Undercovers Review: "Devices"
How ironic that in the preview for next week's episode Samantha says: "It seems a little run of the mill."
The formula Undercovers regurgitated last week continues relatively unbroken in "Devices," and that is unfortunate. I had hoped that perhaps this week the story would start gaining some traction, but we seem to be stuck in some kind of Groundhog Day loop, because we keep getting pretty much the same story every week.
It's episode three, and I still don't have any idea why the long-retired spies are the agency's secret weapon, called in to handle sensitive cases that require a special touch. That has never really been explained. And their lackluster, albeit successful, performance doesn't seem to suggest a reason, either.
They seem like average spies to me, who, in case you missed the persistent battering ram to to the brain, just happen to be married. Furthermore, the cases they're being brought in for don't seem particularly worthy of the talents of the supposed special ops couple. There aren't active spies with more current experience up to the task?
I liked the Blooms okay when we first met, but their repetitious chats about whether or not working together is a good idea, not to mention their endless array of topics to bicker over, has grown tiresome. Less focus on the marriage relationship and more on the espionage, please.
In pursuit of a code breaking device capable of exposing the identities of the CIA's roster of agents, there was nothing exceptional about the way the Blooms handled the case. Initially, they acquired the wrong device, much to the chagrin of Agent Shaw, who seemed at once angry and justified by their epic fail. Even though they figured out the identity and location of the correct "device" and secured it on behalf of the CIA, I sort of checked out halfway through because the story was just... dull.
Steven's ridiculous, but oddly effective attempt to stand up to Shaw was laughable, as his threat was incredibly weak, and I don't believe for a second that Shaw would have really caved like that. Given his obvious disdain for the Blooms, Steven is just fortunate Shaw didn't bust his kneecaps.
While there was more action and danger this go round, including Steven getting shot at by a sniper and Samantha captured and held at gunpoint, it just didn't seem to matter because I still have no rationale with which to muster much care for these characters - with the sole exception of Leo Nash. He's the Han Solo of this group, the charming, confident wisecracker, and he's the only thing thus far that puts a smile on my face. I hadn't heard of Carter MacIntyre before this, but he's got all the makings of a star. A show centered on Leo's character would be much more to my liking I think.
Hoyt, on the other hand, continues to be annoying. It is appalling just how far up Steven's butt Hoyt's rather sizable schnoz will reach. He had other brief moments of cleverness and humor, as when referring to a suspect as a "plantain" to add Spanish flair, but this ongoing man crush storyline is so asinine, I literally cringe whenever Hoyt opens his mouth.
The problem with Undercovers has nothing at all to do with the actors. There is definite chemistry between Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Each is perfectly charming and trying his/her hardest to make this show rise above the benign material they're given to work with, but it's just not working.
It may sound as if I hate it, but I don't. I just don't love it, either. It's passable entertainment, just rather ordinary, which is so frustrating because I feel like someone took a jigsaw puzzle, threw it up in the air, pulled out a couple of key pieces, let it scatter across the floor and then presented it as complete.
Nothing about Undercovers is original, nor does it take an inventive approach to a familiar circumstance. It even fails to provide a reason to come back week to week. The best spy shows, from Alias to Burn Notice, leave you with something to return for, a cliffhanger. Undercovers ends each week so far with the Blooms in bed discussing how great it is to be married. Evidently there are only two rooms in the Bloom household: the kitchen and the bedroom. To quote Steven Bloom and direct it to the writers: "Do you understand what's at stake here?"
I've never been so disappointed in an offering bearing the name J. J. Abrams until now. I can only hope that something changes, and soon. Otherwise Undercovers will find itself over and out.
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.