Sunday, January 05, 2014

TV: CBS' Hostages wraps up

It starts with a tickling in the back of the throat.  What can it be?  Then comes the cough and the denial.  Followed by your whole body being seized and the feeling that you'll never recover. We're talking about winter colds but we might as well be talking about CBS' Hostages.


Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott star in the drama from Jerry Bruckheimer and a half dozen others.  This may be the first thing of any real value Bruckheimer has brought to TV.

Toni is Dr. Ellen Sanders who becomes the physician for President Paul Kincaid (James Naughton).  She's already married to real estate gadfly Brian (Tate Donovan) and they have two teenage children.  Brian also has a mistress, Samantha (Hilarie Burton).

You might wonder, "How did the Secret Service miss that?"

Four words: Tareq and Michaele Salahi.

After those two gate-crashed the White House in 2009, even the implausible becomes rooted in reality.

Which is good because the series requires you to take a great deal on face value.

Dylan McDermott plays Duncan who leads the home invasion of the Sanders and demands that Ellen will kill the president.  Dylan's direct team also includes Archer (Billy Brown), Sandrine (Sandrine Holt) and Kramer (Rhys Coiro).

Ellen can't believe what's happening, can't accept it.

Repeatedly, she will try to find a way out for her family but be betrayed or one-upped repeatedly as she learns no one around her is what they seem.

For example, she learns about Duncan's deathly ill wife Nina (Francie Swift) which might seem to be leverage but Ellen's search quickly turns up more questions.  Including that Nina's mother is alive.  Something even Duncan and Nina didn't know.

Burton Delaney (Larry Pine) used to be an advisor to then-Senator Paul Kincaid.  He's now Duncan's father-in-law, part of the scheme to kill the president.


For Duncan, it's to get a bone marrow transplant for Nina.

Nina is the president's daughter.  He doesn't acknowledge her and does not know she exists.  He raped her mother and, when her mother was going to go public, he ordered her killed.  The mother's death was staged to let her start over.

That head turner emerges in episode ten.

There's so much more going on.

For example, First Lady Mary Kincaid (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Ellen's playing her.  The president possibly has a serious illness.  They can't test on him without raising suspicion.  So Ellen needs the First Lady to leave with bone marrow so that it can be tested privately.

Mary believes her and agrees.

Does Mary believe too easily?

Her sister is Vanessa (Joanne Kelly) who married President Kincaid's brother.  And now wants to destroy the president who she believes killed her husband  (his brother).  She's actually the one who, with Colonel Thomas Blair (Brian White), has organixed the plot Duncan's a pawn in, to kill the president.

These are difficult storylines to pull off and some lesser evolved at CBS (suits) feel the show would have done better by revealing a lot of us this in the first episode.

That's nonsense.  Not only do you need to meet the characters before learning about them, all that exposition would have left viewers yawning and snoozing if it.

Instead the show's revealed a little more with each episode.

And it has done so, pay attention Revolution, Blacklist and all the other shows that reduce women to second banana, with Toni Collette's Ellen front and center.

If you don't care about Ellen, you don't care about the show.

If Collette's character doesn't hold your attention, nothing else will work.

Including McDermott's Duncan Carlisle who  has gone from unfeeling criminal to a much more complex character.

All the characters have deepened.  Hostages is the rare television series that allows the actors -- and the audience -- to really explore. Monday night, it wraps up its 15 episode season one run.  If you miss out on it, you're cheating yourself on one of TV's richest dramas.  Catch the two hour season finale Monday night and you'll see what we mean.

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