From the noir-ish opening scene with black hat and trenchcoat-clad Harry walking into MacGyver's apartment even as MacGyver was seemingly too distracted to recognize the encroaching would-be threat, it was clear that this was gonna be a great episode. Indeed, it played out as such. That tone set the stage for an episode driven by enveloping suspense and darker-than-usual villains silently setting about hatching their diabolical plot. The comparisons to the film "Die Hard" are unwarranted given that "Phoenix Under Siege" first aired in January 1987, months before "Die Hard" would come to theaters. The flashback scenes with MacGyver and his grandfather were touching (even though they kind of contradicted their history as set in "Target MacGyver") and consistent with the series' effective strategy of revealing its main character's blurry past one nugget at a time. The dialogue was snappy and clever, and the overall atmosphere and tone of the episode was energetic throughout. The only weak point was the silly way in which Victoria was killed. Did she commit suicide or was she really dumb enough to realize the window was in such close proximity to where MacGyver was standing? Either way, it struck me as sloppy and convenient writing. That one grievance is hardly enough for me to revoke my near-universal praise for this masterfully crafted episode.
This was the first MacGyver episode to air after the end of the football season, so everybody involved with the series was eagerly anticipating the ratings to see if the series had the potential to be a contender without competing against MNF. Unfortunately, this initial post-football outing mounted a very soft 12.9 rating. Thankfully, ratings were about to experience a ratings surge significant enough to ensure its third season renewal no matter how badly new ABC programming executive Brandon Stoddard wanted to kill the series off.