Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2017)
When we met Bryan Mills in 2009’s Taken, he enjoyed life as a retired CIA agent until the kidnapping of his daughter took him back into action. With 2017’s NBC series Taken, we find a younger version of the character and see how he developed as a government operative.
Season One of Taken encompasses 10 episodes, all of which appear in this two-disc Blu-ray package. The synopses come from the Blu-ray’s packaging.
Pilot: “The murder of Bryan Mills’ (Clive Standen) sister sends him on a course for revenge against cartel boss Carlos Mejia (Louis Ferreira). A secret US intelligence agency recruits Mills to become part of its team.”
Like most shows of its sort, “Pilot” acts as an “origin story”, as it exists primarily to introduce the characters and set up the overall narrative. It does this in a fairly efficient manner, but I can’t say it ever becomes especially compelling. This seems like a perfunctory exploration of the subjects that leaves me a bit cold, so hopefully the series will improve from here.
Ready: “Bryan gets his first chance in the field, but it results in a tragic death when the mission goes bust.”
Prequels suffer from one inevitable drawback: a lack of tension, at least in terms of known characters. Since Bryan appears in the movies, we never worry for his survival.
Taken gets around that to some degree because we don’t know the rest of the cast. They don’t appear in the films, so we anything could happen to them – to a degree. We’re pretty sure that Bryan’s boss Christina Hart won’t die because Jennifer Beals plays the role – Beals never became a huge star, but she’s still enough of a “name” that we’re sure she’ll survive violent assaults.
That lack of real tension makes “Ready” a less than stellar episode. We see lots of mayhem but don’t feel much impact, as we don’t really care about the participants – not yet, at least. I’m still hopeful the series will mature and develop its roles and scenarios in a more satisfying manner.
Off Side: “Bryan and the team search for a suspected terrorist who has been taken, leading them to uncover a deeper plot within their own government. Christina receives troubling news and turns to Harry (Dominic Fumusa) for support. Asha (Brooklyn Sudano) express her concern over Bryan’s fixation with Mejia.”
Three episodes into the series and Taken shows signs of life with the generally good “Off Side”. Parts of it sag – especially when Christina’s health saga takes a turn for the sappy – but the main terrorism-related narrative proves to be pretty exciting. That aspect bolsters the program.
Mattie G: “Riley’s (Jennifer Marsala) insistence on uncovering the truth behind a fatal drug given to war vets results in her asset’s child being taken. Bryan defies orders to rescue the girl and uncover the truth. When a break-in at Asha’s apartment leaves her shaken, a new neighbor is there to calm her nerves.”
Another factor that lends to a lack of tension: potential harm to a child. Taken isn’t a brave enough series to actually kill a kid, so we never fear for the abducted youngster’s safety. Well, at least we see someone get taken in Taken, but otherwise, this is a lackluster episode.
A Clockwork Swiss: “Christina orders the retrieval of sensitive documents in Zurich needed to prevent economic and political disaster. The mission to break into a bank vault turns into a three-way battle and a race to escape safely. Meanwhile, Asha’s trust in Elena (Layla Alizada) proves to be misplaced and leaves Bryan vulnerable.
Huh – so Contrived Love Object Asha’s new BFF Elena turns out to be a misdirect – who woulda thunk? Everyone, I suspect, as that relationship felt too convenient, a malady that tends to afflict much of Taken, as the show lacks a lot of originality or creativity. At least “Swiss” boasts a smidgen of comedic energy, a trend that this dour series could use on a more frequent basis.
Hail Mary: “The ODNI is asked to facilitate the defection of a Russian FSB agent but the agent’s pregnant girlfriend throws a curve in the team’s plans. Meanwhile, Christina goes off the books to reveal a mole in the CIA, and John’s (Gaius Charles) attempt to resolve his brother’s problem with a local gang results in a spiritual crisis.”
Usually a series like Taken would come with some form of season-long narrative arc, but that doesn’t really happen here. This leaves each episode as a bit disjointed and without tremendous connection to the others.
There’s nothing wrong with that in theory, but in this case, it means the series never quite gets into a groove. “Mary” also falters because its plot points lack much punch – the Russian segment feels tired, and scenes with John also fail to come across as creative. This becomes another mediocre episode.
Solo: “During the team’s efforts to thwart a Mejia weapons operation, Bryan is taken. As he relies on his ODNI training to survive, the team attempts a daring rescue. Meanwhile, Bryan and Asha take their relationship to the next level.”
Okay – I guess Taken does enjoy one overarching narrative thread: Bryan’s connection to Mejia. However, this tends to play such a minor role in the overall proceedings that it fails to muster much dramatic push.
“Solo” attempts to further that aspect of the series, but only in a half-hearted manner. Instead, most of the episode focuses on the usual generic, banal material that doesn’t even get a kick when Bryan becomes “taken”.
Leah: “The ODNI assists an Israeli spy with early onset Alzheimer’s whose own legacy is out to kill her. Christina worries that she may face a similar fate as she is threatened by forces within her own organization, and Bryan’s distrust of Asha leads to a painful argument.”
Due to issues connected to the title character, “Leah” takes a more introspective tone than usual. This doesn’t make it good, though, as the episode feels more like a Lifetime movie than anything else. It becomes another mediocre program.
Gone: “The ODNI is forced to deliver Mejia to the FBI but catches wind of the cartel’s plan to hijack the transfer. As John and Rem (James Landry Hébert) work to stall the handover, Bryan takes extreme measures to keep Mejia in his custody. Meanwhile, Asha learns the true identity of her friend Elena.”
With so little time left in the season, “Gone” should heat up matters in an active way. On the surface, it seems likely to do so, given its focus on Bryan’s enemy Mejia. However, “Gone” follows predictable paths and delivers a lackluster show without the requisite thrills.
I Surrender: “As the FBI threatens to remove Christina from her command, Bryan and John lead a rogue mission to stop Mejia’s associates before they cross the border. With no allies to assist them, the ODNI risks losing their jobs, their lives and those closest to them.”
Season One comes to an end with more action than usual, as “Surrender” ratchets up the firepower to a level one would expect from the finale. Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t pack much of a punch, mainly because the rest of the year built/developed the characters in such a bland manner.
We simply never really get to know or care about the participants, so their fates fail to impact us. We also get stuck with a bland, forgettable main villain who doesn’t create a compelling foil. All of this adds to a forgettable finish to a less than involving season.