Children of Manticore
"Hit a Sista Back" Plot Summary:
Max is appalled to see a photo of Tinga on the side of a milk carton, asking for information about her whereabouts on behalf of her son Case. Though Max immediately calls Tinga's husband Charlie, telling him his public search has put his child in danger, Charlie doesn't believe her. Meanwhile, Lydecker takes a position at Case's school posing as a tutor for exceptionally gifted children. As Lydecker tells Madame X, Manticore experiments had no success passing on desirable traits in the laboratory, but Tinga has apparently succeeded in producing exceptional offspring.
Madame X wants to capture and study the child, but (to use her phrase) Lydecker is more interested in the goose that laid the golden egg; he wants to bring Tinga back to Manticore so she can breed more babies for them. When Max goes to Portland to try to mount a rescue, she's not very surprised to find Tinga already there. Instead of staying safe with Zack in Canada, Tinga has decided she wants to see her family no matter the risk. The two manage to get Charlie and Case away from Manticore soldiers led by Brin, but Case becomes very ill while they hide at Logan's apartment, and a bar code appears on the boy's neck. It's 14 digits rather than Manticore-standard 12; Logan realizes it's probably Lydecker's personal phone number. When Max calls, Lydecker says he has infected the boy with nanoprobes that will kill him in six hours unless Tinga turns herself in. Despite what she's witnessed of Brin's reconditioning, Tinga agrees to return to Manticore to save her son.
Though Zack doesn't expect their former tormentor to keep his word, Lydecker gives Max the antidote to cure Case after Trina has given herself up. But Brin receives a transmission from someone else and calls in reinforcements to sieze Case and Charlie. Lydecker insists it wasn't his idea. Max and Zack kill the drivers and free the boy and his father; Logan helps them escape over the border. On the way to Manticore, Brin knocks out Tinga's driver and for a moment Tinga thinks Brin will help her, but Brin then knocks her "sister" out as well. The vehicle is later found with Brin unconscious and Tinga missing. Lydecker tells Madame X she made a mistake and now they've lost both mother and son, not knowing that his boss has Tinga in a secret laboratory, floating inside a giant test tube. Zack leaves Seattle after warning Max not to make herself vulnerable the way Tinga did.
A powerful episode about family and relationships, "Hit a Sista Back" demonstrates the high price of love for Manticore survivors. I hate to say it, but for once I understand Zack's attitude that isolation is best. It's hard to accept Tinga's willingness to consign her son to the same life of running, hiding and killing when necessary as she herself has lived. No matter how difficult it must be to watch one's child die, that still has to be easier than knowing one's child is in the hands of people who torture and turn innocent children into killers. If Case had died from Lydecker's nanoprobes it would have been a monumental tragedy but Charlie and Tinga would have been free -- she would not become the mother to hundreds of other children who may be raised as mindless assassins or whatever else Madame X has in mind. It's a horrible thing to try to balance, but as things stand now, Madame X has Tinga and she would have had Case as well if Zack hadn't made a last-minute decision to fight with his Manticore siblings. Even now there's no guarantee that Case will remain safe; we don't know how far Madame X's reach extends, and there will always be people willing to sell out others if the bounty is high enough. Nor do we know whether Case will inherit the condition that made Brin age prematurely, sending her back to Manticore to be turned into Madame X's pawn.
Logan is surprised Tinga hid her secret from her husband and tells Max he believes that people in relationships have a right to know what they're getting into. Max insists that in relationships, people never know what they're getting into. Still, Charlie confesses to Logan that he just wants to take his son and run; he doesn't believe Tinga had any right to drag him into her situation. He assumes Max and Logan are lovers, and asks whether it's because of what she is when he learns they're not. Claiming there are a lot of reasons he and Max have never gotten involved, Logan evades the question, though he insists that Tinga is the same woman Charlie fell in love with and Charlie should remember that. It's about time for Logan to figure out why he hates for Max to see him struggling with his paralysis, and why he's hiding an exoskeleton from her as he tries to make it operational so he can walk. She would be happy to get parts or cash for him, but he won't accept them from her, and not out of any sense that the government has more right to the technology than he does.
So Madame X doesn't trust Lydecker -- not exactly a surprise. It's impossible for me to watch Nana Visitor without thinking about her best-known science fiction role. On Dark Angel she's playing someone a lot like the Intendant, Kira's alternate universe evil twin, who can giggle and enjoy herself while plotting horrible deeds but really dislikes having to hide her evil plan for galactic domination long enough to get it executed. Is Madame X planning to breed her own army of super-kids to compete with Lydecker's, or to supersede them? It seems inevitable that he will eventually fight on the same side as Max and Zack against their common foes within Manticore, but he's someone who considers all people disposable, pawns to be exploited or discarded. He will never be their ally. Zack is right to keep reminding them not to put any faith in him.
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