|In Short:||Super-hot couple rejoins the CIA to reignite the fire in their marriage.|
|STEVEN:||Nice meeting you again.|
I am almost a big fan of JJ Abrams. He's done some amazing things on both television and movies. But something about him really makes me lose my patience after a while. I started watching Alias and I was a huge fan from day one. I watched religiously, bought the DVD sets, followed all the little clues to the Rambaldi mystery... and then somewhere around Season 3, I started to falter. I lost interest in the arc, I started to miss episodes, and before long I was just ignoring the series completely. I still haven't seen the finale.
The same thing happened with Lost. I fell in love with the pilot along with the rest of the country, and I eagerly awaited the revelation of what was in that darn hatch. But once again, around Season 3, things went off the rails. The mystery no longer intrigued, and it seemed like the clues were just being piled on top of other clues until I had no faith in the show to resolve everything in a way that would make me happy. So once again, I jumped JJ's ship.
That was, in my mind, the last straw. I would watch his movies -- his Star Trek was, I think, a brilliant attempt to revive a failing franchise -- but I would never again fall prey to one of his series. I withheld the temptation of Fringe. I don't need alternate reality conspiracies that go nowhere no matter how well it's been done so far.
But then I heard that JJ Abrams was creating a new spy show. And, wonder of wonders, he was avoiding the pitfall of an over-arcing mystery this time. So I threw caution to the wind and watched a five-minute preview of the show. I was immediately hooked. It instantly became one of the few new shows I was eagerly looking forward to in the new season. So when it finally premiered, I set up in front of the television machine and got ready to let JJ break my heart again.
Undercovers shares a lot of traits with Alias. Two hot superspies go on covert missions around the globe. Each exotic location is introduced with the name flashed on the screen, although this series uses postcards rather than just showing the name. It has the same humor, the same action, and the same typically-JJ spy gadgets (like a very important flashdrive hidden in a little red toy robot... not unlike the Bad Robot of JJ's production company logo). The only difference seems to be the lack of a conspiracy, but one scene with Shaw implied that may come into play soon.
The pilot introduces us to Steven and Samantha Bloom, a happily married couple who are barely managing to keep their heads above water with their catering business. Five years ago, the Blooms were highly effective CIA agents. They never worked together to avoid complications, and eventually decided to leave the agency to have a real life together. Problems with clients, problems with their employees-slash-family members, problems with finding time for intimacy, it's all part of the normal life that they thought they wanted.
All that changes with the arrival of CIA agent Carlton Shaw. Shaw reveals that an agent both Blooms have worked with in the past - Leo Nash - has gone missing. He offers the Blooms reinstatement so they can track him down and bring him back in. Neither one is willing to admit to the other they're bored of the life they've built, but they come to Shaw separately to accept his offer. Before long, they're off on high adventures across the globe. They find Leo Nash, using some well-placed fisticuffs and sexpionage, and Shaw invites them to stay with the CIA to take care of certain "sensitive" missions the agency can't officially be part of.
My major problem with the pilot was that 90% of the best scenes and the majority of the plot got spoiled by the five-minute preview I saw over the summer. That's not to say it was a disappointment, just that the pilot felt a little warmed-over by the time I saw it all strung together in context. I look forward to seeing a fully new episode to get the full effect.
The episode really worked well. It introduced the major players and gave us a glimpse at how they work. Steven and Samantha never worked together when they were in the CIA, so it's fun watching them explore this new aspect of their spouse's life. I did find the banter and romantic interlude moments between the Blooms to be slightly forced, but that could just be the pilot blues. Something else I'll have to wait and explore in the next new episode.
It's kind of hard to judge a series from a pilot, which is strange considering that's the pilot's job. It's the same reason I don't really like season premieres. There's always an added cache to the episode that requires filling in plot points, tying up loose ends, and establishing characters that puts actual storytelling in the backseat. Once everything is in place, you can finally take a look at the big picture and see what it looks like. But I think Undercovers provided a very good glimpse of what they're trying to be.
All in all, it was an exciting hour of television. Trademark JJ Abrams, with all the geek-cool, women-kick-ass, sauve men with guns that we've come to expect from him. I'm looking forward to the next episode with great anticipation.
-- Geonn Cannon