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Series / Dark Angel

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Heaven... must be missing an angel...

"I don't know if you've noticed, but she ain't bad lookin' either..."
— from a Sky One promo before the show's UK debut. No prizes for guessing the identity of the "she" to which the ad refers.

A cyberpunk sci-fi drama series from the mind of James Cameron which aired for two seasons (2000–02) on Fox, set in a near future of political, economic, and moral collapse that results when a shadowy terrorist group wipes out America's economy with a massive EMP attack.

After escaping from confinement at a covert military installation code-named Manticore, a genetically-enhanced Super-Soldier X5 prototype named Max Guevara (Jessica Alba) dwells amidst the decadent, underground street life of 2019 Seattle while making minimum wage at a bike messaging service called Jam Pony and occasionally stealing. Searching for her brothers and sisters who were scattered in the aftermath of their escape from Manticore in 2009, Max encounters one Logan Cale aka "Eyes Only" (Michael Weatherly), an idealistic cyber-journalist battling widespread repression and corruption in post-apocalypse America.

Eventually, Logan calls Max to the highest part of her being and she becomes his samurai, taking on the ruthless power brokers of the new millennium. Max and Logan's odyssey leads them closer to the secret of her past, deepening and complicating their relationship in the process.

At the beginning of the second season, Max frees more of Manticore's experiments, and the show goes from being focused on Logan and Max to more of an ensemble show. For some fans (especially those coming back to watch it for Jensen Ackles after seeing Supernatural), the story of Alec, a recently freed clone of Max's Serial Killer brother Ben, in the second season was more interesting than the main plot. Fans of the first season and the original characters resented the dramatic transformation of the show's format and the focus on new characters.

The series got moved to Friday nights in its second season and was dropped afterwards in favor of Firefly, causing some fan wars on the internet. The fact that Firefly was also dropped/mishandled by Fox is a lesson in Executive Meddling. What's more, the Dark Angel cast and crew were told by Fox that they had been picked up for a third season only two days before it was officially announced that they were canceled instead.

After the show's cancellation, its intended plot was continued in the novels Skin Game and After the Dark. There was also a prequel called Before the Dawn and a book called The Eyes Only Dossier with extra information about the show's universe and new subplots.

The series was co-created and produced by Aliens and Terminator director James Cameron. He also directed the final episode, "Freak Nation", his only dramatic TV effort to date and the only scripted work he shot between Titanic (1997) and Avatar. Cameron was largely inspired by the manga Battle Angel Alita, which he later turned into a live film as well.

See also: Robert A. Heinlein's Friday, for another story of a genetically-engineered woman in a future where the United States has broken up.

No relation to the Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine chapter of the same name, or the Thrash Metal band.

This show provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series takes place in 2019-21, with flashbacks to a 2009 Backstory. It aired from 2000-02.
  • AB Negative: Erroneously portrayed, as AB-Negative people can receive blood from anyone with a negative blood group (AB Negative, A Negative, B Negative or O Negative) but the doctor says it'll be difficult to find a donor for Logan because it's the rarest blood type. Fortunately, Max is able to give him an impromptu transfusion because all the X5s were engineered to be universal donors - but universal donors (O Negative) aren't that hard to find.
  • Aborted Arc:
    • Neither Max's heat cycle nor her (and other X5s') dependence on tryptophan supplements to prevent potentially fatal seizures are brought up in Season 2. Which is as well, since both were highly inconvenient and we can Hand Wave that Manticore fixed them while she was captured.
    • One of the ongoing plotlines of Season 1 was Max trying to reunite with the eleven siblings who broke out of Manticore with her in 2009, or at least determine what happened to them. As of the end of Season 1, we had seen Zack, Brin, Tinga, Ben, Krit and Syl, we knew that Jondy and Zane were okay and had worked as a bartender and a mechanic respectively but didn't actually see them, and the other three hadn't been named or their status described at all. With all of Manticore's transgenics released in Season 2 and needing to be helped or dealt with, the focus shifted away from Max's unit entirely. While Zack reappeared for an episode (and Tinga and Ben were dead), the current whereabouts of Brin, Krit, Syl, Jondy, Zane and the unnamed three remained a mystery. See "What Happened to the Mouse?" below. Although Krit and Syl had been planned to be brought back in the last two episodes, but their actors were unavailable, so Biggs and Cece were invented instead.
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: In the second season especially, the cast often found themselves travelling by sewer, and some transgenics made lairs there.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: Marrow, the villain of the episode "Love in Vein", a transgenic designed as a perfect blood donor who forms a cult around himself under the guise of being some kind of vampire and gives his followers his super-empowering blood.
  • Aerith and Bob: The names of Max's X5 "family" run the whole gamut: Zack, Max, Tinga, Brin, Ben, Seth, Vada, Kavi, Krit, Syl, Jondy, Zane, Jack, Jace, Eva, Alec (twin of Ben), Sam (twin of Max), Devon (twin of Krit), Jewel (twin of Tinga), Keema (twin of Brin), Lane (twin of Zack). Justified in that they gave each other those names. Their official names are barcode numbers (for instance, Max is X5-452).
  • All Just a Dream: The Halloween episode, "Boo", is mostly Max's nightmare about the worst that could happen with her fellow transgenics being on the streets. The Aesop is that the worst that could happen wasn't all the wackiness, it was Max denying who she was and leaving them out to dry.
  • All There in the Manual: The book The Eyes Only Dossier gives a great deal of background info. For one thing, it introduces the other twins of Max's unit beyond Alec and Sam (Zack, Tinga, Brin and Krit's twins are named Lane, Jewel, Keema and Devon respectively, while the twins of Jack, Jondy and Zane are mentioned but not named; Jondy's and Zane's were "damaged during training and destroyed").
  • Ancient Conspiracy: A Cult which has been breeding supposedly superior humans that feel no pain for thousands of years. Their members include government agents, politicians, and even nurses, and they plan for the extinction of the rest of humanity via a viral apocalypse.
  • And This Is for...: The light-hearted episode "Fuhgeddaboudit" climaxes with the "Curvaceous Killer" (Max) giving her cage-fighting opponent "Monty Cora" (Alec) a whole load of these in a bid to get him to fight back ("And this... is for whatever stupid thing you do next."). He does fight back, but she kicks his ass anyway.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Averted by Alec, who never even met Ben and isn't impressed by what he's heard from Manticore (although hearing about their childhood from Max in "Hello, Goodbye" softens him on him somewhat). Played straight with Joshua at the end of "Two" (although Isaac was his younger brother, not technically a twin), but he gets better.
  • Artificial Human: The X series, who are artificially created people genetically engineered in various ways to be super soldiers for the US government. Other, less visibly human varieties are also seen later.
  • Artificial Limbs: The Steelhead Bird obtains a cyberarm between "Two" and "Some Assembly Required". No matter how much he tinkers with it, he still can't beat Zack at arm wrestling.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The genetics technobabble on this show is hilariously bad.
  • Backup Twin: Alec is introduced after Ben bites the big one. We got to see Max and Sam together, but not Ben and Alec. Shame.
  • Beast Man: Joshua and the rest of the "freaks".
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted. X5s are all attractive, but that's down to genetic engineering (and being played by Jessica Alba or Jensen Ackles). Manticore transgenics with more bizarre appearances are also generally good guys. However, they still fall prey to this, as anti-transgenic bigots especially play up the latter to demonize them, and a transgenic covered in growths is shot dead by a police officer who thinks he's trying to hurt a boy (though he actually just saved his life), undoubtedly at least in part due to his hideous appearance.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Alec as Simon Lehane, "the Berrisford Agenda". The My God, What Have I Done? variety.
    • Max's twin Sam, who married her husband as part of corporate espionage for Manticore but fell in love with him, and stayed with him and adopted his son after Manticore fell.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Joshua's younger brother Isaac went crazy and feral after being tortured by Manticore guards for years, which included cutting out his tongue when he wouldn't stop calling for his missing "father" Dr Sandeman.
  • Big Bad: Manticore, as personified by Lydecker and later Renfro, in Season One. Ames White and the Familiars in Season Two.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Zack is highly protective of his younger siblings and won't hestitate to kill to keep them safe, even the relatively innocent informant Vogelsang.
  • Blind and the Beast: Joshua's romance with his neighbor Annie Fisher in "Hello, Goodbye", who's been blind from a young age due to an outbreak of measles after the Pulse and can't see what he looks like. Because of It's Not You, It's My Enemies, he reluctantly puts a stop to it by telling her he's moving back to his home country, and when she asks to "see" him by feeling his face before he goes, he has Alec stand in for him. Later when she learns the truth in "Dawg Day Afternoon", she's upset that he lied to her, but ultimately forgives him. Unfortunately, she's murdered by Ames White, who frames Joshua for the deed.
  • Blood Transfusion Plot: Logan receives blood transfusions from transgenics at least twice. The first time it's because they're universal donors - and the writers didn't realize his Type AB Negative is nearly universal recipient; the second because he specifically needs the enhanced antibodies in their blood to cure a Synthetic Plague infection. The first transfusion comes from Max. The second time, Alec agrees to do it but is detained by the police for one of Ben's murders on his way to the hospital, so Max has to sneak Joshua in (Max can't do it herself this season because the Logan-killing virus is in her in the first place).
  • Bound and Gagged:
    • Max in "Designate This" and "Some Assembly Required".
    • Logan and Matt in "Out".
  • Brainwashed: Manticore loves to mess with people's minds. With a laser in the eye.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Jace (she got better) and Brin in Season One, Zack (he got better...sort of) in Season Two.
  • Breeding Cult: The purpose of the Familiars.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Alec imitates the Steelhead called British Eddie's accent in "Two" to make a Your Mom joke.
  • Bus Crash: Max's X7 clone, whose actress also played her younger self in flashbacks, contracted a sudden case of progeria and was never seen again.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: The show reveled in throwing up literal barriers to Max and Logan getting intimate. In the premiere of Season 2, Manticore infected Max with a virus tailor-made to kill Logan and only Logan (in order to eliminate Eyes Only), which persisted throughout the season, making it impossible for her to touch him.
  • Cat Girl: Max. She is genetically engineered with cat genes to give her enhanced combat powers. Of course it also puts her in heat twice a year, which causes all manner of problems. Also applies to the rest of the X5s, and there are other transgenics that blatantly look like catpeople.
  • Charm Person: Mia in "Fuhgeddaboudit" has hypnotic powers ("telecoercion") she can use to make people do things through suggestion, and make them forget things and implant Fake Memories to cover her tracks. Fortunately she has a sweet personality, and it's implied she couldn't make people do things that would be completely against their nature; even under telecoercion, Max won't tell her who Eyes Only is.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Max's ability to recognize a phone number on speed dial in the first episode is essential in her plan to get Sophie back to her mother later on.
  • Child Soldiers: The X5s in flashbacks and the younger series in the present. Complete with uniforms and shaved heads.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Sketchy's girlfriend Natalie. Herbal Thought.
  • The Chosen One: Max is the one special X5 whose DNA holds the key to thwarting the aforementioned Ancient Conspiracy by immunizing people against the Breeding Cult's virus. Even her twin Sam doesn't have the special sequences, since they were added post-twinning.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Max (and Alec). Literally, given their DNA.
  • Clone Army: Many of the X5s have several clones, in the first season finale Max destroyed the stockpile of embryos so more wouldn't be born. When she was recaptured they tried breeding her the old fashioned way.
  • Clones Are People, Too: Ben and Alec are treated as entirely separate individuals, and Max and Sam. By the narrative at least; Manticore was worried that the '09 escapees' clones were the greatest flight risks.
    • As they're only a few minutes different in age and grew up at a normal rate, they're practically the same as natural twins - except they had different mothers.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Donald Lydecker. Villainous version.
  • Continuity Nod: X5s were established as having faster metabolisms than normal humans in Season 1's "Rising", which made it even more dangerous for Max to use a Red Series implant. Near the end of Season 2, the Familiars develop a scanner to pick X5s out of the crowd based on their higher body temperature.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Manticore in the first season and the Familiars in the second are both shadowy conspiracies demanding absolute devotion and suppression of individuality from their adherents. However, while Manticore is hyper-modern in its methods and aesthetics and exists to further cynical Realpolitik goals, the Familiars have been around for centuries and have the old-fashioned methods and traditions to show for it, and have visionary (albeit horrific) goals.
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: Alec's cover as Simon Lehane.
  • Cool Bike: Max's Kawasaki.
  • Coolest Club Ever: Crash, where all the main cast hang out.
  • Courier: The Jam Pony bike messager service.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Max after having to Mercy Kill Ben to keep him out of Manticore's hands.
  • Creepy Child: The X7s, thanks to their Hive Mind, communication by clicking noises instead of speech, and remaining loyal to Manticore even when the other transgenics are being hunted down and killed in early Season 2. This makes them seem practically Always Chaotic Evil, although "even some" X7s are later mentioned to be among the refugees in Terminal City late in the season. Presumably, they finally realized that they were considered expendable too. Manticore may have found them a bit creepy, too, since the non-hive-minded X8s are only slightly younger.
  • Cyberpunk: Most definitely. Economic depression, a massive wealth gap, widespread corruption, and advanced technology that doesn't seem that far off. Season Two even features a Cyborg street gang called the Steelheads in a couple of episodes: literal cyber punks.
  • Dangerous Phlebotinum Interaction: In one episode Max rescues Original Cindy using a brain implant designed by the South Africans to boost normal humans to superhuman levels of performance, resulting in their "Red Series" supersoldiers, but it wears them to death over six-to-twelve months from the acceleration of their metabolisms. With her genetically enhanced physiology, it would have killed her within a couple hours if the implant hadn't been removed very soon.
  • Death of a Child: As shown in the pilot, Max's sister Eva was shot by Lydecker during the escape. Her brother Jack died of seizures before the escape, as seen in flashbacks in "Pollo Loco", which Ben took particularly hard. Another, unnamed X5 boy is shown being accidentally killed by friendly fire in flashbacks in "...And Jesus Brought a Casserole". Then in the novel After the Dark, Ames White's young son Ray is murdered by some of his rivals within the Familiars.
  • Deception Non-Compliance: When Original Cindy is being used as bait by a villain, she gives a warning of it over the phone by talking about her supposed new boyfriend despite Max knowing that she's only interested in women.
  • Defector from Decadence: Dr Sandeman, the geneticist who founded Manticore before the military took it over completely, was originally born into the Familiar cult, but turned against its social Darwinist ideals and engineered transgenics in part in an attempt to create an immunization for the cult's coming apocalyptic virus.
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • Max and Logan are destined to be together and nothing can stop The Power of Love™, or Max and Logan are wrong for each other and should spare themselves the heartache of being Star-Crossed Lovers. Seriously, watch "Fuhgeddaboudit" and then "Hello, Goodbye". You'll get whiplash.
    • Alec's jerkiness or scatter-brainedness also goes up and down like a yo-yo, but his happy go lucky nature is implied to be a façade anyway.
    • Max's power level, especially in first season, similarly varies wildly - sometimes she can deal with a whole bunch of cops, other times two fairly dozy security guards can take her down.
  • Destination Defenestration: Demonstrated by the villain in "Art Attack" (and unusually for this trope, the D-word is actually mentioned and becomes a minor gag).
  • Dirty Cop: Not uncommon among the "sector police" in this dystopia. In the first several episodes of Season 1, Max and Kendra are shown to pay one every week to overlook the fact that they're squatting (and he's a Jerkass, so Max makes him a cup of coffee - and saliva - every week). Asha's group S1W exists to expose sector police corruption.
  • Disabled Love Interest: Logan, wheelchair-bound and so very attractive.
  • Disappeared Dad: The father of Gem's baby was a male X5 she was paired with in Renfro's Super Breeding Program, and Gem tells Cindy it was not romantic. If he's still alive, he clearly didn't want to stick around.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In "Exposure," Max escapes from a telekinetic boy cultist holding her captive (long story) by showing him her breasts, which makes him lose concentration - and one or two punches from Max later, consciousness ("Made you look!").
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Birthday: Max and the other X5s have no idea what exact days of the year they were born on, since Manticore never bothered celebrating their birthdays (Manticore did have them in their files, though, per The Eyes Only Dossier). At the end of "C.R.E.A.M.", Max decides to pick the previous day as her birthday so that she'll have been "born yesterday". In "Freak Nation", Normal brings out a cake for Alec's birthday, which confuses him for a moment 'cause he forgot the fake date he put on his Jam Pony job application form.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Max refuses to use guns since her sister Eva was shot by Lydecker during the '09 escape in their childhood, and right after Eva stole a gun herself no less.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The episode "Out" refers to Logan being potentially outed as Eyes Only, and also features Normal dating a woman he later learns is transgender.
    • The episode "Two" refers both to Alec joining Max at Jam Pony and generally being up in her business, and to Joshua having a psychotic brother Isaac running around.
    • "Exposure" features Max learning more about the Familiar breeding cult and being exposed to their virus, and also Sketchy threatening to expose the existence of transgenics via a picture he snapped of one, which is destroyed by Alec and Original Cindy.
  • Dying Dream: The Season 1 finale, "...And Jesus Brought a Casserole" features one after Max is shot by her X7 clone. At first, we see the scene replay with Max disarming her and everyone returns back from the mission safely, with hints something is up via Out-of-Character Alert: Zack tells Max that Logan is alright with him, and Lydecker is with them all at Crash. Then Max and Logan (finally) sleep together, the crow that everyone was spooked by in real life earlier appears above them, and Max snaps to reality, where she's dying from the bullet wound and is recaptured by Manticore. Fortunately for her, Zack has also been taken and sacrifices himself to provide her with a heart transplant.
  • Dystopia: Crime and poverty are up. The police are supposedly more Big Brother-y (they have hoverdrones), but are frequently bought off by crooks. Finding a job is hell. Seattle, at least, is divided into sectors and you need a sector pass to move freely. Everything looks dirty, except the mansions. There are still rich people and they still have mansions. Many of America's national treasures and works of art have been taken by countries that are more well-off. But, as Max points out in the Pilot, although it's a depression, most people aren't that depressed. Rap/hip-hop culture is also up.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Normal's running mancrush on Alec, Played for Laughs.
  • Evil Brit: British Eddy, the leader of the Steelheads. Alec imitates his accent for a moment while insulting him.
  • Evil Luddite: The May 22 Movement in "Prodigy" (named for Ted Kaczynski's birthday, who's their inspiration) are a terrorist group who believe that genetic modification is an abomination that has to be stopped. As a result, they take hostages at a conference where gene therapy is being shown.
  • Eyed Screen: Used in-universe by Logan in his broadcasts as Eyes Only. Doubles as a way to avoid facial recognition identifying him.
  • Excuse Me While I Multitask: Alec beats up a gang of Steelheads in "Two" while simultaneously taking a call from Logan, nonchalantly. The cheek enrages them.
  • Fake Memories: Zack in "Some Assembly Required". Manticore gave him fake memories of Max reciprocating his unbrotherly feelings, so that jealousy would give him extra motivation to kill Logan in addition to the rest of the cybernetic brainwashing.
  • Fake Relationship: After Logan sees Max and Alec embracing on the street outside her apartment in "Hello, Goodbye" and draws the wrong conclusion (it was just a friendly hug after they commiserated about Ben), Max decides not to disillusion him because the virus makes her and Logan's relationship so dangerous (he collapsed from an accidental touch earlier in the same episode, and was only saved by a blood transfusion from Joshua). Alec is upset at first at Max making him "the bad guy" when he finds out, but after going to see Logan he decides not to disillusion him either.
  • Fantastic Diet Requirement: The X5s have a built-in tryptophan deficiency, which they need to account for with artificial supplements. Max neglects to mention her neurological condition to her roommate, resulting in a Mistaken for Junkie situation.
  • Fantastic Racism: Mostly on the part of ignorant humans towards transgenics. There are flaming Xs involved. Also the Familiar Breeding Cult thinks everyone else is inferior. In the last episode, we get to see a woman on TV who speculates that transgenics shouldn't be allowed to live, as they are the creations of man and so have no souls. The creepy smile on her face just makes things all the worse.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Trannie" for transgenics. Where have we heard that before?
  • Flash Step: The X5s, occasionally. It's called "blurring". Overweight superintelligent transgenic Brain really wishes he could do that.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: In "Art Attack", a gangster commits murder by defenestrating his victim, thus making it look like suicide. Logan conspires with Dr. Beverly Shankar to put a cap in the corpse's head, then has Max plant the murder weapon on the gangster as he attempts to leave the country.
  • Flawed Prototype:
    • The process of genetic enhancement is not without its faults. Many of the "nomalies" (anomalies), X-series subjects who have mutated, are shown to be practically feral. This was especially a problem with the X2s, who were pretty much a complete disaster. Even X5s like Max all routinely suffer from seizures, requiring her to take tryptophan supplements to suppress them. This wasn't brought up in the second season, so it's possible that this issue might have been fixed in the later iterations of X-series soldiers.
    • Some of the other X5s, like Brin, develop progeria, a real-life Rapid Aging illness. Max's X7 clone does as well in Season 2, and the fact that Max didn't even though her clone did is an indication of her Chosen One status.
    • The Red Series soldiers from South Africa are enhanced by an implant that augments their strength, speed, and durability, making them even more effective than the Manticore X-series. This comes at the cost of their lifespan being reduced to mere months.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Joshua at the end of "Boo", although Max had overprotectively tried to stop him from going out on Halloween at all earlier in the episode. And of course, Joshua and the other transhumans in her dream.
  • Functional Addict: Max's friends Kendra and Cindy think she's one when they find her stash of pills. She's never told them about her neurological condition that means she depends on tryptophan (an amino acid), so they throw the pills away and stage an intervention, where they mistake her shakes for withdrawal symptoms. It doesn't go well, especially since she walks out rather than explain herself. Logan tells them about her condition later in the episode.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The transgenics' wide range of special abilities come from being genetically engineered.
  • Genius Cripple: Logan and his Stephen Hawking-esque friend Sebastian both fit this trope.
  • Gentle Giant: Joshua.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Alec says that "Ames White and His Familiars" sounds like one.
  • Good Stepmother: Max's twin Sam, whose stepson calls her "Mom" and was legally adopted by her.
  • Government Conspiracy: Manticore is a black ops military program controlled by unscrupulous government officials. The Familiar breeding cult is not a government conspiracy per se, but they've infiltrated every rung of society with plants, including politicians and federal agents like Ames White.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: X5s and humans are interfertile, though there are mentions of difficulties with the crossbreeding experiments at Manticore - the offspring were "of spectacular mediocrity" and "those were the successes". Those not conceived as part of experiments don't seem to have any such setbacks.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Alec early in Season 2 after Manticore is destroyed (he was only a Punch-Clock Villain anyway, and then forced to work for Agent White for an episode via a microbomb in his neck). Lydecker splits the difference between this and Enemy Mine.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Eyes Only is considered a cyberterrorist by the corrupt authorities. Max herself is the key to saving humanity from the Familiars, and she and her fellow transgenics are the targets of public hatred after being outed.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Brain, to save Max in "Brainiac".
  • Hitman with a Heart: Subverted with Bruno Anselmo, whom Max reluctantly has to protect in "Red". He's a disgusting, morally repugnant douchebag who is only testifying against the corrupt mayor because he wants his young daughter to have one reason to remember him as something other than a disgusting, morally repugnant douchebag. And he still sells out Max to the Red Series soldiers afterwards.
  • Hive Mind: The X7s.
  • Hostage Situation: The finale of Season 2, "Freak Nation", revolves around one: Mole, Joshua, an X6 boy named Dalton and a pregnant X5 named Gem are cornered by the police outside Jam Pony. Mole and Joshua's only chance is to pretend to take Gem and Alec hostage so the cops won't shoot, and then go inside the building and take the employees hostage (more genuinely). The situation is ultimately resolved and the transgenics make their escape to Terminal City, but not before Alec, Gem, Cece and Max are outed (Normal manages to pull a gun on Mole and Joshua, which forces Alec to stop pretending to be a hostage and turn the gun around on him), Cece dies, and there's a big battle with White and breeding cult Elite soldiers disguised as a SWAT team who were sent in to kill everyone, hostage and transgenic alike. Gem's baby Eve is delivered by Normal in the midst of the fight.
  • Human Weapon: The X5s were treated as though they were biological warbots rather than people.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Ben in "Pollo Loco", in a continuing repeat of the training exercise where the ten-year-old X5s in Max's unit hunted down a death row convict in the woods and killed him (he would have been pardoned in the unlikely event he had evaded them). They weren't actually supposed to kill him, but they mistook his tattoo for the mark of one of the "nomalies" they were scared of and tore him to pieces, and although Lydecker looked uncomfortable he didn't stop them. In the present day, Ben tattoos his own barcode onto his victims and just settles for a Neck Snap and offering their teeth to the "Blue Lady" afterwards (the Virgin Mary, whom the kids formed a little religion around after a guard gave them a picture of her while one of them was having seizures).
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Max complains to Logan about Alec going after the same rare film in "Two".
    Logan (sarcastic): How dare he try to rip off what you were rightfully stealing.
    Max (briefly Sarcasm-Blind): I know, it's like he's a child who doesn't know right from wrong.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Mia is a transgenic with hypnotic powers. One of the things that draws her to her human boyfriend Dougie is that she can't influence him that way, due to the brain anomaly that makes him narcoleptic. "What fun is being in love if everything's easy?"
  • Identifying the Body: In one episode, Max sees a body on TV with the barcode tattoo of one of her brothers on it, so she asks to identify the body it's not him, he's become a serial killer who tattoos his barcode on his victims.
  • The Immune:
    • The transgenics were made to survive the breeding cult's virus, which only members of the cult were supposed to be able to survive. Max doesn't even feel ill when exposed, unlike other transgenics, and both the post-series novels and the writers' aborted Season Three plans state that her genetic code can be used to immunize regular humans (which would have worked by piggy-backing the cure onto the common cold). The cult aren't too happy to discover this.
    • All transgenics were designed to be immune to all known diseases and biochemical agents. The transgenics settle down in "Terminal City", a part of Seattle where bio-contaminants were accidentally released from a lab when its containment was immobilized by the Pulse, because they can survive there and humans can't.
    • Ironically, in the episode "Radar Love", Agent White hired an amateur Mad Scientist to create a Synthetic Plague which the latter targetted to transgenics' immunological surveillance cells, since it was one of the few features all varieties of transgenic had in common.
  • Incompatible Orientation Logan takes Max to a wedding where his ex will be. He doesn't know why she left him and still has feelings for her. Max has Original Cindy watch over the ex to stop her stealing Logan. From the way Cindy and the ex get along, Logan realizes why it ended.
  • In Love with the Mark: See Becoming the Mask.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: Logan's shtick as Eyes Only, except of course when it comes to his own identity and those of his operatives.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Both of the transgenics seen who became mentally unhinged (Ben and Isaac) also became homicidal.
  • Intimate Artistry: Joshua, the man-dog genetic hybrid who is ostracized from human society due to his animal-ish features, expresses his feelings of isolation and passion through painting. The owner of an art gallery falls in love with his work, and when he needs to break into her gallery to retrieve his paintings (he had accidentally included important papers) she catches him, but is able to see past his appearance due to already having connected with his more important aspects.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Alec's reason for telling Asha to forget about the possibility of a relationship with him.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Zack and Max employ this on Lydecker in a first season episode. He does them one better and breaks his own finger to convince them he's telling the truth.
  • Jerkass:
  • Justified Criminal: As far as the civilian world is concerned, when the X5s escaped they did effectively poof into existence with no family, property or identification after all. It's not surprising they would resort to petty theft to acquire the means to get by, at least at first, especially in the midst of a dystopia.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Zack, who will quite literally kill even a civilian like Vogelsang the private eye if he thinks they're an exposure risk to the rest of his unit, and prevents Max from having information on their siblings' whereabouts for their own good.
  • Lightning Bruiser: X5 series soldiers are incredibly quick and can Flash Step, making them fearsome opponents in hand-to-hand combat. This neatly justifies Max not liking guns also; besides having childhood issues with guns, she's so damn fast, she doesn't really need them. Though, as the season 1 finale shows, they are not Made of Iron, as Max goes down to a single gunshot by her own X7 clone.
  • The Lost Lenore: Rachel Berrisford, for Alec. She was left in a coma for two years after Manticore detonated a bomb under her dad's car, and eventually died.
  • Mate or Die: Max won't literally die if she doesn't have sex while in heat, but it sure feels like it. In "Meow" she tells Original Cindy that several past failed relationships started this way, including Darren who appeared in the Pilot.
  • Mirror Character: Early Season 2 Alec and early Season 1 Max. Both are opportunistic, are pulled into the 'hero business' when they'd rather be indulging in petty theft, and keep others from actually getting too close despite outwardly seeming like outgoing people. Both originally got their jobs as Jam Pony bike messengers because it gives them sector passes to move about the city freely and an excuse to case the places they deliver to as potential burglary targets for later. Actually pointed out by Logan in the Season 2 episode "The Berrisford Agenda".
  • Missing Mom: The transgenics (not specified if that's all of them or just the human-looking ones) were given birth to by human surrogate mothers. Most of them simply collected a paycheck and left, although Hannah says none of them truly knew what they were getting into. Max learns that her birth mother changed her mind and wanted to keep her, and tried to escape while pregnant. After giving birth, she was put in an asylum to keep her quiet.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: All the transgenics have DNA culled from various humans and animals (which animal depends on the type; for example, X5s are part feline) so that they have peak physical and mental abilities. As far as is known, none looks exactly like any human donor.
  • Monster of the Week: Season 2. But only rarely a villainous monster. Season 1 also had "monsters of the week" in the sense of criminal threats that were dealt with in the space of one episode.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first time we see Max in heat, in the episode "Heat", it's Played for Laughs as she almost has sex with a dorky guy who's definitely not her type, and then has to deal with him thinking they slept together the next morning. The second time, in "Meow", she actually does have a one-night stand with an attractive delivery guy she just met - and afterward, we see her wracked with self-disgust at having had sex with a stranger, especially when she has genuine feelings for Logan, and the whole thing suddenly seems a lot less funny.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jessica Alba. That is all. (One of many, many examples: the opening shot of "Fuhgeddaboudit" as the camera pans up Max's legs in a very short skirt.)
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: It's Jessica Alba with enhanced strength. While Max's eldest brother Zack is fairly buff, other, more slender X5s like Max are shown to have almost the same level of physical power that he does. "Pollo Loco" writer Doris Egan relates on her livejournal that one of the producers objected to casting Jensen Ackles as a supersoldier because he wasn't very muscular and accused the women present of only wanting to hire him for his looks. Egan pointed out that they were following this trope for X5s ("Our heroine is Jessica Alba. Clearly whatever genetic manipulation was going on involves strength that’s not determined by the sheer volume of the muscle."), and the producer obliviously advocated a Double Standard. Ironically, it was that same producer who wanted him back for Season 2 as Alec after seeing his performance.
    • They tried to downplay it by having Jensen gradually put on some more muscle tone when he returned in Season 2, but it's still obvious when Alec briefly takes up boxing as "Monty Cora" to make some quick cash and easily dominates brutish men twice his size with his Super-Strength and Super-Speed.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: All the transgenics are subject to this occasionally. Dog-based Joshua growls, snuffles interesting things, and acts like an excited dog around food; cat-based Max and Alec show various feline behaviors like distrusting dogs, fastidiously bathing, acting predatory around prey animals, picking the people who least want to see them at the moment and sitting right next to them...
    • Original Cindy is a bit disturbed in "Pollo Loco" when Max purchases a live chicken for the purpose of killing and eating it; Max says it must be because of her feline DNA that she looks in its little face and sees "dinner" rather than something cute.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Project Manticore" doesn't exactly sound warm and fuzzy, being named for a Persian mythological monster with the body of a lion, face of a man and tail of a scorpion.
  • Neuro-Vault: Episode "The Kidz Are Aiight". The X5s were taught how to do this at will. Zack buries the locations of his siblings in his mind so that Manticore torturers can't extract the information.
  • Never Found the Body: Lydecker, after "Proof of Purchase". He survived, as seen at the end of After the Dark.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Although Logan can be a bit cocky at times and is very bitter about his paralysis, he is usually kind-hearted and has principles.
    • Logan's physical therapist Bling is quite possibly the nicest guy on the show, and Only Sane Man when it comes to Max and Logan's relationship issues.
  • No Name Given: Most Jam Pony employees go by nicknames, it seems. Original Cindy (Cynthia McEachin), Sketchy (Calvin Simon Theodore), Normal (Reagan Ronald), Herbal Thought, Druid.
  • No Social Skills:
    • The X6 teenagers seen in "Bag 'Em" display this, having been released into the world in 2020 after spending their whole lives in Manticore.
    • Alec, despite being in a similar situation, was much more worldwise because he had been trained for infiltration and assassination missions. Still, flashbacks in "The Berrisford Agenda" show that while he could converse normally about most things while undercover, he had no clue about romance until he experienced it firsthand. Which is funny because in the present day he's a Handsome Lech.
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Extremely averted; with the Jam Pony bicycle messager service being a central location throughout the show's run and Max, Cindy, Alec, Sketchy, and Herbal all working there for Normal.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Subversion; Max and Zack are only siblings in the sense of being from the same unit at Manticore, but she's still squicked when he makes a (Brainwashed) move on her. Doesn't stop fans from shipping Max/Zack or Max/Ben. Or Max/Alec. Although Alec isn't from Max's unit, he's a clone of Ben, who is. invoked
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The Red Series are supposedly South Africans. Not one of them, nor their handler, tries to put on any kind of South African accent. Instead they all sound American.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Well, no one thought Bruno was harmless exactly (he did fire the bullet that paralyzed Logan's legs), but he seemed rather dumb while Max was trying to keep him alive during "Red" so that he could testify. Turns out he had heard enough on the grapevine to be aware that the Red Series was looking for Manticore prototypes and was smart enough to piece together that a girl with Max's petite physique who was capable of the physical feats he'd seen from her was likely to be one.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: At the start and end of Season 2.
    • The season starts with Manticore being completely destroyed and large numbers of transgenics with various superhuman abilities being loosed into the world, moving the show from a sci-fi crime/conspiracy story to one that's about dealing with a hidden underworld of superbeings.
    • At the end of the season, transgenics have become known to the public and are making their stand in Terminal City. Also, the first freeborn transgenic has come into the world (and lacks a barcode), symbolising that they're here to stay.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Max has one in "Boo", in which she is naked just before she wakes up.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Max is a hero with superpowers but doesn't wear a costume or use a codename. Lampshaded in "I and I Am a Camera" when an eccentric guy using an exoskeleton to do superheroics asks if "Max" is short for "Maximum Girl" or "Maximum Woman". He seems to think he's living in a comic book, since he also wonders if the rogue hoverdrones are being deployed from Another Dimension.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Once used by Logan. He's a real paraplegic most of the time, but an easily hidden exoskeleton allows him to walk. After receiving a blood transfusion from Joshua, he ceases to need the exoskeleton at all, but still uses it for emergency situations since it increases his speed and strength.
  • Off the Wagon: Lydecker, when his plans start going to hell.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Averted. In addition to Max's twin Sam, there's Max and Logan's recurring ally Dr Sam Carr at the local hospital, and young Sam Gilan in "Haven". And Zack uses the alias Sam in "411 on the DL".
    • As well as Max's brother/Alec's twin Ben, there's an anchorman named Ben in the novel Skin Game.
    • The Season 2 episode "The Berrisford Agenda" involves Alec's past relationship with Rachel Berrisford. In Season 1's "Prodigy", Max poses as a journalist under the name Rachel Glasser.
  • Only One: Max, pretty much every time.
  • Only One Name: The main character was named Max, with no last name (she did use the last name Guevara on occasion, as in Che Guevara, but she made this up). Her fellow X5s (Zack, Alec, Ben, etc) also had only one name, as did the dogboy Joshua. Alec's fake surname was supposedly McDowell, as in Malcolm McDowell, but it was never spoken aloud and the scene where it would have appeared on a file folder was cut.
  • Questionable Consent: While in heat, Max aggressively has sex with a guy named Rafer whom she's just met. Afterward, she's shown in bed next to him looking very unhappy, indicating the overwhelming hormonal urges made her do it, which she wouldn't otherwise. In this case, it's Manticore who are to blame; Rafer didn't know she was anything other than a normal woman who was very into him.
  • Pair the Spares: Invoked with Alec and Asha, but ultimately doesn't go anywhere due to It's Not You, It's My Enemies.
  • People Jars: Tinga dies in one.
  • Perception Filter: People tend not to notice Brain.
  • Perma-Stubble: The wealthy and otherwise clean-cut Logan Cale wears this, apparently as a sign to the viewer of his single-minded dedication to righting the world's wrongs, even when he is supposed to have "cleaned up" for his cousin's wedding. The three-day pause every time Michael Weatherly shaved is said to have complicated the shooting schedule.
  • Photographic Memory
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: Series premise.
  • Phrase Catcher: Several times Logan is told a variant of "I will kick your ass, wheelchair or no wheelchair."
  • Plot Hole: The introduction of Max's genetic twin Sam in the Season 2 episode "She Ain't Heavy" creates one, because Lydecker should have recognized Max at the symposium in the Season 1 episode "Prodigy". Even if he never worked with Sam personally, it would have been silly for Manticore not to give him her picture while he was hunting her twin.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Very nearly. Kendra and Cindy don't know about Max's neurological condition, and they throw away her tryptophan tablets, thinking they're recreational drugs that Max is addicted to. Then they confront her about it. Rather than coming clean about her condition, Max says, "Tell me you didn't," and leaves without another word. Logan has to set them straight later.
  • Prescience by Analysis: Brain, the transgenic of the week who helps Max and Logan rescue Asha and other S1W members from corrupt cops in the episode "Brainiac". He isn't psychic per se but is able to predict the future by analyzing heaps of data at once. His apartment has multiple TV screens which he watches all at the same time. He even tells Max that he predicted she would escape as a child and that she would come back. Obviously, he didn't tell Manticore that.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Kendra, who moved into her boyfriend Walter's home, allowing Original Cindy and Max to become roommates.
    • At least her disappearance was explained; what happened to Asha?
    • Neither Herbal nor Bling return for Season 2, although Bling returns in the novels (as does Asha).
    • Zack is written out after "Some Assembly Required", as Max won't risk his cybernetic "kill Logan" programming from Manticore asserting itself again and has him sent away to a nice life as a farmhand with amnesia.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Alec, in "The Berrisford Agenda". Ben also has a moment where he glares at his reflection, but he doesn't punch it.
  • Rapid Aging: Suffered by Brin and Max's young X7 clone due to developing progeria. Averted for the most part; unlike Artificial Humans, clones and genetic experiments in some other settings, the transgenics weren't grown in tanks or created as adults - each of them was born to a surrogate mother paid to carry the embryo for Manticore, and is actually as old as he or she looks. At the time of the series, the X5s are young adults, the X6s are teens and the X7s and X8s are preteens. Max frequently flashes back to when she was ten.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Detective Ramon Clemente in the finale. He wants to resolve the above Hostage Situation peacefully, and is not at all happy when "Special-Agent-in-Charge White" takes over. When the protagonists sneak out of Jam Pony in SWAT trucks and leave White and his Familiars (who were supposed to be a SWAT team) Bound and Gagged for Clemente to find, he's positively gleeful to realize what happened:
    What was that? (while White is gagged) The transgenics tied you up and took your uniforms? No way!
    • Clemente then pursues the transgenics to the entrance of Terminal City, but withdraws when their reinforcements arrive, and tells Max their future will depend on the decisions she makes and he hopes she makes the right ones.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Lydecker kept some of his dead wife's DNA alive in Max, though she is not an exact clone - "More 'inspired by'. You have her eyes". Creepy.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The series never defines exactly which terrorist group set off the Pulse in 2009 or what happened to them afterwards.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Ben had written words from Manticore indoctrination sessions, like Duty, Discipline and Mission, all over the walls and boxes of a warehouse.
  • Rule of Symbolism: A crow appears in the Season 1 finale "...And Jesus Brought a Casserole" as an omen of death while Max and the other X5s are planning the op to cripple Manticore. They flash back to a training mission when they were kids where one of them shot at a crow like that and accidentally hit another X5, killing them. In the present, Zack shoots at the bird and it flies away. Later, it appears in Max's Dying Dream as mentioned above.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Original Cindy. Please see Totally Radical, below.
  • Scannable Man: All the transgenics except Joshua, who was first, have a barcode at the base of their necks, even his younger brother Isaac (which helps Max realize it's not him when Logan says a witness described a dogman assailant with a barcode). It's more than just a simple tattoo, as Max explains that she had hers removed at a tattoo removal clinic, only for it to eventually reappear due to it actually being coded into her DNA, so it's usually not worth the effort of removing.
    • She and Alec laser each other's off late in Season 2 to make it harder to expose them, now that the public knows about transgenics, but it's ouchy and they'll come back in due time. Notably, Alec's hair starts getting longer from that point to cover the back of his neck.
    • Transgenics' children who were born naturally don't have barcodes, such as Tinga's son Case (whose father is a normal human) and Gem's daughter Eve (whose parents are both X5s). When Case does start developing a barcode (and a fever), his family know something is horribly wrong - the code is a phone number to call Lydecker and discuss Tinga turning herself over in exchange for a cure to the Synthetic Plague he infected Case with.
  • Secret Project Refugee Family: Max, Joshua and Alec develop into one. Intentionally averted by the 12 '09 escapees in that Zack had them split up to making capturing them all harder. Max and Jondy were paired off, but got separated when Max fell under some frozen water.
  • Separated at Birth: The X5 twins. Separated before birth, really. The embryos from the same test tube were divided and then implanted in different surrogate mothers.
  • Serial Killer: Ben, Isaac.
  • Shared Dream: Max and Logan are implied to have one when she gives him a blood transfusion, despite this ostensibly being a non-magical setting. The audience sees them dancing to music; later, Max hums the tune from the dream and Logan recognizes it.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend / He Is Not My Boyfriend: Max and Logan keep insisting this in both seasons, even though the other characters see right through it and refer to them as a couple.
  • Shirtless Scene: Alec has one after coming out of a shower. Also when he is fighting in a cage match.
  • Shooting Gallery: With Eyes Only targets, for Zack when he was Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The series starts in 2019, the same as Blade Runner. Lydecker's name sounds similar to Deckard and both of them have a job hunting down Replicants/transgenics. Alec's Lost Lenore is named Rachel like Deckard's love interest Rachael and both couples have scenes revolving around playing the piano, but which one of them is bio-synthetic is swapped. Alec quickly masters the piano due to his genetically engineered skills and plays a piece by Frédéric Chopin, and Blade Runner's Rachael was originally to find herself inexplicably able to play the piano in one scene, performing Chopin.
    • When Original Cindy is moving in with Max, one of her belongings is a XENA LIVES! poster. This is either because Xena was being cancelled that year or that a show that possibly aired before Cindy was BORN was still popular decades later. Now, what are the odds of— oh, wait. Plus, you know, Original Cindy is a lesbian and Xena is a lesbian icon.
    • Also, Asha's resistance group S1W (Security of the First World) is a direct reference to the rap group Public Enemy (which should come as no surprise since Chuck D was one of the writers of the Dark Angel theme song).
    • Max gives Joshua a copy of Stephen King's It in "Two".
    • In the novel Before the Dawn, Max steals a jewel from a Titanic exhibit. This is also a James Cameron gag.
    • In "Borrowed Time", Max and Alec steal the original film reels from one of the Star Wars or Star Trek movies (it's never really clear which, since both of them get the two series confused).
    • The X5 who dies in "Love Among the Runes" is named Biggs, like Luke Skywalker's doomed friend Biggs Darklighter (whose name also recurs frequently for one half of Those Two Guys in Final Fantasy).
    • In one of Alec's flashbacks in "The Berrisford Agenda", Rachel starts playing the theme song from the Peanuts TV specials during one of her piano lessons.
    • The female Steelhead, Lux, has retractable razor blades under her fingernails, similar to Molly Millions from Neuromancer.
    • Max's clone "twin" is named Sam. Where have we heard those two names together before?
    • There is also an adventure supplement for Shadowrun with the title Dark Angel, and though both the game and the show are set in near-future Seattle, the adventure was released about a decade before the TV show first aired.
    • Alec's name comes from Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, and he was originally conceived of as being more like him.
    • In a cut line, when Renfro tells her that the Committee won't allow Manticore to be exposed because it would jeopardize their other interests, Max sarcastically says, "You mean like the killer robot from the future project?" Another James Cameron reference.
    • The genetically engineered animal-creature designed to web up escapees seen in "Borrowed Time" is called a Gossamer, as in the monster from Looney Tunes.
    • Sketchy (real name Calvin Simon Theodore) is named after all three of The Chipmunks.
    • As noted elsewhere, Max and Alec's fake surnames being Guevara and McDowell are references to Che Guevara and Malcolm McDowell respectively.
    • In addition to featuring a mermaid-like transgenic, the episode "Gill Girl" has Max actually reading Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale The Little Mermaid to Logan's niece, and commenting that she's going to make sure the transgenic mermaid's story gets a happier ending like "the Disney version".
  • Sitting on the Roof: Max, Ben, Alec, Logan, etc. have done this on the Space Needle.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: More cynical, but with fair amounts of humor.
  • Smug Snake: Ames White, Renfro, and Lydecker's subordinate Sandoval.
  • The Social Darwinist: The Familiars cult believes they are meant to replace baseline humans as a result of their superior breeding. Ames White even mocks the idea that "the meek shall inherit the Earth" explicitly. Of course, they never seem to consider "And Then What?"
  • Spiritual Successor: James Cameron was inspired to create the series by the manga Battle Angel Alita.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Max to Logan, constantly.
  • Stoic Spectacles:
    • Alec when pretending to be Simon Lehane. One of the writers said they put Jensen Ackles in glasses because they thought he'd look good in them.
    • Logan, all the time.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Max.
  • Super Breeding Program: Director Renfro has established one at Manticore at the beginning of Season 2, following the destruction of the DNA lab in the finale of Season 1. Of course, this is cut short when Manticore is exposed and decommissioned in the season premiere. While Max refuses to breed with her assigned partner (Alec), we later see at least one X5 who became pregnant as a result of the program.
  • Super-Senses:
    • Thanks to their feline DNA, X5s can see perfectly in the dark. They can also zoom in on objects a good distance away.
    • Being a dogman, Joshua has a powerful sense of smell.
  • Super-Soldier:
    • What the X5s and most of the Manticore "mutants" were designed for.
    • The South African Red Series are convicts who had their sentences commuted in exchange for being pressganged into service. They're fitted with an implant that increases their combat abilities, making them better fighters than even the X5s, but drastically reduces their lifespan. Max has to take on one of their implants to stand a chance against them. The South Africans want to kidnap Max so they can use her DNA to breed X5s of their own.
  • Superhuman Transfusion: Max to Logan, which temporarily helps him recover feeling in his legs. A second transfusion from Joshua in Season 2 seems to have a greater effect.
    • Also Marrow's whole shtick in "Love in Vein"; his blood makes his gang as strong as transgenics while the effects last. And it's addictive.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Cece and Biggs were supposed to be return appearances by Syl and Krit, respectively, but the actors' schedules didn't work out. Given that both were killed off in the episodes they appeared in, this is fortunate for Syl and Krit.
  • Synthetic Plague: A few examples, actually.
    • Lydecker infected Tinga's son Case with one in "Hit a Sista Back" in order to blackmail her into turning herself in.
    • Max was infected with one in the first episode of Season Two that would specifically target Eyes Only's (Logan's) DNA, putting a roadblock in their relationship for the whole season.
    • Agent White used a Mad Scientist For Hire in "Radar Love" in an attempt to create one that would wipe out transgenics by targetting their immunological surveillance cells; fortunately, Max stopped it from launching. The hireling tested it by creating one in Chinatown that killed Asian people, targetted to the genes for epicanthic folds and released via fireworks.
  • Tainted Veins: Marrow is very veiny.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Max and Sam. None of the other twins fit.
  • They Look Like Us Now: The Familiars intentionally provoke this reaction in the populace by revealing that there are not only obvious "monster" transgenics but also the human-looking X-series living among them.
  • Third Party Stops Attack: A breeding cult Elite Soldier is beating on Logan in the series finale when Joshua intervenes in this manner. Logan does the same for Alec (Logan can go toe-to-toe in the finale because he's using an exoskeleton).
  • Third-Person Person: Original Cindy and Diamond.
  • Tomboyish Name: Max, obviously. And her twin Sam and sister Jace. And an X6 who chooses the name Ralph, which Max points out is a boy's name.
  • Totally Radical: Watch with the sound off. This is an incredibly beautiful, very cinematic series, whose dialogue tries so hard to be Young and Hip that it may actually cause brain damage.
  • Trans Relationship Troubles: One episode has Jam Pony's resident square Normal get into a relationship with a trans woman. When he finds out, he's still quite willing to go out with her, but she dumps him and expresses interest in resident lesbian Original Cindy, who is repulsed.
  • True Companions:
    • Max, Original Cindy and Sketchy.
    • Max, Alec and Joshua in Season 2.
  • Twofer Token Minority: "Original Cindy" is a black lesbian. Max is also a Latina and transgenic, although the ethnic appearances of the transgenics are pretty much randomly determined by their DNA cocktails.
  • Tyke Bomb:
    • The X5s again. Abused Tyke Bombs.
    • Also the X6s, X7s, X8s.
  • The Unmasqued World: By the end of the series, the existence of transgenics is known to the public and the identities of the X5s who could pass as humans have been exposed. This leads to Fantastic Racism.
  • Unrequited Love: Asha, a contact of Logan's with her own resistance group introduced at the start of Season 2, is clearly crushing on him hard, but he only has eyes for Max.
  • Urban Segregation: Most of Seattle (and any other American city) is slum, but there are still nice areas. They tend to have more security now. Additionally, citizens need special "sector passes" to move in between the different areas of the city.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Ben, Isaac.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Eyes Only. "This is a Streaming Freedom video bulletin. It cannot be traced, it cannot be stopped, and it is the only free voice left in this city."
  • Wannabe Line: In "Gill Girl", Max has to get inside a strip club to rescue someone inside, and since she's Not on the List the only way in is to pretend to be one of the working girls to do, but there are actually quite a lot of girls waiting to be judged by Bouncer before they're allowed to work inside. But Max simply walks past the waiting girls while doing a Supermodel Strut and taking off her jackets in a sensual manner, and the bouncer is so taken by her that he lets her in without a word, ignoring the other girls as they complain to him.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Max (and all the rest of the X5s) doesn't manufacture enough serotonin due to flaws in the genetic engineering, requiring her to buy supplements of pure tryptophan (milk is only a stop-gap measure) or her seizures could get bad enough that she'd shut down every month or so. Her brother Jack died of this before the escape. This led to some Worf Had the Flu moments when she wasn't able to get the medicine in time in the first season, but was later dropped without explanation. However, it was implied that when she was recaptured by Manticore, Max was "fixed" and thus stopped having seizures.
  • Western Terrorists: An eco terrorist/luddite group called the May 22 Movement (Ted Kaczynski's birthday) take everyone hostage at a conference showcasing genetic engineering, something which they're opposed to like Kaczynski.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There were twelve X5 escapees in 2009, but as of the series finale, three of them hadn't been named onscreen (and the focus of the show had shifted from finding Max's escaped siblings to all the new transgenics freed in the season premiere). The prequel novel Before the Dawn finally gave their names as Seth, Vada and Kavi. Vada was found and shot by Lydecker two and a half years pre-series, Seth jumped off the Space Needle in Before the Dawn rather than be taken alive (and had been working with Logan before Max did, which is how he knew about X5s), and Kavi was exposed making a nearly impossible throw in a baseball game in front of a Manticore officer five years pre-series and recaptured.
  • A World Half Full
  • Would Hurt a Child: Max has no qualms about beating up a boy smaller than she is in "Exposure". Then again, he a) has telekinetic powers (which he used to fling her all over the place before being Distracted by the Sexy as explained above) and b) is a member of the Familiar breeding cult who was looking forward to watching her die before she revealed that she was faking being ill...
  • You Are Number 6: Max is 452, Sam is 453, Ben is 493, Alec is 494, Zack is 599, Tinga is 656, etc.
  • Your Door Was Open: Max, Zack and Alec often appear in Logan's apartment without warning. They are basically ninjas.


Video Example(s):


Max Gets Past The Bouncer

Max does a confident strut to get inside a club, going past all the other girls waiting and trying to get past the bouncer, just because of her sex appeal.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / WannabeLine

Media sources: