October 20, 2012



HUNTED:  Friday 10PM on Cinemax – Potential DVR Alert

On the same night that coincidentally brought the season premiere of Nikita, we have a new series that treads similar ground, both centering on gorgeous, betrayed spies, although the tones of the two shows are very different.  In HUNTED, set and produced in Britain but written by the American Frank Spotnitz (best known for his writing/producing work on The X Files), our ambushed heroine is Sam Hunter (Melissa George), a British agent for a private companycalled Byzantium that performs high-level security services for mysterious clients.  In a long prologue set in Tangiers, Sam has engineered the escape of a captive, apparently with success–and then she’s shot in the gut, which incidentally kills the unborn child she hadn’t yet told anyone about.  Sam survives and goes off to rural Scotland to recover alone (apparently it’s her family home, but no one from the agency can find her, one of the story inconsistencies that has yet to be explained).

A year later she’s back, supposedly to take up her duties once again, but actually to find out who at the company betrayed her.  It could be boss Keel (Stephen Dillane), or Aiden (Adam Rayner), who would have been the father of Sam’s baby, or any of colleagues Deacon (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Lost‘s Mr. Eko), Zoe (Morven Christie) or Emil (Hasan Moussa).  Keel is reluctant to take her back after her mysterious disappearance–he’s also concerned that there’s a mole at Byzantium, and fears she may have something to do with that–but decides to bring her in to infiltrate the family of Jack Turner (Patrick Malahide), a one-time gangster now a real estate tycoon, who’s trying to buy control of a dam, which Byzantium’s undisclosed client wants to stop.  Sam seemingly rescues Jack’s 10 year-old grandson, the son of Stephen (Stephen Campbell Moore) from a kidnapping, while pretending to be a schoolteacher from Indiana, prompting Stephen to bring her into the household as his son’s tutor–he clearly has a romantic interest in her as well.  This will turn out to be related to the Tangiers attack somehow, as the man who “cleaned up” after the shooting and Sam’s escape is also at the Turners, pretending to be the Dutch scientist he’s murdered.  If all this wasn’t enough, when Sam was a child, her mother was killed and she was abducted, and it’s unclear if that’s just a bad memory for her or something that will have current plot significance.

The first hour of Hunted is surprisingly substantial.  Although Spotnitz recently wrote for Cinemax’s Strike BackHunted has a much less trashy, more serious tone, as influenced by Le Carre as by the Luc Besson action-adventure genre.  (The fact that the co-producer this time is the BBC may have something to do with it.)  A consumer note:  despite being produced for paycable, the TV-MA content in the 1st episode probably totals under 15 seconds.  While George has the fashion model looks that Hollywood demands of its spies (as evidenced by the number of times Angelina Jolie has strapped on a gun in her career), she downplays her glamor somewhat and delivers a serious performance–not one anyone will confuse with Claire Danes, another current troubled spy, but with a fair amount of dramatic heft nevertheless.  The only supporting cast member to get significant material in the first hour is Dillane who, like apparently all English actors, makes a meal out of all the epigrammatic, clipped dialogue he can find.

Hunted is shot on location, and the direction by S.J. Clarkson (who’s also directed some Dexter and Heroes episodes in addition to a lot of British work) is strong on atmosphere and a post-Bourne sense of physical reality for the action sequences.  The 8-hour season has plenty of territory yet to cover, and it remains to be seen whether its multiple storylines can play out in a satisfying way.  The show is off to a good start, though, with interesting situations and a strong central mystery.  It’s an unexpectedly welcome arrival.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."