck on you, huh?
Max: I thought I was a bitch, but you take the prize.
Sam: It’s no use. I’ve got ten years of training on you.
Max: Yeah, well, they didn’t teach you to fight dirty.
Max: I appreciate this.
Alec: Yeah, no worries. Anything for a friend, or a clone of a friend.
Max: Wonder if Manticore cooked up any more of me…’cause one clone is plenty, especially when she’s got a nasty left hook.
Must Download Tune
The One by Nikki Harris
Spearheaded by Alba’s incredible performance, She Ain’t Heavy is a masterful hour of Dark Angel, and one of my all-time favorite episodes of the show.