Wednesday, June 13, 2018

REVIEW: 'Condor' - Joe Finds That There Are Very Few Friends He Can Trust Now in 'The Solution to All Problems'

Audience's Condor - Episode 1.02 "The Solution to All Problems"

Joe escapes from IEP but his safety remains in question. Unsure who to trust, Joe turns to Bob Partridge. A task force is assembled to investigate the massacre. With his best friend's life now in danger, Sam struggles with his next move.

Joe Turner is played as the hero of this story. He is the character whom the audience is watching along this journey. He is the one forced to go on the run after all of his co-workers are killed. Their office is only targeted in the first place because of an innocuous discovery that he made. All of this extends back to an algorithm that he developed that his government is now using to monitor citizens. He is the focal point of this entire show. Everything revolves around him essentially. Yes, there are plenty of moments where the other characters and their lives are fleshed out. The casualty count is already high because of those wishing to help Joe. But Joe is going to be the guy who uncovers the truth behind this conspiracy and will be the one to ultimately stop it. He is the one who will be forced to undergo the greatest amount of change because his life is completely uprooted. He was forced to go on the run. And now, the narrative has framed him as a sinister gunman who killed all of his co-workers and is now still at large in the area. That's an important development because it frames so much of what happens in the closing moments of "The Solution to All Problems." The show wants the audience to always see Joe as the hero. And yet, he does something completely monstrous and abusive. The audience is just suppose to accept that as him doing whatever is necessary to survive because he is the one telling the truth. That moment only works if the audience believes in the emotional truth of the character and his reasoning behind such actions. There are plenty of shows out there that revolve around antiheroes who do such despicable things. And yet, the audience still chooses to watch and care about them. These are very delicate balances. Right now, the show simply doesn't earn that final moment where Joe is essentially keeping Kathy as his hostage while he tries to figure a way out of this very complicated mess. It's very daunting and very oppressive. It shades our understanding of the hero and possibly taints him of ever being seen as the good and noble guy because of his actions here. That's a significant problem because he's once again suppose to be seen mostly as the hero of this story.

In fact, that final development really made me question if this was a show I wanted to keep watching and reviewing. It's a show airing on a channel that still just has limited availability throughout the country. It didn't seem like the premiere really cut through the cultural conversation all that much. It's fundamentally a show about conservative versus liberal politics as played out in the war on terror. It takes things to such an extreme to showcase just how horrifying these actions can be as many want them to occur. But it also lacks nuance because the show is basically making the conservative argument that all of this is necessary in order to save lives. Everything in the world can ultimately be justified as long as the greater good is upheld and saved. That's an argument that has so many moral conundrums to it. Does that personal sacrifice ever actually wear the person down and make them depressed because of what they are willing to give away? Is it right that we as people just casually forget about that? Is it okay to willfully suppress this information in order to control the narrative to the public? Who ultimately decides what's the greatest good? Joe can make the argument that the actions taken by the American government could understandably fuel so much rage against us by those in the Middle East. There is just so much natural xenophobia that it makes it so easy to just label all Muslims as terrorists even though they have to be more nuanced that than. They are human beings too. They have families as well as hopes and dreams just like everyone in this country. This show is positing that the people in power are so used to one group of people being the enemy that it's okay to make all of these decisions in order to protect national security. It's okay to sanction a war aboard while being so passive aggressive in the handling of Joe Turner. That, in turn, has to reflect outward through Joe as well and show that he is making so many bad and destructive decisions while on the run.

But again, it never quite feels like the show wants the audience to keep our distance from Joe. We are right there along this journey with him for better or worse. We see the threats that are coming for him and just how easy it is to track his movements. That was seen in the premiere with Sam being able to track Joe's phone and direct him to where he needed to be for the pickup. And now, the assassins who took out all of Joe's co-workers have a technician who is also able to tap into security cameras and follow Joe around everywhere he goes. He has the training to know what's the best way to escape the building and avoid anyone following him. But he's also completely ignorant of just how surveillance now looms in our world. He can have the abstract debate about it. But now, it is fueling the hunt for him. There doesn't need to be a tracker placed on his body. All it takes is a skilled hacker to find out where Joe is hiding. Seeing how easy it is to track him is what makes it so annoying when the assassins are unable to kill him when they are in such close proximity to him. It's strange to see Gabrielle go back and forth on whether she wants Joe to see her as the one chasing him. She follows him on the train. She keeps her eyes on him. But she isn't the one who wants to make the move. She leaves that up to her partner. Later on though, Gabrielle has no problem making her presence known and using Joe's bafflement to fire at him. It's in that moment of confusion that perhaps motivates her desire to sleep with her targets first. She wants Joe to be shocked at who this woman actually is. But again, it doesn't work. These agents were able to successfully kill eleven people. And now, they only believe they have succeeded because Joe freaks out at Sam once he arrives and crashes his car.

It's once again understandable for Joe to panic about who he can really trust in the world right now. He has so few friends he can count on who can actually help him get out of this chaotic situation. Bob does appear to be a genuine contact he can trust. And yet, Joe also has to realize that the people hunting him are also keeping a close eye on Bob. They are monitoring his calls and communications. They are able to prepare accordingly once Bob arranges a meeting to bring Joe in so that he can share his side of what happened at work. Bob understands right away who the inside man in the building was who poisoned the woman working at the front desk. He knows exactly what happened and why Joe simply can't be labeled as a co-conspirator during all of this mess. His colleagues don't view things the same way because of some nefarious actions in Joe's past that Bob tried to cover up. That's ominous but a pretty empty point as well. The audience has no clue what they are talking about. It just further adds to the sinister connotations of what happens later on when Joe enters Kathy's apartment. The new leader of this team, Marty Frost, just comes in and has very little regard for Joe as well. She makes the decision to release his name and this story to the public. She doesn't care about the new target it puts on his back. She has no investment in his personal story. She just sees him as a loose complication that will need to be addressed even though they have to focus on who committed this crime. And finally, Sam has a guilty conscience about being involved in this conspiracy where his best friend is now being targeted. He tries to do the right thing. Joe has the sensible reaction of wondering how Sam knows so much about the people who are currently hunting him. But Joe will have to reckon with Sam's death because he is the one who causes it here. He has simply no time to react to that though because there is that big moment of misdirection where it seems like Gabrielle has succeeded in killing Joe only for it to be revealed that he is now wearing a bulletproof vest. Like she would be that careless to leave before knowing for certain that he was dead like was ordered of her.

All of this is just building up the situation so that Kathy's place is the only where left to go for Joe. It's the only place he can think of where no one will be expecting to find him. The show definitely played their romantic connection as genuine in the premiere. They had an awkward first date that kept going back and forth on how well it was going. There was the potential of it possibly leading to a second date. But he was more eager to look for sex afterwards as well. That's what put him into contact with Gabrielle in the first place. And now, him simply being in Kathy's life is so destructive. As such, it's going to be so awkward and unearned when the show tries selling the audience on the genuine and romantic connection between the two of them. They have lost that good will because of what Joe does here. He understands that this story is now all over the news and Kathy must be terrified of him. It's so easy to be sympathetic to Kathy as well. She went out on a date with this deranged killer who now wishes to keep her tied up in her room. He is threatening her in so many different ways. Sure, he's conflicted and doesn't want to tie her up. But he is so completely inarticulate as well. He no longer should have to honor the rules of confidentiality that are required with his work. He should just have the freedom to discuss how crazy his life has become as of late. Him being able to rationally explain it could help make Kathy be understanding and sympathetic to what has happened to him. And yet, he's not even trying. He would rather pout in secret while being so absolutely torn about dealing with everything that happened today. He is a brooding white guy who wishes that a woman would just give him the benefit of the doubt. It's important for people to trust the news though. Right now, the unbiased story is that Joe is a killer. Kathy is right to be afraid for her life. Neither of them are going to get any sleep. And yet, it's just so icky and awkward for the show to end this episode in that position because it leaves such a bad taste for everyone who is watching. It does more harm than good.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Solution to All Problems" was written by Jason Smilovic & Todd Katzberg and directed by Lawrence Trilling.
  • Bob is attacked as well while he is trying to pick up Joe to bring him into protection. And yet, it's also clear that the villains of this story need him alive for some reason. Gabrielle is given the order to use non-lethal force in order to deal with him. He must be kept alive for now. His position in the government will probably afford him some access in the future once the plot to strike in Saudi Arabia occurs.
  • It's really fascinating to see Nathan as this guy who is just middle management in this organization. More of his backstory is fleshed out this week. It's clear that he has such a clear and personal vendetta against the terrorists who are currently threatening this country. He wishes to serve even though those words are put into this mouth by his new boss. It's intriguing to see him as threatening and competent while also sitting back and taking orders once his boss puts him in his place as well.
  • Nathan ordered the hit on Joe and his colleagues after it was discovered that Joe was looking into stocks that would surge if this kind of weaponized plague was released throughout the country. Joe wasn't able to build anything out of that or even investigate further. As such, the boss has no problem just dismissing Nathan's concerns because Joe is about to be dead. And yet, Joe isn't dead so far. He just doesn't have the access to understand what's going on.
  • It's clear that the weaponized plague discovered at the football game was just a case of misdirection so that this organization could soon retaliate against the countries who orchestrated such an attack while still being celebrated once the news story gets out. It's still absolutely despicable because they are willing to kill so many people with a complete disregard for the consequences.
  • Sam threw up after realizing that Joe got away and that he would have to kill his best friend. He decided to help instead and that's what led to him being killed. As such, it's tragic that he leaves a wife and son behind. They are completely in the dark about what he was up to as well. There's just a really blunt scene in the middle of this episode that illustrates that point though with Mae comforting a woman who lost her husband to the agency.