Dark Angel 2×19 – She Ain’t Heavy

She Ain't Heavy.jpg

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.

Post-Pulse Bits

– 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

Conclusion

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.

Nad Rating
A

9 comments

  1. I didn't make the connection between Sam and SeasonOne!Max! I missed early Max and should've noticed. Guess I got used to SeasonTwo!Max, or understood the change better as the season went on. πŸ™‚ I did feel like Sam's disgust with Max might be meta-commentary from the writers, like they were acknowledging the fans' frustration over Mopey!Max, with Sam kind of speaking for us with the “You haven't got it so bad! Snap out of it!” attitude.

    “Couldn't we have had something a bit more exciting? Why not have Max and Sam team up and kick some ass together?”

    I didn't think of that either as I was watching, but you're right about the resolution. I like your idea much better. Maybe it was too difficult filming the same actress playing two characters?

    That's too bad Jessica is considered a bad actress. I've only seen her in Dark Angel, but I've heard she was in some bad movies. Maybe she's being held unfairly responsible for the overall movie quality. I know it's all subjective and many viewers (and award-givers) believe you have to “go against type” to prove yourself, or play in a heavy drama (as if it's *easy* to be a good comedic actor…Ha! Then why is there so much bad comedy out there. ;)) And I know there's a bias against sci-fi/action, which is so unfair. I've seen the cast of Stargate SG-1, for instance, give both heartwrenching dramatic *and* hilarious comedic performances, which were totally Emmy-worthy, but of course, no chance 'cause they're on a “genre show”. Meh. Anyway, my philosophy on good acting is pretty simple. It's good if we know exactly how you're feeling, and you make us feel for you. That's why I love Allison Mack on Smallville. I've seen people on TV with a wooden delivery, no emotional range, or just an unlikeable screen presence (ahem, Kristin Kreuk on Smallville :P) – but I have no problem with Jessica Alba.

    “she even makes smoking look hot – and I've never smoked.”

    Ha! Me neither. But that's why everyone smoked in old movies. Bad Guys *and* Cool Good Guys… and doctors. πŸ˜› Well, they didn't quite realize the hazards of smoking back then. But think of Now Voyager where Paul Henreid lights Bette Davis' cigarette…considered an iconic romantic scene. And then it changed to only showing Bad Guys with cigarettes, to help illustrate *just* how evil they are, and now I guess there's some regulation against showing it in movies at all? Or has it changed again? I hardly watch modern movies – I'm stuck in the 1930's-60's, and I like it that way. πŸ˜‰ Anyhow… Sam is a Badass and Cool Good-Bad Guy at odds with our Heroine, so…of course she smokes!

    “Awesome detail: both Max and Sam are guy/girl names”

    Plus “Sam” is *almost* “Max” spelled backwards. Sam, Xam…close enough. πŸ˜› I'm probably reaching on that one.

    “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…”

    Wow, I didn't think of that…Good catch! Maybe we can fanwank it that Lydecker didn't know about the clones? Maybe Renfro kept it from him somehow? Lydecker was so focused on finding “his kids”, he was unaware of the other Manticore projects/departments? Renfro was undermining him at work, so maybe she even wanted him to fail at rounding up Max and the other escapees. So she deliberately kept him out of the loop on the cloning and didn't want to help him recognize/find Max? Fanwanking is fun. πŸ™‚ I was hoping Lydecker would return this season. How cool would it have been if he was kept prisoner by White, and Max & Sam found him in this ep? He could've expressed surprise over the clone.

  2. “Anti-transgenic shirts with Joshua's face. Not cool people!”

    Sign me up for an Anti-Joshua shirt though! πŸ˜‰ Oh, you knew I couldn't resist. I'm gonna consider those shirts another meta shout-out to me from the writers. πŸ˜‰

    “The scene with Joshua telling Max he doesn't need her anymore is extremely powerful”

    I do like Josh better angry than goofy. Bit unfortunate timing though, since I think he should feel guilty over what happened to Annie, and for making the overall situation worse for *all* transgenics out there. Getting angry implies he blames others instead of himself. Although he could feel guilty deep down and turn his self-loathing outward and therefore snap at other people…that makes sense. But it doesn't make me like him any better to see him taking it out on Max!

    The scene does makes me admire the writers again for their pay-off to early season two set-up… You remember we were talking about Maternal Max taking care of Joshua, and how I didn't really like that dynamic for lots of reasons. One being that Josh and other transgenics have to take responsibility for their own actions, and Max shouldn't blame herself for what happens to them/what choices they make, just because she let them out of Manticore. I also wrote that parents have to let go of their kids anyway… so I was happy to see that play out in this ep, with Joshua basically saying he can take care of himself and make his own decisions, and rebelling against Mom!Max. Those sneaky writers planned it all along! πŸ™‚ See, Max? This is why parents shouldn't sacrifice their lives and happiness for ungrateful children. πŸ˜‰

    But I'm not completely happy with the scene because… Max (wrongly) blamed herself for setting the transgenics free, and now Joshua's piling more blame on her, for protecting him, and for not telling him about Terminal City/letting him go. Yeah, she was over-protective and he wants independence, but geez. It's not like Joshua's proven himself as being capable of making excellent decisions on his own. πŸ˜› He's made quite a few bad ones recently. How about a little humility, Josh? I'd rather have Dog-Boy *thank* Max for being there for him, and reassure her that she did the best she could and he *doesn't* blame her, y'know? He could've at least apologized to her later. She almost left town in this ep and needs love and reassurance. Poor Max.

    Poor Logan too. It hurt to see him lose his home. I couldn't believe they destroyed such an important set(ting)! But if they had to, maybe it should've happened earlier to help explain the lack of Eyes Only broadcasts this season… maybe have Terminal City become the main set earlier too. We meet a bunch of new transgenics in these last few eps, and I was a bit overwhelmed!

  3. HAhah Love what you about the writers being aggressive with MopeyMax (brilliant name btw, I should have used it)

    Wow I love what you said about Renfro purposely keeping it from Lydekcer. I feel much better now πŸ™‚ Heheh Fanwanking indeed! (and I still think Lydecker is in a prison somewhere thanks to the creepy cult)

  4. The fight scene between the two Jessica Albas was very well done. And Terminal City? The Seattle post-apocalyptic hellscape has never been more detailed. The demise of Logan's penthouse made me really sad. Aww. Approaching the end…

  5. I didn't think it was possible but I am definitely loving this season just as much as the first one. Perhaps even a little more! This episode was all kinds of fun, and the Sam/Max fight was epic. On every single level!

    Max making the cat burglar comment at the end was PERFECT. The look on Logan's face, the smile…I just love these two so much! And I'll be pretty pissed if they don't end up together in the final 2 episodes (sniff).

    I actually ADORED the “trade” scene they had. Reminded me so much of the South Market deal from season 1. I liked that one more because it ended up having a badass action sequence while this one pretty much had an anticlimactic ending as you mentioned. But for some reason, I really got the chills when White turned on them, Sam's husband and kid were stuck in the middle between two groups, and then, magnificently, all those freaks show up to the rescue. The sound of their guns and the look on White's face (and his guys) as they realize they're surrounded was chilling!

    I love the line “I thought I was a bitch, but you take the prize”. EPIC. I'm so terrified of watching the final 2 hours and desperately wanting more…

  6. Weird isn't it? Even though season one is MUCH more consistent (it doesn't really have horrendous episodes likes this year), season two's highs are just as awesome if not more sometimes! So I guess thats' why the seasons even out in a way!

    Don't you love Sam? Watching her with guns is just awesome! And the bitch line is downright iconic!

    It's nice to know you enjoyed the “Trade” scene. I didn't, so I'm glad you did! I just really wanted a more climactic action sequence to make the hour perfect (even though I love it).

    Also, so cool to see Max try and leave town and the penthouse getting destroyed! ah makes my heart break!

  7. Another great episode! In fact, season 2’s episodes from 15-21 are all fantastic, powerful & consistent! You just want to keep watching the next one. In this episode, Jessica in particular was amazing & I loved Cindy’s confession to Max. I actually liked the trade-off since it was like a foreshadow to the finale with all the transgenics standing together in terminal city.

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