CBS premiered the pilot of its latest thriller tonight. Hostages stars acting greats Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott. How did Hostages stack up against the better crime dramas and spy series of today? I’ll break it down.
The pilot (Episode 1) of Hostages played out like the first half of an action thrill ride in film form, only to leave us hanging with the wait for Episode 2. That isn’t to say that we were necessarily left off with a cliffhanger. More so, our protagonist bought us time to extend what could have been a two-hour movie into television series form. Normally, I’m used to writing recaps tinged with moments of review, but because this is a new series, I’m going to stick to critiquing the formula set up with the intention to see this show go the long haul, the acting work involved, and the potential of Hostages to become must see T.V. Here is my review of the pilot of Hostages.
Hostages stars Toni Collette as Dr. Ellen Sanders, an expert surgeon who opens the show (following a quick glimpse of the beginning of the home invasion 12 hours into the future) with a press conference that confidently announces her intention to operate on President Kincaid. The President, it seems, has a dangerous mass lodged in his lung, and Sanders is the spectacular surgeon chosen to perform a risky new procedure that could vastly reduce recovery time. Opposite of Collette is Dylan McDermott as FBI Special Agent Duncan Carlisle, who remained a mysterious wild card throughout most of Episode 1. If anything, we spent more time with Carlisle, though, first witnessing his unparalleled and unbridled approach to snuffing out crime through his impressive handling of a bank robbery. Still, what was made more so clear was that Carlisle does things his own way and with his own agenda. Protocol is none of his concern.
Hostages also stars Tate Donovan as Ellen’s seemingly dutiful husband, Quinn Shephard as secretly pregnant daughter Morgan, and Mateus Ward as drug dealer son Jake. Agent Carlisle intricately plans to hold Ellen’s family hostage while the doctor operates on the President. The endgame, of course, is that Ellen is expected to seamlessly kill the man during the next day’s surgery. Why? We’d never even get a real hint from Episode 1! My greatest gripe with the Hostages pilot was simply that I didn’t think introducing us to Carlisle’s own young daughter via a brief trip to the park, or showing us his own sick wife who’s been struggling with cancer from a hospital bed, was enough to convince us to trust his motives. Perhaps Hostages was hoping that the stellar acting from its leads would be enough to convince viewers to trust the direction with which the show is heading in. After all, this series is based off of an Israeli show of the same name and premise. We can assume that there is a game plan here with that knowledge, and I for one found the show easier to take in knowing that the people working behind it probably know what they’re doing. There are real issues on television, and then there are pilot issues. Most of the problems during this show’s pilot seemed to be the latter; issues that popped up as a result of wanting to establish a core dynamic over the course of a single episode. By Episode 2, my guess is that things will be settled down.
Agent Carlisle couldn’t pull off a hostage situation on his own, of course, and a team of his own would help him with his intricately planned home invasion. Sandrine Holt, Billy Brown, and Rhys Coiro star respectively as Maria, Archer, and Kramer. As the trio of assailants aiding Carlisle, we’re initially entirely skeptical because of their aggressive ways and blind following of orders; however, we’re intended to connect and trust their intentions in time, as they begin to show sympathy for the children being held against their will, while the family’s own secrets begin to slip out bit by bit. It’s a balancing act, and the scales shift as the pilot proceeds. Kramer, for example, rather than killing the family dog, merely drugs it to keep the house quiet, and he gladly shares this information with a depressed Jake. Carlisle learns of Morgan’s unfortunate pregnancy situation when he finds her sobbing in the bathroom, yet he chooses to cover for her, as it’s “none of his business.”
Still, I almost wish the pilot could have run for an addition fifteen minutes. It wasn’t enough, to me, to see Carlisle cover for Ellen’s daughter. I wanted just a little bit more of an incentive to trust that this rogue FBI agent who desperately wants the President dead for a decent reason. We had to do some assuming here, and I’m just hoping Episode 2 gives those assumptions some flesh. We were eventually clued in to the fact that Carlisle is working alongside the President’s right-hand man, but that character wasn’t necessarily likable at all. We’ve seen stories like this unfold on T.V. and in the movies before, so we assume that McDermott’s character will have some sort of a positive motive for harassing these people, as he doesn’t seem like an anarchist or a criminal, generally speaking. Also, the team behind him follows suit. Collette’s Ellen, on the other hand, is easy to relate to from the get-go. From nearly chopping off her own finger to prevent the looming surgery to cleverly stalling the procedure for two weeks by slipping President Kincaid a blood thinner that would make it impossible to operate, we would come to applaud her intelligence and her bravery in the face of a terrifying home invasion. One thing that I’m sure of is that Ellen and Duncan will inevitably relate to each other.
Two characters that raised a few eyebrows for this reviewer were Ellen’s husband, Brian, and Mr. President. Jame’s Naughton’s President Kincaid absolutely seemed to be a nice enough guy, but we’re not yet privy as to how the general public adores him or loathes him. We know he has a wife who’s worried about the surgery and that our leading man wants him dead, so who do we trust? I’m guessing his dirty secrets will pop up soon enough. Ellen’s husband Brian’s certainly did this week. The husband went from urging his wife to slip a message of panic to the Secret Service to nearly forcing her to comply with Carlisle. Of course, it only took the revelation from Duncan that this team of captors knew all about the man’s secret affair and failed business deals to turn to him from noble father to an accomplice.
In the end, I’d say my initial review is that Hostages definitely deserves another go! Any faults picked up during Episode 1, the pilot, were mainly based in what I’m assuming was a bit of a rush to begin the actual hostage situation. (For example, I’m not so sure Duncan would have been able to infiltrate the offices of the home’s security system deep enough to already have them under his thumb.) Again, I have faith that McDermott’s secret family man/ crooked FBI agent will come to be equally as relatable as his female counterpart, Collette’s Dr. Ellen Sanders. I’m sure President Kincaid will prove to have earned some sort of an assassination attempt, and that Brian and Ellen will suffer from a massive falling out following the revelation of his secrets. The two Sanders children add youth and heart to the show, and I’m sure their growing relationships with their captors will prove to be among the most interesting parts of Hostages, as their mother continues to fight back.
Did you catch the premiere of Hostages on CBS? Did the pilot spark your interest enough to warrant another viewing next week?
Thanks for reading my review of Episode 1, the pilot, of Hostages!