Episode Review of Dark Angel Season 1: "Hit a Sista Back"

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Episode Information

Title: "Hit a Sista Back"
Writer: Moira Kirland
Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: November 25, 2007

Synopsis from TV.com


This excellent episode has a tragic ending, and then it gets a twist.

Max sees a missing person's ad for Tinga, known to her family as Penny, put out by her husband, Charlie Smith, after her disappearance in "The Kidz Are Aiight". Max calls Charlie to try to warn him that Tinga is in hiding and now the people after her might come after him and his son, Case. Not surprisingly, Charlie doesn't believe Max. Max resolves to go to Portland and rescue Charlie and Case, since she knows Lydecker will come after them if he hasn't already.

Lydecker has chosen a more subtle approach, however. He wants to study Case's abilities, so he poses as a new teacher at Case's elementary school. He conducts many tests of Case's abilities and finds out that his is very gifted in many ways - somehow Tinga has passed on at least some of her genetically engineered abilities. While interacting with Case, he also plays up Manticore as a "happy place" and promises Case that if he ever goes there, his mother will be there. I'm not sure why Lydecker didn't just swoop in and abduct Case with or without his father; maybe he does have a little bit a of a conscience - after all, why steal Case if he turns out to be normal?

Max arrives in Portland and begins observing Charlie's apartment, and she runs into Tinga doing the same thing. Tinga came back to help her family, without Zack's blessing, since we all know how he feels about emotional attachments. Max and Tinga stake out the apartment for a night and day to find a good opportunity to snatch Charlie and Case without alerting Lydecker's operatives (who are all over the place), but realize there is no good time. That evening, they decide to go in. Unfortunately for them, Lydecker also decides it's time to take Case into custody, and he orders the freshly re-brainwashed Brin (from "Cold Comfort") to lead the operation.

Max and Tinga use a smoke grenade and pull the smoke alarm in the building to create confusion. It's a great scene when they burst into Charlie's apartment, and Tinga comes in with a gun as super-soldier to take them away. Charlie is clearly amazed, but goes along with them. They get boxed in by Lydecker's forces when Zack shows up to help them out. They head to the roof, as planned, to rappel to safety. Max is the last one to leave, and she is confronted by Brin. They fight briefly, and Brin clearly would be the victor if they continued. However, Brin stops and says that capturing Max was not a part of the mission, so she will allow Max to leave as repayment for saving her life in "Cold Comfort".

Max and the others head back to Seattle and Logan's apartment. Charlie is still overwhelmed by the revelation of Tinga's identity. Logan has a nice heart-to-heart talk with him to help him realize that the Tinga he knew is still there. It's nice to hear such calm, reasonable talk coming from Logan after his realization that Max is not a monster at the end of the previous episode. Zack, on the other hand, wants Tinga to split with the rest of her family for safety.

Before any decision is made, Case becomes seriously ill and begins to manifest a bar code on the back of his neck. No one can say that Lydecker doesn't plan ahead - he infected Case with nanomachines to cause his illness and eventual death in case he was taken away from Lydecker. There are too many numbers in the bar code, and Logan realizes it's a phone number. They have no choice but to call it.

Lydecker receives the call with Madame X observing. Lydecker offers a deal: the nanomachine antidote for Case in exchange for Tinga. He says that Case only has a few hours left to live without the antidote. Faced with this stark choice, Tinga agrees. Madame X expresses some doubt in Lydecker's generous offer, but Lydecker points out that once they have Tinga back, they can make more children like Case.

Zack is disgusted by the deal and leaves. Max takes Tinga, Charlie, and Case to the meeting location, which is at a security checkpoint between different sections of the city. After a heart-wrenching goodbye, Tinga turns herself over to Brin, and Lydecker relinquishes the antidote. The counter-nanomachines are released onto Case, and his recovery begins immediately. The exchange appears to be over, when suddenly additional operatives spring out of hiding on Max's side of the fence and try to capture Max, Charlie, and Case. On Lydecker's side, Brin and the operatives grab Tinga and drive off without Lydecker, who appears shocked at the whole situation. As Max fights off her assailants, Lydecker claims he had nothing to do with this secondary attack. For the second time in this episode, Zack is a deus ex machina, and helps Max defeat the operatives and take Charlie and Case back to Logan's apartment.

In Tinga's SUV, Brin kills the other operatives and knocks out Tinga. She then arranges the SUV to look as if it was in an accident, even making herself unconscious, to make it look as though Tinga's disappearance was an escape when Lydecker shows up. In reality, Brin is operating on Madame X's orders, and has transferred Tinga to Madame X's control. Lydecker knows that Madame X was behind the unexpected extra attacks and blames her for losing Tinga.

Logan arranges for Charlie and Case to flee the country. Tinga's sacrifice has crystallized Charlie's feelings for her, and he claims he doesn't regret anything they did. Max promises Case to get Tinga back. At the end of the episode, we see Madame X observing some sort of experiment on Tinga; she is immersed in water with numerous tubes attached to her for some unknown purpose.

The basis for the episode illustrates another possible path Max's life might have taken: what if Max had fallen in love and had a family? Max and Tinga talk about how hard it is to tell someone they care about their secret. Tinga kept planning to tell Charlie, but then kept putting it off. I think Max and Logan both come to appreciate independently the fact that they don't have this obstacle to overcome in their relationship.

Tinga has had a pretty bad sequence of experiences, being forced to abandon her family previously, and now being forced to give herself up to Manticore. She gave herself up thinking she'd be treated like Brin, but instead she has fallen into Madame X's clutches. What is being done to her?

What is going on at Manticore between Lydecker and Madame X? Clearly Madame X has some larger goals in mind than Lydecker's goal of recovering the X-5s. Does she have the approval of whatever higher level bosses there are, or is she conducting these experiments secretly? Since the experiments are being hidden from Lydecker, they are at least somewhat clandestine. How much control does Madame X have over the operatives and X-5s at Manticore, like Brin? Having Madame X and Lydecker working at cross-purposes can really make them get in each other's ways. It seems like once Max and the other X-5s figure that out, they could use it to their advantage.

Lydecker showed his usual thorough planning by having a backup plan in case Case was taken from his control. We get additional confirmation that he's a control freak when it comes to his "kids" as he nearly panics when Madame X's plan to capture Max and Case begins. Why did he care to try to convince Max that he was not responsible for the double-cross? I suppose from the practical point of view, he may realize that he may need to negotiate with other X-5s in the future, so he doesn't want to compromise what credibility he has with them. From that point of view, it would also make sense that he gave Max a real cure for the nanomachines in Case.

Zack was his usual commanding self, although it appears that his concern for his sisters overrode his disgust with their emotionality. My annoyance with his appearance this time was how convenient his arrivals were. Hopefully he won't arrive just in time to save the day again.

Where will the series go from here? Max and Zack's last conversation may be a sign: they discuss how the X-5s are one-by-one being recaptured by Lydecker. What will they do to stop this trend? Will they decide that the best defense is a good offense? What will they do to rescue Tinga? This is going to be even harder than they expect, since they will have to find her first.

Return to my Dark Angel reviews page.