The cast (Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott) is intriguing and the concept hooks you: a doctor, wife, and mother who is about to perform surgery on the President of the United States is forced to choose between ending his life or risking the lives of those that she loves, as her family is being held captive by a band of well trained killers.
Hostages – CBS’ new foray into serialized drama from Traitor writer/director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Alon Aranya – wasn’t going to have a problem getting attention, they just have to worry about keeping it for 15 episodes.
The show pits seemingly crooked FBI agent Duncan Carlisle (McDermott) and his team against Dr. Ellen Sanders (Collette), her husband (Tate Donovan), and their two teenagers (Mateus Ward and Quinn Shephard) in their suburban Mc-fortress.
Hostages takes the slow burn approach, slogging through almost half of the debut episode to introduce us to every main character before addressing the show’s central conflict: Carlisle’s plan to turn Dr. Sanders’ family into bargaining chips and her into an assassin.
We don’t really learn much about these characters, though, and that robs us of our chance to truly care about their predicament. There’s also the fact that nearly every character is embedded with a deep dark secret, creating further distance between the viewer and the characters due to the absurdity of just how many problems this well-to-do family has. Honestly, this could have been called Keeping up with the Calamities and no one would have blanched.
Not only is Ellen’s husband Brian cheating on her (and willing to do almost anything to keep that secret), but her teenage daughter is pregnant, and her son is a junior dope dealer who owes more than a grand to a guy named Nico. Barkley, the family dog, is knocked out through much of the episode, but at this point, it would seem that he probably has something to hide as well.
We’re also shown three sides to McDermott’s agent Carlisle – a brash and tropey FBI agent who gets results despite his recklessness (he identifies and plugs a bank robber because his boots didn’t match his suit – honestly, that feels like a scene taken right out of Sledge Hammer!), the sensitive husband and father who is sitting beside his comatose wife’s hospital bed, and the ruthless kidnapper and traitor. McDermott delivers a tour de force with that much variety in front of him – but really, it feels like he is coasting at times. Still, the effort to flesh out and add complexity to McDermott’s character – a character that could have easily been one note – is appreciated.
Collette is seemingly always on her game, but you never feel as though the former United States of Tara actress’ character is really afraid of her captors or concerned about what she is being asked to do. Not enough, at least. In the end, she tries to take back some sense of control with a risky play for the sake of a family that she apparently barely knows, but it is through agent Carlisle that we see a bridge to carry this show forward, as events take place that have us wondering if he is no more than a supremely effective pawn in a much, much, bigger conspiracy.
Will viewers get a chance to see this story unfold and get answers? One can never tell with serialized freshman dramas, but CBS gave Hostages a prime spot on the schedule (though, it is unfortunately up against the James Spader-ific serialized drama The Blacklist), so one assumes that Nachmanoff will get a bit of time to build his audience and tell his story.
With that said, Hostages was presented as a political thriller. Here’s hoping that they get back to that and sidestep some of the trite family drama.
Hostages airs on Mondays @10 PM on CBS