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We are a matter of days away from week of the 2013-2014 television season kicking off, and this year there is a very strong lineup of freshman series for viewers to sink their teeth into. One of these series is CBS's drama, Hostages, and I've been lucky enough to watch the pilot and write a preview to try and convince you to tune into what I think has the makings of an excellent drama series.
The cast for Hostages features many decades of combined experience across a variety of genres The two lead characters are played by Emmy and Golden Globe award winning Australian born actress Toni Collette, and Golden Globe winning The Practice alum Dylan McDermott as Dr. Ellen Sanders and FBI Agent Duncan Carlyle respectively. Alongside them, Tate Donovan, James Naughton, and Sandrine Holt play Bran Sanders, US President Paul Kinciad, and Maria Gonzales respectively. The remaining main cast members comprise of Quinn Shephard, Mateus Ward, Billy Brown, and Rhys Coiro.
If you've taken a look at the trailers and promos for Hostages, you'll already have a rundown of the basic plot - a surgeon scheduled to perform an operation on the US President is taken hostage along with her family, who are at threat of losing their lives unless the surgeon kills the President on the operating table. It sounds pretty simple and somewhat short sighted - and until I'd seen the pilot, I completely agreed with you, but CBS have severely undersold the complexity of the plot which the pilot lays down. It's rather baffling to be honest, because there's a lot more to it than that.
A major part of the plot is centred around the secrets and double-lives of many of the main characters in the pilot. The obvious two that you would have seen in the trailers and promos are Dr. Ellen Sanders, and Duncan Carlyle. Sanders, of course, has to try to act normally at work while her family is under threat, and Carlyle is an FBI Agent while being the apparent showrunner of the plan to kill the President. In addition to these two secrets and double lives, there is an unplanned pregnancy, a drug dealing scheme, a failing property firm, extramarital affair, someone in a coma, and a fairly significant betrayal. I won't go as far as to say which belongs to who, because you really should watch to find out, but I believe there's plenty there to extend the story far beyond that of a presidential assassination.
A good plot opens plenty of doors and puts the blueprints in place for character development as individuals and with each other. Hostages definitely does this, and you'll be left with many questions following the premiere. You get an uneasy sense of anticipation at the end of the episode because any thoughts you have from watching the trailers and promos are put into question. This team of hostage-takers aren't your run-of-the-mill crew. They've clearly thought of everything, but their surprising kindness and openness, along with their motive and reasoning, are pretty unorthodox and are not actually revealed in the pilot. There's plenty of room for expansion because of a basic chain of command being established, which makes you wonder if Carlyle and his crew are simply puppets at the end of a very long string.
Returning to the cast for a moment. The experience I mentioned earlier, definitely shows. None of the actors stood out above the rest, and none of them stuck out like a sore thumb because they didn't fit the role, or weren't up to the job. That's not to say there's room for improvement, because there is, but the initial signs are very promising.
Alongside the acting, the camera work and musical scores were of a very high standard also. There were several very good camera angles throughout, and for story in which there is dominance and submission, the camera work goes a long way to emphasizing that to the audience. The musical scores are well produced and are used very effectively. It's not the sort of score which signals action or intensity but it does convey suspense and tension very well. Best of all, it is never invasive and loud, and I was able to understand every word the characters said while it did its job in the background.
In terms of story longevity, despite the complexity of the plot laid out in the pilot, the series will be bound by its name "Hostages" which one might interpret as meaning that there will be a hostage somewhere, for most or all of the time. The plot will have to develop quickly to ensure viewers get a few of the big questions answered as soon as possible to keep them watching. Fortunately it is the type of plot which is suited to rapid development, and I'm very interested to see how the story changes, and where it sits at the end of the first season. After all, the President may, or may not, be dead.
So, to sum up, there's plenty of potential for fast paced, high stakes, tension filled drama on Hostages. The creators have a concept which is unique, and they've set themselves up really nicely in this pilot. How they develop the story is something I'm very interested to see.
Hostages premieres Monday September 23, 10|9c, on CBS. It will be competing for audience share in that timeslot against season 6 of ABC's Castle, and freshman NBC drama, The Blacklist. It's a 15 episode season which means it's pretty short and sharp but there's plenty of time to tell a solid story.
Thanks for reading! What do you think of Hostages from what you've seen and read? Are you looking forward to the series premiere? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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Watch the Hostages series trailer below: