This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason As of this writing, the show has not aired in the U.S. Also, Dermot Mulroney's wig will spoil things like...your lunch.
Should You Avert A Crisis?
Or is Dermot Mulroney's horrendous wig an unfixable catastrophe?
WHAT IS THIS THING????!!!
IT'S A HUGE NATIONAL AND ECONOMIC AND FAMILIAL CRISIS OMG YOU GUYS!!!!1!1 OKAY, SO, THE STUDENTS AT A TONY PRIVATE SCHOOL IN WASHINGTON, D.C., THE BALLARD SCHOOL, ARE ON THEIR "MERRY" WAY TO A FIELD TRIP WHEN, 90 MILES OUTSIDE OF TOWN, THE BUS GETS JACKED, WHICH IS BAD ENOUGH, BUT 1) THE PRESIDENT'S SON IS ON BOARD, 2) ALMOST EVERYONE ELSE IS THE SPAWN OF A CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY (OR IN ONE CASE A LITERAL CAPTAIN OF AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER), AND 3) THE SECRET SERVICE IS COMPROMISED. AIIIIEEEEEEEE!
THE KIDNAPPERS DRUG ALL THE KIDS -- AND THEIR TEACHER, AND THE NEBBISHY CHAPERONE PLAYED BY DERMOT MULRONEY'S RIDONKULOUS WIG -- AND WHEN THEY COME TO, THEY'RE IN A FANCY HOUSE AND THE TRACKING DEVICES PARENTS IMPLANTED INTO SOME OF THE KIDS okay I can't anymore with the caps lock. Where was I? Right: the kidnappers have removed the tracking devices so the parents/FBI can't find their children. It's not clear what they want, but when Nebbish Mulroney lunges at one of them, he's hauled to a table and divested of one of his pinkies, then dragged into the HQ room...where it becomes clear he's the plot's mastermind.
Not that we know what the point of the plot is, exactly, yet.
When Is It On?
Sundays at 10 PM on NBC.
Why Was It Made Now?
The only reason I can think of, honestly, is that the NBC programming execs looked at CBS's Hostages and assumed they could do better than that just by showing up. And I can't really argue with that rationale.
What's Its Pedigree?
The production team includes veterans of Life (Damian Lewis's cop returns to the force after his wrongful conviction is overturned) and Salt, an action movie I quite liked; it stars Gillian Anderson, recently of Hannibal; Dermot Mulroney; John Travolta's wig; and my man Michael Beach as the director of the FBI and my sole motivation for watching yet another big-as-all-outdoors-name NBC drama (op. cit. Revolution, Chicago Fire...I'm pretty psyched for the 2015 fall slate, including Bad Things, Badder Things, Stuff, and People).
Hostages also had an impressive cast and an exciting premise, but by-numbers filler plotting and non-credible twists (and overacting) swamped the boat almost immediately -- for the same reasons that tend to plague other kidnapping stories, whether TV or film, to wit: 1) the victims don't act like recognizable people, and 2) the writers feel obligated to throw in undercurrents or ongoing interpersonal drama that nobody in that situation would care about, because: kidnapped. Like, could we get through one fictional kidnapping without a teen coming up pregnant? So, I didn't have high hopes, and the billboards' and print ads' dated, twilight-of-ER feel didn't inspire much confidence either.
Good news: it's decent. Mulroney as estranged dad-slash-CIA bad-ass Thomas Gibson is solid; I bought him as the first thing, and when he revealed himself as the second thing, it didn't feel as cheap as it could have. And as bad as his hair is -- and it's fuckin' baaaaaaad; it's like Travolta's Oscars front fell on Bruce MacVittie -- the SFX when they whack his finger off is a professional startle-scare, super-gross and unexpected.
That's the key to Crisis: it does a lot of predictable, pilot-y things, but it also does a lot of unexpected things. It sends the tubby kid out on the run with Agent Finley, who failed to die in the road as planned, and gives them a good rapport. It has the kidnappers plan a bunch of the little things, like providing decent food (the produce looks very fresh! yes, I am my own grandmother now!) and anticipating that the kids will want to stick together -- so they can, but only in groups of five or fewer. It makes Gillian Anderson an icily effective executive, and it makes her daughter Amber, a popular beauty who's boffing the teacher, surprisingly friendly to Gibson's traumatized daughter and surprisingly no-nonsense to said teacher, Mr. Nash, when she learns he's also boffing the chem teacher in the locker room. (After cleverly packing Gibson's lost pinky in ice, just in casies, she tells Mr. Nash he's busted...and then...gives him...the finger. Get it, girl.) Usually that girl is mean, or dumb, or it takes her seven episodes to change for the better; Amber's just a good kid.
Some of the other interpersonal dramz isn't handled as well. Anderson's character, Meg Fitch, is assigned an FBI liaison -- her estranged sister, Susie. I give the show credit for addressing that head-on, having the Director tell Susie he needs her to use Meg's power and contacts to help with the investigation, but it's still a bit much. I also give the actors credit for selling the reveal at the end that Amber, Meg's daughter, is actually Susie's biological child, whom she had when she was Amber's age; Rachael Taylor underplays her concern, which Susie herself is a bit surprised to feel, effectively. But that's too much too.
I don't love the fact that Gibson's motivation remains obscure by the end of the pilot; it's hinted at, but 1) that it's not made explicit suggests that the writers aren't a hundred percent on who's doing what for which reasons, and 2) I hope the hints were misleading, because it's kind of horseshitty. I don't have kids, but I don't think you tag along as a mole on a field trip with your kid, who PS isn't speaking to you, because you want to avenge yourself on your former colleagues/prove yourself to her. That whole relationship is off, in fact; sometimes TV doesn't get father-daughter stuff.
It's hard to know what NBC is thinking with that timeslot, but it's far better than I'd anticipated, so I'll see what the next couple of episodes are like.
What did you think?