December 8, 2012



For reasons sociologists can ponder, we happen to be at a great moment for spy stories.  Last year’s remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the superb Homeland (barring last week’s speed-bump episode) and the upcoming Zero Dark Thirty, the reconstruction of the fossilized bones of James Bond into the triumphant Skyfall–you can hardly take a step in pop culture right now without stumbling over a superior tale of clandestine agents following some dim trail to its morally ambiguous end.  In a lesser year, the BBC/Cinemax production HUNTED might have seemed decent enough, but right now it’s very much at the lesser end of the genre.

Hunted‘s final episode, written by series creator Frank Spotnitz and directed by Daniel Percival was, as a piece of dramaturgy, a disaster.  Our heroine, Sam Hunter (Melissa George), spent almost the entire hour drugged into a stupor, having realized too late that she was being poisoned… until being held underwater in a bathtub for what seemed like five solid minutes somehow shocked the poison right out of her sufficiently for her to rise out of the tub and throw her would-be killer over a stairwell, like some heroic version of Glenn Close at the end of Fatal Attraction.  A last-minute backstory for villain Jack Turner (Patrick Malahide) came off as desperate, and after having been told how smart Jack was for 6 hours, his decision to murder Sam in exactly the same way he’d murdered his daughter-in-law just a few months earlier was unacceptably stupid.  Jack’s nice-guy son Stephen (Stephen Campbell Moore), despite enough justification for revenge to make Gandhi pick up a handgun, stayed a wimp till the very end.  The evil all-powerful Polyhedros Corporation was never more than a cliche.  The dueling assassins who played into the climax were like a Tarantino notion without the style he would have used to pull it off, and the twist of the epilogue so flew in the face of everything we’d been told about Sam for the entire series that it was almost an insult to viewers.

Nor was there any depth of characterization to make the bad plotting bearable.  George remained grim throughout, the incurable brain tumor of her boss Keel (Stephen Dillane) proved to be all but irrelevant, love interest Aidan (Adam Rayner) was uninteresting, and the other members of Sam’s Byzantium private security organization were mostly ciphers.  Along the way, there were occasional stylish, exciting sequences, and the acting was always fine, but none of it built to anything.

Hunter ended with the door open for a sequel, as Sam’s near-death experience unlocked some repressed memories of her abduction by Polyhedros as a child, but the show’s future is murky at best.  The BBC has decided not to proceed with another season, which means that unless Cinemax steps up with additional financing or a new partner is found (and the Cinemax ratings have been minimal at best), this will probably be the end of the series.  Given the first-class competition that surrounds Hunted, it’s hard to feel very sad about that.  Mediocrity just doesn’t cut it in the espionage game this year.

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."