Episode Review of Dark Angel Season 2: "Medium is the Message"

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Episode Information

Title: "Medium is the Message"
Writer: Michael Angeli
Director: Jeff Woolnough
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: February 12, 2008

Synopsis from TV.com


In the best episode of the season so far, we discover that Max's nemesis Ames White is much more than he appears.

At the beginning of this episode, Max and Logan are both separately pursuing the possible fix for Max's Logan-killing virus. Max is trying to figure out the notes the geneticist in "Proof of Purchase" left behind; she's not making much progress. Logan is trying to find other doctors who have the ability to help him and will also take him seriously; he also is not making much progress.

In desperation, Logan tries to contact Lydecker for some help finding doctors, but Lydecker hasn't been answering his calls. Logan investigates and find the police report on Lydecker's crashed SUV in "Proof of Purchase". In the police report are the pictures of the archaeological site that Lydecker had an archaeologist investigating. Logan recognizes the Manticore symbol in some of them and shows them to Max.

Then Logan has a new mission fall in his lap: a woman has asked for Eyes Only's help. Her son was kidnapped by such professionals that the police have absolutely no leads. She doesn't know who else to turn to. Logan tells Max he might have turned her down, but she's willing to make a large "donation" to Eyes Only's work, and even Eyes Only has to pay the bills.

Logan meets the woman and quickly discovers that she is the wife of Ames White. Their young son has been kidnapped, and even White with all his resources hasn't been able to find him. (It's nice writing in the series that we were informed in the previous episode that White had a wife and kid.) Logan gets the police report from Mrs. White, and then says that he'll need to visit her house to take a look around.

Before that, he returns to his apartment and tells Max the news. As Max says, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. But as Logan points out, White's wife and son have no idea what he does and don't deserve to suffer, even though it's assumed that the kidnapping was some kind of revenge on White. Logan manages to squeeze some information out of surveillance footage of White's house (more on this below), which shows two men who appear to be transgenics leaping up to the second floor and snatching the boy.

Max goes with Logan to White's house to case the surroundings and see Mrs. White. They tell Mrs. White the whole story of Manticore, transgenics, and White's job tracking them down; they explain that the kidnapping is probably revenge. Mrs. White cannot believe that White could be such a secretive and deadly person, but then White comes home (unexpectedly) and draws a gun on Max. He is very upset to see one of his targets in his home. Max manages to disarm White, then tells White not to worry, because she and Logan have a lead on the kidnappers and they'll track them down. She has bowed to Logan's belief that the wife and son don't deserve bad things just because White is evil. (Max has always had a soft spot for kids, which we were reminded of in the previous episode; that setup makes the kid scene from the previous episdoe make a lot more sense.)

Logan manages to get a company reference from the clothes the kidnappers were wearing in the video and tracks down the location of the company. Max immediately goes to rescue the boy if they are still there. Max walks right in and shows she's from Manticore, expecting to at least be able to have a civil conversation with the kidnappers and try to convince them that kidnapping an innocent child is not good. However, the two men quickly go on the offensive, and during the fight, Max sees that they do not have barcodes. Despite the fact that they are not from Manticore, they still have obvious transgenic abilities, such as enhanced strength and fast reflexes. The two men throw Max out of action for long enough that they escape with the boy.

Max's inadvertent trip into the basement of the building lets her make a serendipitous discovery: the archaeological site that Lydecker had photographed. The partially-buried skeletons are still there, along with the drawings on the walls, including the Manticore lion symbol. Max confers with Logan on this information, and Logan plans to hack into Lydecker's unplayed voice mail messages in the hopes of finding out more. He has also been searching databases for information related to the images of the archaeological site. Max decides to stake out White's house and hope that she gets another chance to save the boy.

At White's house, White and his wife receive a ransom demand from the kidnappers, and so they immediately load up the requested money and head for the deserted location. Max follows them and observes from a distance. Logan calls and tells her about the story that goes along with the Manticore symbol, which has been found in various similar archaeological sites around the world. A woman has been forced to have children: the first two die (or are killed) and the third one is apparently the desired child. We don't know why! After that, the woman is killed. Logan also remembers that Mrs. White said she had two miscarriages before the boy was born.

Meanwhile, White has told his wife that the ransom demand was a setup to get her in this deserted area. His son wasn't really kidnapped - it was a plan to get the son away from her permanently. White hadn't wanted to kill her, but since she wouldn't let the kidnapping go and got outside help, he has no choice. Max jumps in just before he shoots his wife. They begin fighting hand-to-hand, and Max discovers that White has the same abilities as the "kidnappers" and he is certainly a match for her. During the fight, he scoffs at the ideas of transgenics, and brags about how his own abilities are even better, since he also cannot feel pain. Police sirens start to get closer, and White slips away.

Max takes Mrs. White back to Logan's, where he plans to help her escape to ever-wonderful Canada. They wonder about just what exactly White is, and how he (and others?) are connected to the historical sites that seem to have the same story. We see White speaking with his son for a short time before sending him off in a mysterious car for what is implied to be some kind of schooling.

Throughout the episode, there is a B-story concerning Joshua and Alec. Joshua discovers painting, and Alec inadvertently discovers that Joshua's paintings are good and worth money. However, in one of the paintings Joshua incorporated Max's virus notes as part of the medium, and so he needs to get the painting back to recover the notes. The art gallery owner refuses to give or sell back the painting without meeting Joshua. So Joshua sneaks into the gallery to steal it back. The owner discovers him, but when Joshua shows her his face, she is able to accept it. She encourages him to keep working.

This episode was the most compelling so far this season, and really ratchets the overall plot of the series to another level. After all, we had gotten rid of the menace of Manticore and just had some guy chasing down the leftovers. Now we have some idea of another shadowy organizations with unknown plans that somehow seem to also be producing super-men.

We knew that White was clever and duplicitous, but until now we didn't know the depths of that. He must be a member of two secret organizations. The first one, his "day job", is the government organization that is charged with tracking down the Manticore transgenics. Apparently this organization is staffed only with normal people and some few remaining loyal Manticore soldiers (like the X-7s we saw in "Bag 'Em") - in this setting we never see White reveal his enhanced strength or other abilities. In fact, in the previous episode, he was bitten by a strange trangenic, and I got the feeling them that his subordinates found his lack of reaction odd. We know now that it was because he doesn't feel pain.

The second organization is the one we have just become aware of in this episode: an organization that is somehow producing super-men without technological genetic engineering. The impression we get from the archaeologist's story and White's comments is that it is some kind of selective breeding program. This is genetic engineering over a much longer timescale. However, it's not clear how selective breeding could possibly result in some of the super-human abilities that we have seen. Perhaps this will become clear later on. Whatever this organization is, White is prepared to follow orders from his superiors, even if it means murdering his wife, whom he claims to love. Is he under threat of punishment for not complying, or does he really believe the organization's goal is worth it?

White manages to switch between these various worlds with ease. First, he obviously had his wife believing he had some kind of relatively normal job, even if it was secret. She had no idea he was tracking down "fugitives", and she certainly had no clue about his special abilities. When Max and Logan broke the boundary between his family life and his "day job", White took up the facade of a kind of special agent, and still didn't reveal his special abilities. He must have been spitting mad that he had to let Max zoom up to him and take his gun. He also must have hated that he had to look somewhat happy when Max said she'd find his son. I wonder how White manages to keep straight exactly who knows what about him so that he can behave correctly - no wonder he's always in a bad mood!

After the previous episode, I said White should really be out to get Max (and Alec). That's even more true now, since Max knows the truth about him. White also knows about Logan, since Logan was at his house, although he doesn't know that Logan is Eyes Only. It's not much of a stretch for White to realize Max and Logan are together. What will he do with this information?

During the episode, Max and Logan make what seems to be a reasonable assumption that the men in the surveillance video that have super abilities are transgenics. However, they are using faulty reasoning by assuming that there is only one means to a specific end. They are assuming that the only way to get super abilities is via transgenics, which is very poor given their experiences. They have encountered at least two different ways to achieve similar results: Logan's exoskeleton (as used by Phil to make large jumps, etc., in "I and I Am a Camera") and the implants used by the Red Series South African soldiers (as in last season's "Rising"). If Max hadn't made this assumption, she might have been better prepared to rescue the boy in her first attempt.

I said that I would comment more about the surveillance video footage. The kidnappers avoided being seen by the surveillance cameras, but Logan notices their reflection in a mirrored sphere lawn ornament. So Logan uses a computer to enhance the footage. He first gets rid of the distortion in the reflected image from the spherical mirror. Then he enhances the footage once to be able to make the people sharp. Later he enhances the video again in order to make out a picture and text on an ID badge from what must have been a distance of about 50 feet. There is absolutely no way that that's possible. You can only magnify and "enhance" (interpolate what the image probably is) to a certain extent: beyond that, the information just isn't in the image to be seen. This use of the surveillance video was just ludicrous. Surely the writer could have come up with another clever way for Logan to discover a clue that the police had overlooked. However, since the whole kidnapping was a setup, this didn't bother me as much as it could have.

There were a few detractions to the episode. Max and Logan's renewed focus on curing the virus was abrupt, although I could believe that their mutual scare in the previous episode might have spurred it. Logan's sudden interest in Lydecker is also a bit stretched. The B-story involving Joshua's painting was completely unnecessary, except to give Joshua a little more depth; will the ruined virus notes Max wanted be crucial later on?

Overall, this episode should really get the series moving for quite awhile. It's unlikely that Max is going to leave White and his breeding organization alone, besides the fact that White is still searching for transgenics.

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