Max Plays Chicken With A Deadly X5
"Pollo Loco" Plot Summary:
Original Cindy is upset at the ease with which Max can kill a chicken for dinner, though she later tries the cooked bird and likes it. Logan interrupts Max's meal to tell her that the morgue has reported a recent victim with a bar code on the neck. The number belongs to a Manticore escapee named Ben. Someone incredibly strong snapped the corpse's neck and removed all his teeth. Lydecker comes to claim the body, but not before Max realizes Ben's not the victim -- he's the killer.
Max remembers Ben as a kid with seizures who was given a picture of the Virgin Mary by a handyman. Ben became a worshipper of the Lady, though not a Catholic. Logan tells Max that the killer has struck in many other cities, always putting his bar code on the victim's necks before murdering them. At Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Max discovers bloody teeth wrapped in cloth in the arms of a statue of the Madonna, and waits for Ben. When he comes, he tells her she knows why he's doing this.
In the confessional, Ben says he feels badly about killing but he's carrying out what he was trained to do as a soldier. He asks the priest whether the Lady will forgive him. When the priest says yes, Ben kidnaps him, putting his bar code on the religious man's neck and telling him he hopes his faith can save him.
Max remembers that Ben feared murderous vampiric anomalies in the basement at Manticore and always prayed in "The High Place" at the top of a dormitory building. She tracks him to the top of the Space Needle. Ben mocks her at first, daring her to call the police or Lydecker, but then he asks whether she remembers the day when they were loosed like a pack of dogs on a victim to slaughter. Max remembers being a predator all too well. Though she believes Ben is killing himself over and over by putting his bar code on his victims, he insists that he's a hunter at heart, and so is she.
Lydecker has problems. His boss, a powerful woman who calls him Deck, has ordered him to resolve the situation and to find out why so many X5s have murderous conditions. Dex says people like Ben are anomalies, but there have been an awful lot of them at Manticore, and she wants to know why. Then Streaming Freedom demands an audience with Lydecker, who still doesn't recognize Logan's voice but wonders why the man would protect a trained killer who can't be housebroken. Logan threatens to expose Ben and Lydecker's cover-up if Manticore can't control the situation. Later, the morgue calls Logan with the likely location of the killer's stronghold just as Lydecker gets the same data.
Max is at the stronghold, where she gets Ben to free the priest. But he locks her away instead and goes on the hunt. Max escapes and saves the priest in the woods while Lydecker's army arrives. She fights Ben, eventually breaking his leg to protect herself. Because Ben is far more afraid of being locked away with the anomalies than he is of death, she breaks his neck, then flees sobbing when Lydecker approaches the body.
While Max recuperates at his home, Logan looks at photos of the slaughter at Manticore. She thanks him for giving her space to deal with the situation, unaware that Lydecker has given Logan new reason to think more space might be a good idea. Later she goes to the church and confesses to the priest she saved.
It's always a difficult proposition to make a serial killer into a sympathetic figure. "Pollo Loco" doesn't quite succeed, but it makes Ben intriguing enough that we never forget who the real bad guys are -- Lydecker, the trainer, and his boss Madame X. Forgive me for just a moment while I drool joyfully over the return of Nana Visitor to genre television. The character she's playing here has more in common with the evil alternate universe Intendant of Bajor than she does with Colonel Kira Nerys, but because Lydecker's such a despicable toad, we root for her anyway.
On the one hand, she wants to put an end to the murderous anomalies, and that's good. On the other hand, she obviously sanctions Lydecker's research -- just wants it to work more consistently -- and that's very bad. She's also presumably the boss who gave the order a few weeks ago for Lydecker to use lethal force if necessary in rounding up his recalcitrant children, something he is loath to do. That almost makes him more of an ally than Madame X. But, like Ben, Max would rather die than go back to Manticore. The outside hope of rescue by Logan or Zack wouldn't be enough to keep Max sane in that place.
Logan appears unnerved but not all that surprised by the discovery that his girlfriend's a born killer, although one has to wonder why he takes a snake like Lydecker seriously as a source. Max obviously believes she can control herself, or she wouldn't allow herself to live with Cindy and hang out with Logan; maybe she doesn't know what her triggers are, or even that she has them. Killing Ben doesn't seem to trigger anything in her other than remorse. On the other hand, maybe she does know how dangerous she can be, which might explain why she returns to church at the end of this episode. The priest's faith in the Virgin didn't save him from Ben, the dark angel did that...but he does seem to draw strength from it, as did Ben in his own warped way, and Max probably envies him that faith, as she seems to have envied Ben his.
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