Written By: Josh Friedman
Draft Date: January 13, 2012
Spy fare on television has run the gamut over the last decade. We've had twisty spy-fi from Alias, the increasingly unbelievable real-time antics of 24, nerdy rom-com with Chuck, the dark revenge story of Nikita, and the light-hearted naivete of Covert Affairs
The spy series of the moment is Showtime's Homeland. It's startling, in comparison to the above examples, in its attempted realism and its flawed protagonists.
You certainly can't accuse The Asset of shying away from the same. This show is dark, and its lead both complicated and flawed. The lead, Anna King, is the best at what she does, we're told. And she seems very in control, a superb people-reader, capable of lying to anyone and having them believe her. She compartmentalizes, able to betray even those she loves (for instance, a sting operation on her case officer, who she is sleeping with... the script thinks her involvement is veiled but it's really not, at least to this reader). Sex, it turns out, is a lot of what Anna does. She is a spy-hooker and has, apparently, no qualms about it. I'd like to know more about what made her that way, but the pilot gives us little-to-no indication, instead taking us down a mission of the week involving a bomb going off at a hotel in Mexico that serves to introduce us to Anna and the team around her. We see Anna fuck and betray, notice and uncover, and ultimately the case is over.
My issue here is that I'm not sure what I'm coming back for next week. She doesn't seem to have much of a world outside of her job.
Homeland posed a question about Sergeant Brody that seemed like a yes or no (is he a prisoner of war turned terrorist?), but while stringing that answer out and making us wonder what was mislead and what wasn't, it presented a fascinating situation for both him and his family (Jessica's "infidelity" if it can be called that) as well as Carrie Mathison and the whole of the CIA world around her.
I can't even go into what the Alias pilot (which, seriously, go back and rewatch that pilot... it's among the best ever, IMO) served up, the number of balls it tossed in the air. The world fell apart around Sydney Bristow.
24 had its once-fresh-later-gimmicky real-time premise and screamed "there is a terrorist plot!" and didn't wrap things up at all by the end of the first out.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
I'm not sure what about this series makes it different or special besides its darkness. And, again, it does have darkness. I'm intrigued by Anna King, but I don't know how much more, if any, I want. Or need. It's a good script, really it is... but is it enough? That's the question. And I don't have an answer for it... though, in the past when I've had that question and the pilots have turned out well and gone to series, I generally am out by episode four.