This is a very critical (and super long) review so if you simply adore this show, especially S2, you might not want to read it. However, I will say this. I ended up loving the series a whole lot more than I ever thought I would or else I would never have been interested enough to write fanfic. I still love the concept and I'm not sorry I watched it.
I never watched Dark Angel when it first aired on TV. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with James Cameron; his ego drives me insane. So I was biased against this show from the start. When it was on the air, I did catch a few minutes of one episode - the second one when she was in heat. NO THANKS.
I watched the series this summer only for the Jensen Ackles.
Anyway, I enjoyed the first season more than I thought I would. It took me a few episodes, but it slowly won me over. I'm not much of a post-apocalyptic fan, but it worked fine with this show and gave them the excuse for many things to happen. What I loved best about the first season was the whole "searching for her family" aspect and the military project angle. I liked how flawed and confused Max was and how she kept trying to find where she fits in the scheme of things. Logan was consistently interesting even in his emoness and I liked that they had a lead in a wheelchair. Original Cindy was cool and the supporting cast was decent. I liked the edgy urban feel. The show had its problems and there were many things I hated about S1, but at the plight of the X5's intrigued me and even helped me fine tune some ideas of my own. (Though, I wasn't overly impressed with the S1 finale.)
Then we get to S2.
I still am not sure what the heck happened. I really liked how they started off the season with the concept of all these genetic experiements on the loose. It sounded like it could have been an interesting season and in many ways, it was. I loathed Logan's new look, but I thought maybe the story would be good. It couldn't be as bad as everyone told me.
I'll start off with the good.
*Eyes Only - It was nice to see a return of the whole Eyes Only network thing since it seemed to wane by the end of S1 a bit.
*Escaped Freaks - I liked this storyline. That should have given them ample room to explore so many conflicts. And we did get conflict, just poorly done.
*Sketchy - they gave him something interesting. I really liked that he fell into the paranoia and fear of the public and started working for a tabloid. That fleshed out his character quite a bit.
*Mutant/Human Conflict - I liked the tension between the mutants and people, epecially near the end of the series. Honestly, I think this should have had more attention and focus throughout the season. I know that it was a running thread, but I think they could have used this better. Though, it reminded me a lot of X-Men.
*Alec and Joshua - these two were great for comedy, interesting, and yet so complex that they had some of the best dramatic moments in the season. I never expected to like them as much as I did. In fact, I was always so excited when they were on the screen together and alone because it usually meant I didn't have to deal with Max's emo crap. I think they could have kept the comedy mainly to these two characters and kept it out of the main plot. That would have been better. I did have a hard time beliving that Alec was an X5, though, considering how much he sucked fighting...
Holy crap. So much bad...
*Max - What happened to her? Someone explain to me? I thought I would hate her character - not much of an Alba fan - but I ended up really liking her in S1. She had this emotional vunerablity but a tough resolve that I could identify with. The fact she was confused and trying to figure out how she could fit in the world made her very human, something which good scifi tends to do since it takes the extraordinary and shows us more about ourselves. That is what I saw in S1 Max. In S2, she was a bitch. I can't even put my finger on the change or what happened. She had an attitude in S1 but the attitude in S2 just didn't "feel" the same. Especially when she was with Alec. I know she was supposed to be antagonistic with him and that's fine, but it just felt really off. She was supposed to grow as a character. We saw her more conscious of people. We saw her not stealing for her own self gain, most of the time. We saw her become a leader. These all point to character growth. But I just didn't feel it anymore. Her character was off and it made her arc less believable. I think Max ended up being my biggest issue for S2. I could cover my eyes and weep for the horrendous plot, but when your lead character becauses someone so different that you don't even know who she is anymore? That is a big problem.
*Cartoonish Freaks - Look, I know they wante Max to be like a modern day comic book type superhero. And that's cool. But show, you were doing fine without the cartoonish campy FotW. It undermined the sense of realism established in S1. In the first season, the characters were fighting to survive in this bleak future. They lived horribly. It contrasted nicely with the upper class elite that still had everything. And then in S2, some of that atmosphere was lost and the crazy FotW did not help at all. I still say you could have had freaks on the loose and kept it real and gritty.
*Religious Snake Cult - Okay, you know what? That just speaks for itself. WTF, no.
*White - Wow. I don't know if it was bad writing or bad casting or what. A poentially awesome character was just terrible. I would have loved to see the military and the governement try to clean up its mess and root out the escaped genetic experiements they had created. Instead, we got White. Man, I missed Lydecker. Couldn't we have gotten at least a character with his kind of antagonistic presense?
*Logan's virus - Okay, at first I thought it was clever. Interesting way to keep them apart. That got old after, oh, like 3 episodes. Then I was annoyed. There was plenty of other drama that could have been tapped in S2 without adding this disaster. There were some good moments - like in Hello, Goodbye I think - but overall this was just a monumental mistake that should never have happened. It made Max worse and I hated everytime the two of them were on screen. And I liked them as a pairing.
*Continuity - What's that? Bling and Herbal vanish without a trace. Jam Pony lost something that I can't put my finger on. Original Cindy didn't do anything anymore. Max went from a flawed woman in S1 to a superwoman in S2. Half of the cool things of the first season - Max's tremors, the problems with X5 genetics, etc - gone and not even an explanation why.
Did Manticore fix her when she was there? Does she not go into heat anymore? Does she not have seizures? What happened?
What about the other X5's? Did character like Alec ever have the same problems? If so, was he fixed because he was there all along? If not, why not?
Why not focus on the goverment cleanup more? What about the other X5's that were in hiding in S1? I would have also liked to know more about the X5's that didn't escape or never thought of escaping. Alec mentioned some tests after his clone went nuts. Sam mentioned some aspects of her tough life. What happened? How did they live? And why did the X5's like Alec and Sam and others that we saw seem so normal? They never lived in the world like the original escaped 12 did. Even if they were trained assasins and were acclimated to "American culture" shouldn't they seem weirder than what they were? I mean they lived in a military facility. They seemed too normal to me, even on the surface.
There seemed to be a wealth of material to explore to give the characters some great growth and development. They did some things right like in The Berrisford Agenda and the whole Joshua and Annie bits. But overall, most of the characters did not grow, they did not change (for the better), and they did not have the character-intense dramas they should have had.
If I could have had my way, I would have focused more on the internal and external conflicts with the X5's, shown Max struggle more with her burgeoning leadership role, focused moreon Manticore, worked more on showing similarities and differences between the various clones - SUCH a missed opportunity here - and dropped half of the stupid plot devices in the season. The escaped freaks of all kinds could have still worked, but with a darker edge. It would have made the end so much more meaningful.
I don't know. Maybe some of this would have happened in S3. But at that point, I don't know if it would have mattered. Still, S2 had many bright spots and I enjoyed the new characters and many of the episodes that seemed to be a shadow of the former S1. Maybe I won't be so harsh on a rewatch. And at least it leaves ample room for fanfic exploration. :)
I ranted the other day about how I hate commentary above cuts. I don't mind it for older shows. But if this bothers you even though it's an older show, I'll put it all behind a cut.