Episode Review of Dark Angel Season 2: "Freak Nation"

Warning: all of my reviews contain spoilers.

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Episode Information

Title: "Freak Nation"
Writer: James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee
Director: James Cameron
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: March 17, 2008

Synopsis from TV.com


This double-length episode is an excellent end to season 2, bringing the situation between the public and the transgenics to a head. Unfortunately, it's not such a great end to the series, as it leaves a lot unresolved.

At the beginning of the episode, we see the various plot threads gearing up: Max and Mole (a lizard-like transgenic) surveying the "transgenics headquarters" in Terminal City, discussing the money and supplies they need to take care of everyone; White being ordered to use a team of "warrior" cult members to find and kill Max; Max visiting Logan to let him photograph and study the newest runes that have appeared on her (in a strangely erotic scene). Things start cranking when Joshua and Mole go to pick up a pregnant X-5 and her companion, a young teenaged X-6. On the way back to Terminal City, they get into a car accident and so must head out on foot. Of course, Joshua and Mole attract attention, so they are soon on the run and trying to evade police. Via cell phone, Max directs Joshua to Jam Pony to ask Alec for help. The police follow them there, and Mole and Joshua quickly pretend to take Alec and the pregnant X-6 (named Gem) hostage.

Stuck with their ruse, Mole and Joshua quickly take over Jam Pony and barricade it - Normal's worst nightmare come true! But it gets worse for Normal: Alec snatches his gun, revealing that his cage-fighting idol is a transgenic, and several other transgenics working at Jam Pony reveal themselves. Police have surrounded the building, so now they must think of a way out.

Max hops on a police hoverdrone and uses it to crash through a window into the building. Frankly, I'm not sure she was smart to go inside, rather than trying to fix things from the outside, but who could stop Max once her siblings are in trouble? Logan hears about the stand-off on the news, and straps on his exoskeleton to give himself a little extra oomph (the transgenic blood transfusion is still making his legs functional normally) and goes to the scene to help.

The police officer in charge on the scene, Detective Clemente, seems to be a reasonable, calm officer, and not prone to the panic surrounding the transgenics. He just wants the situation resolved and the hostages released with as little bloodshed as possible. He agrees to provide Max and her friends with a gas-filled van; Max agrees to release half of the hostages upon the van's arrival, and half when they get to where they are going. He also successfully fends off an attempt by White to take over the situation - until White has something proving his authority, he has White removed from the scene. Unfortunately, this makes White decide to escalate matters.

The situation inside Jam Pony is interesting. Most of the people there have worked with the transgenics, sometimes for quite awhile. Normal initially is aghast and upset. Sketchy is scared, but seems to be trying to be understanding - he asks to interview Max as the hot transgenic babe on the run. The other employees don't seem to see the transgenics as monsters, but they do see them as the ones who are going to get them killed.

The van arrives, and Clemente has his policemen pull back a bit. The transgenics each take a "hostage" for a shield - Original Cindy volunteers for Max. A good point is made: the police won't know if some of the normal-looking people are transgenic or not, so some "hostages" are actually transgenics. Although the situation is tense, it seems that the transfer from Jam Pony to the van will actually work. Except that White has set up hidden snipers. Logan picks them out and tries to warn Max, while he leaps upward with his extra strength and tries to shoot the snipers with a little handgun. Between this and the snipers beginning to shoot, panic ensues. One of the X-5 transgenics is shot and killed. All of them retreat to Jam Pony, including Logan.

At this point, there is a major crisis in decided what to do. Mole wants to start killing hostages to make their point. Logan tries to defuse the situation by letting them know that it was White's men that fired, not the police. Max manages to override Mole's drastic approach, but doesn't have a plan of her own, yet. As the others wait for some decision, Gem goes into labor. Cindy tries to coach her, but Normal (with farm experience) can't handle her poor instruction and takes over.

Outside, White has gotten the state governor to give him authority over the situation, and orders Clemente to hold his men back. He brings in his team of cult warriors to assault the building covertly.

Max decides that she should turn herself into White, hoping that it will end the situation, since White wants her so badly. This is a foolish idea, and a sure sign of her desperation: after all, the public knows that there are a number of non-human transgenics, so they aren't going to be happy with just Max. I suppose Max may be hoping that White will take her away and leave the situation to the more reasonable Clemente, but it's still a bad idea. Fortunately, Logan tells her this; he also tells her that he has partially translated her runes, and they seem to indicate that she is the only hope for humans in some global disaster that is supposed to be coming. I guess that makes her a good person to keep alive.

Any debate is made moot when Max realizes somehow that White's assault team is coming. They hide all the non-transgenics in the abandoned upper floor of the building, and then they all secrete themselves for an ambush of their attackers. White himself is leading about a half-dozen cult warriors. Max and her friends attack, but of course the cult members are also enhanced, so it's a very even fight. The fighting goes on for some time, mostly hand-to-hand, and I will say the scene is well-done and satisfying. Gradually, the good guys manage to incapacitate White's forces. Joshua realizes that White himself is there and takes to beating on White mercilessly in revenge for Annie. Max manages to reach Joshua just in time to keep him from killing White - she points out that his murder, no matter how justified we know it is, would raise the public outcry against them even more.

Now the question is how they can get past the police outside the building. Their solution is clever and sets up one of the most satisfying paybacks of the series. Original Cindy, Sketchy, Logan, and one or two other "hostages"/transgenics take the uniforms of White's team, and then escort the more obvious and well-known transgenics out of the building under arrest. They take White's van and an ambulance and leave, taking time to tell Clemente that White orders them to enter the building and secure the scene immediately. Clemente and the police go in and find White and his team bound and gagged - even Clemente can't help but laugh at White's humiliation. White is trying to tell him something, but Clemente choose to assume White is ordering him to pursue the transgenics, so he and the police do so immediately, leaving White tied up. Ha!

Clemente and his men chase the transgenics all the way into Terminal City. They draw their weapons on the van and ambulance and tell the transgenics to surrender. Max orders them to comply, and her fellow transgenics are worried, but they obviously don't know what Max knows - their friends in Terminal City will take care of them. In short order, the police are surrounded by hundreds of transgenics. Max tells the police they should leave. Clemente again shows his rational nature, by quickly ordering the surrender, but not panicking in the process. He stays to warn Max that he appreciates her cleverness in avoiding bloodshed in this situation, but that events have gotten too big, and so he won't be able to work with her in the future.

Once Clemente leaves, Mole assumes that the transgenics must flee, and begins giving orders to form small groups to escape Seattle. But Max finally steps up into the leadership role that she has been developing all season: she says no, that they shouldn't have to run and hide anymore. Normal humans created them, and now they should have to accept what they created. They will take a stand in Terminal City. I love that during this speech, Logan looks like Max almost like she's someone he's never seen before - she has definitely changed since they first met! One by one, the other transgenics agree to stay.

At nearly the end of the episode, we see Normal speaking as one of the released hostages, telling the newswoman that the transgenics aren't monsters at all, and beaming with pride at having delivered the baby girl. Will the relatively nonviolent ending to the hostage situation do anything to improve public opinion of the transgencs? At the very end, we see the transgenics raising the flag Joshua created over Terminal City.

Argh! And that's it! There are so many unanswered questions, but first I'll try to start with the issues in this episode.

The events in this episode finally made a reality something that Max and her siblings had been talking about for so long: an end to their running. Now the fact that they exist is undeniably public, and the fact that there are lots of them is also known. In some ways, this has also brought an end to White's search for Max, because while she is surrounded by so many compatriots in Terminal City, she is essentially untouchable. Otherwise, she no longer has to hide her identity from her friends, which must be a relief.

It is a pleasure to see Max taking charge, not only in just the situations involving her friends, but of the transgenics as a whole. When she had her confrontation with Mole about how to get out of Jam Pony, I admired how her force of will and her belief in her convictions managed to win out and convince Mole to go along. She asserted that she was in command of the situation, when it has traditionally seemed that Manticore's policy was that older generations (which we assume Mole was, as a freak) took command over the younger.

Max also demonstrated her understanding of the reality of the situation by realizing that under no circumstances could one of the transgenics actually kill anyone. I have to believe that she ordered that before the final confrontation with White's men, because otherwise they surely would have been fighting to kill, either by hand or with firearms. And even though White surely deserved to be killed by Joshua, it was almost a pleasure to see him completely at their mercy and then be allowed to live. Certainly that fact will only make White even more angry.

Now for the unanswered questions. Most immediately, we will always be left wondering whether Terminal City would survive in the face of a scared public and determined police. Would Max have been able to work out some sort of compromise with the government if they could show that they weren't violent a priori? Terminal City would not be able to withstand a prolonged siege, since necessities like food, water, and maybe even electricity and communications could be cut off. On the other hand, one would hope that the more reasonable and intelligent minds in the government and police (maybe that's asking too much) would not want a wholesale slaughter of the transgenics, either by force of arms or starvation. I feel like the series was setting itself up for a season centered on Terminal City, with all the new "freak" characters we have recently been introduced to.

The second unresolved situation: Max and Logan. At the end, we see them holding hands, since Logan has discovered surgical gloves. While that lets them have some contact, it's certainly not what they both want. They still have the possibility of accidental exposure hanging over them, and now that Terminal City is isolated, there are no medical facilities. On the other hand, I suppose there are lots of transgenic blood donors around. In the heat of the situation, Max's professed affair with Alec has been completely forgotten, as Logan and Max instinctively protect and comfort each other. I wish something had happened with the virus situation!

The next unresolved situation: the breeding cult. They still haven't gotten Max, and I have to think they aren't going to quit trying just because she's in Terminal City. It's just going to be a harder job. I've been wondering what might happen if the transgenics revealed to the public the existence of the breeding cult, since they are also "enhanced", and even have some abilities that the transgenics don't have, such as telekinesis ("Exposure"). Ultimately, I don't think the transgenics could prove the cult exists, and the cult could just say that any alleged proof of special powers on their part was just faked by the transgenics.

Another unresolved issue: we don't know for sure what Sandeman's message in Max's runes means. What kind of global disaster could be coming that Sandeman would actually know about way ahead of time? The only thing I can think of is something involving the breeding cult, since Sandeman was opposing them. Potentially the cult is planning to eliminate normal humans somehow - maybe by releasing the virus that is in their worthiness-testing snake blood? Since Max survived this virus without even any ill effects, she is plausibly the hope of others surviving it as well.

Overall, this episode did a great job of wrapping up this season and setting things up for a new direction in the next season - if only that season had ever come!

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