The Beast: Pilot (series premiere)
by Jason Hughes, posted Jan 16th 2009 10:35AM
(S01E01) "The beast eats away at you, and if you're not careful, the beast will eat it all and you have nothing. And you are nothing." -- Charles Barker
The beast that Patrick Swayze's Barker is referring to is the undercover work that he and his new partner Ellis Dove do for the FBI. But there may be more to the show title than just this simple explanation. Barker may be as much the beast as the job. In the spirit of Vic Mackey and The Shield, A&E's new original series is taking us back to a very dark place in law enforcement. But this time, we're not inside the head of the main player in the series. And therefore, we don't know his true motivations or even what he's up to all the time.
That leads us to the reveal at the end of the episode, which may not be a spoiler in that it's been dropped all over the Internet before the episode even aired. Still, I liked the way the episode progressed and how we got to that point. Barker is hard-core and his treatment of Dove throughout the episode is that of a "tough love" mentor. In the end, it seems to be working. Then Dove has the rug pulled out.
All in all, this pilot episode was put together pretty well. Even without the "twist" at the end, there would have been enough to keep me interested in coming back and seeing Barker and Dove going undercover in different situations. Interestingly, I thought actor Travis Fimmel was more effective with his acting during his undercover scenes than when he was playing his regular character of Agent Dove.
But as for that twist, adding the element of an Internal Affairs investigation into Barker to see if he's gone rogue and putting Dove at the center of it looks to make this show even more fascinating and layered. Poor Dove is going to have an even harder time wooing his downstairs neighbor Rose now.
A&E has gotten a lot of publicity on this series, though not perhaps in the way they would have preferred. The series first made the news back in March, when star Patrick Swayze was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during the filming of the pilot. More recently, his publicity tour for the series was interrupted just a few days ago when Swayze was admitted into a hospital for pneumonia, related to the cancer.
Hopefully, he can beat the odds with pancreatic cancer and keep plugging along. He's certainly a force to be reckoned with here. In so many ways, Swayze's performance reminded me of Michael Chiklis on The Shield. Sure, the similarities between the characters may have helped, but Chiklis was so brilliant at balancing this total badass on the streets with this more vulnerable side he'd show around his family and friends. So far we've mostly seen the badass, but there's shades of depth yet to be explored.
The dynamic set up with Barker wanting a protege in Dove and the IA investigation into his loyalties wanting Dove as well, really puts a challenging spin on the entire series. It's so easy to do a straight-up law enforcement drama with partners working together and solving crimes. But to put an underlying betrayal of that trust central to the core of the series with a personality like Barker's is just asking for trouble. After all, he told Dove that the only things he could trust is the case file and Barker. Clearly, trust is key.
Yes, at this point Dove hasn't taken the IA offer to spy on Barker, but you have to imagine that he will. They already did enough to shake his trust in his mentor that he had to check the evidence lockdown for the money they picked up in taking down an arms dealer. Besides which, the IA plotline would be pretty stupid to introduce at the beginning of a series like this and then not deliver on it.
Plus, we've been told that's going to be the thrust of the show. I just like to pretend sometimes that it's the age before the information overload and we don't already know everything about a new show before it airs. Sometimes it's fun to watch something with fresh eyes, even if they're fake fresh eyes. In the end, Swayze is the strength of this show so far. We've barely met Dove's love interest or the IA team, so really, this episode was just to set up the relationship between Dove and Barker and establish that Barker is a badass. Mission accomplished.
|The best new show on television||63 (22.7%)|
|It has potential||134 (48.2%)|
|I enjoyed Patrick Swayze||44 (15.8%)|
|I enjoyed everything but Patrick Swayze||9 (3.2%)|
|Cliche-ridden tripe||17 (6.1%)|