The second and last season of Dark Angel
, the inventive James Cameron show about mutants during a future Depression, has some real strengths as well as one or two bad ideas that partly explain its much-regretted cancellation. Among the strengths are Alex (Jensen Ackles), the thoroughly unreliable mutant charmer whose flirtations with heroine Max (Jessica Alba) complicate her doomed love for Logan (Michael Weatherly), the crippled newshound whom she cannot now even touch--she has been infected with a deadly virus tailored specifically to kill him. The distrust this sows between the doomed couple does not always avoid soap-opera clichés, but often produces fine performances from all three, especially Alba.
On the deficit side, John Savage's memorably ambiguous villain Lydeker from season 1 (who is alternately the mutants' nemesis and their protector) disappears to be replaced by the melodramatically sinister Agent White (Martin Cummins). White appears to be just a shoot-to-kill operative of the state and turns out to be another sort of superhuman, a product of an occultist breeding program going back to the dawn of history. After White's first ruthless killing, Max's reluctance to use deadly force is tested to near-implausible limits. The show ends with a rousing and moving finale, "Freak Nation", in which a theme often neglected in this final year--Max's relationship with her fellow couriers at Jam Pony--reaches a powerful climax. --Roz Kaveney