So Which Secret Conspiracy Group are You Again?: A review of Hunted

 

Wanted: Cinemax (Fridays); 8 episodes

A spy on her last mission is shot and left for dead; taking time to heal and recuperate she returns to find out who was behind the attack.

Staring:

Melissa George
Adam Rayner
Stephen Dillane
Stephen Campbell Moore
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Morven Christie
Lex Shrapnel
Indira Varma
Patrick Malahide

(Note this review will contain spoilers for the WHOLE first series, so if you don’t want to be spoiled stop reading NOW)

Cinemax has always been a movie channel known for one thing (sex, nudity, soft core porn, you know what I mean); but lately the Channel has strived to move beyond the Skinemax moniker. Like the Starz channel, Cinemax is injecting hour long dramas into its lineup. The transition began with an adult lineup and has now moved on to drama.

Cinemax’s drama series are targeted at appealing to the same crowds that have kept shows like Spartacus and the Spike channel going; the 18-25 year old male. Along with Hunted there is Strike Back (the continuation of the ITV miniseries staring the Hobbit’s Richard Armitage and the Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln) and Jason Statham’s Transporter.

Where both Strike Back and the Transporter tend to be shows best enjoyed with your brain on pause; Hunted strives to be a complex thriller with twists, turns, and conspiracies. And that’s part of its problem.

Ever since Lost,  it seems that every new drama has stuffed some type of mythology or conspiracy at its core. Some are successful at juggling this trope; a lot aren’t. Sometimes the larger mystery is more interesting than the hour’s mystery; other times the mystery gets in the way of the action. In a lot of cases the show can never find the balance between the need of the narrative versus the need of the episode. Hunted’s issue is the later.

 

Hunted has an interesting premise and a likeable character in Sam Hunter (Melissa George). It is rare and somewhat topical the protagonist works for a private intelligence and security firm and not the government.  As a spy show Hunted hits all the atmosphere points of the modern thriller; grey hues, muted, washed out colors, surveillance rooms, and the lot. The one issue I have with this series was the overarching conspiracy. Simply it’s not that well done and it get’s in the way of the stronger B and C plots of the series.

Before I go too far down this whole let me provide you the basics.

Sam Hunter works for Byzantium, a private intelligence contractor, and is part of a team composed of Deacon Crane (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Aiden Marsh (Adam Rayner), Zoe Morgan (Morven Christie), and Ian Fowkes (Lex Shrapnel). In the first episode we learned that after her last operation she was shot in Tangiers and went missing for a year. Of course she returns with the intent of discovering who exactly tried to kill her all the while working on latest assignment. And as is the case the assignment will have connections to what happen in Tangiers and the larger conspiracy that has hunted Sam since childhood.

In Series One Sam and her team’s assignment is to get in close with multi-millionaire  Jack Turner (Patrick Malahide) and wreck his bid to take over a damn in Pakistan for Byzantium’s latest client. This means same has to get up close and personal with Turner’s widower son Stephen (Stephen Campbell Moore) and his son, Eddie (Oscar Kennedy). 

In watching Hunted I found the thing that ended up disappointing me most was the continuous underlying conspiracy at the heart of the series. the Hourglass Conspiracy is something out of a Dan Brown novel without the historical connections and plausibility. Five of the biggest corporations in the world have banded together to control the world and displace governments; and they wanted Sam Hunter dead because she threatens their world conquest. That would be nice if it weren’t for the vagueness by which its all presented. The show dispenses information about Hourglass in ways only someone who believes in the New World Order and black helicopters can understand. The conspiracy and its conspirators have no real depth to them or their purpose other than to be the shadows that haunt Sam Hunter’s repressed childhood memories (Because of course they killed her mother).

Honestly the Hourglass conspiracy is weak frame to hold together a show built on time tested spy plots. It also weakens the first series by forcing the show to juggle three separate plots when it can only handle two well. And its a shame because this first series should’ve been more focused about answering the main mystery, who shot Hunter, in a better fashion; and building the world Sam inhabits.

I have to say I enjoyed Jack Turner and the whole storyline. I know some UK reviewers didn’t but it reminded me of the show Wise Guy. Patrick Malahide gave a slightly over the top and yes overly Cockney portrayal but I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed  Stephen Campbell Moore as the slightly put upon son Stephen. He served his purpose well as the mark our protagonist develops felling for well. This part of the show could’ve been stronger if it had been given a bit more screen time. Also a major motivator in Turner’s actions is withheld until the last two episodes and it should’ve really been brought in sooner to make this aspect of the story more well rounded.  

Another aspect of the show I wish had gotten more time instead of the conspiracy is Byzantium itself. During the course of this series we get small glimpses into Sam’s team to mixed results. We get scenes of the head of Byzantium Rupert Keel (Stephen Dillane) meeting with a prostitute, learning he has an inoperable cancer, and multiple scenes of him sneering and being cryptic with staff. You have scenes of Sam’s former lover and teammate Aiden Marsh meeting with with his handler (he’s a mole you see) Natalie Thorpe (Indira Varma). You find out that Zoe is in a strained marriage and Deacon’s daughter is taunted at school because kids thinks she is lying about her father. The only character outside of George’s that you get a good sense of is Shrapnel’s Fowkes; but that’s in part because he acts as a viewer surrogate in parts. I think part of my issue here is that we don’t really get a sense of the group dynamic.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Melissa George. Her portrayal of Sam Hunter is solid. She doesn’t push the character to be likeable or loveable; she broken and she gets that across well. You see the shift the character makes for the job. The American accent she uses with the Turners and the way see interacts with Stephen and Eddie makes me wish they had developed it more. I do wish the writers had been more linear with telling her story especially since they wanted to tie this tell to a conspiracy.

All in all Hunted is a solid series it just needed to loose the Conspiracy or found a way to make it fit better with the story at hand. From what I understand Hunted will get a series two without the BBC and hopefully this will improve.

 

images: Buzz Focus, Wikipedia, Movie World News,

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1 comment
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