|This article relies on references to primary sources. (November 2010)|
|Dark Angel character|
Jessica Alba as Max
|Last appearance||Freak Nation|
|Created by||James Cameron|
|Portrayed by||Jessica Alba and Geneva Locke|
|Species||Genetically engineered super soldier, X5|
Lucy Barrett (adoptive sister)Joann Barrett (adoptive mother)
|Significant other(s)||Logan Cale|
Max Guevara (X5-452) is a fictional character and the protagonist of the cyberpunk science fiction television program Dark Angel. She is portrayed by Jessica Alba as an adult and Geneva Locke as a child. Max Guevara is a genetically enhanced transgenic super-soldier, created in a secret government lab known as "Manticore", where she lived with other X-5 children until their escape in 2009. From that time, Max has lived in hiding, fearful of being recaptured by one of her guardians, Colonel Lydecker (John Savage). At the same time she is desperate to locate her "brothers and sisters" and attempts to do so with the help of Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), a cyber-journalist also known as "Eyes Only". The character Max was ranked #17 in TV Guide's list of the "25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends" (August 1, 2004 issue).
Early life at Manticore
Max was genetically engineered, and carried to term by a human woman, some time around the turn of the 21st century. She was created for a secret government supersoldier program called "Manticore", then located in Gillette, Wyoming. As with almost all Manticore's soldiers, Max has a barcode on the back of her neck, with her identifying number sequence (332960073452). She is an X5 model and is thus referred to as X5-452. Max Guevara is the name that she gave to herself.
Max and her X5 "brothers and sisters" were raised and trained by Colonel Donald Michael Lydecker (John Savage) who also had a role in the components of their creation. He trained them to be soldiers using harsh and brutal techniques, described by Max later as torture. During their training, Max was the subject of at least one brutal medical experiment involving the re-healing of deliberately shattered limbs. Max also was required to take part in an exercise involving the hunting down and killing of a prisoner, her reaction to which haunts her later.
The brutality of the X5s' lives eventually led to escape. In February 2009, led by Zack (X5-599) (William Gregory Lee) and pursued by Manticore, twelve of the X5s escaped through a snow-filled forest. Max fell into a frozen pond, and having learned how to hold her breath underwater for long periods of time, managed to outwit the men looking for her. She was eventually found by Hannah, a sympathetic Manticore nurse who took Max to her house, a move which eventually allowed Max to escape to the world outside.
Max eventually made her way to Casper, Wyoming, where she met Lucy Barrett, a little girl who helped Max stow away in her mother‘s SUV. Later, after arriving in Los Angeles, California, Lucy’s mother, Joann, agreed to let Max live with them. Max and Lucy endured much abuse from Lucy’s alcoholic father, Jack.
On June 1, 2009, terrorists detonated an electromagnetic pulse weapon in the atmosphere over the U.S. which destroyed the vast majority of computer and communication systems. As a result, the United States fell into chaos and violence. Over time this chaos was replaced with a combination of martial law, corruption, and crime. On the same day, after defending herself from Jack, she ran away from the Barrett’s home. She survived on her own for three years by resorting to petty theft and living in Griffith Park. In April 2012, she returned to the Barrett home to rescue Lucy but found it abandoned.
In May 2012, the Big Quake hit Los Angeles. In 2013, with so much damage and less to pilfer in Los Angeles, Max made her way to Hollywood. She eventually joined up with Moody and the Chinese Clan, a group of thieves taking refuge in the remains of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. In 2019, Max left Los Angeles to search for one of her Manticore siblings in Seattle, Washington. While stopping in Eureka, California, Max met “Original Cindy” McEachin and the two of them traveled to Seattle together. In Seattle, the duo meet Kendra Maibaum, a young woman who offers Max and Cindy a place to stay after Max defends her from her creepy boss.
2019-2020 (TV series season 1)
By the year 2019, Max is living in Seattle, Washington. She works as a bicycle messenger for Jam Pony Xpress, giving her freedom to travel around the city, and resides as a squatter in an abandoned building, first with Kendra (Jennifer Blanc) and later with Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller). Other friends from work include Herbal Thought (Alimi Ballard) and Sketchy (Richard Gunn). Max also lives a secret life as a cat burglar, in order to fund the expensive search for her missing brothers and sisters.
It is during one of these attempts that she meets Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), the cyber-journalist "Eyes Only". Cale allows her to escape from his apartment, however, since he is interested in learning more about her. Through the use of security footage he discovers who she is and invites Max to his apartment. It is there that he identifies her as one of the escaped X-5s. Max and Logan make a pact: he will help her find her missing siblings if she will help him solve mysteries. Logan also helps to protect Max from Lydecker, who is searching for her and the other escaped X-5s. Through their work together, Max and Logan eventually fall in love.
Their feelings for each other, however, become complicated when Max finds Zach, who is concerned with her loyalty to Logan as it may compromise her safety. Eventually, as more siblings are discovered, and after Manticore betrays the escaped X-5's and murders one of them, Tinga, a plan is developed to attack Manticore, destroying its genetic engineering facility, one which eventually involves Lydecker who defects after he is betrayed and targeted for execution by Manticore's director Dr. Elizabeth Renfro/Madame X (Nana Visitor). While the mission is successful, both Max and Zach are caught, with Max being critically injured (actually shot by a younger clone). Zach sacrifices himself to save Max.
With Max last seen having apparently fatal injuries, and now a secret prisoner of Manticore, she is assumed to be dead by Logan.
2020-2021 (TV series season 2)
At the start of season 2, Max is at Manticore, relocated to an hour south of Seattle. After receiving medical treatment for her injuries, Max is re-integrated with her fellow X5s and then required to take part in a breeding program, intended to replace Manticore's destroyed genetics laboratory, and is paired with a clone of Ben, whom she promptly names, Alec (Jensen Ackles), because he was a "smart alec". Max also secretly befriends an early creation of Manticore, part-human, part-canine, named Joshua (Kevin Durand). He was the first (viable) Manticore creation, and is the only one without a barcode.
Max subsequently escapes, with Joshua and Alec's help, only to find Alec's help was a Manticore ploy, and that a genetically specific retrovirus designed to kill Eyes Only has been encoded to her DNA. In revenge, she broadcasts the location of Manticore, and returns for the antigen and to free the transgenics, eventually leading to public knowledge of their existence.
Lydecker disappears, leaving mysterious clues to Manticore's origins. Max's problems are further compounded when her kind is suddenly being hunted, and exterminated by Ames White. He is both a government agent, and a member of a breeding cult which spans back centuries into humanity's past. He particularly targets Max, who is revealed to have been created for a special purpose by White's father, Sandeman, the designer of all the Manticore transgenics. At the same time, Max tries to help Joshua, the gentle transhuman whose physical appearance makes him a target on the outside, avoid the increasing risk of exposure as a transgenic, and not re-infect Logan with the deadly virus while hoping for a long-shot at a cure. Max and Alec, despite their differences and rocky start, often worked together to help save their fellow escapees. Eventually, all the transgenics (in Seattle), make a stand in a joint effort to fight against the vicious prejudice trying to destroy them, and for a place to call their own.
Characteristics and skills
Max and the other X-5 children were given extensive combat training while at Manticore, including martial arts, acrobatics, infiltration, marksmanship with many weapons, and computer technology. Max, while an exceptionally powerful and astute fighter, has a standing personal philosophy which she states several times throughout the series: "I don't do guns."
Max is unique among the all homo Sapiens in that she possesses no "Junk DNA"; every one of her nucleic acid sequences was coded by Sandeman, the original maker of the transgenics, for a purpose. Her unique DNA is somehow related to thwarting the Familiar breeding cult's plans to become the dominant species. Max also possesses DNA inspired by Colonel Donald Lydecker's dead wife, but is not a clone of her.
Being genetically augmented with Feline DNA, Max is a real "Catwoman". While outwardly indistinguishable from any normal human, (except for the bar code on her neck), Max possesses several physical and mental enhancements as a result of genetic engineering. This genetic makeup is often connected with images from classical mythology, (first indicated by the name of her original home, Manticore, a creature in Greek mythology). It is further demonstrated through a conversation in the pilot episode:
- MAX: "I know they made me. Even got the designer label on the back of my neck to prove it."
- LOGAN: "Technical term for you is Chimera."
- MAX: "Yeah, made-up creature, like in mythology. Head of a lion, body of a goat. Your basic hot-as-hell hodge-podge."
Of her genetic make-up, she notes in Season One, Episode 2, "Heat":
- "Kendra was right. I am in heat, or something like that...all because they spiced up that genetic cocktail called me with a dash of feline DNA. So I can jump fifteen feet of razor wire and take out a 250-pound linebacker with my thumb and index finger, which makes me an awesome killing machine and a hoot at parties. But it also means that three times a year I'm climbing the walls, looking for some action".
Max also displays her affinity for cats in the pilot episode of the series, when she meets Logan for the first time while attempting to steal a statue in his apartment. When Logan asks why she was interested in the statue, Max replies, "because it's the Egyptian goddess Bast. The goddess who comprehends all goddesses, eye of Ra, protector, avenger, destroyer...giver of life who lives forever".
As a result of her genetic makeup and training, Max has the following special abilities:
- Enhanced strength, speed, agility, reflexes, durability, stamina and coordination
- Accelerated healing
- Enhanced eyesight, hearing, and night vision
- Enhanced immune system
- Eidetic memory
- Very high I.Q.
- Parallel processing
- Expert martial artist and sharpshooter.
- Specialist in Close quarters combat, infiltration and tracking
- Computer proficiency
- Peak athletic condition
Max also has a design flaw which can leave her virtually helpless: the inability of her brain to create enough serotonin. This condition leads to uncontrollable seizures and complete powerlessness. Of her condition, Max states, "I’m supposed to be a revved-up girl ... truth is, I’m a lemon." Max's powers can be revived through external means: either through the food supplement, tryptophan, or by drinking a glass of milk. In season 2 this no longer became an issue as the government captured her and repaired the faulty genes (this was never expressly stated in the show but it was implied in season 1 that design flaws in the genetic codes of the transgens could be repaired and in the second season after being captured by manticore her serotonin levels were never an issue).
- Max: Girls kick ass; says so on a t-shirt. ("Pilot")
- Kendra: I feel almost human.
Max: Yeah. Me, too. ("Pilot")
- Max: Kendra, this is a motorcycle. Its sole reason for being is to go fast, very fast. Not for you to use as a clothesline. Now, make no mistake. I love you as a friend and a roommate, but I love my motorcycle more. Stay away from the bike, okay? ("Pilot")
- Max: I don't want a used ride. I want my motorcycle.
Original Cindy: It's just a machine.
Max: It's an extension of my soul, if there is such a thing. ("411 on the DL")
- Original Cindy: Trouble follows you around like the tail on a dog. We're gettin' the vibe there's something going on here that you don't want us to know about for some reason.
Max: I don't know what you guys are talking about.
Kendra: This mysterious condition of yours …
Max: All right. You guys really want to know what's up with me? [...] What if I told you I was a genetically revved-up female?
Kendra: Like we're not.
Max: But...I'm a different kind of female altogether.
Original Cindy: Like you so special. Okay, fine, don't tell us. ("Flushed")
- Original Cindy: What am I supposed to say? My homegirl just tells me she’s not even human.
Max: I'm mostly human. I thought about telling you a million times, but ... I was afraid to [...] I was scared that if I told you what was up, it would all change and that you would look at me like you are right now like I was some kind of freak you didn't even recognize. ("Rising")
- Normal: Well, well, well. Someone who's two hours late for work looks like they were a dirty little party girl last night. My God, girl, look at your eyes. Whaddaya been drinkin', gasoline?
Max: I had to have radical emergency amateur brain surgery to remove a nanochip from my cerebellum before I stroked from a neurochemical overload.
Normal: This is all one great big joke to you, isn't it? ("Rising")
- Logan: Isn’t it against the superhero code to use your powers to take advantage of we mere mortals?
Max: Yeah, and I’m not done taking advantage, either. ("Blah Blah, Woof, Woof")
- Logan: I always knew that underneath that bioengineered, military issue armor plating, there was a beating heart.
Max: Let's not go overboard here. I'm not signing up to join the Logan Cale Brigade for the Defense of Widows, Small Children and Lost Animals. ("Flushed")
- Max: See, you don't have to take orders anymore. Not from anyone.
Bugler: Even you?
Max: Especially not from me. ("Bag' Em")
- Phil: Max ... is that short for Maximum?
Phil: As in maximum force? Ooh! Maximum girl? Woman. I meant maximum woman!
Max: It's not short for anything. ("I And I Am Camera")
- Jace: Nothing matters except the objective.
Max: You stay out in the world long enough, you'll find out Manticore had it backwards. Everything matters except the objective. ("Female Trouble")
Max's circle and influences
While her primary training as a child (both negative and positive) came from Zack and Lydecker, as an adult, Max was influenced by a number of other individuals, including Logan, Original Cindy, and Joshua. She also befriended Phil, The Street Sweeper, a deluded moral crusader who lends his exoskeleton to Logan so the paralyzed man could walk once more. She went out of her way to rescue gene therapy test subject, Jude Thatcher from being captured by Lydecker.
Max considers the other X5 children to be her only real family. Ben (Jensen Ackles) or X5-493 (twin of Alec/X5-494), her brother, becomes deranged after the escape and eventually Max must kill him. Max and Zack eventually find Brin or X5-734 (Nicole Bilderback), who has a fatal design flaw and realizes she has no choice but to return to Manticore. Max also encounters Jace (Shireen Crutchfield) who did not escape and resented Max for having done so. When Jace discovers she is pregnant, however, she defects from Manticore, informing Max that she'll name her baby after her sister. Tinga/Penny or X5-656 (Lisa Ann Cabasa) is married to Charlie and has a highly gifted son, Case who is kidnapped by Lydecker and eventually trades herself in exchange for her son's release. She (secretly tearfully) has to send her nephew away, knowing she may never see him again. Two other X5s are Krit or X5-471 (Joshua Alba) and Syl or X5-701(Nicki Lynn Aycox). Max has a genetic twin Sam (X5-453) who was in a different unit. Sam never escaped Manticore's influence until Max brought it down, and bears resentment towards her twin sister.
- Season 1, Episode 3, "Heat"
- Season 1, Episode 15, "Female Trouble"
- Season 1, Episode 18, "Pollo Loco"
- Collins, Max Allan, Dark Angel: Before The Dawn, The Random House Publishing Group, 2002
- Season 1, Episode 15, "Haven"
- Freak Nation- Season 2, Episode 21