Of the two new dramas last night, this stood out head and shoulders above the other. "Hostages" is gritty and oh-so-serious, but the execution was lacking to say the least. This was a lot more impish, but every beat was hit perfectly.
I didn't realize until sitting down to watch that Joe Carnahan had directed the pilot. People have mixed feelings on his work, but his tone was exactly right for this one: perfectly paced, well-executed action, fun character play.
I'm not completely sold on the actress (Megan Boone) playing Agent Keen. I'm not sure she can completely sell the dramatic heft of the series. I know how shallow this is going to sound but she is almost too pretty for the tone of the series. Someone a little plainer looking would have been an easier sell for me. Maybe it is something else?
She was the pleasant surprise for me. I expected James Spader to be amazing, but I didn't figure anybody they cast as the young female agent would be able to go toe-to-toe with him. I'm so used to the frigid, buttoned-down FBI agents that live only the solemn completion of their duties, it was nice to meet her first as an actual human being, complete with laughter and dog pee. You see her relationship for about thirty seconds at the beginning, and you completely buy it.
And then later when everybody else is the solemn FBI stiffs, she's playing a different game. She's green, she's trained as a psychologist rather than an investigator, and she doesn't even try to go toe-to-toe with Spader's character until the bad guys go after her man and she realizes that he had something to do with it. And then she doesn't enter into a dick-measuring contest with him, she stabs his carotid and tells him he's going to answer her or he's going to bleed out where he sits.
She's direct, he's the master of misdirection. She's not afraid to express emotion, he's the model of dry composure.
The mystery is what drove him to pick her for his little game. The obvious answer is that she's the daughter he abandoned to start his life of crime, but if that were the case, it would take the FBI about five minutes to figure it out, and she'd surely at least recognize him from pictures. So the truth has to be more complicated than that.
Either way, I'm in for the long haul unless the quality level really tanks from here.