Agent X: Long Walk Home (Review)

After watching the second half of the Agent X two-parter, Long Walk Home where it looked like John Case might just be exterminated with extreme prejudice by his captor, Ray (Andrew Howard) some things about the show were clearly missing…or about to be.

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After watching the second half of the Agent X two-parter, Long Walk Home where it looked like John Case might just be exterminated with extreme prejudice by his captor, Ray (Andrew Howard) some things about the show were clearly missing…or about to be. Sharon Stone, for example was barely in the episode and the president, John Shea playing the leader of the country Thomas Eckhart, lay bleeding out on the carpet. 

Agent X is, thus far, the show that everyone seems to hate for one reason or another.  Certainly the viewing figures are abysmal, a paltry 1.07 million in the show’s targeted demographic which is a good .09 less than the already cancelled Franklin and Bash. 

The spy show with a twist, the agent belongs exclusively to the VP, is pretty entertaining…in parts. Jeff Hephner has always given his all and is a great action actor who looks at home either in the training dojo or manufacturing MacGyver type bombs in a downed helicopter. The problem clearly does not lay with the lead but with the show’s creator W. Blake Herron who appears to be flailing about with the direction/storyline arc of the series. 

Granted the entire show revolves around a plot to kill the president as well as Vice President Maccabee (Sharon Stone) both learning about her pet secret agent man and then deploying hm on special errands.  Not too surprisingly, it turns out that the men in the White House are not sparkling clean upright representatives of the country.

It seems that Eckhart (Shea) and Millar (Gerald McRaney) are covered in some pretty heavy dirty double dealings which come to light in the most recent episode. To be fair, apart from the CG looking explosions, this second half worked very well in terms of action and some of that “for mature audiences only” gore and violence. 

Nothing was over the top, but Millar finding the dead “hacker” was pretty sobering stuff.

It has to be said that in terms of FX, while the explosions and fires all “look” computer generated and therefore slightly rubbish, the blood spilt, which is minimal, does not look to be CG at all. The drips and splatters of “claret” look like practical “fake blood.” This is a nice touch and one that helps to sell the fight scenes.

The end of the episode leaves the viewer wondering who John Case’s new boss will be when Maccabee becomes the new Pres. While Eckhart may survive, it is clear that this president has very dirty hands, as does his right hand man Millar.  Stone moving over into the lead slot may change the dynamic of the show, but no one will be around to see it as this one looks doomed to be a no starter for another season.

The casting has, overall, worked well. While Andrew Howard’s character may, or may not, be dead, his vicious villain was in great contrast to the dogmatic and moral John Case. Certainly Case could be cold blooded when needed, bad guys were not eased gently into the next realm but he was the good side of the same coin.  The show could have used more Olga Fonda as the agent who played ball with Case at the start of the series.

Regardless of the latest change in direction, (one that appears to be putting Gerald McRaney in the his almost obligatory role of bad guy – does no one else remember how “good” McRaney was as a “good guy?” Simon and Simon, Major Dad? Anyone?)

Still, typecasting aside, the episode posed some interesting questions. The main one being just who will take Maccabee’s place as the boss of Agent X, aka John Case.  The whole thing might just be a no brainer with the figures being so low.  TNT usually allow a show to find its feet before letting the axe fall, one can only hope that the network will at least let Agent X finish the last three episodes.

It would be  a shame to let the series die after Stone finally remembered that wildly underplaying her role did not equate to some  sort of gravitas by osmosis.  Stone is an actress with chops…big ones. She only just got to show a glimmer of them in the episode where the negotiations on a helicopter ended after an EMP cannon blast.

Agent X airs Sundays on TNT tune in and watch it while you can.

The Grinder: Buckingham Malice (Review)

The Grinder: Buckingham Malice has Dean running a stop sign, deciding to turn his back on “using” his celebrity status to get special treatment.

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The Grinder: Buckingham Malice has Dean running a stop sign, deciding to turn his back on  “using” his celebrity status to get special treatment and brother Stewart, and Debbie,  having issues with colleagues and car repairmen.  This episode featured power plays and people taking advantage of other people’s lack of assertiveness.

Dean (Rob Lowe) is shamed by Stewart (Fred Savage) into giving up freebies because he was “The Grinder” on television. This results in Dean getting a ticket for running a stop sign. He then fights to have the ticket thrown out which results in a domino effect which further affects his brother Stewart later.

Stewart and Debbie (Mary Elisabeth Ellis) want to leave for a weekend sex date and Stewart’s car is still in the shop. Stewart tricks Dean into using his celebrity to get the car fixed in time, after Claire (Natalie Morales) suggests it.  The ruse works and Farouk the mechanic/shop owner promises to fix the car by the next day free of charge. 

Deb’s new assistant thinks she has her boss over a barrel since Debbie has fired three previous assistants.  Dean is upset that Stewart tricked him into using his celebrity status to get the car fixed. Farouk is in hospital with a burst appendix and his assistant is not aware of the “no charge” promise.

The gag of the episode was the “tricked like a dog into going to the vet.” This is how Morales’ character suggests it and Dean recognizes this when Stewart uses him to get the car done.

When Dean and Stewart collect the car, they drive off without paying and the police are called. The same officer  that Dean humiliated in court stops the two brothers and carts them  off to jail. After Stewart works out how to be released early, using Dean’s celebrity again, he stops by Debbie’s office.  Deb then fires her assistant when she learns that the woman never relayed Stewart’s message that he was in jail.

Like the rest of The Grinder first season episodes the jokes work well and the actors all play it dead serious. The formula works and Ellis manages to kill it every single time she is on screen. Morales has stepped into her role as new member of the legal team (who is totally not impressed with Dean’s status as “The Grinder”) and the storyline this week was different enough to be entertaining.

Most of the series, thus far, has been about Dean’s attempt to practice law, or be a functioning member of the legal family business. While the celebrity status of the character has been a factor, at least this episode varied the spin.

Lowe may be playing a single note for his character but he hits it well and never fails to make the viewer believe that his “TV” lawyer is less than real. In terms of the verse, the viewer buys this actor’s inability to think in any terms other than his celebrity as a fictional character or in his belief that he is the character, to a degree.

Savage continues to play the beleaguered little brother who is successful in a different way than his famous sibling and everyone hits the right tone for this comedy to work every single week.

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX and is a show that delivers inoffensive comedy that can be enjoyed by all.  While not entirely rated for General audiences, the show comes close, with a low PG rating.  Even the “sex weekend” gag was played for embarrassed giggles versus lascivious laughter. Tune in a catch this funny offering, relax and get into The Grinder.

The Player: A House Is Not a Home – Where Is Ginny Now? (Review)

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As The Player heads to its abrupt season finale, episode 9 for those able to count, A House Is Not a Home, continues the tale of Ginny and where she might be now.  It has to be said that the sudden drop of the series by NBC adds an element of  frustration while watching the show play out its shortened hand.  The creator’s (John Fox and John Rogers) have mixed in some interesting clues as to just how powerful the organization is that Johnson works for.

A bit more  tantalizing information about Cassandra King (Charity Wakefield) and her mysterious past is eked out and the death of Samuel Letts (Richard Roundtree) rattles Johnson (Wesley Snipes) and we are left with the question of who or what is the council?

More  importantly, why does Ginny’s mother Barbara Lee (Catherine Dent) insist that Alex’s missing wife and her daughter is a liar?  Added to this odd bit of information is another question; why does Lee have a key (that looks like a vending machine key) with Ginny’s name stuck to it?

Alex Kane (Philip Winchester) has to catch a lone bomber before the authorities nab the man. There is a side bet on how many people Kane can save from further explosions. Along the way, Alex learns that the bomber Javier Cruz  (Michael Irby) was cheated by a bank and, feeling he has lost everything, the man is out to punish those responsible. 

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Mommy Dearest? Barbara Lee (Catherine Dent)

This episode reveals that Alex Kane is a “White Knight,” in slightly damaged armor, or as  Johnson puts it, a man with a savior complex.  This Player will always try to go for the save, and he punishes the guilty.  This trait appears to be shared by his enigmatic Pit Boss, who detonates the bomb left by Kane and Cruz in the crooked bank manager’s house.

Layers in this series are being steadily peeled back and all the “players” in The Player are being exposed. King’s dichotomous relationship with Johnson for instance.  Lett’s (Roundtree) asks Johnson about Cassandra and her loyalty. He also inquires about whether the Dealer knows the “truth” about her family. The implication is that the Council, or Johnson may not be able to trust King if she found out.

Clearly King does not trust Johnson, but like the Pit Boss himself, she is obligated to play the “game.” There is a clear “paying the piper” theme to this show that will now never be revealed or explored further.  Allegories of sinners being “punished’ or at least paying their dues with the Pit Boss as Satan, or his right hand man, and King as subservient…What? Demon?

If Cassandra is a demon it is an unenthusiastic one. She has that mysterious connection with Ginny (Daisy Betts), whom she is trying to save from Johnson, and she also has a special sort of chemistry with Kane.  At the end of the episode, she ends up reassuring Johnson that she has his back, even though Cassandra, moments before, was warning a missing Ginny not to trust the man.

So many layers and levels of mystery and subterfuge with everyone, bar Alex, lying to one another and playing some hidden end game.  Kane feels a little like a “Travis McGee” type hero although he has a job,  since he roots for the underdog like John D. MacDonald’s flawed “beach-bum” hero. Alex does have a savior complex and it is this that makes his character so compelling.

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Alex Kane a knight in damaged armor…

He cares.

Herein lies the underlying theme that plays throughout the action packed sequences and the plot twists and excellent fight scenes, this  trio of protagonists all care.  Johnson, for all his calm and unaffected behavior and Cassandra, with her glib, attractive and, let us call a spade a spade here, cool sophisticated sexiness, also cares.

Be not deceived, however, these players are not  three “Care Bears” running a charity, but a trio of shady individuals who are playing the game for their own personal reasons. Sadly, now that NBC have axed the show, we will never find out what these are.

Kane’s reason is obvious, he plays to find Ginny and while Johnson is giving signs to his Player that he is helping Alex in his search, there is a lot more going on here.  Glimpses of a past, that Johnson is reminded to not forget, and now a view of Ginny never before seen, courtesy of her drunken mother, have been uncovered only to be lost.

Inexplicably, The Player‘s viewing numbers continue to decline, although this may be a case of self-fulfilling prophesy. After all, why watch a show that its network has doomed to fail, relegated to the tip before the first season ends. So it could well be that the falling numbers are very explainable.

The Player airs Thursdays on NBC, for at least two more  episodes.  It should be pointed out that in terms of viewers, both The Player and Heroes Reborn on NBC are “underperforming” both airing on Thursday.  In the old days, if a network had any faith in a series, they would shuffle it to find a suitable slot.

Not any more, apparently. So tune in while you can.

Blindspot: Sent on Tour – Daylight Breaks (Review)

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In Blindspot: Sent on Tour, the operation that CIA deputy director and all around douchebag Thomas Carter (Michael Gastonwas so concerned about, “Daylight,”  breaks the light of day, as it were, when Assistant Director of the FBI Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptistefesses up to Agent Kurt Weller at the end of the episode. The information is only revealed when the show’s villain of the week Saul Guerrero (Lou Diamond Phillips) is arrested and brought in.

Daylight remaining under wraps has been  Carter’s mantra from day one. The CIA second in command  wants Jane Doe/Taylor Shaw (Jaimie Alexander) killed in case one of her tattoos reveals details of the super secret operation.  Presumably, when Agent Zapata (Audrey Esparza) sold out Jane last week, the deputy director learned that the inked up woman was no immediate threat. 

Carter may decide to turn all his attention to Mayfair now that she has opened up to Weller.

Focus this week was on Jane and Patterson (Ashley Johnson) who allows her natural enthusiasm to override her good sense and almost gets her boyfriend arrested.  The twofold plot line had Patterson solving another tattoo puzzle and sending the FBI to a small “no man’s zone” where the local citizenry carry guns and are not afraid to shoot law enforcement officials.

Outside the FBI agency, Patterson’s boyfriend tells his girlfriend that he wants to move into her apartment.  He also continues to study the photos of Jane’s tattoos, one of which the two disagree on what it actually is. After a little freakout, about the moving in suggestion,  she goes to work. Later David (Joe Dinicol) calls Patterson and reveals that he has found the arch, that she thought was a tunnel and he felt was a covered bridge.  She meets him at the location;  the Boston Historical Society. 

While Weller, Reade, Zapata and Doe/Shaw all head to an unincorporated community in Draclyn Township located in Michigan, Patterson and David do their version of a  National Treasure scavenger hunt. As the two get caught up in their investigation Mayfair tracks them down and Patterson gets in trouble, as does her boyfriend.

In the township of Draclyn, the FBI team  find an uncooperative sheriff and Guerrero, whose file and its number are on Jane’s body as a tattoo. Mayfair has told Patterson that the case has no bearing on the Jane Doe situation and she then lies to Kurt about her role with Saul and  the file.  Guerrero is a nasty bit of work who is responsible for a multitude of murders and attempted murders on top of a whole catalogue of crimes.

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Agent Kurt Weller and Saul Guerrero (Sullivan Stapleton and Lou Diamond Phillips)

The team arrest him and must fight their way out of Draclyn. They follow tattoo clues on Jane’s body to get out and we learn that another of Shaw’s skills includes flying a helicopter. Oddly, Jane/Taylor is terrified of flying, getting visibly upset whenever the official aircraft hits turbulence. Later she tells Weller that it must be more about the lack of control.

Reade and Jane get a little closer and when Saul is brought in, Mayfair, who says she has history with the criminal goes to question him. Weller observes and he realizes that the suspect has never seen Mayfair before. Caught out in her lie, the assistant director begins to tell Kurt about operation Daylight.

Ashley Johnson (The Avengers, The Last of Us) plays forensic specialist and addicted puzzle solver Patterson and is, thus far, the most real of all the characters in Blindspot.  As the technician who decides to break things off with the boyfriend rather than jeopardize her job, the actress shines every time she appears in any episode.

These moments of truth, brought by Johnson’s character in any plot line, help the viewer to suspend their disbelief. The show, listed as being drama/mystery/thriller  could also include fantasy as a genre since the theme of an illustrated woman who has her memory wiped is pretty fantastical.

As viewers, however, we do not care that reality has been stretched to the point of breaking. Alexander, Sullivan Stapleton, Rob Brown and Esparza all bring a lot of conviction to their respective roles.  Stapleton is more than capable as the FBI agent everyone aspires to be and Jaimie Alexander as Jane/Taylor balances deadly female “tough nut” with vulnerability with ease.

Kudos to Lou Diamond Phillips as the “baddy of the week.”  The actor who usually plays Walt Longmire’s buddy, Henry Standing Bear, comes across as downright nasty in this episode.

Blindspot airs Mondays on NBC and continues to move at a good clip with enough going on to keep everyone entertained. While the latest episode had little in the way of hand-to-hand combat, there was a running gun battle with sporadic shoot outs between the warlike factions of Draclyn and the good guys. The ending also leaves the viewer wondering what will happen if Carter learns that Weller now knows about Daylight.

Tune in and catch this interesting drama and enjoy the action, plot lines and Ashley Johnson.