"Cold Comfort"
Original airdate: November 28, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

The Enemy Of Your Enemy May Still Be Your Enemy

"Cold Comfort" Plot Summary:

A grocer finds a girl frozen in his meat locker, yet she wakes and flees, calling Zack for help escaping Lydecker. Max enters her own apartment to find Zack bloody from a car accident; he explains that he tried to save Brin, a fellow Manticore survivor, but Lydecker's men caught her. Meanwhile, Lydecker is meeting with a contact by the water, offering to help assassinate the Pope, who is causing trouble for the Mediterranean Coalition. Lydecker says that he needs more money to bring Project Manticore to stage three, and claims he's closing in on a runaway right there in the city.

Normal orders everyone to wear uniform jackets and clean the Jam Pony up to impress a prospective new buyer from India. Original Cindy fears Normal will get even more obnoxious with a conservative owner backing him. Zack objects to Max bringing him to Logan for help, but Max intends to save Brin even if Zack has written her off as lost. Because no military transports have left the city, Logan believes Brin is still nearby. By digging into Lydecker's background, the group learn that he had disciplinary problems and was treated for alcohol and drug abuse, making Alcoholics Anonymous a good place to search for him. Sure enough, Donald Lydecker is at AA, saying he's new in town, but he wants to tell everyone that taking one day at a time is a cop-out; "Alcoholism is not a disease, it's a failing." Max kidnaps him as he leaves, though Zack objects that that wasn't part of their surveillance plan.

When Zack abuses the blindfolded Lydecker, he realizes his captors are his former charges. He insists that he has no idea where Brin is, but he can guess any number of foreign governments would want to get their hands on Manticore technology: "A weapon system like Brin doesn't come up for sale every day." He promises he can find out who's brokering the deal. Zack wants to kill Lydecker immediately, but Max thinks he may be telling the truth, and sends Zack to Logan to check for black market military dealings. Alone with Max, Lydecker recognizes her voice as that of the journalist from the recent biotech conference, and offers to treat her siezures if she'll return to Manticore. Max reminds him that he tortured her and her peers, but Lydecker insists that he was training her to be a soldier.

At the Jam Pony, Cindy gives Normal laxatives to keep him occupied, Herbal fakes an accident with deadly chemicals, and Sketchy "protects" their prospective buyer by leading him through the steam tunnels beneath the building. The terrified man wants nothing more than to repent and make a holy pilgrimage to the Ganges, so he flees as soon as they "escape." Meanwhile, Logan tells Zack that he has discovered a black market deal to trade biotechnology with the Chinese military, conducted by a major named Jake Sanders. Zack promises to try to protect Max, but warns Logan that Max only stays in Seattle to be close to him, which could get her killed later on.

Lydecker says he would give his life to prevent Manticore technology from going to the enemy. Max tells Zack they should bring him along to see Sanders so they can go in through the front door to get Brin out. The three get inside without incident, but once Lydecker asks to speak to Sanders, the major turns dozens of armed soldiers on them. Lydecker says he's not there to make trouble about Brin's kidnapping; he wants in on the deal, and offers Max and Zack to sweeten the arrangement. In the brig, the two Manticore survivors are shocked to see that Brin is dying of premature aging, but Lydecker has seen the condition before in other genetically altered children. Max scowls that she always thought Lydecker pursued them out of fear or misplaced pride, but now she knows he's just a pimp peddling flesh. When Lydecker departs with a warning to the guards not to approach the cells no matter what, Max chews off her wrist restraints.

Sanders doesn't like the percentage Lydecker demands and prepares to shoot him with a hidden gun, but Lydecker is too fast, killing his old army buddy with a thrown knife. Meanwhile, Max hangs herself. When the panicked soldiers open the door to try to resuscitate her, she attacks, knocking out several assailants while Zack and Brin fight off others. Lydecker discovers the escape and promises to take care of Brin if they'll return, but Zack takes a gun and covers the women as Max helps Brin run from weapons fire. They steal a car and flee the military base.

Lydecker warns that no hospital will be able to treat Brin's condition, but he can, at Manticore. Zack refuses to go back, but Brin says she doesn't want to die. Max calls their nemesis, then leaves Brin on a bench where Lydecker can pick her up. Though she and Zack cry and promise to rescue Brin after she recovers, the dying girl is taken to Manticore for reindoctrination as well as treatment. As good as his word, Lydecker repairs her defective genes, all the while making plans to find the two who got away. Max asks Logan whether they did the right thing. "You let her choose," he replies.


"Cold Comfort" gives us some idea of the stakes of Dark Angel, as well as evidence that Lydecker is out-and-out evil rather than merely warped and misguided. It's not absolutely clear whether he really intends to sell Max and Zack to the highest bidder or take them all back to Manticore -- the readiness of his backup team suggests that he had another plan all along -- but the guy is starting to make The X-Files' Cancer Man look like a humanitarian. Clearly he's smart and well-trained if he can recognize Max's voice from the conference, but he's also evidently got personal weaknesses, including lapses in discipline that make him overly confident about the strength of his own willpower.

It makes no logical sense that he'd waste his time visiting AA meetings just to call the people there weak, but Lydecker's not logical; he's just this side of being a psychotic megalomaniac. And he's planning to kill the Pope! Life's too short to haggle over details, Sanders tells his old buddy. "That it is," agrees Lydecker -- who has inadvertently programmed deadly aging genes into his Manticore kids -- as he knifes his old friend. It's clever irony, but what exactly does it mean? Is Lydecker self-serving in private, greedy ways or in the wanting-to-rule-the-world sense? I hope we learn how Sanders knew who and what Brin is, because it makes little sense that he'd have more knowledge about one of the Manticore escapees than Lydecker himself.

Brin's hardly even a character, which makes it difficult to feel deep regret at her reassimilation. But I was very surprised Zack agreed to let her return. Cured of her premature aging, Brin will be his equal once more, and will probably end up working for his archenemy, or for whomever Manticore loans or sells her to. If Zack were as disciplined as he keeps claiming, he'd let her die rather than consign them all to the fate that awaits them at Lydecker's hands. But Zack makes a few other tactical blunders, like failing to cover up when he takes off Lydecker's blindfold. The thug already knows what Max looks like, but there's no reason for Zack to expose his face before he has to. Is Zack softer than he thinks?

This episode gets most of its power from subplots and innuendo -- the comic diversion of a potential buyer, through which we learn that Normal idolizes President George Herbert Walker Bush, and the more serious question of Logan's feelings for Max and vice versa. I keep wondering whether all those other people milling about the Jam Pony work there or just like to hang out, because Cindy, Herbal, and Sketchy seem to do all the work. It's convenient for Max that they give Normal diarrhea, because she's not delivering too many packages these days. She'll be in trouble if she gets fired, because I doubt she'd ever let Logan put her on his payroll. It's very interesting to watch sexual tension build between a genetic superwoman and a man who's paralyzed from the waist down. Maybe sexual tension is the wrong phrase, but since neither of them would dare admit it might be anything else, I won't go there, either.

Dark Angel Reviews
Get Critical