Episode Review of Dark Angel Season 1: "Red"

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Episode Information

Title: "Red"
Writer: Charles H. Eglee and Rene Echevarria
Director: Micael Katleman
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: November 5, 2007

Synopsis from TV.com


This is another good episode, one that touches on past events and sets up some interesting antagonists for the future, but it all gets off to a pretty slow start.

Logan contacts Max about finding and protecting a key witness for the trial of Mayor Steckler, who had diverted medicine from city hospitals in order to sell it on the black market in the pilot. The witness is in witness protection, but Logan doesn't trust it to be sufficient; the witness is scheduled to testify the next day. Max crashes the warehouse where the witness is being kept just in time to thwart an assassination attempt. As she drives off with him on her motorcycle, she discovers that he is the gunman Bruno Anselmo.

Max takes Bruno to Logan's apartment. Apparently Logan wasn't aware of his identity, either, since they are both pretty taken aback. Bruno was the henchman of Sonrisa that Max beat up and then tricked into attacking and killing Sonrisa. The news said that Bruno also was killed, but apparently the federal marshals snatched him up to be a witness. Logan also had a grudge against Bruno, since he was the one who shot Logan (in the same episode), causing his paralysis. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that Logan's connections told him everything about this witness except who he was. I wouldn't have been surprised if he kept the information from Max, seeing as Max is inclined to kill Bruno right in Logan's apartment.

Logan finally convinces Max that keeping Bruno alive to testify is the right thing to do. He sends her and Bruno to a safe house: a rather disreputable hotel room. Bruno proceeds to annoy Max and the viewers by either being insulting or trying to get Max into bed. He also seems to be horribly stupid, because even though there's a good chance someone will try to kill him in the next 24 hours, he's upset that there's no TV in the room. Max handcuffs him to the radiator and goes for pizza. When she returns, she realizes that she erred in not putting Bruno out of reach of the phone, since he called up two women to give him lap dances.

Since their security is compromised, Max takes Bruno to a swankier hotel. She orders room service and lets Bruno take a shower. She's really off her game, though, because Bruno manages to slip out the bathroom window. She tracks him down to a bar featuring cage fights between women, where he is playing pool. Now we start to get an inkling that there's more going on here than meets the eye, because Bruno intentionally insults his opponent, causing a fight where Max is forced to protect him from several large patrons. As they leave, we see an onlooker on the phone saying that now that he's seen her, he's going to need more men.

Max has had enough of Bruno's stupidity. He manages to get the better of her again, though, when he asks to be able to call his young daughter before she goes to bed. Max lets him make the call, and it seems legitimate as he starts reciting "Goodnight, Moon". When Max goes for ice, she notices some truly scary men heading their way. There are three of them, and they are pretty muscular, but there are two really strange and scary things about them. First, they seem to have greater-than-usual strength, as we see one punch through an elevator door. Second, they seem oddly emotionless and deliberate.

Max manages to get Bruno out of the hotel just before the men reach their hotel room. She has them hunker down with some bums under a blanket until morning. Then she tells Logan about the strange men. Logan uses the security camera footage from the hotel to study the men. Using his connections, he discovers that the men are South African soldiers codenamed Red Series. They have some kind of implants that enhance their strength and other abilities and also eliminate pain. However, the enhancements cause them to die in six months or so. Logan's friend says the South Africans have been trying to improve the Red Series by adding transgenics. One would have to think that in order to do that, they need an example of transgenics that are effective.... Max. Logan knows that something big is going to happen at the trial, so he heads out to meet Max there.

Meanwhile, Max's soft spot for children has let Bruno convince her to take him to meet his daughter before the trial. They go to a park, but after they are there a short time, yet another assassin takes a shot at Bruno.

It's finally time for the trial, and Max takes Bruno into the courtroom by the "back door", dumping him into the room right at the moment he is to testify. Partway through his testimony, one of the judges announces there has been a bomb threat and the building must be evacuated. Max leads Bruno down some back stairs to the basement parking garage. The leader of the Reds, Johanssen (who was the guy at the bar earlier), is there with his three soldiers. Bruno cuts off their escape, and then reveals that his true plan was to give Max to Johanssen in exchange for a nice sum of money. Bruno gets his cash and leaves, but is shot down by the assassin from the park when he steps outside.

Max is faced with the fight of her life against the three Red soldiers. She manages to hold her own against them, despite the fact that they cannot feel the pain of her attacks and they are armed with some kind of shock-stick weapons to use on Max. Because they are not hindered by pain, Max is forced to keep knocking the soldiers off-balance and actually breaking limbs in order to slow them down. Johanssen, who is apparently not enhanced, is obviously impressed as he watches Max fight. Logan bursts into his garage with his car and uses a hand gun to shoot down (temporarily) the Reds, giving Max time to dive into his car and escape.

In the end, Johanssen is left to fix up his soldiers and remove bullets so they can repair themselves. He tells his unseen boss that they just need a little time to bring Max in, but it'll be worth it. Logan and Max mull over when the South Africans will come for her again.

The second half of this episode showed that the events of the first half of the episode were not as empty as they appeared, but the first half is still annoying enough to bring down my overall rating. We spend the first half of the show watching Bruno being annoying and doing stupid things and listening to lots of sniping between him and Max. Plus, Max does not always show the best judgment in supervising Bruno.

The final act, however, shows that Bruno was definitely more complex than he appeared, if not smarter than he appeared. How much of what he did in the first part was intentional? He wanted to sell Max to Johanssen, so he had to arrange the "demonstration" in the bar. But in order to do that, he had to lure Max to the bar. He couldn't do that when the first thing Max did was handcuff him into the room - so he blew the security of the safe house. From that point of view, his actions make some sense, plus he managed to enjoy himself with the lap dancing and pool playing as a bonus!

I felt like Bruno's daughter was used as a bit of a red herring, to make us think that Bruno had changed his ways in order to be a better father. How much of the crap that he shoveled to Max about wanting his daughter to be proud of him did he really believe? It's hard to say. This part of the plot also showed Max's weakness for children.

In the end, Bruno was a little too clever for his own good. He got his money for Max - frankly, I was surprised that Johanssen actually gave him the money instead of killing him - but apparently he thought that he could actually make it out alive. Did he not believe that the Mayor's minions were really out to get him? Even after he was shot at in the park? Well, he got what he deserved, and his daughter really did get to hear him being called a hero on TV for his testimony.

The Red Series soldiers from South African are a chilling new adversary. Apparently super-soldiers are the wave of the future, but not all governments have taken the same approach to creating them. The implants of the Reds enhance their physical abilities, but one gets the impression that they are not helpful for their mental abilities. They seemed to need a non-enhanced leader to direct their missions. Once they are unleashed, however, they seem to be pretty unstoppable, unless you actually physically destroy them. Frankly, I was surprised that Max did as well against them as she did, given how much more massive they were than her. On a side note, the actor who played Johanssen, Alex Zahara, also played the character Ezekiel in the sci-fi series Jeremiah.

Where will things go from here? Now Lydecker and Johanssen are both looking for Max, and they represent two distinct evils. I wonder if Lydecker is aware of the Reds - would he be interested in adapting their technology to Manticore ends, just as the South Africans would like to do the reverse? Seattle is getting rather hot for Max at the moment.

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