Monday, March 17, 2008

Dark Angel “Love in Vein” – review (TV episode)

Directed by: unknown

First aired: season 2, 2002

Contains spoilers

I’ve said it before, TV series do like to throw in a vampire episode and Dark Angel was no different – though the vampire itself was very different as we’ll see. I was never a fan of the show but my lovely wife has recently got into it and informed me there was a vampire episode. Now, as I really haven’t watched the series at all I can really judge this as a stand alone vampire vehicle – so please note the score is with that in mind.

The series, which was created by James Cameron, is about Max (Jessica Alba), who is a transgenic – a genetically enhanced super soldier who escaped from the shadowy Government project (Manticore) and is living in a dystopian view of the future. All the transgenics have barcodes on the back of the neck (hardwired to appear rather than tattooed).

Max is going out with her friend Cynthia (Valarie Rae Miller) to a club. As they wait in a rather long line a car pulls up and four youths push their way into the club. Inside they raise a little Hell, acting up and showboating and generally getting themselves noticed. It was like a sub-gore version of the bar scene in Near Dark. They rob the place and Cynthia, as they leave, notices that one has a transgenic barcode.

Max needs to track them down – the escaped transgenics are meant to keep a low profile as they are different and hunted. Her friend and co-conspirator Logan (Michael Weatherly) gets a bead on one, Lida (Camille Sullivan). Lida has tried to break away from her group and has gone to hospital suffering, clearly, from withdrawal.

By the time Max gets there the others have arrived and dragged Lida off, telling her that she cannot leave. Max confronts them and fights one girl, Rain (Keegan Connor Tracy), whom she defeats easily. The others drive off, leaving Rain behind, when Logan arrives. Rain’s barcode is a tattoo and she is soon going into withdrawal.

The kids might be super fast and strong but that is due to the drug they are on. This is provided by Marrow (Sam Witter) – who is our sort of vampire. He is a transgenic whose blood has been upgraded. He has discovered that by feeding the kids his blood they gain transgenic abilities, for a while, but his blood is addictive. He has told the kids that if they hit the shakes of withdrawal they will die.

This, we discover, is a lie. They will get through the withdrawal but that does not suit him. He is building his own private army becoming part Fagan and part guru in the process. He has convinced them that they need him and that, as far as he is concerned, is love.

This makes for an interesting take on the vampire genre - if not entirely unique. He is faster and stronger than a human and blood drinking is involved (and the V word is used). However it is not the vampire that drinks blood it is his followers. The metaphor of addiction is turned around and he is not the addict but the actual drug. However, practically this would put the vampire at a disadvantage that is not explored here and a better take on the concept can be found in the film Blood, in which the vampire's blood has a similar narcotic quality but the vampire also drinks regular blood.

His end, however, is set up so that it fits in with the general genre. He can die, as a normal person can, but he is pushed and accidentally staked. The character himself is quite interesting with a psychopathic and sociopathic aspect; he is quite prepared to kill Lida to ‘prove’ that withdrawal from his blood kills. This is helped greatly by Witter’s performance and he came across, to me at least, like a young John Malkovich. Hopefully this bodes well for future career prospects.

As a vampire story, however, it is lacking. The interesting aspects aside it didn’t work that well, as a stand alone, as it had little depth to it. The sub-story with a transgenic dog/human hybrid, Joshua (Kevin Durand), did little for me as a casual viewer and was overtly pushing the drug/addiction message when the episode didn’t need that – the main story had it covered.

As a vampire episode I’ll probably rest easily at 3.5 out of 10 – below average but bolstered by the unusual take on the genre.

The series imdb page is here.

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