Monday, February 25, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Enemy Within' - The FBI Doesn't Know If It Can Trust a Traitor to Catch a Terrorist in 'Pilot'

NBC's The Enemy Within - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Former CIA agent Erica Shepherd is now known as one of the most notorious traitors in recent American history. Shepherd is brought out of a federal Supermax prison by FBI Agent Will Keaton to help stop some of the most dangerous acts of espionage threatening the United States today.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of NBC's The Enemy Within.

"Pilot" was written by Ken Woodruff and directed by Mark Pellington

Every year NBC develops and ultimately orders to series at least one of these conspiracy-based shows in the same vein as The Blacklist and Blindspot. Of course, those two dramas are no longer the broad hits they were when they started. They have essentially been sent off to Friday nights to do low but respectable numbers because they still earn a profit for the overall company. But these are no longer the types of shows that are the hallmark of the NBC drama brand. And so, it's not unusual that The Enemy Within debuts following The Voice. It's a familiar pattern for these shows even though the time slot has been pretty hit or miss with them. So, it's unclear just how successful this new series will be. Moreover, the creative side of things is a little all over the place without seeming as smart or deep as it would like to be. The hour opens with an onscreen graphic informing the audience that there are more foreign agents operating within the United States now than ever before. That's a chilling and agonizing detail. And then, the show frames its entire twist to keep the conspiracy angle going at the conclusion of the hour with that same exact plot point. It's suddenly a revelation that Erica is telling Will that she was in the process of uncovering a vast network of thousands of sleeper agents operating within the country and working for the man behind these violent acts of terrorism. That appears mostly to give the show its story engine moving forward. The terrorist doesn't even have to be seen for a long time. Instead, this task force can simply be hunting down the sleeper agents who have suddenly become active and are aiming to destroy the US government. Of course, this hour also makes it abundantly clear that it's easy to turn these officials in high-ranking positions of the government. That too is a very topical and relevant issue being discussed. The show aspires for the intrigue of the characters and audience not knowing if Erica Shepherd is a true spy working against the best intentions of the country or if she was blackmailed into offering her assistance. The ending would suggest that she did it all out of love for her daughter. When she makes her brief escape, she goes to see her daughter at school. She wants to make it clear that she still loves her. And yet, that moment doesn't seem to carry any kind of public consequences at all. Will disliked having to make this offer to Erica in order to get her help in trying to catch this master terrorist. In the end, it's all played as if it is his choice over whether or not she gets to stay after her adventurous day outside the office. But that's too containing of this world and the overall story. It wants the headlines of Erica Shepherd being labeled the biggest traitor in modern history. But it also doesn't want the audience to think about the cell phone footage that was recording her being apprehended outside of her daughter's school in the present day when she should still be in a supermax prison. Wouldn't the public demand answers from the government as to how she escaped and what she was doing there? She believes she's protecting her daughter. But it seems like she is only adding to the public scrutiny of this moment. But again, the show doesn't really seem to be interested in that aspect of the story because it's more fun and entertaining to have high-speed car chases where the people are evading IEDs which could kill them. Plus, there's that whole twist of the main story being an elaborate plan to get a new mole working with the team. It's all very exhausting without many character details to keep it entertaining and compelling. Will Keaten especially seems like a one-note character who gets aggravated way too easily and doesn't seem to have the proper temperament to actually do this job.