Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show comes from executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, The Amazing Race) from an idea by Omri Givon. The pilot was written by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow, Homeland) and Alon Aranya (Red Widow) and directed by Nachmanoff.
The Cast & How You Know Them: Hostages stars Toni Collette (United States of Tara) and Dylan McDermott (The Practice, American Horror Story). The cast also includes Tate Donovan (Damages, Argo), Rhys Coiro (Entourage), Billy Brown (Dexter), Sandrine Holt (House of Cards), James Naughton (Gossip Girl), Quinn Shephard (Unaccompanied Minors), and Mateus Ward (Lab Rats).
The Premise: Hostages is about Ellen Sanders, a surgeon who is set to operate on the president, and thrust into the middle of a conspiracy when her family is taken hostage by Duncan Carlisle and his team, and she’s told that in order to secure their release, she must assassinate the president while he’s on her operating table.
What Works: This pilot does a very good job of creating tension right from the get-go, and I particularly liked the juxtaposition of normal hospital stuff with the hostage standoff at the beginning. The conspirators and reason for the conspiracy are pretty much ciphers throughout this pilot, and at least some of them are clearly meant to be somewhat sympathetic; I look forward to finding out why. It’s a little predictable that none of the “good guys” are quite what they seem either, but I like how the conspirators use the family members’ secrets to play them against each other, and how they almost immediately start bonding with the kids. I came out of the pilot more curious about the conspiracy than concerned for the Sanders family, but I can’t wait to find out where this is going, so the episode definitely fulfilled its purpose of making me want to see more.
What Doesn’t: This premise sounds more like an action movie than a whole series, and I still have some concerns about how it will last for a whole season (or, rather, the planned fifteen episodes). A few times, I was a bit concerned that they were veering toward suggesting that the main character was being “punished” for prioritizing her career, and I hope they stay away from that. But really, the biggest issue I had with the pilot was that Dylan McDermott’s character, Duncan Carlisle, was just too sympathetic. Sure, he’s doing bad things, and he should be scary, but between his sick wife and his adorable daughter – and then a certain interaction he has with one of the Sanders children – he just comes off as a good guy. I assume we’ll learn more about his motivations in future episodes, and if they make him even more sympathetic, the show will have to be careful that doesn’t cut into the tension too much.
Our Favorite Line: “You’re a genius, sir. This puts you way out front on health care, makes you bulletproof for the patients’ rights groups, and women voters are going to love this lady doctor.” “Glad to know you care so much about my health, Quentin.”
You Might Like This if you like your political thrillers blended with a hefty dose of family and personal drama, as in Scandal or Homeland.
If You’re Interested: Unfortunately, CBS doesn’t seem to be rerunning this, but they put most full episodes online and on their app for a brief time, so I’d check there. In Canada, try the CTV site. Then set your DVR for next Monday at 10/9c for episode two.
(Photo courtesy of CBS.)