Frustratingly generic, the first episode of BBC One’s new eight-part thriller Hunted – which centres on spy Sam Hunter returning to the field a year after an attempt on her life – marks a serious departure from form for almost everyone involved.
We open in Tangiers where Sam (Melissa George) is quite literally undercover, seducing some shifty Moroccan fella in a bid to rescue a kidnapped doctor. Along the way we meet Sam’s team: American muscle Deacon (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Sam’s secret lover Aidan (Adam Rayner) and a few sassy extras, any of whom could come to a sticky end by the time the credits roll on episode eight.
Post-mission, Sam arranges to meet Aidan at a nearby café so they can discuss “something important”. Unsurprisingly, the only people who show up are some gun-toting goons who are promptly dispatched by Sam – in one of the most effectively directed scenes of the whole hour – just before she gets shot by a fake policeman. Yikes.
And there you have the set-up. An assassination attempt, a secret affair, a shady operation and, of course, a list of suspects as long as your arm. The only problem is there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. The script – penned by X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz – is a real disappointment, trundling along and dispensing blobs of doughy exposition which the actors chew their way through with all the dead-eyed conviction of the Twilight cast. Even the impressive action sequences (the best of which features an eyeball and a very large needle) owe too much to the Bourne films to be classed original.
It’s a shame, because considering the (mostly) impressive cast and amount of money evident in the stylish cinematography, Hunted could have been something special – given, that is, a livelier script and less of a tendency to hit the ol’ Cliché Meter.
After recovering in Scotland for a year, Sam returns to London and meets with old boss Keel (Stephen Dillane), who appears to be forever conducting his conversations in front of a floor length window (BING!). Like that Sam’s back on the team, helping them target mob boss Jack Turner (Patrick Malahide).
“We need to find the agenda behind the agenda,” says Deacon, and everyone nods sagely (BING!). Later, Sam and Aidan have a conversation – in which Rayner delivers his lines with all the intensity of a cat licking its nether regions – and that Cliché Meter goes through the roof. “I don’t trust you! Why don’t you trust me? We were in love!” (BING! BING! BING!).
Strangely, George is infinitely more convincing and likeable as cheery Yank “Alex”, the persona she adopts to infiltrate the Turner household. Alongside the performance of Stephen Campbell Moore as Turner’s bereaved son, the episode begins to pick up a bit of steam.
Ultimately, though, this is an hour that passes slowly. And for a show which boldly touts its female star as a strong action lead, Melissa George spends a lot of time weighed down by heavy eyeshadow and immaculately waved hair, not to mention toting a constant pout as though she’s secretly burrowed away a bit of ham somewhere in her mouth.
Perhaps it’s the case that once Hunted has had a little time to find its feet, it will improve. As mentioned, there’s certainly enough going on – creepy assassins, a “mole on the team” (BING!), Aidan’s secret meetings with an unknown woman, Sam’s flashbacks about the death of her mother – but the real question is, with so little depth and such a hackneyed format, are we ever really going to care?
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 4th October 2012 on BBC One.
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