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-
Writer Frank Spotnitz Director SJ Clarkson