Wednesday, January 18, 2017

REVIEW: 'Six' - A Questionable Decision Possibly Haunts Rip and the Rest of the Team in 'Pilot'

History's Six - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

SEAL Team Six troop leader Rip Taggart makes a questionable decision while on a mission in Afghanistan. Two years later, Rip is captured by Boko Haram and it's up to his former SEAL Team Six brothers to locate and rescue him.

The premiere of History's new scripted drama Six is largely just a premise pilot. It solely sets up the plot for the season. It does nothing more than that. It establishes who the characters are and what will be important for them throughout the season. But all of it is just bluntly said without any texture or reason to care. The show says everything very matter-of-factly. It's a consistent tone throughout the episode. It's just difficult to become emotionally invested in anything going on because everything registers as the same level of bland. The originality of this piece isn't that exciting. This premiere re-enforces some tropes and storylines that have been seen numerous times on a number of different series over the years. So that only makes the subsequent story more predictable. It's easy to expect what to happen next. There's no surprise which only kills the excitement and intrigue further. All of these are problems of a premiere that only wants to set the story up and not create original and fascinating characters. That may change in the future but this really isn't an inspired or engaging start.

It's not surprising at all that Six starts with an epic action sequence that forces its main team to use all of the skills they have as members of SEAL Team Six. This will more than likely be an action-oriented show. So, the premiere has to show that the series can adequately depict such action. Fortunately, the show has Lesli Linka Glatter as director. She's been working on material like this over on Showtime's Homeland for years now. She's more than capable of directing action and making it exciting and easy to follow. For the most part, her contributions to the project are very well-appreciated. It's just a very long opening for the series. It's meant to show depth of characters. The story opens in 2014 and a mission that Rip is leading in search of a famed terrorist. It's two action sequences that happen right after each other. One is a rescue mission where soldiers have fallen into a trap by this terrorist. The next is a raid to potentially take out this terrorist. It's all very non-distinct action. It's simply American troops shooting at terrorists. That's the bare minimum that these scenes needed to do. The show hits it but doesn't do a whole lot more. It's hard to tell which characters are involved with which actions. It's important that the audience sees the brutality on display in this part of the world. But it's even more important for the final action that Rip does.

Now, having Walton Goggins in the lead role on your show seems like a very smart decision to make. He brings charisma and presence to nearly every project he is in. He can even elevate weak material. He's a really great actor. But here, he's being asked to play defeated and depressed. That's about it. His character shoots an unarmed man who claims to be an American. That's the big defining action of the season. It's in that action that fuels the motivation for everything that happens next. It will be an even more important moment later on in the season as the main narrative gets more complicated and more characters become involved. In the moment though, that action happens and it's not really treated as this big life changing thing. There isn't enough buildup of how broken this job has made Rip nor is the severity of the action made palpable in the aftermath. Some other members of the team question to themselves if Rip should have done that. But ultimately, they have each other's backs and decide not to treat it as that big of a deal. That approach just makes it hard to care about this thing as the defining action of the main story.

Right after that, the show decides to jump ahead two years and show the characters in new surroundings. It does bring more depth to the supporting ensemble. But that only serves as a way to introduce their cliche personal story arcs. Joe was excited for the birth of his first daughter but is now wrapped in sadness after his wife miscarried. She wants to try again but he's lost in his own thoughts. Ricky wants to get out of the job in order to financially care for his family. His children are growing up and he knows very little about them. Alex seems like the carefree member of the team always having sex. Then, it's revealed that he's failing to pay his alimony to the mother of his daughter. Plus, there's the new guy who joins the team, Robert, who may be good but is thrown into a mission right away. That mission comes when Rip is kidnapped by Boko Haram when working private security in Africa. He's more depressed and broken than he was before. Plus, he's carrying crucial intelligence information that America would like to protect. So now, the show becomes about the rescue mission his SEAL Team Six brothers have to mount to save him. That's a fine premise for a show. It just takes a long time to actually get there. Plus, it's just so grim and serious getting to that point.

And then, there's the final reveal that the brother of the man Rip killed knows that he has been taken. Rip's picture is released to the media which adds to the severity of the main mission. It means the SEAL Team needs to leave as soon as possible before the terrorists know who they have and exploit it to their advantage. But this knowledge largely just sets up that final reveal. And yet, that moment really doesn't mean anything. It will surely add to the complications of this mission. This man won't make the SEAL Team's job any easier. But it's unclear if he has any connections to what is currently going on with Rip. The mystery of what happened to this man in the two years since his brother's death should be interesting. It will be important to see what is driving him and what he is willing to do to Rip. And yet, the show has barely given the audience a reason to care about Rip. He's just the character everyone else deems important and worthy of saving. Goggins will help make Rip special. The show just isn't quite there yet.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pilot" was written by William Broyles & David Broyle and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter.
  • Even though Rip is a drunk and barely put together, he's still apparently good at his job. Not good enough to avoid capture or get enough people to safety. But good enough to know that a threat is incoming.
  • Will the female characters ever become important? It seems like all of the main action is going to be centered around the mission to get Rip back. Some of the wives are introduced. But they largely seem like the stereotypical "wet blanket" wives than engaging characters. 
  • Ricky is planning on getting out of the team for a new job in order to help finance his kids' schools. He's ready to sign the papers when the news about Rip comes in. Joe is able to convince him to do one last job. And yet, all of this basically means he's gonna die at some point, right?
  • Even the hazing of new recruit Robert is too bland and self-serious. The fun teasing literally lasts for only a few seconds. And then, it becomes a sad moment where the team doesn't use the mug with Rip's name on it.
  • Lena is ready to try again for another baby after losing the previous one. Joe doesn't want her to see a specialist. However, the two of them aren't seen having sex before he leaves for the mission. So, what exactly is the point of this story?
  • Just add this to the number of projects where Barry Sloane does not have a believable American accent.