Monday, February 16, 2015

Allegiance - Pilot / Teamwork

The first two episode of NBC's new spy series Allegiance set-up the post-Cold War intrigue, characters, and main conflict of the series. Gavin Stenhouse stars as CIA Analyst Alex O'Connor whose unusual personality and vast knowledge are quickly raising him up the ranks of the agency. Called in to investigate the story of a potential SVR defector (Sofiya Akilova), Alex quickly discovers the truth of the woman's claims that a former SVR/KGB agent was killed in the United States to hide the details of a massive operation the group has planned in the very near future.

While half of the series so far has dealt with Alex showcasing his obvious talent while struggling to get used to work in the field, the other half of the series concerns his parents (Hope Davis, Scott Cohen) who are former SVR agents reactivated by their old handler (David Vadim) to spy on their son and prevent the list of all undercover SVR agents (including their own) from falling into the hands of the CIA. Complicating matters further is the fact that Alex's sister Natalie (Margarita Levieva) currently works for the SVR and is sleeping with her parents' handler.

After two episodes in I'm far more interested in Alex's story than the secrets of his parents or their dual responsibility to spy on their son for their former masters while keeping him safe from their agents. Alex's unusual behavior, both as seen in the two episodes and as a child described by his parents' handler, make him impossible to be turned into a Russian spy. While vague on the exact nature of his condition, the show presents the character as a near genius-level intellect with the ability to absorb, retain, and use vast amounts of knowledge on a variety of subjects. Other than his occasionally off-putting nature he's a little like a young Jack Ryan.

Aside from Stenhouse, the woman steal the rest of the show. The role of Katya is a meaty one for Hope Davis to bite into, Levieva is well-placed as the woman stuck directly in the middle of an impossible situation, and Annie Ilonzeh proves to be a smart choice as Agent Julia Marcus whose role is to help Alex in the field and keep him alive to make his deductions which allow him to uncover a possible connection to the SVR and his parents in the very first episode. Although "Teamwork" sidesteps the landmine with a lie meant to shock the young man and stop him into looking into his parents' lives any closer, I'd almost have preferred they had come clean leading to some very big family discussions rather than continually skulking around the shadows where, based on what we've already seen, it shouldn't take Alex any time at all to find them.

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