Dark Angel
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Dark Angel

In terms of creativity within the entertainment industry few can rival James Cameron. In terms of just financial success two of his films have topped the earning charts raking in billions’; ‘Avatar’ and ‘Titanic’. His Science fiction franchises include such genre defining examples as ‘Alien’ and ‘The Terminator’. With such a track record you might think a television projected created by him would wind up in the ‘Brilliant but Cancelled’ list. Actually this happened twice for him; once with the television series that was part of the ‘Terminator franchise and a little cult classic under consideration here, ‘Dark Angel’. The series had a lot going for it the least of which was certainly not an extremely attractive cast. This series had all the necessary elements to make a series successful the all important ratings experienced a marked decline prompting the Fox network to cancel the series after just two seasons. The show lived on thanks to syndication, particularly of the SyFy Channel and eventually DVD releases. It will also be forever known as the vehicle that introduced audiences to its star, Jessica Alba. Prior to this she had mostly tween oriented projects like ‘Flipper’ nut this turned the young stress into a household name. One potentially strong influence that may have contributed to the failing ratings was when that second season began; September 2001. With the first episode of season airing just three weeks after one of the worse tragedies in American history the public was not in the mood for a post-apocalyptic world were the United States had been reduced to a third world nation. At a time when national pride and support of the government and the military the premise of this series may have been too much in conflict with the prevailing since of nation pride and too close to a worst case scenario of fear. It is possible that had circumstances been different the potential of this series could have been better approached but not all that remains are the two DVD season sets.

Set in the not too distant future a powerful device exploded by terrorists flooded the United States with an electro-magnetic pulse disabled most electronic devices in America. Most people in the city of Seattle are just trying their best to eke out a meager existence while the government and big corporations seem to be recovering. It has been ten years after the blast and young people like Max Guevera (Jessica Alba) are part of a generation that never knew the prosperity that abruptly ended a decade ago. Ostensibly Max as a bicycle messenger speeding around the city but at night she is one of the best cat burglars around. This happens to be an excellent reason for this; Max was genetically bread as part of a super solider call project Manticore. The fact is her enhanced agility, speed and heighten senses are due in large part to stains of feline DNA in her genome. It is not that Max is a common theft; most of the time she uses her ill gotten gain to help her friends and neighbors with medical expenses, food and shelter. Max and 11 other children escaped the Projects years ago and they have all been on the run since. Max has been trying to find her ‘siblings’ even hiring a private detective but at the start of the series she was still search for kids her age with bar code tattoos at the base of their necks.

One night while ‘liberating’ some art from a well appointed and heavily protected apartment she comes across the owner, Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly) who uses his wealth to further his vocation as an underground investigative journal broadcasting on a pirated video link as ‘Eye’s Only’. He convinces Max to help out for the greater good in return for his help with her problem of finding the other Manicore fugitives. This association not only drives much of the action typically with a solid espionage feel but it also gives the foundation of romantic chemistry that for awhile at least was echoed in real life with the stars. During an early episode that has Max and Logan keeping a young woman from the evil authorities something goes horribly wrong leaving Logan confined to a wheelchair. This leads to a new character Bling (Peter James Bryant), Logan’s living personal assistant and physical therapist. Max’s best friend and co-worker at the Jam Pony courier service is Cynthia 'Original Cindy' McEachin (Valarie Rae Miller). She knows the truth about Max and in the second season learns Logan is ‘Eyes ‘only’. Original Cindy is fiercely loyal, tough, and opinionated and not easily thrown off. She is always on the lookout for Miss Right Now. In the first season much of the overall story arc concerns the other transgenic escapees particularly the ad hoc leader of the plan, Zack/X5-599 (William Gregory Lee) who is later badly injured and becomes part cyborg. The mythos widens to include humans mixed with canine and other types of animal DNA giving rise to a broader spectrum of abilities. There is also a group where the experiments didn’t go well called ‘Nomalies’ that tend to inject unpredictability into the mix.

In the second season Manicore has been largely dismantled but it turns out an ancient secret society , the Familiars who have been conducting covert breeding programs for ages and this is just the latest in that long, sinister line. The main antagonist in the second season is government agent Ames White (Martin Cummins) charged with destroying all the Manticore subjects. He is part of another ancient secret organization, the Conclave, who has bread super humans over the ages. Some fans found the focus moving from corrupt military to ancient cults a jump the shark moment but considering the success of things like ‘The DaVinci Code’ there was a market and solid rational for going in this direction. This series had potential but never quite made it but remains last fun.

Posted 07/15/2010

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