Episode Review of Dark Angel Season 1: "Cold Comfort"

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Episode Information

Title: "Cold Comfort"
Writer: Jose Molina
Director: Jefery Levy
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: October 29, 2007

Synopsis from TV.com


This excellent episode shows just how far the escaped super-soldiers are willing to go to help each other.

In the episode's teaser, we see a transgenic escapee from Manticore named Brin on the run. We assume she's on the run from Lydecker and watch as she calls someone on the phone for help.

Later, Max returns to her apartment to find that it's been broken into, and the perpetrator is still there: Zack. He looks much the worse for wear, and quickly tells Max what happened. He was meeting up with Brin when operatives from some group, presumably Manticore, arrived and snatched Brin. Zack barely managed to escape. He must have been desperate to turn to Max for help, when he disavowed her at their last meeting ("411 on the DL").

Max takes Zack to Logan's to get fixed up, but Zack doesn't really trust Logan. Logan does some electronic snooping and determines that Brin is probably still somewhere in the vicinity of Seattle, since there haven't been any special military convoys in or out, and she could hardly be sent with just a guard or two. Now the question is where she is being held.

Logan, Max, and Zack begin digging into Lydecker's background in order to get ideas. They learn that he was an rising star in the military until his wife was murdered. The murderer was never caught, and Lydecker apparently fell apart, earning many disciplinary actions and a dishonorable discharge, along with becoming an alcoholic. Since Lydecker is now back in command of an important operation, they reason that he managed to get sober. They gamble that they can find him at a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Their gamble pays off. In a bit of black humor, we see Lydecker tell his story to the local AA members. Then, in perfect character, he goes on to tell them what losers they are that they can't take charge of their own lives to keep from being alcoholics, but must depend on the "higher power" evoked by AA literature to help them. He says he keeps coming to AA meetings in order to see what he doesn't want to become. When he leaves the meeting, Max sees an opportunity and jumps Lydecker, forcing him to drive her and Zack to a secluded area.

Zack isn't happy with Max's improvisation, but frankly, doesn't seem too upset to have Lydecker in their control. They blindfold Lydecker (he hasn't seen them yet) and begin questioning him on Brin's whereabouts, with Zack employing a few punches to encourage his honesty. Lydecker is completely unruffled. Even though he's the one blindfolded and tied up, he quickly manages to get them unsettled. He identifies Zack quickly from his anger, but can't quite figure out Max.

No matter how angry Zack gets, Lydecker denies any involvement with Brin's abduction. He knows how their interrogation will escalate, so he breaks his own finger (!!!) to convince them he is being truthful. Even then, he is calm and collected. He suggests that another organization has captured Brin in order to sell her (and her genetically-enhanced DNA), possibly to the Chinese government. He claims he doesn't want to see that happen any more than Max and Zack do.

Max and Zack can't decide if he's telling the truth. Zack wants to kill Lydecker on principle, then proceed with finding Brin, but Max thinks he may be useful. They decide that Zack will go see if Logan can find any evidence supporting Lydecker's supposition, while Max babysits Lydecker. While Zack is gone, Lydecker finally recognizes Max's voice as that of the journalist Max posed as in "Prodigy". Max's identity is finally blown, because if he can remember her voice, he certainly can remember what she looks like! Lydecker also makes the connection that Max was at the conference in "Prodigy" to learn more about how to fix her genetic flaws, such as her seizures, and asks how bad they are. He says that if she returns to Manticore, they have a treatment. Max emphatically refuses, but she's unnerved by his insight.

Meanwhile, Logan's connections reveal that a rogue army officer, Major Sanders (at least he wasn't a colonel!), has basically taken over a nearby base. He has his own mercenary soldiers, and he has been in the employ of the Chinese government to capture one of the Manticore escapees. Now that he has, the exchange of Brin for cash will be happening soon. Zack takes this information with the intent of breaking Brin out with Max's help. Before he leaves, he accuses Logan of putting Max's life in danger by holding her in Seattle with their relationship.

Zack has to be getting used to not getting his way, because Max peremptorily decides that they will use Lydecker to get them onto Sanders' base. Lydecker already knows what Max looks like, but when she takes off his blindfold, she reveals Zack's identity as well. She apparently thinks it's worth the risk.

Lydecker gets them onto the base with ease. When he renews his acquaintance with Sanders, he tells Sanders that he knows about the deal with the Chinese... and he's brought two more Manticore kids to sweeten the deal, because he wants a cut. Max and Zack are quickly taken into custody. Clearly they (and I) had expected some kind of double-cross from Lydecker, but they hadn't thought of this one! The next question is: is Lydecker serious about wanting to go along with Sanders?

Max and Zack are imprisoned in separate cells, alongside Brin's cell. Brin is obviously very ill. Lydecker says it's a rare genetic disorder that causes accelerated aging. He has encountered it in some of the other Manticore kids, and has developed a treatment. Sanders couldn't care less about treating Brin - he just wants her to live long enough for the deal to be made.

Sanders and Lydecker retire to Sanders' office to hammer out their deal. Despite their previous working relationship, they do not trust each other and both make an attempt to kill the other: Lydecker is successful. However, before he can call in his own operatives, Max, Zack, and Brin escape from their cells after Max fakes hanging herself. The incoming Manticore operatives begin fighting Sanders' mercenaries, and in the confusion, the transgenics escape in an SUV.

Their escape is very bittersweet, however, because Brin is obviously in critical condition. On the radio, Lydecker begs them to return Brin, claiming that he can whisk her away to Manticore and cure her. Max and Zack don't know what to do, because they don't want to return her to a life of virtual slavery, but to keep her would probably mean her death. Even Zack's commanding officer facade breaks down as he fights back tears over the awful choice. Brin makes the decision: she doesn't want to die. They arrange to leave her where Lydecker can retrieve her. They promise her that they will free her again from Manticore once she is well.

In the end, Zack quickly leaves town, and Max commiserates with Logan in what is becoming a traditional way of tying up episodes. The final thing we see is Brin well on her way to recovering at Manticore. Lydecker comments that she is almost good as new physically, but that she'll require serious reindoctrination after how long she has been away from Manticore. When Max and Zack eventually rescue her, will she still be the same Brin?

That's it for the main plot. There is a secondary plot involving Jam Pony that is interleaved with the main plot. I don't usually discuss the subplots because they mostly provide color and round out the culture, but this one was especially funny. It provided something of a balance to the extremely serious A plot.

An Indian businessman is on the verge of buying Jam Pony, and he has provided funds for Normal to implement some of his favorite ideas, such as jerseys for the couriers, cleaning up the facilities, and implementing all kinds of new rules. Original Cindy, Sketchy, and Herbal are opposed to a stricter Jam Pony, so they devise a plan. They pretend to go along with Normal's fix-it efforts until the day before the businessman visits for the first time. At that point, they contrive to lace Normal's coffee with laxative. The next day, Normal is too ill to show off Jam Pony to the businessman, but the other assure him that they will take care of things.

When the Indian businessman shows up, they quickly stage an accidental leakage of a package containing a deadly disease. Couriers appear to be falling over dead in their tracks, vomiting up horrible things. Sketchy rushes the businessman to the backroom, where they lock themselves in and seal the door. There's no exit, but they figure they will wait for the all-clear from the police. But Herbal, posing as the police, announces a quarantine, and anyone trying to escape from the building will be shot on sight.

Sketchy puts on a wonderful show of being panicked, and the businessman is legitimately hysterical. Sketchy convinces him that they can escape through the steam pipes under the building, if only they can file away the lock. They do that and "escape", just in time for the businessman to flee from Jam Pony before Normal returns. The businessman never returns any of Normal's calls and the deal for Jam Pony falls through, much to the puzzlement of Normal and his employees.

This episode marks a turning point for the series: Lydecker now knows the faces of two of the transgenic escapees. Zack is constantly on the move, so he should be harder to find, but if Lydecker realizes that Max has tied herself to Seattle, he could cause her a lot of trouble. We have seen things like floating police drones - do they have video or cameras? Who do they take pictures of? Could Lydecker track her down using them? Not to mention all the other normal surveillance that must occur in Seattle in its current state. Max's activities may be severely restricted.

Lydecker shows in this episode just how clever and slimy he is. He knows just how to get under the skin of his "children" - but of course, can't all parents do that? He can think very quickly on his feet: first, he deduced what happened to Brin, and then he worked out a double-cross of Max and Zack and after that a double-cross of Sanders. What does he truly believe? Was he serious when he said he'd rather die than see Brin fall into the hands of the Chinese? That seemed to be the one thing that he stuck to.

Speaking of the Chinese, it's hard to believe that they haven't caught up with Manticore's ten-year-old technology (at least, since that's when Max and the others escaped). As far as we know, the Chinese were not directly affected by the pulse, so they should be pushing forward on all fronts.

What other pies does Lydecker have his fingers in? At the beginning of the episode, we see him talking with someone from another organization. This other person was saying that the Pope is causing problems for some nebulous movement that Lydecker and he are part of. It seems that the result of this conversation is Lydecker agreeing to have one of his "kids" assassinate the Pope. That seems like an awfully big thing to just drop in...did I misunderstand? Is Manticore part of some bigger organization, or is it just Lydecker?

It's great to see Zack back in this episode, since he and Max really rub each other the wrong way. He still doesn't agree with Max's unsoldierly choices, but he seems to be resigned to them. His lecture to Logan doesn't seem to be from jealousy, but from the responsibility he perceives toward Max, even if she doesn't want it. While I definitely feel some sexual tension between Max and Logan, I don't get that at all from Max and Zack. I can completely believe they have a sibling relationship.

Their decision to send Brin back to Manticore is excruciating for both of them. They were on the verge of a victory over Manticore - they saved one of their siblings - only to see it snatched away. If they were each in Brin's place, would they have made the same choice? I'm pretty sure that Zack would have preferred to die than return to Manticore. He seems to see things in black and white, and he would see a return as a complete surrender. What about Max? I'm not so sure what her decision would be. I think she is more open to the idea that there are always options, and might be willing to accept the temporary setback of returning to Manticore with the hope of future escape. Hopefully she'll never have to face such a choice!

Where will the show go from here? The stakes are going to be much higher between Max and Lydecker. Max still wants to find her other siblings, but so is Lydecker.

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