Monday, February 21, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Endgame' - Elena's Capture By the U.S. Government Only Proves How Elaborate Her Organization Is in 'Pilot'

NBC's The Endgame - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Recently captured international arms dealer and criminal mastermind Elena Fedorova orchestrates a number of coordinated bank heists throughout New York for a mysterious purpose. She may have met her match, however, with principled and relentless FBI agent Val Turner, who will stop at nothing to foil her plan.

"Pilot" was written by Nicholas Wootton & Jake Coburn and directed by Justin Lin

The elaborate heist is the star of this show. Yes, it's long overdue to see Morena Baccarin and Ryan Michelle Bathé in leading roles after careers as supporting characters. However, the character details that define Elena Federova and Val Turner are secondary to the incredibly orchestrated plot that is currently happening. Elena is an international arms dealer who has concocted this large-scale attack that is now firmly in motion. It's all seemingly done to expose the hypocrisy of those running the American government. Everything peaks with the reveal that Elena knows the deepest secrets of the Attorney General. He should resign or she will expose them to the public. It's all suppose to showcase Elena's intellect and her ability to survive. She has an army of followers willing to do whatever she commands. She wields influence across the entire world. It's easy for her to orchestrate seven bank heists on the same day in New York City. It's all driven to attack the country where it is suppose to be its most secure. Moreover, she exploits the procedures meant to keep these institutions safe when such a threat is detected. She knows how to maneuver through all of this without having to be an active participant herself. She studies human behavior. No reaction is miscalculated. Everything is done for a reason. As such, the audience should be inherently skeptical about any offer teased that could end all of this. Val insists that Elena operates on a massive scale. She doesn't bother herself with small jobs. Her actions change power structures in countries. She isn't motivated by money either. She has all that she needs to be comfortable. She exerts her power in order to show just how much control she has. She is never intimidated while in federal custody. No threat is serious to her. She planned for all of this. She wanted to be captured in order to flaunt all of her abilities to the people tasked with stopping criminals like her. It's all personally motivated so that Val is the one at the center of it all too.

Val is enduring a scandal within the FBI because her husband was recently exposed for taking federal evidence. Elena was responsible for that too. She wants Val to know that as well. She can get to what means the most to her. That means Owen. Again, no time is given that could resemble a personal life for any of these characters. Val noticing that Elena was once pregnant is the only moment where something is perceived to have been given away that Elena didn't expect. Val is choosing to be weary of this story. And yet, it's all personal for her. It's difficult for the audience to exactly connect with it all though. Val is promised the evidence that could prove Owen's innocence. And yet, she is operating under the suspicion that Sergey, Elena's husband, is dead. In reality, he's in prison with Owen. That means the audience is already ahead of the protagonist. That's a precarious position. One where Val can't entertain any notion allegedly being done in good faith. This is all a manipulation. When everything is meant to be a shocking twist, the drama quickly loses its potency and ability to surprise the audience. It's just an hour of Val and her colleagues believing they have a plan to stop all of this only for it to blow up in their faces. That's the literal fate a couple of times. This is all dangerous and precarious. Elena is just getting started too. The premise is certainly enough to intrigue. The personal drama is lacking because it too comes across as a formulaic drive by one character to make a point. That purpose just remains cryptic after one episode. More will be revealed. The scale of Elena's true ambitions have only been hinted at. Val needs a win in order to make this seem like an even match. At the moment, she's just a frustrated FBI agent who doesn't have the ability to lead this investigation the way she needs to prevent Elena from her next move. She may get that recognition eventually. Plenty of officials stand in her way. That skepticism seems purposeful. It doesn't seem willing to delve deeply enough into the systemic issues meant to be exposed and exploited by it. And so, it's a fancy plot meant to entertain instead of offering meaningful character stories. That's a stylistic choice that can work - especially for a network drama. More character work would be vastly appreciated though.