Undercovers Review: "Instructions"
The second episode of Undercovers followed pretty much the same formula as the pilot: a bad guy does something horrible, the Blooms are activated, they chase down some leads, share some fairly witty banter, kick a little tail, get the bad guy, then retire to their bedroom for a little kiss'n'cuddle... all the while looking smashing in the process.
But is this all there is to this show? I want some real intrigue, shocking reveals and a cliffhanger. Is that too much to ask?
I know "Instructions" was only the second episode and it takes some time to build your characters, but let's face it: given the fact that the axe has already started dropping this season, freshman shows with high expectations shouldn't dawdle about.
I get J.J. Abrams and company are taking the anti-Alias approach in an attempt to make it more accessible to casual viewers, as well as rerun-friendly, but do you really have to dull things down to achieve that?
The big twist that Kruger really was the mastermind wasn't too surprising. You see that sort of thing on Law & Boredom every week. The one glimmer of hope that there is more life to breathe into this series came when Leo made reference to the "real reason" Steven left the agency, something of which Samantha doesn't seem to be aware. If that doesn't pan out into something interesting, I'll be sorely disappointed.
I also got a kick out of Samantha deciding to clip the black wire, as all I could think of was Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57 saying "Always bet on black."
I really want to love this show. I'm not giving up on it yet, but thus far, the only thing it really has going for it is the Abrams pedigree - which is beginning to show some wear - and the charm of the cast. Oh, and it's got plenty of charm to spare. Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are so captivating and gorgeous that it almost makes me forget about the vapid plot. And I really like Carter MacIntyre as Leo. His egocentric charisma is bewitching.
In fact, the second half of the episode was significantly more entertaining, and I attribute much of that to Leo's presence. The back and forth and back again between he and the Blooms added some fire to the generally bromidic proceedings that I readily welcomed. The scene with the three stripping down and putting on fancy duds to infiltrate the summit fogged up the TV screen.
Hoyt was far less of an irritant this week, and I did enjoy he and Samantha going off together to hunt down the Seidel boys. Hoyt actually showed some prowess as a spy, which was good to see, and his attempts to be cool during the interrogation of Kruger were amusing. But the man-crush on Steven shtick has gone from slightly annoying to simply old. No way would any guy actually believe that when Steven calls his wife "sweetie" that it might actually have been directed to him. That's not funny, that's just stupid.
I'm beginning to wonder if Shaw's character is meant to reflect audience response, since he pretty much said what I was thinking when he expressed his disdain for the Bloom's constant "simultaneous yammering." I hope so because maybe he can find a way to give the story more weight. I like Shaw, he's a great foil for the Blooms, yet shares too little screen time with them for my taste.
There were moments this week when it seemed as if Undercovers wanted to break out into something extraordinary, which made it all the more frustrating to watch. Unfortunately, so far it appears to be nothing more than a sexy procedural masquerading under the guise of an espionage adventure. Not to say it's not a perfectly fine and fairly enjoyable way to spend an hour. But it simply doesn't supply enough of what I want from a spy dramedy. Here's to hoping it picks up some steam in episode three.
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Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.