The Price of Raising Kids These Days
"Prodigy" Plot Summary:
Kendra tells Max about her job working for a Japanese doctor who manipulated a crack baby's genes to make him a genius. Curious, Max reads the doctor's paper, then asks Logan to get her into the medical conference where Dr. Tanaka is presenting his findings. Max wonders whether the doctor could help with her seizures and says that he might be able to heal Logan as well, but he resents the suggestion. Despite his distress, Cole gets Max press credentials from a biotech magazine. She introduces herself to Tanaka as a reporter, then asks complicated technical questions about nucleotides. Kendra is surprised to see her, but Max orders her roommate to call her Rachel and keep her distance.
As she watches video of Jude learning to breathe, walk, and play chess, Max remembers her own genetic resequencing, and tests that killed several of her peers. To her shock, Lydecker sits down next to her at the conference, flirting after the talk with the attractive young woman he doesn't recognize. Though she wants to flee, Max remembers that Lydecker taught her to know her enemy, so she returns to the lecture hall to ask about his genetic experiments. He claims he tried to give children a framework in which they could flourish, but the gifted anomalies were flawed.
Suddenly men with guns storm the stage, grabbing the boy and shooting into the audience. They are members of an anti-technology terrorist group that honors the Unabomber, and plan to give the boy a "real" home. Lydecker pulls the alarm and hotel security blocks the doors, so they take the 25 people in the lecture hall hostage and threaten to kill one every hour until they get safe transport. Logan hears about the situation and goes to the hotel because he has previously interviewed John Darius, the leader of the reactionaries. As Logan and the military arrive, Darius' terrorists throw Dr. Tanaka off the roof.
Because Cale may have credibility with Darius, the military lets him call in, suggesting that Darius release the women as a gesture of goodwill. Lydecker tells Max that it's good Jude will learn early that only the strong survive, and the world doesn't run on love. His former pupil knows Lydecker has a hidden gun, but he refuses to use it until he thinks it's the right moment. Darius agrees to trade Logan as a hostage for the women, but the military warns the journalist that they have to honor any deals he makes and they won't guarantee safety. Since Darius won't let Max take Jude with her, she fakes an ankle injury and goes back to save the man and the boy.
The military shoots terrorists at the doors and on the roof, enraging Darius, who says Logan's word means nothing. His followers prepare to throw the paralyzed man from the roof, but Max swings after him on a rope, sending them flying through a hotel window onto a bed in an empty room. After screaming about each other's foolish risks, they both agree the boy must be saved. Max turns on the giant viewscreen to distract the terrorists, then makes the choice to save Lydecker when he's about to be assassinated. As the rest of the hostages flee to safety, she downs Darius and saves a tearful Jude. When he comes to, Lydecker shoots Darius so the military won't have to. He wants the boy, but Logan has already taken him somewhere safe.
At Logan's home, his own personal angel explains that she had the chance to kill her own private antichrist, yet failed. She wanted to know what Lydecker meant when he said his gifted pupils were flawed, whether her bar code comes with an expiration date. Cale thinks it's good that she saved his life because murder is wrong -- and she didn't exploit her tactical advantage over her enemy, as Lydecker tried to teach her. Max laments that she didn't even steal towels from the hotel.
Other than some poor hostage-crisis tactics, "Prodigy" works on all levels, juxtaposing Max's childhood with Jude's and proving that Max's decision to spurn Zach was the right one. In the background, Cindy, Sketchy, and Herbal argued about whether the world is basically good or bad, with the positive winning out far more often than the negative, despite a plethora of problems from a toothpaste shortage to the deadly standoff between a vicious military and an anti-military group whose methods are just as horrific. It never mattered to Lydecker that the child Max had a human face -- will it matter to him now that the girl he has hunted down is the same attractive woman with whom he spoke as an equal at the conference?
I hope so, because Dark Angel is more interesting when it's subtle, when the good guys aren't angels and the bad guys honestly believe they're doing the right things for the right reasons. Tanaka's research obviously could be used to turn children into mindless drones as well as to save them; he seemed a good father to Jude, but we will never know how hard he would have pushed the boy. It's difficult to reconcile the blank-faced, deadly Lydecker of Max's youth with the friendly, chatty man at the conference. Has he changed, is this purely a survival-of-the-fittest sexual strategy, or is Max crediting and blaming him for things that weren't solely his responsibility?
Cale sticks his neck out in a major way, not only with the terrorists, but with the military. He has drawn attention to himself as someone whom guerillas respect. This can't possibly be a good thing for Mr. Streaming Freedom; can his wealth protect him from being watched, now that he's on their radar? Both Logan and Max claim they just want to save the boy, yet Logan's first thought when he hears of the hostage situation is of Max, and she takes herself far away from Jude to save Logan. He clearly despises needing her, he won't even let her see him when he falls out of his wheelchair, yet he depends on her to help him save the world, as she likes to say. There's unquestionable sexual tension as they lie entangled on the hotel room bed and argue about who risked more to save whom. It's a wonderful, complicated relationship.
The terrorists are a bit dopey, as is the army -- the killers expose themselves on the roof by going outside to throw someone off, twice, yet the military hasn't put a hundred men with guns on the roof? Obviously we're not supposed to take seriously a group inspired by the Unabomber, which is too bad, because given the Pulse and Manticore and the armed police state in Max's Seattle, a group that fights technology run wild sounds like it might have an excellent point. There's stronger balance between Max's horrific childhood memories and the films of Jude's childhood she replays to distract the terrorists, proving that biotech doesn't have to mean misery.
A word of praise for the Fox network: during the last quarter of "Prodigy," the Florida Supreme Court announced its decision on the recounting of ballots in the U.S. presidential election. Fox pre-empted its slate of commercials to cover the announcement, and returned to Dark Angel apparently without cutting the episode. This undoubtedly cost them ad revenues, but it allowed viewers to see both the highly anticipated news and the episode in its entirety during its time slot. Well done, Fox.
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