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NBC (ended 2014)

Crisis S01E01: "Pilot"

NBC held the debut of its hostage drama Crisis until late in the midseason, probably so it wouldn't compete with CBS's Hostages, which premiered in the fall. And probably also because Crisis's premise is shaky and the result is all kinds of silly. And okay, probably ALSO because the series underwent an unplanned production hiatus in November for "course correction" and script-tweaking. After all, everything about the series' first hour was pretty unbelievable—from the super-intelligent, has-an-answer-for-everything-that-could-possibly-go-wrong evil mastermind behind the hostage situation to the fact that Gillian Anderson, who's recently done fantastic work in both The Fall and Hannibal, ever joined the project in the first place. But there's also something to be said about the pilot's various twists and the show's over-the-top drama; to me, they somehow work.

Crisis's premise is rather simple: A school bus carrying the children of Washington D.C.'s most elite individuals, including the daughter of a top CEO and the POTUS's son, is ambushed during a field trip, and the kids are taken hostage along with their teacher and a parent chaperone played by Dermot Mulroney. It's the details that make the story simultaneously interesting and completely ridiculous. Because of the president's son's security detail, at least one of the Secret Service agents assigned to protect him had to be in on the plot. And as we saw in the premiere, one of the usual guys was conveniently out sick, so a rookie agent named Marcus Finley, played by a very good Lance Gross, filled in. But it wasn't Finley who'd switched allegiances, it was the veteran Agent Hurst, who shot Finley after he did what he'd been trained to do: protect the president's son at all costs.

From there, the episode spun wildly out of control as the bus was deliberately driven out of cell phone range, Finley and one of the kids escaped only to be pursued by the enemy, and the children were drugged so that GPS trackers their parents had implanted in their molars and under their skin could be removed. And then it was revealed that the seemingly weak parent chaperone—Mulroney's Francis Gibson, who's also an ex-CIA analyst—is actually behind the entire thing. And it's for *deep voice* revengeeeeee.

The pilot did a fine job of portraying Gibson as a spineless, recently divorced man who simply wanted his daughter to respect him, only to go and unmask him as the brilliant mastermind behind the kidnapping. His handwritten notebook detailing every step of the diabolical plan—right down to the bit where he pretended to jump a security guard and lost a finger in the process—was a nice touch that elevated him from being a complete and total wackjob to being a complete and total wackjob with a plan. The guy willingly had his finger chopped off in the name of revenge! Not even Emily Thorne is that ballsy, and Revenge is the name of her damn show! So while Crisis hasn't yet clarified WHY Gibson is seeking vengeance—all we know is that his reasoning has something to do being forced to take the fall for a mysterious something-or-other called Operation Lennox that went belly-up—I'll admit that I'm intrigued. Because I don't know about you, but anytime someone willingly loses an appendage in the name of a scheme, I sit up and take notice. 

So yeah, Crisis is pretty ridiculous. It's also full of plot holes; for example, the hostages had no way to communicate with the outside world, yet somehow the FBI discovered that the children were missing fairly quickly, and it was never explained how they did so. But I actually think the show could stand to be sillier, and even more dramatic. Because even though it's fairly generic in so many ways, if it can commit to going balls-to-the-wall, it just might have a chance. 

Right now, Gibson's villain appears to be invincible, and his thirst for revenge feels very much like a pissing contest. He has all the answers in his revenge notebook, he's watching the FBI's every move via the video surveillance cameras at the school, and he's making demands of his fellow parents by promising their children's safety in exchange for their cooperation. Mulroney handles the role well, but I want more from him and from the series.

Thankfully, several soapy developments that occurred in the pilot have the potential to push Crisis further over the top. Like the twist involving Rachael Taylor's FBI agent Susie, in which we learned that Amber, the hostage we thought was Susie's niece, is actually her daughter. As it turns out, Susie's sister—Anderson's big-shot CEO—raised Amber as her own because Susie was barely an adult when Amber was born. There was also a moment between Amber and her teacher (One Tree Hill's James Lafferty) that alluded to an illicit relationship between the two because apparently TV writers still think disgusting teacher/student relationships are a good trope. And finally, we have the idea that not all of the men and women involved in the hostage situation are willing participants, but involuntary pawns who were forced into playing along (like Agent Hurst). 

So much is happening already that it's hard to think of Crisis as a serious drama. The show clearly suffers from thinking that it's smarter than it actually is, and if it wants to succeed, it's going to need to embrace the more out-there storylines it's already presented, and pray that viewers find them compelling enough to want to see how they play out. Make no mistake, Crisis isn't great television, but it could become a show we love to hate-watch, and that might be all it needs.


– It seems pretty obvious that Gibson is doing all this to clear his name, take down the assholes who framed him, and hopefully win back his daughter's love, but I don't really think manipulating her like this is going to make her love him again. He probably thinks he'll get away with it because he's cocky now, but let's be honest: There's only one way this situation can end, and Gibson is not going to win.

– Finley was shot and yet still managed to run around quite a bit. I know he said it wasn't that serious, but DUDE YOU WERE SHOT AND NOW YOU'RE RUNNING AROUND THE WOODS AND FIGHTING BAD GUYS LIKE IT AIN'T NO THANG. Utterly insane. The only saving grace is that he really did look worse for wear near the end of the episode, once help was on its way.

– Is it just me, or did the opening scene of the pilot sound like it was scored to a rip-off of the Eleventh Doctor's theme from Doctor Who?

What'd you think of Crisis's series premiere? Will you stick around for Episode 2?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 6/21/2014

Season 1 : Episode 13

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