Hunted s1 ep 8

It seems reasonable to assume that the whole of season 1 was in the can before any of it was broadcast, and that a second season was anticipated. Certainly beforehand there was optimistic talk about how season 2 would have Sam chasing across Europe, amongst other exciting adventures. Hence a final episode which tied up some loose ends and left others dangling, which perhaps felt a little unsatisfactory, but would have been perfectly reasonable in the alternative world in which Hunted wasn’t cancelled.

Thus on the one hand (the one with five fingers) we find out why Jack Turner has been after Polyhedrus, where Tyrone gets his psychopathy from, who The Watcher In The Window was, and so on; on the other hand (four and a half fingers) the whole Hourglass thing is still up in the air, as is the deal with Mr 9.5 fingers, Aidan, what the tall brunette assassin chick has on Zoe, etc. It’s probably just about a wash.

There were, perhaps, too many twists at the end: Omigod she’s dead/she’s come back from the dead/she’s been shot/look who pulled the trigger/she’s come back from the dead again/the baby! It felt, like the season as a whole, as if everyone concerned was trying a little too hard; a streamlined and ruthlessly edited Hunted could have been quite something.

Perhaps Cinemax’s intended Sam spinoff will address this problem. As it happens, I’m still firmly of the view that Hunted, while by no means flawless, was better than its detractors claimed, and I’d happily give Sam 2.0 a try.

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Hunted ep 7

Well, the Hunted news isn’t good: the BBC has confirmed that it won’t be back for a second season. On the other hand, the BBC’s co-production partner, Cinemax, have indicated that they’ll be looking to spin Sam Hunter off into another series, so nor is it all bad. And on the back of this episode, I’d have to say that I side with Cinemax: this episode was decent; overall the show hasn’t been too bad at all; and with a firmer hand on the editorial tiller it could have been better yet.

Hunted is now very definitely suffering from an unnecessarily baggy and complicated plot, though, and this seems to be a recurring theme with UK action/thriller/whatever drama. On the other hand, American dramas can be complex (Lost) or just flat-out dumb (FlashForward), but they’re almost never incomprehensible. Whether this is because American dramas typically use more writers, thus allowing for a more extensive process of revision and scrutiny, whether American showrunners are more adept at knowing when there are too many plot threads, or whether it’s something else entirely, I don’t know.

Anyway, this week we start to find out a little more about the McGuffin Dam and why so many people are getting killed over it: as Zoe is able to demonstrate on the iTable, Evil Multinational Corporation poison-gassed a village which was in the way of the Dam. (EMC, incidentally, seems to have a considerable stake in Byzantium.) The evidence of this is a soil sample in The Case, which poor old Fowkes has been trying to find for weeks in the face of full-on snark from Zoe. (Although you just know that their repressed passion for each other would have come out in the second season that’s now not gonna happen.) It isn’t made clear why someone can’t just go and get another soil sample, and take better care of it this time.

Lots of fighting this week: my favourite is Sam and her tussle, at the start of the episode, with the two guys in the mansion – I particularly liked the way she left one of them with his hand trapped in a filing cabinet, dealt with the second one, then came back and kicked the ass of hand-trap guy as well. There’s also a valuable insight into the ways of the media, when Sam tells some Byzanti functionary to get a story about the death of Hill, the water engineer, into Metro “with an ironic headline”. Well, damn. I’m never gonna trust Metro again, if its just full of stories planted by private espionage companies, with ironic headlines written by the administrative staff of private espionage companies.

I must admit I’m not quite across the list of people and EMCs who want Sam dead. EMC does. That dude with the syringe does, but not immediately. Frank Turner does as well, because he’s on to her. It’s possible that Keel does; who can say what Keel wants? Mr Eko might. That new woman who bluffs her way into Zoe’s showhome-like flat does, but she seems to be working for the CEO of EMC. Fortunately Cinemax want her to live, so something tells me she’ll survive next week’s season (series?) finale. A bit of closure on Sam’s mother would be nice as well, but I don’t want to sound too entitled. One of the better episodes of Hunted, if you ask me.

Hunted ep 6

Yes, we’ve got to deal with the rabbit.

First, though, the non-lapine parts of the episode, which were OK if unexceptional. One or two things are starting to fall into place: Turner’s plans to buy the McGuffin Dam are under threat from Pakistani politician Fatima Zahir, who is visiting Britain, although a fax between Pakistan and London seems to point to a plot to kill her while she’s delivering a speech. The writers get round this anachronism – I mean, who uses faxes to send their killing orders these days? – by having Zoe remark that it’s difficult to intercept faxes digitally, which means they can’t put it on that giant touchscreen table of theirs. The iTable? But after piecing together a few scraps of burnt paper the Byzantium team is onto it.

Before they can deal with that, though, there are two sexual encounters this week. The less romantic was between Keel and his intimate paid-for chum Leanne, both of whom, it turns out, are ill: Keel has a malignant brain tumour, and Leanne the ho has some sort of platelet disorder, which accounts for her bruising. So yah boo to everyone who thought that Keel liked to smack her around; he may, in fact, be a tender and considerate lover, although it seems unlikely given that he phones Pimp Ltd to tell them not to bother with Leanne next time, thanks.

And Sam and Stephen hit the sheets that they’ve been inevitably moving towards since the first episode. Not, it should be said, because they share intense will-they-won’t-they chemistry; frankly, they don’t. But we all knew it was going to happen anyway, and there seems to be at least the possibility that Sam is fond of him if nothing more, up to the point where she describes the shagging as “nice”.  He seems to take that as a compliment, as well he should. There’s nothing wrong with “nice”, dude, so don’t beat yourself up. Aidan will be along to do that for you before the end of the season, I would imagine.

And back to Fatima. It turns out that the plan isn’t to kill her during her speech after all, but when she meets with a whistleblower at her hotel, which is overlooked by an apartment block. Tyrone, who is being revealed week-by-week to be a complete psycho, and Fowkes, who seems to at least one viewer to be allowing his deep cover to get a little too deep, need into the apartment block, and what I can only assume to be extensive research has revealed that a flat which would give them a clear shot at Fatima is owned by Rafi the Rabbit; or, at least, by someone who dresses up as Rafi the Rabbit in a shopping centre.

So poor Rafi is kidnapped from the gents’, robbed of his keys, pistol whipped, and shot by Tyrone as if he had myxomatosis. Au revoir, Rafi. As it turns out, though, Tyrone’s idea is to frame Fowkes for the shooting in a manner which they could only have made clearer if they’d called Rafi the Rabbit’s block of flats the Texas School Book Depository and stuck a big Hertz sign on top. “I’m the patsy!” bleats Lee Harvey Fowkes.

OK. What do we do with the kidnapping of Rafi, particularly in a show which has taken itself very seriously until now? Do we (a) acknowledge the stupidity; (b) applaud the surrealism; (c) just try to skate over it? I’m going with (c). So there was a shooting, an attempt to frame Fowkes, and there we go. There are still plenty of dots to be joined in the next couple of weeks, and I’m just about looking forward to seeing how the writers manage it.

Hunted ep 5

I pumped Hunted’s tyres up last week, but this episode let the momentum slip.

Syringe-In-Eye Man turns out to be on Sam’s side, although he didn’t quite explain why the only way of protecting her was to stick a needle in her eye, and you still wouldn’t want him visiting you in hospital. It’s quite a busy week for Sam, who revisits the site of her as-yet unexplained childhood trauma, getting involved in a fight which requires the participants to use random objects which come to hand, rather than guns – chains, big metal poles, and the like -and then, just when one of the baddies has the kill shot lined up, a gun fires – but it isn’t the baddie. It’s Syringe-In-Eye Man shooting him. So that’s two boxes ticked on the writers’ list of action drama clichés. Then she snogs Turner Jr, who’s too drippy to realise he’s being taken advantage of. Or perhaps he knows and he’s quite happy to be taken advantage of by Sam if it’s going to involve lying down with no clothes on, which is pretty much where I’d be on this issue.

A busy week, too, for Mr Eko, who unfortunately didn’t use his downtime to work on his ropey American accent: as well as that ongoing struggle, he needs to smack Aidan around a bit; then agonise with his priest, over a glass of whisky, about the killing of two innocents. Aidan is indeed the mole, it seems, although there’s more to it than that.

As for the main plot: Sam meets Tinker Tailor in front of Holbein’s The Ambassadors which, TT tells her, offers clues to how the two men in it started five multinational companies which now rule the world, the sort of tinfoil-hattery which doesn’t really grab me, although I suppose it’s intended to give the producers a leg-up when they try to pitch a second season. (My interpretation of The Ambassadors – two rich men with some nice things – remains out of favour, although I suspect the art world will eventually come round to my way of thinking.)

What I will say for this episode, though, is that it had a healthy body-count; and not just redshirts either. Hunted remains quite good, although I was hoping for a little better than that this week.

Hunted ep 4

In continuing to stick up for Hunted I’m out on a bit of a limb, it seems. The main charges against the show, insofar as I can judge from The Guardian’s weekly ragdolling of it, are as follows.

It’s improbable. Indeed it is. Wildly so. I mean, did you see that opening sequence where Sam, on a bike, kept pace with baddies in a Range Rover? To which my answer is: so what? Is it any sillier than, oh, just about any other drama going at the moment? Even the revered Sherlock? Look: if you want accuracy, go watch a documentary and, if you’re lucky, you might get some.

It’s complicated. No, it isn’t, or not unduly so – and I can’t follow anything much these days.

It’s filmed though a variety of filters. Yes, “haunting” and “atmospheric” American dramas can do that sort of thing. Not British ones, though.

Sam pouts a lot. Well, that’s how Melissa George looks, and short of getting plastic surgery or giving up acting I’m not sure what she’s supposed to do about it.

No, it’s not great and yes, it is dumb as nuts, but I remain firmly of the view that (i) it’s better than its detractors are allowing, and better than just about any other British drama I’ve seen over the past couple of years, with the exception of Sherlock and The Hour, and (ii) – once again I return to this – it would be getting a significantly more reverential reception from British critics and viewers were it from anywhere else but Britain.

In fact, kind of proving my grass-is-always-greener theory, a few of the better American critics this week piled in on the side of Hunted: Ken Tucker, Maureen Ryan, and, most encouragingly of all, Alan Sepinwall. According to Sepinwall, “(T)he atmosphere and suspense are terrific, and the leading lady is compelling…”. No, Alan. They’re using silly filters and she pouts a lot. Didn’t you get the memo? I think I’ll align myself with them rather than The Guardian’s sneerers, thanks.

This week’s episode, as it happens, was the best yet: taut and suspenseful, with Sam now walking a tightrope chez Turner, where it’s clear that they’re just about on to her. Not only that, Aidan has discovered her Conspiracy Wall, and in consequence is himself on the trail of Hourglass. It turns out that Natalie, the woman Aidan was having betrayal-sex with last week, is MI6’s designated Byzantium liaison officer. So MI6 has operatives whose job it is to liaise with private espionage firms, does it? I wonder. Anyway, she’s offered a Byzanti-job in return for Mole info, but she’s not giving it up.

In the main plot, it transpires that Turner has been using a piece of software which allows him to sell investments at the time of maximum benefit – i.e. in the milliseconds after a disaster, and it isn’t too much of a leap to show that he’s been creating disasters for precisely that reason. And as he currently has a pressing need for money, the episode ends with a Turner-sponsored explosion in an office building.  And with that sinister killer pointing a syringe at Sam’s eye. Ew.

I’m not making any massive claims for Hunted, but this was a well-constructed and enjoyable hour of TV, and I liked it.

Hunted ep 3

Hold on to your grey woolly hat. This wasn’t bad.

I mean, it’s fabulously silly, of course. But let’s keep this in perspective: what action/spy drama isn’t? (Perhaps Rubicon, but in consequence it was dull and impenetrable.) It goes with the territory. So to pick on Hunted for implausibility seems a little unfair. Actually, it scored last week by being the first drama of its type, that I can recall, to mention pay: I can’t remember the exact quote, but Fowkes was shot down (metaphorically only, although I have a feeling that he won’t see the end of the final episode, one way or another) and reminded that he was well paid to do his job. In idle moments, I’ve always wondered about the money on offer to Jack Bauer or Sydney Bristow or Annie Walker: in return for risking their life on a daily basis, you’d think that the compensation package would be substantial. Or do their employers take advantage of their loyalty to the cause and lack of transferable skills?

Anyway, as with the last episode, Hunted this week largely confined itself to a period of a few hours and one main location: the country house hotel where Turner and his competitors are bidding to build the McGuffin Dam, Pakistan. Much to Sam’s horror she more or less immediately bumps into the French dude she was shagging a few secrets out of in Tangier. He’s miffed; they exchange threats; eventually Sam kills him, of course, but before he dies he breathes that it’s “Hourglass” which is trying to kill her. Now, the Mysterious Word is becoming just as much of a spy drama trope as the Conspiracy Wall: we’ve recently had Counterpoint in The Shadow Line and Brightstone in The Hour, for example. To date all that we really know about Hourglass is that it has its own file in the cabinet belonging to MI6 middle manager George, the only spy we’ve seen so far who looks as if he’s stepped out of the careworn world of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy rather than the latest Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue.

Turner, meantime, has been killing off Scandinavians to improve his chances, but much to his shock is now in a sort of play-off with the Chinese who, we can assume, are at least as willing as he is to play rough. Particularly if they are Byzantium’s clients, although something tells me there’s a surprise coming there.

Of course, as well as the Conspiracy Wall (not really featured this week) and the Mysterious Word, Hunted has the Mole. The finger was pointed at Aidan this week, who’s been giving George’s underling Natalie a good seeing-to every now and again, presumably so that they can post-coitally betray each other. I never meet women like that. And poor old Hassan gets cut up and burned by Turner’s thugs; Fowkes, outraged at the lack of dignity, recovers a boot. Except everyone says that Hassan didn’t wear boots. So either he’d made a subtle change to his wardrobe without telling his workmates, or (and for some reason no-one seemed prepared to entertain this) it wasn’t Hassan, although perhaps it doesn’t actually matter who it was.

Plenty of bodies, plenty of plot; this is perfectly watchable stuff. One thing still kind of bugs me: as I said in my comment on the first episode, I think I may now be conditioned to expect the 44 minutes or so of the average American “hour long” drama. I do kind of like Hunted, but at 58 minutes per episode I sometimes find myself wishing that there wasn’t quite so much of it. Having said that, if it were an American drama, I can promise you it would be getting a better critical reception in the UK than it’s had.

Hunted ep 2

Oh, what I’d give for Adam or Ros to come striding in and sort this show out.  Sigh.

Alas, NotSpooks has to make do with Sam skulking around the Turner house in her pastel jumpers instead, forcing smiles, riding up and down, up and down, in that bizarre lift (who has a lift in their house?) and, oh yeah, discovering they’re holding Hasan in the basement.

Keel decides on Hasan’s “removal” rather than rescue because he wants to safeguard the operation and also because Keel is apparently a weird sadist who keeps his girlfriend bruised and naked.  Why?  Because this show is a co-production with Cinemax, obviously.

Hasan doesn’t want to be “removed,” though, so he (easily) distracts Sam with shiny things talk of the man who wants her dead, only for said man to turn up in the very next scene.  How handy is that?!?!  Not too handy for Sam, as it happens, but the Perma-Pout manages to survive the encounter, and lo!  Another face for the conspiracy wall!  And more flashbacks to stuff we saw 5 minutes earlier.  FFS.

This was significantly better than last week’s, in fairness, but still navel-gazing tosh with ideas far above its station.  They’ve sorted out the pacing, yes, but Hunted still has two huge problems.  One, everything about Sam is annoying.  Her faux-English accent, her three facial expressions (pained, strained and anger barely contained, in case you’re wondering), her constant flasbacks and, of course, that POUT.  Everything.  And two, everyone else is still completely one-note, with that note being utterly tuneless.  Why are all Sam’s colleagues so bad-tempered?  How come two of them don’t seem to have names?  And why is the Scottish one so mean to Fowkes all the time?  Is it because he’s the only bearable one?

Questions, questions.  And yet I don’t really give a stuff about the answers.  Amid all the running and the shooting, Spooks had well-drawn characters I cared about as soon as I started watching.  Hunted has a bunch of no-mark whiners inspiring nothing but ennui.  I have no interest in what happens to any of them, so I think the show and I will part ways here.