Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hunted: LB (1.2)

Cable television is a wonderful medium. Greater importance is placed on artistic vision, numbers aren't so important, series orders are shorter, production is less of a marathon. And the rules and regulations of network TV don't usually interfere with a writer's perspective. But cable television is sometimes a negative platform for writers who have only been previously involved with network TV. Frank Spotnitz is such a man, somebody who worked on shows which pushed as far as they could with the boundaries of horror violence in the 1990's on FOX, and who is presumably relishing less mandates and network notes. Cinemax allows Spotnitz to go all-out, bringing the ugly realities of criminality and spy work to the forefront, never stopping to sanitize any of it. But the problem, at least for me, is that I sometimes prefer the sanitized version.

LB is full of examples of Spotnitz indulging in cable TV excess. There's gratuitous nudity, characters walking around naked just because it's suddenly allowed. Men are strapped to chairs and slugged repeatedly in the face with chains, because it's Cinemax. Criminals mindlessly kick people in the head over and over again, because it's Cinemax. And you know that poor woman who is sooo gonna get killed by that shady hitman dude? Let's make her murder extra brutal, a violent execution with her head exploding all over her kitchen drapes. Ooh, and have her cute little kid watch it all unfold, too. Hey, it's cable!

But it's something that just bothered me a lot here. Violence is sometimes absolutely necessary when you're trying to depict a harsh reality or an appropriately bleak existence, but throwing so much brutality into what is generally a sort of trashy, plothole-filled spy show just comes off as tacky. I don't know, it's probably me... but it made an already dour show even less fun.

Away from all of that, LB felt very much like a sequel to last week's premiere, Sam still undercover inside the home of a criminal family, now tasked to take out one of her own team to protect state secrets, her former colleague kidnapped by the family and tortured for information in the basement. There are additional details here and there, too, from a mysterious briefcase to a connection between Sam's boss at Byzantium and the criminal ex from the Tangier scenes in Mort.

It's all mindlessly fine, despite Hunted as a series still feeling frustratingly vague. A scene here seems to actually address that, members of Sam's team verbalizing how little they know about the people they work for and the dam project the criminals are bidding on, but Mr. Eko angrily responds by effectively telling everybody to keep their mouths shut and not to ask questions. Which is... yeah. Alrighty. I guess it's believable if you're straining for authenticity as a writer, but you have to wonder if it's such a great idea to keep everybody at home in the dark before they can learn even basic narrative information.

Despite my problems with the show, there's still a curious allure to Hunted which will probably keep me watching for the duration of the season. The premise is all over the place and lacking in a ton of depth, but Spotnitz at least deserves credit for crafting something that as a result isn't ridiculously alienating. Because surely that's what should be happening with a show like this, right? C+

Frank Spotnitz Director SJ Clarkson

1 comment:

  1. So this is where I reached Max. I don't know, I just don't have the drive to continue past episode two. Like you said there's something that keeping me intrigued but I'm just not excited. I think I'll skim through your review of episode 3 and see if I should continue based on your rating. It's just all so dreary and lacking in fun (maybe Alias spoiled us with its fantastic plotting AND it's contagious energy)
    p.s. I hope miss george isn't reading this and feeling insulted that I complimented the show she's probably aching not to be compared to!