ndsu spectrum: TV Review
‘Dark Angel’ isn’t in same league as ‘Buffy’ or ‘Angel’ yet
By JOHN HANSEN
Jan. 26, 2001
I was looking forward to “Dark Angel” more than any other new show last fall. Then, after seeing a few episodes, I was looking forward to ripping into it in my mid-season TV review. But alas, in the last five episodes, it has gotten consistently better and I have to admit that this initially-boring show is now a lot of fun.
While “Dark Angel” isn’t on par with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Angel” — it’s Tuesday night competition — it’s getting better as the stories are starting to move at a faster clip.
Like so many James Cameron projects, “Dark Angel” has a delicious dystopian premise and comments on the perils of modern technology. Max (Jessica Alba) is an escaped superhuman lab rat in 2019 Seattle, a decade after an electromagnetic pulse has turned America into a third-world country. Max’s search for the 11 other Manticore escapees, her dodging of Lydecker (John Savage) and his army men, and her occasional foray into helping her co-workers at JamPony Express messenger service are the three major plotlines.
In the first five episodes, Alba was inconsistent; she didn’t quite know who Max was. Depending on the episode or the scene, Max could be categorized as a carefree butt-kicker who thinks she’s unstoppable, or a brooder who’s obsessed with finding her superhuman siblings and terrified of being captured.
But Alba has gotten better in recent weeks, helped immensely by her chemistry with Michael Weatherly, the show’s best actor. As a wheelchair-bound freedom fighter who delivers anti-establishment broadcasts of “Eyes Only” to the populace, Logan is the coolest handicapped hero since Professor X. And Lydecker is a compelling villain thanks to Savage’s squinty-creepy look.
The one element the writers have handled flawlessly is the growing romance between Max and Logan. It’s obvious that Max and Logan are in love even though they never admit it.
The JamPony subplots — Valarie Rae Miller’s hilarious turn as Original Cindy notwithstanding — often make a viewer thankful for the fast-forward button; they just can’t compete with the life-or-death thrills of fighting the world’s evil. And the fight scenes are dull, relying on camera cuts rather than complex stunt work, and they usually feature a stupid “witty” line such as “Hey, you’re kind of cute” (followed by a punch to the face).
Nonetheless, recent episodes of “Dark Angel,” have been highly entertaining; now I almost look forward to it as much as “Buffy” and “Angel.”
What: “Dark Angel” Season 1
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox
Starring: Jessica Alba, Michael Weatherly, John Savage, Valarie Rae Miller, Richard Gunn
Executive Producers: James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee
Grade (episodes 1-9): B+
“Dark Angel” Season 1 (2000-01, Fox) — James Cameron left the comparatively cushy world of filmmaking to dive into the harsh world of network TV with the most expensive series ever made. The price tag might ultimately get the show cancelled (its future is in doubt as I write this), but Cameron and co-producer Charles Eglee have certainly made their mark with “Dark Angel.”
It’s not groundbreaking — dystopian futures, genetic engineering and fugitive superheroes are all staple themes among Cameron’s catalogue. And it’s not flawless — “Buffy” and “Angel” are much edgier and more polished. However, “Dark Angel” is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.
While Manticore’s attempts to track down Max (Jessica Alba) and Logan’s (Michael Weatherly) daily altruism are fairly engaging, these are not the reason I watch the show. That honor goes to the flirtations of Max and Logan, played by two actors who play off each other so well you’d think they were engaged in real life.
My major complaint is that “Dark Angel” pulled too many punches this season, dropping storylines of Logan being suicidal and Max being afraid of commitment in order to shift back to the Manticore story. The show certainly deserves a second season to iron out its weak spots. B+
— John Hansen, NDSU Spectrum, Summer 2001