The “Pilot” uses the trope of a new team member, Riley Neal (Meghan Ory), to provide a lot of the background information we need to hit the ground running as viewers. We learn about the clockwork program headed by Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger) who is the directed of the United States Cyber Command. The project has implanted a computer chip in an agent’s brain – Gabriel Vaughn (Josh Holloway), making him a super agent who is connected directly to the world’s information grid. This gives him the unique ability to hack into any computer or intel network in the world and either extract – or as we see in the opening sequence – implant information. Neal is brought in to protect Vaughn from both outside forces and himself. As it turns out, he is reckless and a bit of a loose cannon, not to mention, on a crusade to find his wife, Amelia.
The background on Neal is provided by Vaughn, who can, of course, provide a complete profile of anyone with an electronic footprint. Neal, who is on the youngest ever on Secret Service detail to the President, is reluctant to join the team. The only thing in her record that isn’t squeaky clean is a sealed juvenile record. To Vaughn’s credit, he doesn’t open it and waits for her to divulge the information herself. As it turns out, rather than a misdemeanor for joy riding or car theft, Neal committed manslaughter by killing her mother’s abusive boyfriend after years of enduring the abuse.
This was a very enjoyable first episode that managed to bring in a lot of the background necessary to flesh out the characters and story without having to skimp on the action. Ory and Holloway both deliver on that front with some great fight and escape sequences. Ory and Holloway have great chemistry, but I’m hoping that they don’t play this into a romantic relationship. Ory’s character in particular is smart and strong and she holds her own in a male dominated world – I keep saying we need more of these characters on tv! Neal earns both the viewer’s and Vaughn’s respect by the end of the episode.
I particularly liked the dynamic Neal brought. To Strand, Gabriel has just become a tool at her disposal, but Riley sees the person underneath and understands his need to find his wife. I have to admit, though, that I hope they tie up this story within this first season. Amelia is supposed to be another agent who turned five years ago and has been missing ever since. Riley calls Strand on it when Strand refers to Gabriel as “it,” reminding her that he’s a human being. She tells Strand that he is a human being and he’s not going to just let go of trying to find his wife and furthermore, he shouldn’t. Riley also tells Gabriel that she isn’t there just to protect him. She was tasked with stopping him from finding Amelia, but she also tells him, “Hell with that!” We learn by the end of the episode that Amelia is still alive. While Strand has at least partially decided to support Gabriel’s quest to find his wife, she does send the partners off on another case before allowing him to follow the lead on his wife, which is already a few months old. That didn’t ring true for me – if he was that obsessed, you wouldn’t think he’d let the lead get any older.
The episode was written by Michael Seitzman who is also credited with creating the series which is loosely based on the book Phoenix Island by John Dixon. The book is scheduled for release this month. The episode was directed by David Semel, who also directed No Ordinary Family, Hannibal, Heroes, and Angel among others, so is no stranger to dealing with special effects. While I have some quibbles about the script, the special effects are fantastic.
One of the things that Gabriel is able to do that they didn’t anticipate is what he calls “cyber-rendering.” He’s able to create a virtual evidence wall and then walk through it, reviewing all the information. He tells Riley that it’s part fact and part extrapolation; it’s like dreaming. The sequences of him walking through the evidence are stunning. I also really enjoyed him being able to walk through the paintball course using the infrared readout. Of course, if he could use the satellite to do that, you would also think the satellites would have been able to prevent him from having to jump off a cliff at the beginning of the episode – I know, picky, picky!
The episode also introduces us to Shenandoah Cassidy (John Billingsley), Gabriel’s slightly eccentric, retired “creator” and surrogate father. I’ve loved Billingsley since he played Dr Phlox on Star Trek: Enterprise, but he’s been in countless other shows. Happily, after his kidnapping, it looks like he will be back at cyber command and is listed as a regular for the series.
The acting is top notch throughout the episode. Helgenberger nails the officious, high ranking administrator. I have to admit that I never cared for her character on CSI, but quite enjoyed her here. This marks the much anticipated return of Holloway to series television since Lost. Holloway delivers and while Gabriel shares Sawyer’s snarky banter, I never felt like I was watching Sawyer. I think I was most impressed by Ory, who was last seen as the very sexy Red on Once Upon a Time. Frankly, her talents are put to much better use here! She holds her own in every scene with Holloway and their banter is terrific. I particularly like the scene in which she corrects Gabriel’s Mandarin. Rounding out the regular cast are Michael Rady (Emily Owens MD, The Mentalist, Melrose Place) as Agent Chris Jameson and PJ Byrne (The Wolf of Wallstreet, Horrible Bosses) as Shenendoah’s biological son, Nelson.
This is definitely one of the new shows to catch. Great acting and special effects and a good plot with lots of action – I’m disappointed we only get 13 episodes, and I’m hoping for more next season! What did you think of the “Pilot”? Will you be tuning in for more? Are you hoping to see Riley and Gabriel become a couple? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!