Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hostages Episode 105 Review: This Series Has Kidnapped Every Known Thriller Cliche

Rating: ** 

With almost all my TV series reviews, I freely discuss plot points, so it is best to watch the episode before reading.

I really don't have a good reason for sticking with this series up to 5 episodes now.  I have even less of a coherent reason to tune in again next week.  But I will.  My sledgehammer to the head justification for continuing on with this goofy series is as a TV critic I don't think I am reviewing enough dramas.  More specifically, I think I am reviewing far too many sitcoms compared to dramas.  Now in 2013 sitcoms are no longer the lowest common denominator of entertainment, and many completely outshine the apparently more serious dramas.  Yet here I am feeling inadequate with the number of dramas I write reviews for, and to punish that feeling I'm sticking with this series.

My lack of drama problem comes from a few places.  The first it is partly invented in my own mind, and feels like I review very few because the majority of them are from the same night with reviews on Revenge, Once Upon a Time, and The Walking Dead all being written after the Sunday night airing.  The next problem come from the fact that I am allergic to procedurals and would rather dip my head into an urn of boiling hot coffee than review the latest episode of the ace crime solving crew foiling the dastardly baddie while the geek throws out a few silly one-liners.  Besides, I already have Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D for that.  The next problem stems from the fact that the really high quality drama series come from premium cable channels that I don't subscribe, and as a person trying to convince others to pay for my creative works, I never feel proper sampling torrent site to access those shows.  Then I have my need to review a show from the very beginning, and so I can't jump in several seasons late, which eliminates all the prestigious shows.  Though once I have time, I do plan to make use of my Netflix account by watching the entire series of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.  I also will be able to purge all my lack of reviewing quality drama guilt when The Americans returns in January, because I have seen the first season and that show is a brilliant combination of complex character, thrilling action, and thought-provoking drama.  It rocks.

This doesn't rock.  Yet here I am sticking with this series, because CBS refuses to cancel it.  But the big question is besides my goofy lack-of-dram guilt, why am I still reviewing and watching this show when it gets more ridiculous by the week?  Well, there is the car-wreck mentality of watching a show go up in flames, but that isn't the reason I'm drawn to this show.  The interesting thing about TV series compared to film is that one individual episode can't dictate or even necessarily affect the overall quality of the series.  If I give a picture 2 stars then clearly I'm telling you to find better things to do with your day.  I can declare an episode like this worthy of only 2 stars, but not declare the entire series worthless.  A series sometimes will have an episode just used to set-up future episodes, which could make for a duller experience but make you anticipate what follows.  I can rate an episode individually, but eventually you have to take each episode in account to how it fits with the entire narrative of the season or series.  The stories connect from each week, and so unlike a film where it is one sitting and the value can be decided right there, you have to let things play out a bit longer with a TV series.

Eventually, the potential must be seen and the episodes need to be of high quality to stick around.  Hostages still has things that have kept me hooked, and willing to give them a chance to turn around.  This is a ridiculous soap opera smashed with thriller series, but that doesn't make it bad.  It just needs to embrace those elements and dial it up a bit more, and stop trying to play itself so seriously.

The big saving factor of this show at this point is Dylan McDermott.  He plays a great cold and mysterious criminal, but the problem is the show is desperately trying to make him relatable and likely plans to have him come out the hero.  His best moments are when he is pointing his gun at poor Toni Collette and forcing her to dig up the grave of her best friend.  I also need to admit the ambiguity of McDermott's character is one of the hooks of the show, and I am wanting to figure out how his sick wife ties in with being an FBI agent involved with an assassination plot against the President.  He is the most entertaining when he is heartless and ruthless rather than the hero type.

The downside is his character, Duncan Carlisle, doesn't seem to be all that bright for someone who is supposed to be an ace FBI agent and hired to be part of a very dangerous mission.  He just wants to scare Dr. Sanders, but does it by almost killing her husband and then frantically trying to keep him alive so she can return to operate on him.  Are they drowning in that much free time that they wanted to fill it up with an emergency home surgery?  There must have been more effective scare tactics.

The other brain fart moment of the episode perpetuated by Carlisle was framing one of his fellow kidnapping assassins.  The reason was that the guy killed the nurse who was friends with Sanders, and the episode did a few "Carlisle is broken up inside" scenes to make it clear this killing tore him apart.  He is about to murder the President and almost killed Sander's husband.  Why was the nurse death enough for him to willingly deplete his team number?  If it doesn't hurt his team then why did he make it such a large size?  Why didn't he just commit the kidnapping with one other buddy?  It isn't like he was planning to wait things out for two weeks like he has to now.  This also makes me ponder why he didn't have a more rigorous recruiting process for something as important as murdering the most powerful person in the world.  The show has made it clear that some of the members don't even seem to know him, and you'd think he would stock the team full of people he could trust.

I shouldn't criticize his lack of a screening process, because it allowed the inclusion of a member that gave us one of the many glorious thriller/action cliches littered throughout this episode.  One of Carlisle's partners, Sandrine Renault, gets jumped by a brute and a private investigator, so she can be delivered to a nasty crime boss type.  It seems like Renault failed to deliver some merchandise and now owes him a rather large debt, because any form of entertainment that has guns apparently must have the crime boss that wants his money storyline.  I do admit this is a version of Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt with much better looking characters this time.  If you're going to trot out cliches, you mind as well do it while being pretty.

Speaking of pretty and cliche, young love gets crushed yet again in TV land as the daughter is forced by the nasty kidnapper to confront her boyfriend and tell him that she doesn't love him anymore.  Of course, she is lying, and is doing it to save his life.  At this point, I think the writers are just trying to cram in everything they've ever seen on TV or film.  Though I sort of hope this was a way to write out the boyfriend who just assumes grown men are his girlfriend's father and pounds away at their door for no other reason than he is tone deaf.  I sort of wish Carlisle put a bullet into him in the one scene that I believe was supposed to be dramatic and touching, but I just kept thinking maybe I don't want a daughter if I have to meet guys like this.

This is a world where people just do stupid things.  Like a son being very aware the baddies have high-tech gizmos and they're living at his house, but he calls home anyway when trying to run away.  His reward is he gets to mop the floors when he gets home.  This is the guy who also just walks around with thousands of dollars in his gym bag, so I'm not sure what I was expecting.

I realize I'm just savaging this episode, and you may wonder why I even gave it 2 stars.  I enjoy watching McDermott and Collette, and this is a fun show when it embraces the corny and campy side.  I am really intrigued to find out all the motives of the kidnappers.  I want to know if the President has a dark side.  I want to see where things are going with the evil White House Chief of Staff.  I still think a good show is hiding in there, and it is just a matter of it focusing on the interesting ingredients in this show and staying away from trying to hit all the standard formulas in action thrillers.  This was a pure set-up episode, and I'm hoping the good stuff gets served up for Sweeps Month.  Now, if I'm still tossing out two stars by then, it is time to call it quits on this series.

I do want to mention one more irritating thing about this show.  There was a long scene where Carlisle had the gun to Sanders and it was building up like he was going to shoot her.  It was attempting to be a tense scene and cause us to worry about the survival of Sanders.  The problem is that not only is Sanders the star of the series and there is no way she'd be written out, but it makes no sense even within the story for Carlisle to kill the person he has gone great lengths recently to keep in charge of the surgery of the President.  How were we supposed to feel fear and worry, when we know it can't happen.  Yet we have this long dragged out scene where the ending was predictable.  That is sort of the major flaw of this series.  It does a bunch of things from better series and pictures, but doesn't seem to really understand why it was done the first time.

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