Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hunted: Mort (1.1)

Hunted is an unusual new series, its pilot seeming to veer swiftly in one direction, before pulling back and becoming something a little less intriguing and a lot more conventional. As part of Cinemax's late-night action strand, it naturally carries a trashy allure, presumably more in keeping with the explosions 'n' boobs 'n' yelling hour that is Strike Back. But Hunted itself is actually a little less typical in its identity, a spy drama that is played mostly straight, with surreal visual cues and an emphasis on an espionage existence that is presumably a little more authentic than, say, 24. It's not a great show, by any means, but it sure is sort of interesting.

Seemingly a revenge tale, Hunted casts Melissa George as a secret operative for a private intelligence firm, who is shot and left for dead when a mission goes awry, and later makes a grand comeback trying to expose who was responsible for the hit.

George is frequently spectacular in smaller doses, but somebody who has the unfortunate tendency to get cast in larger roles that are seemingly designed to be disliked. She also doesn't seem terribly popular among audiences, even her In Treatment role (which I personally thought was her best work) regularly described as the very worst part of that entire series. She anchors Hunted adequately, if a little too reliant on pouty intensity, but the character she's playing doesn't seem all that dynamic at this point. Sam Hunter: Secret Operative is designed as a living parallel to the sparse, cold tone that Hunted seems to be reaching for as a series. She doesn't have a ton of dialogue when she isn't undercover, and overly calculates every one of her movements to an insane degree. She's not all that fun, mostly hovers around looking concerned, and has one of those trademark 'dark pasts' that we glimpse via blurry childhood flashbacks.

But it's not totally a problem. Where the pilot really works is in those initial scenes post-execution, in which Sam pushes her body to the limits, and tries to find secret messages hidden in her newspapers. She's this very insular, cool protagonist -- not destroyed by a lack of personality, but wearing her coldness as a form of protection. However, once Sam gets back in the spy game, the show itself becomes less intriguing. There's a silly plot device to get Sam into a shady criminal dynasty, a melodramatic hitman on her tail who stabs hypodermic needles into people's eyeballs, and a goofy supporting cast who are more annoying than anything.

It's a show of two halves, one far different and more interesting than the other. But it's easy to trust that the series has a vision of some kind, and that it'll probably be fulfilled within the next couple of episodes. You wouldn't know it unless you were told, but Hunted is the brain child of Frank Spotnitz, long-term X-Files/Millennium writer, and this is clearly his attempt at trying something outside his wheelhouse. Most of the narrative is as generic as they come, from the secret mole to the colleagues-turned-lovers-turned-rivals dynamic between Sam and her ex, but there's an elegantly stripped-back approach to a lot of it, with the moody filters on the lense and the forceful professionalism of Sam herself.

There are shows that arrive once in a blue moon that take a while to grasp and seem initially detached and screwy, and Hunted fits that description entirely. But all of that disorientation isn't exactly alienating. This isn't particularly good, but it's hard to not find yourself enjoying this pilot, which eventually becomes something absorbing enough to tune into again, at least to see what kind of show this will be next week. B-

Frank Spotnitz Director SJ Clarkson


  1. The first few episodes have aired in the UK but this is the only one I have seen so far. Melissa George leads the show well, and it was fun seeing her switching up accents and doing fightscenes. I'm glad I can like her again because she left a pretty horrific impression on me from her stint on Grey's Anatomy which was a mess from top to bottom. Should be interesting to see where the show goes from here even though it is playing with fairly typical spy show storylines.

    I thought it looked pretty great, too, and the long stretches without dialogue surprised me too.

    The supporting cast were fairly dissapointing, but only because a lot of them are talented (Mr. Eko whose name I won't even attempt to spell, and the boss guy played by Stephen Dillane is great on Game of Thrones).

    No idea what is going on in the case Sam is working though. She, uh, is undercover as an American teacher because...someone wants to buy something and blah blah spy talk. The father and son from the case she is working have some serious issues, though, the son's remark about his older brother getting killed seemed remarkably cold hearted.

    I liked it, and am going to catch up with the other two episodes soon, but i pretty much agree with you. It's nice seeing it try to put a new spin on the spy show, though. Entertaining, but I'm not sure if I would have committed to watching a full season of it, but it's only eight episodes long anyway.

  2. I saw and reviewed the first two episodes but I'm just not eager to continue. I know I should give the show chance as it's only 8 episodes but it's SO hard with so many great shows that I can barely keep up with. There's literally zero emotional attachment to this show. And I was so excited to see Melissa George kick ass for once and be a lead (unlike her supporting role on Alias) but she was TOO pouty for my tastes. Ugh.. we'll see when I watch episode 3 but don't get your hopes up for the second hour Max.

  3. tvfan The length of the season is really the only thing that made me review it, heh. There's something interesting about it as a show, I agree, even if it's not particularly original or even that great right now. But there's something there.

    Nadim I thought she was fine away from the poutiness, but I think that's a thing she does naturally, right back to her Alias days. Just seeing her anchor a show makes it more pronounced.