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.

pre_agent-xjpg

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.

Agent X: Truth, Lies and Consequences (Review)

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about this week’s Agent X: Truth, Lies and Consequences is the cameo by former Hunter star Fred Dryer, all that was needed to make this a complete fanboy moment would have been the presence of Dryer’s co-star from the small screen version of “Dirty Harry” Stepfanie Kramer.

pre_agnet-xjpg

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about this week’s Agent X: Truth, Lies and Consequences is the cameo by former  Hunter star Fred Dryer, all that was needed to make this a complete fanboy moment would have been the presence of Dryer’s co-star from the small screen version of “Dirty Harry” Stepfanie Kramer.  In terms of guest starring cameos, even though Dryer is not on long, Fred has not lost his ease and conviction in front of the camera.

The storyline this week has John Case (Jeff Hephner) being exposed to a biological agent which induces a heart attack to those infected by “Husk” after 12 hours.  This gives the vice president’s agent a very limited time to catch the villains responsible and to stop them from infecting thousands of innocent civilians. 

Sharon Stone, as Natalie Maccabee, widow and new vice president to John Shea‘s President Eckhart, seems to be trapped into underplaying her government official to the maximum extent possible.  While this somnambulistic approach works well in many cases on the big screen, it makes for a pretty underwhelming experience on television.

The main problem may well be that Stone is the mast which this series has been hoist upon, in other words, she is the draw…the figurehead, the “name” meant to pull in  viewers. With little to do, apart from assigning her agent to various “world saving missions” the star, who has, incidentally, massive acting chops, is being dangerously underused.

Thus far, her “right-hand man” Gerald McRaney as Malcolm Millar is infinitely more entertaining and watchable. Take the episode open where Case is annihilating the practice dummies in his workout room. Millar comes in and stares down at Agent X beating the thing into submission.

Millar to Case: “Hey! You keep killing em all, we’ll never get any intel.”

McRaney specializes in these type of roles, the sage and clever advisor who has seen it all and done it all and can crack a decent joke about it.  However, having a righthand man who can dominate a scene does not help Stone, or the show since McRaney is never on screen that much or that often.

Leaving aside shortfalls of the cast’s main protagonists, or misuse of same, the plot has Case rushing to save the day while turning down help, in the form of an anecdote, which will keep him from dying. Sadly we as viewers have not yet bonded enough with Hephner’s John Case to be too worried about his possible demise.

The threat of an airborne virus to be released from a rocket also never really takes off either. A young woman, whose whistle-blower parents were murdered by the government to keep their biological weapon in their control may be a variation on an old theme, but not enough of one to make a difference.

The viewer does not connect with the woman who wants revenge, or her nerdish “boyfriend” that she uses to make her weapon work.  This year has seen a plethora of “nebbish” young men in other shows, NBC’s The Player to mention just one, and it is awfully early in the season to see this much “lack of originality” in a storyline.

Agent X does have some things going for it. Unfortunately none of them were apparent in this episode.  The writers,  under the guidance of show creator W. Blake Herron have given us a hero in peril too soon. We have not yet warmed to this taciturn secret agent/assassin who is the agent of good for the vice president.

Bring back Olga Petrovka (Olga Fonda) , a  bigger than life villain who has an uneasy alliance, and great chemistry, with Hephner. These two maintain interest when they share the screen and please, would someone wake Sharon Stone up, or give her some decent lines?  At the very least…More McRaney please.

Agent X airs Sundays on TNT. Tune in and see what you think of the sleepwalking vice president and her “pet” agent.