Episode Review of Dark Angel Season 1: "...And Jesus Brought a Casserole"

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Episode Information

Title: "...And Jesus Brought a Casserole"
Writer: Rene Echevarria, Charles H. Eglee
Director: Joe Ann Fogle
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: November 30, 2007

Synopsis from TV.com


This amazing season finale turns everything on its head for season 2.

This episode takes up immediately after the previous one left off, panning back on the tableau of Max cradling Tinga, and Lydecker looking on in shock. Lydecker starts to say something quiet and perhaps even conciliatory to Max, but Max literally flies at him in a rage. She's immediately tasered into unconsciousness by about half a dozen of Lydecker's operatives. Tinga is dead; we don't know what experiment was being performed upon her, but apparently it shouldn't have been interrupted.

Events begin moving very quickly. Madame X orders her men via radio to take Lydecker into custody for his incursion into her secret facility. Lydecker shoots Madame X's men, bundles the unconscious Max into his SUV, and flees. He checks them into a seedy motel, handcuffs Max to the bed, and proceeds to fall of the wagon, as he downs a bottle of liquor. (We learned in "Cold Comfort" that Lydecker was an alcoholic, and it's nice continuity here.)

When Max wakes up, she finds Lydecker mumbling drunkenly about how she was always his favorite among his "kids". He knows that Madame X will be tracking them down shortly (via Max's implant again), and so he decides the best course of action is to shoot Max and then himself. Max does not concur with this decision, to say the least, and convinces Lydecker to let her go.

Meanwhile, Zack has returned to Logan's apartment, where he fixes up his gunshot wound. They are both angry and confused at what's happened, but they are determined to get Max back from Lydecker. Zack calls in two of their siblings, Krit and Syl, to help. They begin planning in some kind of operations center in a warehouse. (This location was a bit odd, since I don't think we've ever seen it before, but all the good guys seem to know where it is.) Max turns up with Lydecker and lays a bombshell on them: Lydecker is going to help them take down Manticore.

Needless to say, everyone's disbelief is obvious. Lydecker says that if they destroy the genetic material stored at Manticore, no more transgenic children will be able to be created, and the subsequent blame amongst the Manticore's leaders will cause their funding to dry up and the entire project to be canceled. He is willing to help them since Madame X is trying to kill him, and he knows the plans and defenses of the compound inside and out. Max does not trust Lydecker, but she is in favor of the plan because if they are successful, it will mean they will no longer be hunted.

Everyone agrees to the plan with various misgivings. While the X-5s are planning, Lydecker has another of his infamously penetrating conversations, this time with Logan. He realizes that Logan is involved in the situation because of Max, and he recognizes Logan from the hostage situation in "Prodigy". While he doesn't say so, I think he must also have realized that Logan is Eyes Only, from Eyes Only's similar involvement in "The Kidz Are Aiight". Knowledge in Lydecker's hands is very dangerous - what will he do with this tidbit?

One sticking point in the plan is that they will need access codes for Manticore, and Lydecker's have surely been canceled. Lydecker and Max pay a visit to Lydecker's South African contact from the previous episode. Lydecker has somehow deduced that this agent is more deeply involved with Madame X and Manticore than he previously realized, and he confronts the man. He doesn't get any information, but he knocks the guy out and sticks him in the trunk of a car. Then he takes some sort of sample from him; we find out later that Lydecker plucked out his eye. Ewww. If we needed any confirmation that Lydecker's blood is made of ice-water, this was it. Anything for the mission.

The mission takes place that night. Logan and Lydecker run communications from a mobile operations center, from which Logan has hacked into Manticore's surveillance system and can give them directions. He's also babysitting Lydecker, who will detonate the explosives remotely. Krit and Syl have a mission in one part of Manticore, while Zack and Max will go to the genetics vault and plant the explosives. The beginning of the mission runs smoothly. Zack and Max are stunned by all the genetic samples in the vault, even samples of themselves. But they shake it off, and set the explosives, and leave.

An alarm goes off, and Madame X (Lydecker says her name is Renfrow) quickly assesses the situation. She sends Brin to disable the explosives in the vault, and she orders the X-7s (plus normal guards) to catch the X-5s. Lydecker says the X-7s (presumably two generations newer) are much stronger and more capable than the X-5s, and they have a hive mind. Funky. Logan is able to lock down the X-7s barracks, which delays them until they can break down the door. Logan tells Max that Brin is going to disable the bombs, and Max returns to ambush her and neutralize her while Zack continues out. Lydecker sets off the charges in the vault, and we watch Madame X's ambitions shatter along with the genetic material.

The X-5s are separately making their way to the perimeter. Max encounters herself at 9 years old - apparently an X-7 clone of her. Her clone has no qualms about using guns, however, and shoots her. We have a funny cut to a commercial. When we return, we see Max kick the gun out of the clone's hand, kick the clone's ass, and then escape. The others also successfully get away. They eventually end up going to Max's favorite bar and celebrating with Max's friends, even Lydecker. This scene is so happy and perfect, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Max and Logan decide to retire to his apartment to take up their romantic pursuits from where they were interrupted by Zack in the previous episode. Suddenly and bizarrely, Max is covered with blood, and we realize the celebration has been a dream.

We cut back to Max's clone shooting her: Max didn't knock away the gun, she was shot through the heart. Zack is also shot and surrounded by X-7s. For some unknown reason, Max's clone leaves - maybe she knew Max was going to die and so didn't bother taking her into custody? Logan rushes to Max, and she dies in his arms. Lydecker tries to get Logan to leave so they can escape, but is forced to knock Logan out and drag him to their van. Frankly, I was surprised that Lydecker bothered to do this - he must think there's some advantage for himself in Logan being alive. Krit and Syl return safely, and Lydecker sharply orders them to move out.

Manticore operatives bring Zack and Max into some type of medical ward. Madame X is there to supervise. When the doctors can't revive Max (she has been shot through one of the ventricles of her heart), Madame X orders her other organs to be harvested. Zack goes crazy and breaks his restraints. He grabs one of the guards' guns and takes Madame X hostage. He orders the doctors to give Max a heart transplant. Madame X says that only the heart of another X-5 will be able to be successfully transplanted. Shockingly, Zack hardly hesitates before shooting himself in the head.

The transplant is successful, for the next scene we get is Max waking up under Madame X's watchful eye. She obliquely tells Max about Zack's suicide and twists the psychological knife for a bit. Max is defiant that she'll never be re-brainwashed. In the final scene, we cut to Logan sitting on the Space Needle, Max's favorite perch, saying that somehow he knows she's still out there somewhere.

Wow, this episode was something! The plot twists were surprising, but logical, and the emotional aspect was heart-wrenching.

The political machinations between Lydecker and Madame X came to an explosive confrontation, and I'm still not sure who ended up ahead. Manticore's genetics vault was destroyed, but now they have Max and Zack's genetic material, plus the X-7s. Will Manticore really implode like Lydecker predicted? The successful attack on Manticore happened under Madame X's watch, but by the time Max wakes up from her operation, Madame X seems to be firmly in control and unworried. We don't know what happened to Lydecker after the attack. Will he be planning some kind of revenge on Madame X?

We get the best look to date at Lydecker's true motivations: he got involved with Manticore because he wanted to create a super soldier. His idea was that a small number of super soldiers would be able to make war without casualties, saving the thousands of normal soldiers that would usually be killed. What an astonishingly naive idea! Can he really believe it would be that simple? Before I would have said that he has no problem using any means to achieve that end, but we see that there are a few things he wouldn't do, as he said with regard to the experiment on Tinga. We also get confirmation of his self-image as a father figure to his "kids", even saying that Max reminds him of his late wife (although no actual genetic relationship exists).

Lydecker's interaction with Max and the other X-5s while they are planning the assault is also interesting. He definitely still takes the role of an instructor, although I suspect he has toned it down quite a bit from their childhood days. And despite their misgivings, all of the X-5s seem to heed his advice. It's nice to meet Krit and Syl, but they aren't really fleshed out at all. They are good soldiers, following the lead of Max, Zack, and/or Lydecker.

It's nice to see the assault be planned out so carefully, which it should be. The attack itself was well done, with a fairly believable amount of it going according to plan.

The end of the episode is tortuous. First, we get the "ideal" ending in Max's dream: everything went perfectly with the attack. Not only that, but her siblings and her best friends meet and get along swimmingly. And she and Logan finally consummate their love. In fact, it was so perfect that it was obvious something was wrong. The vision of a crow is used a few times in this episode as some kind of signal of wrongness - why?

The reality of the situation is extremely painful. I can hardly take Logan going to pieces when Max dies, but then, incredibly, it gets worse! We knew that Zack had feelings for Max, which certainly must have contributed to his suicide. However, I think he also felt very strongly his failure as a commander to have let Max be killed in action. He had also recently seen Brin be re-educated and Tinga murdered. These things, combined with his belief in helping his siblings at all costs, nearly demanded that he sacrifice himself for her. Nevertheless, the act itself was shattering, and certainly one of the most well-done emotional scenes I've ever seen. I only wish that he had killed Madame X first! I wonder if this omission was deliberate - after all, if she was dead, possibly the doctors would panic and not conduct the transplant operation.

What's going to happen next? Certainly Madame X is going to try to bring Max back into the Manticore fold. Max may resist, but she's going to be extremely weak and vulnerable after such major surgery. How can she escape? Conveniently, Logan doesn't believe she's dead - will he be able to help in any way? What is the political situation vis a vis Manticore: is it likely to collapse as a result of the attack?

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