Thursday, January 7, 2021

REVIEW: 'Coyote' - Ben Celebrates His Retirement Before Being Pulled Into a New Place of Drama in 'Call of the Void'

CBS All Access' Coyote - Episode 1.01 "Call of the Void"

Forced into mandatory retirement, Ben goes to a small coastal town in Mexico to finish construction on his ex-partner's fishing cabin and in the process, crosses paths with a young woman who needs his help.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides 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 CBS All Access' Coyote.

"Call of the Void" was written by Michael Carnes, Josh Gilbert & David Graziano and directed by Michelle MacLaren

Ben Clemens is a stoic and grizzled man who doesn't like making a fuss about anything. He has done his job for 32 years. And now, he is retiring. Those are simply the expected motions of his life. It's not his place to step outside of the box. He can absolutely be creative when the situation requires him to be. He understands the human impact of the job he does. But he doesn't want to look beyond what his simple beliefs of the world are. Whenever he sees a person from law enforcement, he believes that they must be inherently good and noble. That isn't always the case. When he makes his big bust in the beginning of this premiere, it's all about the drugs that have been recovered. He goes into action because he hears the cries for help down in the tunnel. He is a man with morals. He takes action instead of running away or ignoring it. It's potentially dangerous because he goes rogue without any backup to offer support. He still has the tools to make a difference. Again, this is simply the job he has chosen and has done for a significant part of his life. It isn't a big deal. It's him simply enforcing what other people have deemed as necessary. He buys into the argument that borders exist for a reason. As such, those boundaries have to be enforced as a way to preserve order. He provides a little to the xenophobic notion that criminals are the only people who would try to break into the country outside of the normal channels. He doesn't care to check to see how the "legal" process works or if it is effective for the people who go through it. Instead, he simply has a friend who can provide him with favors should any kind of immigration concern rise to his interests. That has rarely happened though. He isn't all that perceptive of the world. The premiere establishes that something haunting is about to happen to him. He too will be wandering the desert and not engaging with any sort of reality around him. That is an eery tease of what's to come. The show doesn't follow through on that opening moment though. It's a plot point to establish some kind of larger story. It's meant to intrigue. It convinces the audience to spend the entire hour waiting for clarity only for the realization that the season as a whole will be building up to that moment. That's striking and lame. It's a mystery. It's something to recognize and look out for at some point in the future. The premiere features Ben on a journey in Mexico. He is simply doing a favor to the wife of his former partner. Something bad happened to him. And now, Ben wants to protect the family he left behind. He is generous in that way. He just has to have a personal connection with them first. Sure, he's distant with his own family as well. It's a hassle to attend a celebration for his daughter. He's proud of her. He just doesn't understand the excitement and need to make a big thing out of it. He falls into that same pattern though. People call out that he is an active participant in how life shapes those around him. He doesn't choose to ignore the cries for help when he hears them. He is certainly startled. He is slow to pick up on the ominous reality that people fear elsewhere in the world. The narrative suggests that comes from a place of general disinterest. He protected the border from those crossing illegally. He didn't abuse the system. He didn't help people exploit it. He was simply an enforcer. It was a system that worked for him. He didn't particularly care if it didn't work for others. He doesn't make that connection with them. He only knows a few Spanish words. He pieces together enough to know just how dangerous the world can be and the fears that people have. He just believes that the same systems of protection that work in the United States will also be true in Mexico. He is naive. He has been sheltered and kept away from these ugly realities. He may only help Maria because she reminds him of his daughter. Again, he needs that personal connection to break out of the mold. That makes this premiere a little stiff and uninterested. It is slow to really get to a point of drama. The world building is simplistic as well. It doesn't offer a perspective that is unique that searingly challenges Ben's worldview. He isn't complex enough of a character to make that journey compelling. Michael Chiklis certainly commands the screen in a watchable way. The depths beyond that are severely lacking though because the world and plot seem thin with no assurance of some kind of payoff in the future. The clash of cultures just feels like a bunch of generalities about what people assume the conflicts to be instead of researching to see just how nuanced and complex they truly are. It is ultimately too bland to offer a unique take.