Monday, December 10, 2012

Hunted: Snow Maiden (1.8)

There's a funny moment here in which Zoe rhetorically asks, "How shit is this?" And everybody at home is like, collectively, "yeah, we feel you, girl." Hunted's problem was probably its self-administered buzz. Melissa George had been Tweeting all year about the show, how Sam Hunter was the most dynamic female character she'd ever read, how she'd be flying all over the world shooting her prestige BBC/Cinemax cable drama and that it'd blow your mind once you actually settle down and tune in. And there were definitely moments that sparkled, rough edges where you could almost see what the show could be, or what it was trying to do, and it was hard to not be a little taken by it. Despite the prolonged gloominess of the color palette and the flat, dour characters, there was an unusual charm to it at the best of times. Around episode three and four, you really got the sense that this was all headed somewhere, even if it was still hard to actively 'like' as a show.

But then it all fell apart. I don't know if it was just me, but I got tired of Hunted. It became embarrassingly convoluted, everybody sucked, and the sheer volume of ambiguity and half-baked surprises got increasingly suffocating. Snow Maiden lands with the best and worst about this show, opening with a fun animated teaser full of anvilicious metaphors but undeniable style, before trailing off into nothingness. Sam got her escape, reunited with her totally-not-dead baby (twist!) and maneuvered that trademark pout into something resembling a smile. But everything else was pretty much a wash.

The Khyber dam thing, which I guess was the narrative spine for this whole season, turns out to be a ridiculously elaborate revenge scheme, Polyhedrus having killed Jack Turner's son all those years ago. Yeah, it makes zero sense, but this is Hunted. The annoying hitman kid is also his son, for some reason. And the girl in the window across the street came back, telling Stephen that his dad murdered his wife, because yeah.

Aiden's secret agenda/mole hooey got left unresolved, not that it was ever interesting in the first place, and we're still in the dark about Sam's mom, and that whole thing with Polyhedrus. I had to rewatch it a couple of times, but I guess Sam saw a guy without a finger in the newspaper and connected the dots enough to pin him as her mother's killer? Seriously, that sentence should tell you everything about this show and how fast and loose it got with the narrative jumps.

I guess there was some pulpy fun to Sam being trapped in the house and menaced by Turner, but Snow Maiden generally blew chunks. Hunted worked best whenever the writers removed themselves from the messy story arcs and gave Sam some breathing room as a character. There were a couple of brief attempts at making the show resemble a psychological drama, all about a woman going to extreme lengths to discover truths about her lineage and protect her safety. Given the last twist in Snow Maiden, it also adds another layer of intrigue that this was all a means to keep her young daughter safe, Sam desperate to ensure history doesn't repeat itself. And that's great. It's a smart, textured concept. Only it got buried under six feet of garbage within thirty minutes of the pilot, only coming up for air when Frank Spotnitz allowed.

Melissa George was fine, even if she's done far stronger work in other things, and I grew to like Morven Christie as Zoe. But the show entirely wasted Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje and Stephen Dillane, both of their brief subplots (the former's moral complexity, the latter's death sentence) so underwritten they were practically invisible. Maybe we'd learn more about them in the methodically planned but seemingly never-gonna-happen second season, Spotnitz stuck in the 1990's when it comes to network expectations and arrogantly expecting a renewal is in the bag. In the end, Hunted was a show that could have said something interesting, but mostly sacrificed itself to overly-calculated rambling and levels of ridiculous clumsily disguised as narrative complexity. Let's never speak of it again. D

Frank Spotnitz Director Daniel Percival


  1. And I'm so glad I never watched past episode two. Good riddance. Although apparently it's been picked up as a whole new show but still involving Melissa George as Sam Hunter (as if that's such an iconic character). Maybe I'll give the first eppy of that reboote a chance.

  2. They're supposedly negotiating a reboot of sorts, but I can't see it actually happening. It sounds like something thrown together to save the show at the last minute, and that sort of thing never works out.