Dark Angel, A transgenic soap opera worth hunting

Okay, so, a friend and I are pretty huge Jensen Ackles fans and a couple months back I pointed out that he was in the show Dark Angel. She, wanting so badly to rewatch it again anyway, bought up copies of the DVDs and we were set to go. I was expecting to have to hold my sides and groan through the whole thing, bearing through it just to get some glimpses of an actor I liked watching. After all, I’d already put myself through Shark Attack 3 for John Barrowman, Red Faction Origins for Gareth David-Lloyd, and The Grudge for Sarah Michelle Gellar. So what the hell, I figured, why not?

However, Dark Angel turned out to be an amazing gem. Sure, it’s got its imperfections, but there’s a whole lot of good going on in it too.

Let’s start with some of that good. Dark Angel is set in the not-so-distant future (having been made/written during the early ’00’s, that means it’d be happening about, oh five years from now…) in a post-Apocalyptic Seattle. The cause of this little Apocalypse was something referred to as the Pulse–when a giant EM bomb catastrophe happened over most major cities. This event’s the background radiation of the entire show. It’s why everything’s run down, why it’s a big deal if you can manage gas, why resources are something that the characters continually struggle with. It creates a world setting in which characters struggle to survive, complimenting the main character Max’s struggles too.

Another awesome aspect is the diversity of characters. In the first season, for main cast regular characters, you’ve got a three main women and four main men. The second season sees that skew to two and five, which was a disappointment. However, not everyone in the background or filling up the guest spots is a cis het white dude (I’m pointing at you, season 9 Supernatural and so many other mainstream shows.) Plus, the show gave us Original Cindy, the only black lesbian on a cable television show I can name. (Hell, I keep up on way too many tv shows to count and sadly could name off probably less than ten queer characters on current running programs.)

Okay, so one of the negatives. The show writers (or maybe the control of the producers on the writers?) created some of the most cliched lines and plots that the world has seen. I’m all for being able to predict what’s coming next–that’s simply good storytelling really–but Dark Angel severely lacked some original plot ideas. Part of the problem was the focus on the Max/Logan relationship and making sure that didn’t work. These two characters then wind up in an emotional stand-still, forced into wanting each other always ’cause of the script and the writers/producers/someone-in-charge not letting them move on. That wound up creating a lot of wasted story time. The government conspiracy plots were laid on thick too, and the secret cult of season 2 that had been around for virtually forever was, well, bland. It feels like the PTB of the show concluded that it was going to be around for at least three or four seasons and so allowed plots to develop too slowly. That allowed for too much mystery and not enough answers or even building towards solutions. Characters often repeated themselves for four or five episodes about their opinions on a certain plot and when the plot’s already so cliche it stings, that doesn’t help.

Back to the good. The actors, nearly every single one of ’em even when you include the recurring/guest ones, actually manage to pull of the stereotypical characters. While the lines sometimes make you want to groan, roll your eyes, or shove your face into a pillow, the actors did their best to make you believe these were real people with real problems. They interacted well with one another and very rarely did it ever feel like the actors talked *at* each other instead of *to* each other. Acting is like playing catch–one actor pitches the line at the other, that actor corresponds by reacting to the line and pitching it back. In scenes with a large amount of actors, that can get way more complicated, but the Jam Pony scenes always had energy, atmosphere, and believability–no matter what crazy ass plot was going on that week. I think, now that I’m done with the show, I’m going to wind up missing Jam Pony the most, because you don’t get massive scenes with actors coming and going, background characters from all kinds of histories, or feel like you’re that much of a television’s show’s world nearly often enough.

All in all, I’d recommend it if you’re looking to see something different and maybe heckle some plot decisions. It’s not a priceless diamond in any respect, but it’s a nice little find if you’re tired of seeing the exact same level of bland on current programming. The only sad part is that the program’s only available via DVD, unless you go hacking. Hopefully that’ll change some day and make this more accessible ’cause it’s at least worth checking out.

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