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"Overall, I enjoyed Season Two of DARK ANGEL, though I still prefer Season One. Despite the fact that I have a basic problem with Season Two, a large number of things were done very well. Like Season One, it was a well written, superbly produced, well executed season with some great new characters and some interesting new plot developments. Above all, Season Two represented a major improvement in Jessica Alba as an actress. In Season One, there were a host of scenes in which I was depressed by her rather flat vocal delivery and a surfeit of emotion at times when more was called upon. She is immeasurably better in Season Two, possibly a result of additional training, and certainly a result of being more comfortable in her role. She impressed with her athleticism in Season One, but she seems even more capable in her fight scenes and stunts in Season Two. She even seems more beautiful, probably the result of losing just a hint of baby fat (she was, after all, just out of high school in the first season).
The biggest problem I had with Season Two was the amazing lack of continuity with Season One. Like THE X-FILES or BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or FARSCAPE, DARK ANGEL is a series that depends on long story arcs. That was true of both Season One and Season Two, but while each season had a great deal of internal narrative over the course of the season, not quite enough carried over from one season to the next for my taste. For one thing, a number of characters simply vanished. John Hurt, who was so prominent in Season One, leaves after a couple of episodes in Season Two (I suspect he would have returned in Season Three). Max and Original Cindy's coworker and friend Herbal vanishes with nary a word. The Asian police officer who was so prominent also fades from the scene. And the brilliant Stephen Hawking-like character (in that he is both brilliant and trapped in a wheelchair) disappears (perhaps because he might have possessed the knowledge to rid Max of the targeted retro virus that keeps her from having any physical contact with Logan) also vanishes into thin air. On the other hand, we are confronted with a host of new characters, so the feel of Season Two is much different from Season Two. Also, some of the carryovers from Season One have lessened roles. We don't see very much of Original Cindy or Sketchy in many episodes, as their onscreen time has been cut into by Alec and Joshua. On top of this, many of the emphases of Season One are altered to accommodate plot shifts. For instance, plot lines revolving around Agent White squeeze out many of the humanitarian and justice efforts by Eyes Only. Or take Max. In Season One much of the interest revolved around her attempt to find a satisfying life despite the rather unusual hand that fate has dealt her. She also apparently changed biologically from Season Two, although no specific mention is made of this. For instance, she had no moments where she needed a quick injection of Tryptophan (again, if her neurological condition was corrected during her incarceration at Manticore, no mention is made), and unlike Season One, she never had a period in Season Two where she went into heat (as a result of her feline DNA). These changes are all quite separate from changes wrought by plot development. There were just too many details that got pushed out of the show. Given the lack of continuity with Season One, I felt slightly uncomfortable with the predominance of Alec, Joshua, and White. These are not bad characters, but I didn't like to see more familiar elements squeezed out for the inclusion of the newcomers.
Nonetheless, Season Two was overall an exceptionally strong one. There were very few weak episodes and only one genuinely awful one the absolutely wretched "Gill Girl," which might be the worst single episode of the two seasons. The more one thinks about the latter episode, the worse it becomes (e.g., the transgenic gill people have gills and lay eggs to have offspring, like fish, but they look human and communicate by cetacean-like vocalizing, which would make them mammals). I love the way the writers keep painting the transgenics into a corner, and even Logan, so that by the end of the season the identify of all of the transgenics have been revealed, Eyes Only has been exposed and shut down, and Max and all of her friends have literally been driven out of life among non-transgenics. Max's situation has been radically altered by the end. One assumes that working at Jam Pony is now impossible (despite Sketchy and even Normal abandoning their prejudice against transgenics). No more evenings at Crash, no more motorcycling around the city, no more biking. Even her beloved hot baths might be impossible now. Clearly, big things were intended for Season Three.
One huge, huge reason for fans of the show to seek out the DVD set, even if they have it recorded on video, is the commentary. Although we sadly did not get a Season Three, the commentators reveal the major plot details that were anticipated. For instance, we know that Max was somehow the possible savior for the human race, but we are not sure how. What about Logan's ability to walk or Max's virus? They spill the beans. It doesn't make up for having a full season, but at least they resolve some of the larger questions that might otherwise be eating away at fans.
I am not privy as to why DARK ANGEL was cancelled. Perhaps the ratings weren't what they had hoped. Perhaps it was too costly of a show. In a way, the worst thing that ever happened at FOX was the enormous success of THE X-FILES. Ever since they have been looking for its replacement, and they kill all shows that don't manage its ratings. Along the way, they have killed off a string of superb shows, like FIREFLY, WONDERFALLS, and this one.
At some point FOX needs to realize that they are superb as a network at developing great shows, but fail miserably in making commitments to those shows. As it is, I am afraid to watch or allow myself to become interested in any show that appears on FOX. Why make a commitment to a show that they themselves won't make a commitment to? My feeling is that you development a quality product, and then stand by it and promote it until either the show slips in quality or there is a long term demonstrated lack of interest in it. FOX is to be commended for backing the creation of some great shows, but is to be condemned for failing to support them."
The end of the story for Max and the post-Pulse transgenics
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Watching the second season of "Dark Angel" knowing that the show would be cancelled it becomes easier to see that there the fundamental dynamic of the series was just changed way too much. After all, gone is John Savage's villainous Lydeker, who had at least a proprietary interest in the transgenics. In his place is a Snidley Whiplash type, Agent White (Martin Cummins), who wants to kill all the transgenics, not so much because of orders from the government but because of a much larger ancient conspiracy (e.g, "Exposure") having to do with the whole eugenics vs. transgenics argument (pretend there is one). Instead of the super-soliders from the X-5 series trying to blend in with humanity and avoid being killed by their creators, we know have transgenics of every description, which far too often becomes a "freak" of the week. While in the case of Joshua (Kevin Durand), the first transgenic, this has some nice payoffs, the rest of it is just becomes a bit much and you need a program to keep all the transgenic clear in your mind.
Then there is the whole romantic relationship between Max (Jessica Alba) and Logan (Michael Weatherly), which starts off the second season with him thinking she is dead. Then he gets the good news, she is alive, but the bad news: she has been given a virus that is genetically programmed to kill Eyes Only. You have to admit, it terms of keeping apart two people who seriously want to get together, this is a rather creative way, and there are a couple of very good episodes dealing with their romantic problems (e.g., "Borrowed Time," "Hello, Goodbye"). We are supposed to then throw X-5 Alex (Jensen Ackles) into the mix as a love triangle, but I can never believe Sam would be unfaithful to Logan, let along want to go the kissing cousin route. I prefer the problems with the X-6s ("Bag 'Em") and the X-7s ("Designate This").
Perhaps the best proof of how the show was matching steps forwards with step backwards is in the supporting cast. With Alex and Joshua becoming the third and fourth most important characters in the show after Max and Logan, that meant reduced roles for Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller) and Norman (J.C. MacKenzie). The latter is reduced to on-going homoerotic shtick with Alex, especially in the Manty Coro bits, and the former is reduced to popping in to episodes for brief moments of clear thinking and moral support. This is underscore by their return to prominence in the series finale, "Freak Nation" (raise your hand if the final scene reminds you of a line from CSN&Y's "Deja Vu").
Perhaps the problems with Season 2 of "Dark Angel" is that making things bigger and going the whole "X-Men" route with the public outcry to get the wicked mutants, is just pretty much a complete flip on the more intimate and secretive world of post-Pulse Seattle we got in Season 1 (and if you listen to the commentary track for "Freak Nation" you can learn what further changes were coming in Season 3). It seems strange to fault a show for moving in new directions, given how often they become stagnant, but all these changes might just have been too much too soon. Then again, the fault might be audiences were not particularly open to so many changes. You certainly cannot say that watching Alba as Max got tiresome (just her comic book refusal to ever kill any of the homicidal maniacs after her and her buddies).
Ironically, FOX's reasoning for cancelling "Dark Angel" was that they did not want to do two futuristic science-fiction shows (i.e., costly sets and special effects), and decided to go with the highly anticipated sci-fi western "Firefly" from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon. Of course, "Firefly" never had the ratings of "Dark Angel" and never made it to double figures on aired episodes. If you missed "Dark Angel," then it is certainly worthwhile checking it out on DVD. The second season is not as good as the first, but still way above average in terms of science fiction shows. James Cameron directed the finale, which marked the first (and so far only) time he has dealt with human actors as a director since "Titanic." The DVD also includes some featurettes and a gag reel, but the chief attraction in the extras are the few but definitely above average commentary tracks."
Mostly watchable, but often confused and slow.
D. Mok | Los Angeles, CA | 10/25/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The first season of Dark Angel created a colorful and unusual world, establishing itself as an exceptional, memorable TV creation. Season 2, unfortunately, seems to draw from a multitude of pre-existing sources and the mix is not all that harmonious.FIrst of all, I am really not fond of the use of mythology in this season. The first season, like most of the James Cameron oeuvre, draws its strength from the scientific feasibility of its sci-fi/fantasy elements. But Season 2 throws in dog-faced mutants, mermaids, scale-bodied monsters, and most grievously, a snake cult spewing arcane language. What is this, Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The new tone is entirely incongruous with the world of Dark Angel.The cast suffers tons of massive losses. This despite the addition of the wonderful Jensen Ackles, who provides much-needed spark as irresponsible, smart-mouthed X5 Alec, a much better, more complex character than Ackles' Season 1 character Ben. Ashley Scott is also fine as Logan's alternative love interest Asha, a hot-blooded activist without much gift for tactics. But they can't make up for the loss of Alimi Ballard (boo), John Savage (big boo), the diminished role of indispensable Valarie Rae Miller, and the disappearance of every
old X5 that was in Season 1. Where are Syl and Krit? Jase? How about the oft-mentioned but absent Jondy? And what about the entire Jam Pony staff, which used to supply a hefty portion of the comic relief in Season 1 but is neatly swept to the side in this Season? The creators of Dark Angel appear to be deliberately changing the setting of the show, which is an admirable attempt, but the loss of so many grounding elements sent the show into a tailspin. Their neglect of the Jam Pony element is especially grievous, as it robbed Jessica Alba the chance to play Max's crucial everyday living. Fortunately Alba had grown substantially as an actress and while her performance in Season 1 had some weak spots, they are all but remedied in Season 2. The same can't be said for much of the supporting cast, headed by the very bad Martin Cummins, playing Special Agent Ames White. I know the show creators wanted a highly vicious villain, but Cummins seems more preoccupied with pursing his lips and squinting his eyes than acting, copying all of John Savage's outward mannerisms without any of the mystique. Where Savage was all subtext and emotional undercurrents, Cummins is nothing but a pair of black eyebrows and some creases on the face. A horrible opponent indeed for Max. The character of "Joshua", the dog-faced mutant, doesn't come alive until the season is nearly over, with the introduction of blind love interest Annie Fisher. Joshua's character is a flatline for most of this season, like an imitation of Booga (Tank Girl), but not nearly as funny.The biggest problem with this season is that the storylines are scattered and confusing. Many shows seem to have an overlong first act and a middle that drags along without much narrative thrust. Where I sat through Season 1 almost straight through, I started yawning about five episodes into Season 2 and was tempted more than once to switch off an episode halfway to cop some Zs.Not nearly as good as Season 1. A shame, for the major weaknesses here are probably what killed a promising TV series. Just when James Cameron himself was stepping in to deliver a slam-bang final episode that set up a whole new story direction. Now the storyline will hang in midair."
Where we discover that Fox was really behind Manticore
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 12/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While the first season of Dark Angel was more consistent, the second season offered much more interesting developments for the unproduced third season to fulfill. As it is, we'll be stuck with an unresolved cliff hanger (unless the Dark Angel novels somehow resolve this--I've not read any of them). Captured by Manticore the entity that created her and other mutants, Max escapes and initiates the destruction of the organization. Suddenly, she isn't as alone as during the first season; she owes her life to Alec another X5 similar to her and a DNA mixed breed (he's part human, part canine)named Joshua. With Manticore destroyed, it seems like smooth sailing for Max and others of her kind. Unfortunately, there's a new threat pursuing her and her fellow X5's and X6's.While season two's episodes are ripe with possibility, those possibilities aren't developed as well as they could be; The shift of focus in the series with Manticore gone helps emancipate the show from the variation on The Fugitive theme. Dark Angel always echoed that series and Run For Your Life another series from the 1960's (which Cameron no doubt was a fan of and saw). Cameron and co-creator Charles Eglee chose a different path from those series realizing the limits one can run into in terms of plot developments and story arcs. The best episodes hold their own and, in some cases, are superior even to the best from the first season. That said, the quality varies a bit more here than the first season because the focus isn't quite as sharp. Actor John Savage is missed. Although his character could be one dimensional in the early episodes of season one, as the series progressed, Savage brought an undercurrent of tension to the series with his moody, subtle portrayal. On the other hand, Alba and Weatherly continued to improve bringing nice shading to their characters and their interactions. The grand finale for season two has considerable pedigree; it's based on a story by Cameron and Eglee but written by Deep Space Nine and Fame producer/writer Ira Steven Behr one of the finest writers working in television. He and co-writer/series line producer Rene Echevarria (another Deep Space Nine and Next Generation veteran)created the best episode of the season with Freak Nation. The real icing on the cake for Cameron and Dark Angel fans is the fact that Cameron directed this 90 minute episode himself. He's been MIA from film for far too long. The extras are similar to the previous season--commentary on three key episodes (although Cameron does not appear on the commentary track for Freak Nation)including the season premiere and the final episode. There's three featurettes including a piece on creating the monsters of Manticore and one self explainatory feaurette entitled Max Resurrected. The amusing blooper reel is included as well. Although there's no revealing interviews with Cameron or Eglee (which would have been nice--we might have found out what direction they planned on taking the series during season three), the commentary tracks give considerable insight into the creative process for the show. The DVD picture quality varies from good to very good depending upon what time of the day the bulk of the episode takes place in. The darker episodes tend to show a bit more digital compression artifacts. The series looks and sounds really good on the whole. I do have an issue with the packaging; Fox has embraced the accordion style packaging included here and it sucks; the quality of the packaging is poor. The plastic DVD holders continually come loose or pop out and the packaging doesn't stand up well to wear and tear. Fox should have taken a look at the Alias boxed set as an example for this series. Both series are priced roughly the same (and considerably less than any of the Star Trek boxed sets--kudos for that at least) so clearly this comes down to profit margin. Extras are nice and do attract fans to purchase a series vs. continually watching their videotaped or DVD-R home made recordings. On the other hand, three featurettes, 3 commentary tracks and the blooper reel isn't exactly might not be enough incentive for most fans to fork over the additional money for this set. I'm sure that Dark Angel had footage shot for foreign markets (different standards and running times demand these types of differences be created). Why not research it and include those as well? Although they usually don't have additional major plot points, they're, again, an added incentive to purchase this for fans of the series. These are minor flaws to be sure (although the packaging is a major issue for me)but it would enhance the value of the series and, perhaps, increase sales.Although the show began to lose their core audience during season one and two, if Fox had continued to give this series a chance I've not doubt it could have turned into another X-Files for the network. As a fan of the first five seasons of X-Files, I found Angel to be in roughly the same place by season two although the writing was better earlier with this series. Hopefully, Fox will come to their senses and order at least a two hour series to conclude the show at some point although this late in the game (over a year later)it's unlikely to happen; the sets were struck and the cast is scattered all over the place. It's a pity because this cult series deserved the chance to shine and with a little TLC it had a pretty good chance of happening."
Amazing show, thanks James Cameron.
thelin1 | Oakland Ca. | 07/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Forward thinking, edgy sci-fi. Bladerunner/ Max Headroom with an intelligent female lead. Current science concepts.
I was impressed that the show made use of a sharp writing style, presenting it's characters as smart, flawed emotionally driven beings.
Despite having very attractive women in the lead roles, the writers/director didn't stupe to skimpy costumes for titilation. Sexual innuendo was mostly absent. Yet the show maintained an witty comedy element.
I found Max to be a much stronger female empowerment roll model for young women than "Buffy" or "Alias" provided. Despite her "genetic advantages" due to her character's history, she and her friends at work still had to deal with an unjust society with which many underprivileged viewers could identify. And her "Manitcore" brothers and sisters faced racism in a way we all could be sympathetic towards.
Poor programming choices during the second season made it difficult to keep track of the show. I was truely sorry to see it end without a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps a made-for-cable movie on the Sci-Fi channel could bring closure to this fine offering."