HUNTED 1.02 ‘LB’

Sam struggles with an order to kill her own teammate as two assassins begin to close in on her.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: 'LB

Writer: Frank Spotnitz

Director: S J Clarkson

Previously on "Hunted":

Episode 1.01 "Mort"

After two episodes of “Hunted,” I am definitely not in love with this series. I really do want to like it as much as I do “Strike Back” and I’m happy to see that Cinemax is carving out an identity for itself as a home for action on TV.

But Melissa George’s Sam Hunter is the biggest problem on the show. It’s very difficult to care about Sam thanks to the way that she is written and performed. Sam’s emotionally closed off state may be the natural byproduct of a lifetime filled with betrayal and tragedy, but it also keeps the audience at a distance that it can’t quite cross. If we can’t feel empathy for Sam and her plight, than she’s little more than a vehicle for the show to breakout an occasional fight sequence or espionage scene.

Supposedly, Sam’s rapport with the young Edward Turner (Oscar Kennedy) is what is keeping her in the Turner household under the suspicious glare of Edward’s shady grandfather, Jack (Patrick Malahide) and Edward’s unsuspecting father, Stephen (Stephen Campbell Moore). However, the scenes between Sam and Edward and even between Sam and Stephen come off as forced and artificial.

The one aspect of her role that George is really pulling off is Sam’s physicality. Sam looks convincing when she pulls off a few athletic moves to escape the Turner mansion. But I am more impressed by the way that Sam conducts herself in the fight with the scarred assassin where she clearly did not have the upper hand. A more accurate way to put it is that Sam was getting her ass kicked and that she was lucky to leave that situation alive.

Sam’s inability to beat every opponent in front of her adds some much needed credibility to the show. If Sam could just knock around much bigger men than “Hunted” would really be pushing believability. Sam is also allowed to briefly be vulnerable as we see the full extent of her injuries from that fight when she disrobes in front of her estranged lover, Aidan Marsh (Adam Rayner). But there still isn’t much chemistry between George and Rayner.

The opening scene of the episode did give us some tense moments as the Blank-faced man (Scott Handy) appeared to be ready to execute Sam on the spot while introducing himself as Dr. Horst Goebel. We know that the Blank-faced man was apparently tied to the previous attempt on Sam’s life and that the scarred man is also seemingly out to kill her. However, it’s less clear if they want her dead for the same reasons or if they have separate agendas.

Getting back to last week’s other cliffhanger, Sam’s teammate, Hasan Moussa (Uriel Emil Pollack) was kidnapped by Turner’s men in retaliation for his part in the attempted “abduction” of Edward that was used to introduce Sam to the Turner family. Sam’s boss at Byzantium, Rupert Keel (Stephen Dillane) seems to be more concerned about maintaining Sam’s cover than saving Hasan, so Sam is ordered to execute her teammate herself before he can break under torture.

As a side note, how ridiculous is it for Sam to have such a free run of the Turner mansion without any scrutiny? Jack is openly suspicious of her and her presence, and yet Sam seems to be able to slip into his office and his deepest basement with little effort… to say nothing of how easy it is for Sam to sneak out of the mansion undetected. Does a man as paranoid as Jack Turner really not have any surveillance cameras within his home?

There is briefly an interesting shade of grey morality when Sam is willing to follow her orders and eliminate Hasan before he claims to have information about the attempt on her life. Hasan says that the scarred man approached him with a generous offer to turn on Sam while she was gone. And Hasan also points out that someone within the team likely betrayed him to Turner’s men in the previous episode.

Of course, all moral ambiguity goes out the window when Hasan immediately tries to kill Sam after she frees him. That makes Sam’s subsequent killing of Hasan justified and sidesteps the entire issue. That felt like a very lazy writing solution.

As underdeveloped as Sam is, her Byzantium teammates are even worse. Most of them are so bland that they barely make an impression; while Zoe Morgan (Morven Christie) and Ian Fowkes (Lex Shrapnel) only registered because they spent the majority of their screentime arguing about whether Sam should “remove” Hasan. I’m sure that if we cared about any of these characters that argument would have weight. But there are a lot of cardboard performances on this show.

In the absence of any real character development, Sam’s boss, Rupert Keel gets this week’s Cinemax moment when he meets with a beautiful (and very quickly, naked)  young woman at an upscale hotel; which is apparently a routine for them. Perhaps this is meant to imply Keel’s moral failings as he authorizes Hasan’s death in front of the woman with barely a thought. But if Keel is one of the masterminds behind the attempts on Sam’s life, then he is going to need a lot more than those brief moments to make him a compelling character.

It was a little surprising that the storyline of Sam in the Turner didn’t advance any further than it did in this episode. I don’t think that this particular plotline has the legs to make it through the entire season. I am still with “Hunted” for now, but my patience has its limits.