I’ve realised I need to cover some of the basics before I start summarising the episodes so here is a brief Who’s Who of Dark Angel Season 1
Manticore is a government or para-government (shadow government?) organisation that is involved in the creation of human animal hybrids with the specific aim of building an army that would not be subject to the same ethical laws or physical limitations as a human army. Manticore are shown to have authority over municipal and state government law enforcement agencies indicating that they are deeply embedded in the post-Pulse US government power structure.
In Persian mythology the manticore, or manticora, is a beast that lives in the desert and has the body of lion, the face of a man and the tail of a scorpion with four rows of interlocking teeth in its mouth. It is a cannibal.
X5-452 aka Max (Jessica Alba)
Max is one of a number of escapees who fled Manticore before the pulse. She is part of the X5 group intended for espionage, assassination and leadership. She has superhuman vision, hearing, strength, agility and intelligence. She is also charismatic which may be a function of her genes or her training. Max has been on her own since she was nine and supports herself through theft and working as a bicycle courier. She adopts a cynical view on the world but still evinces the core tenets of her training “Discipline, Duty, Teamwork.”
Her name literally means the best. Despite this she has two flaws in her genetic make-up; she has a neurological condition that causes seizures and is fatal if untreated and several times a year goes “in heat” a by-product of being part cat.
Zach (William Gregory Lee)
Zach is the leader of Max’s fellow escapees. He is the stronger of the two and less outwardly emotional but his fatal flaw is his unrequited crush on Max. This clouds his judgement and was the reason he led the escape in the first place.
The name Zach comes from the Hebrew Zechariah and means God remembers. This is possibly ironic as the children of Manticore are the creations of humans usurping the role of God however the Old Testament prophet Zechariah was a leader during the Israelite exile in Persia and preached a return to the Promised Land a role similar to the one Zach carries out.
Colonel Donald Lydecker (John Savage)
Lydecker is in charge of the training of the Manticore children and also in charge of the pursuit and capture of the escapees. He is ruthless, the first dialogue lines of the series are him ordering the killing of children, but is also shown caring for his charges and believing in the mission of Manticore. Throughout the first season Lydecker moves from being a nightmare figure from Max’s childhood into a respected enemy who is acting out of duty and not malice. He is Max’s abusive father figure who she needs to learn to view in perspective.
The name Lydecker implies building layers of lies on top of each other and is appropriate for a career black-ops agent. It is also an early indicator that that the house Lydecker has built for himself is on a shaky foundation.
Logan Cale aka Eyes Only (Michael Weatherly)
Logan is the second lead in the show. A hacker and journalist he sends out broadcasts across the cable network exposing criminal activity among Seattle’s political and business elite. He is from one of the richest families in Seattle and lives in a fancy penthouse apartment. Logan is in a wheelchair as a result of a gunshot in the first episode. Throughout both seasons of the show Logan goes through different levels or acceptance and coping with his disability.
The name Logan could be read as a reference to Logan’s Run a 70s science fiction film set in a post-apocalyptic future where everyone is killed at the age of thirty. The Logan in the movie switches from being a member of the elite to becoming a rebel. It could also be an reference to the X-men character Wolverine who, like Max was subject to government experimentation. Wolverine is invulnerable so naming a character with a disability after him is a bit ironic.
The Eyes Only name that Logan uses when he is a hacker is believed by everyone except Max to refer to a secret network of hackers. Logan pulls the trick of pretending to be one of his own sidekicks.
Kendra (Jennifer Blanc)
Kendra is Max’s roommate and plays the Charlotte Lucas part, both by being the slightly less than sparkling friend of the main character and by leaving the story early after marrying the wrong guy for deeply pragmatic reasons. Kendra does demonstrate the constant hustle required to live in on the poverty line seemingly having a different temp job in each episode and provides an interesting contrast to Max’s consistent employment at Jam Pony. Max has an advantage over Kendra in being able to do physical labour.
The lack of a descriptive nickname in Dark Angel is the equivalent of a red shirt in Star Trek.
Jam Pony is the company Max works for when she’s not being a superhero. The name is reminiscent of Silicon Valley and also an evocation of the Pony Express. This overlap between late-stage capitalism and the Wild West is typical of the shows apocalyptic world building. Jam Pony is useful as a way of understanding the economy of post-Pulse Seattle. It is not a fix to the loss of the Postal Service or the internet but it is a cheap work around. Jam Pony exists to exploit a gap in the market while contributing nothing that would replace lost and damaged infrastructure. In the show’s structure there is usually a Jam Pony b-story running parallel to the main action. Max’s Jam Pony ID allows her to pass through Sector Police checks.
Reagan Ronald aka Normal (J. C. McKenzie)
Normal is the Jam Pony manager. He is the sort of low-level annoying boss that TV executives assume run minimum wage businesses. He is shown throughout the series as having a great deal of affection for the workers that despise him. In the first episode he tries to warn Logan off Max and doesn’t give him her home address but does tell him where Max hangs out after work.
The name Reagan Ronald tells us a lot about Normal’s parents (sadists) but Normal’s politics are more small c-conservative than Reaganite. He believes in doing your job and doesn’t worry about what his employees get up to in their off hours. The nickname Normal has a layer of irony to it because he is the only normal one at their work so is therefore not normal.
Cynthia McEachin aka Original Cindy (Valerie Rae Miller)
Max’s best friend, Original Cindy acts as Max’s conscience and sounding board as she learns about human behaviour and relationships. Cindy is a protector and also a co-conspirator in some of Max’s scams and schemes. Cindy usually has her own thing going on and, in the Jam Pony plots, she often takes the lead over Max.
Original Cindy is a reference to the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. For people who believe in it Original Sin is a universal characteristic of all humans born of the line of Adam. Max represents a break in that line of descent. By naming her best (human) friend Original Cindy the writers are drawing attention to a number of ethical and religious questions about Max and her humanity. Is she superhuman/divine, or subhuman existing outside the moral universe that governs humanity?
Calvin Theodore aka Sketchy (Richard Gunn) and Herbal Thought (Alimi Ballard)
Sketchy and Herbal are two of Max and Cindy’s co-workers at Jam Pony. While Herbal is the spiritual member of the group Sketchy operates on the plane of base drives and impulses. In the pilot Herbal gets in trouble for deliberately returning a pair of expensive underpants that a client has sent to his mistress to the man’s wife. At the same time Sketchy is in trouble because he is cheating on his fiancée with a married woman. This difference is never mined for conflict rather the two men are united by the fact that they are (usually) both in trouble. They generally turn to Max for help and Cindy for leadership.
Crash is a bar where the employees of Jam Pony like to hang out. It has a screen that plays a loop of car crash videos anticipating in a low-tech way the advent of youtube while actually being a throwback to the extreme sports VHS culture of the 90s (nothing is ever really new.) The Road Movie would be popular at Crash.
The Sector Police
The Seattle of Dark Angel is an intrusive security state with individuals movements tracked constantly as they move through different neighbourhoods. There are also drones flying overhead recording activity. Max and Kendra are squatters in an abandoned but fully occupied apartment building. The Sector Police are happy to take bribes to allow people to occupy the apartments meaning the enforcement of the laws which govern the lives of citizens is arbitrary and corrupt.