Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hunted: Hourglass (1.3)

There's a moment during Hourglass in which Sam returns to her apartment and rests her head against her big Carrie Mathison board of suspects, just standing for a while, leaned in to it. It's a shot that goes on for around five seconds or so, something so slow and jarring that it actually made me think my feed had been briefly corrupted. After I realized that it was just an incredibly still moment, it suddenly became clear that it represents exactly what this show is trying to do. At the center of all this brutal criminality, here's a woman who just needs a minute to rest, having carried what feels like the weight of the world on her shoulders for the last year, having lost a baby and a lover and currently unable to trust anybody around her. It's a really affecting scene, something that makes Hunted as a series just that little bit better.

Hourglass continues to keep things at arm's length for most of its running time, the dam project still vague as a plot device and the litany of supporting characters remaining mostly shapeless and ill-defined. But there's also a real sense of propulsion that appears this week, things sort of clicking together as a narrative, even if it's still mostly unclear what is actually happening. It brought to mind how British this show is, and that my inability to actually recognize any of the cast outside of Melissa George, Mr. Eko and Indira Varma has helped develop this unintentional mystery, wherein you never know how long people are going to stick around.

It's that element of ambiguity that is keeping the various plates spinning. I had no idea going in to this show that Sam's undercover gig as an American nanny would presumably cover the entire season, nor that certain characters would be so important. When you're watching a Law & Order show or whatever, the killer is always signposted because of the name actor playing them -- here, everybody's so unknown that it's actually surprising when the story picks up their characters again, or alternatively disposes of them.

The lengthy serialization of the season makes it difficult to entirely discuss the arcs week by week, but here we saw the Turner family bidding against a host of criminal parties for the dam, more eyeball twitching over the potential Byzantium mole, a shady corporation called Hourglass revealed as the folks behind Sam's attempted murder, and some welcome shading for Sam's drab colleagues. Sam's Tangier ex is also re-introduced and dispatched soon after, his dinner with Byzantium's CEO turning out to be a means to discover whether or not Sam herself can be trusted.

So it's once again hard to latch onto anything, the story still pretty vague. But, as is becoming this show's trademark, the burgeoning character shading and Sam's aforementioned sense of isolation and inner turmoil are both helping Hunted become a little more palatable. Hourglass is also the first episode to feature a variety of punchy action scenes, something that at least breaks up some of the heavy-handed misery everywhere else. This show remains imperfect, but it sure is becoming easier to like. B

Simon Allen Director James Strong

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