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Shooter - Season 1 - Review: "Sharp-Shooting Show"



With just a week to go before the season 2 premiere of USA's Shooter, I thought now would be a great time to review the first season of this action-packed show. This first paragraph will contain no major spoilers, so if you haven't seen it yet, don't read past this paragraph. Now, I'm going to start with a bit of a disclaimer. I signed on to review this show without ever seeing anything but the promo for the first season. I had no earthly idea if I was going to enjoy this show, and even had a slight inkling that I was going to get sick of it very quickly. After watching all ten episodes in two days, I can confidently tell you that this was not the case. I was very caught off guard in regard to how I perceived this show. From the promos, I figured that Shooter was going to be an entire season of "Who framed me for trying to kill the president?" and we would watch our main character avoid getting caught until just the right moment when he put everything together. If you also thought this, slap yourself on the wrist and go watch all of it on Netflix right now. Bob Lee Swagger (yes, you really have to work to get past that name) is apprehended at the end of the first episode and pieces together the people immediately responsible for framing him about halfway through the second episode. What follows is, obviously, a prison break, along with learning the ins and outs of why and how he was framed, and the other players involved in the frame job. There are tons of classic action movie tropes to keep you entertained, and a mystery that dares to delve deeper than "who" from the beginning. I honestly cannot fully express how surprised I was by this show, and I highly suggest that you binge the show in this next week if you have not seen it already. This review will contain major spoilers for the first and last episodes, so if you choose to march on before watching the show, just know that the experience will be ruined for you forever. You can jump down to the verdict section to read more on my recommendation and avoid spoilers.

Set-up

Shooter starts us out meeting our main character, Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe), and his name is arguably the show's biggest flaw. It wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that we are constantly reminded of his name because for some reason he has made it through his entire life without picking up a nickname. Literally every person either calls him Bob Lee or Swagger. Not one single person thinks to call him Bobby? Or just Bob? I'd even settle for B.L. honestly. But, for the sake of this review I will refer to him as Bob Lee, just like his wife and every other person on the planet.

Bob Lee and his wife, Julie (Shantel VanSanten, who you may recognize and miss from The Flash), live in a nice lake house with their daughter, Mary. They've got a very nice, stress-free life together, which is of course destroyed by the end of the premiere. Bob Lee is visited by Isaac, his old Captain from his time in the Marines. Isaac tells his old friend that he works in the secret service, and has a credible threat against the president's life for his visit to Seattle. Bob Lee is a world-class sniper, and that means he is the only person on the planet who would be able to predict exactly where the sniper would plan to take his shot from. After thinking on it a bit, Bob Lee agrees to help and meets Isaac at the site of the planned visit. Isaac introduces him to Jack Payne (Warehouse 13's Eddie McClintock!), and they give Bob Lee an exact replica of the gun the shooter plans to use. After a bit of research, they meet up again and Bob Lee walks them through the best possible locations and how factors could be calculated for perfect shots. After explaining his number one choice in-depth, they inform him that the view is going to be obscured by a hanging flag. With that knowledge, he gives them his second choice and they call it a day.

The Swagger family attends the president's Seattle arrival, ready to celebrate their president, but Bob Lee senses that something is off. He realizes that the shooter is going to blow charges on the flag and that his number one choice will indeed be the one the shooter uses. He rushes to the location as he tries to call Isaac and let him know. When he enters the room, he finds no shooter, but a sniper rifle sitting in the center of the room that fires on its own shortly after his arrival. Moments later, to nobody's surprise, Jack Payne step out from a separate room with a gun pointed on Bob Lee. It was all a set-up. Bob Lee jumps out of the front window and lands on a car, which actually hurts him, contrary to most action films. FBI agent Nadine Memphis (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) immediately stumbles upon him and places him under arrest. This is a big win for her, because her current reputation within the FBI is quite the opposite of stellar.

What follows this incident is the remaining chapters of a ten-part action movie. Bob Lee flies solo for a while before slowly expanding his circle of helpers. After saving her life, he quickly earns the trust of Agent Memphis, which initially does very little for him as nobody at the office really takes her seriously in the beginning. As he further unravels the frame job, the lives of his wife and daughter are put into danger as well. Things get more and more out of hand for Bob Lee and friends until it all comes to a head at the end, and we get exactly the ending we expect. Bob Lee is reunited with his family, Isaac sees the error of his ways, Agent Memphis's reputation at the FBI skyrockets, and Bob Lee is acquitted of trying to assassinate the president.

If you've gotten this far and have not seen the show, I urge you to stop before everything is ruined. Please. I'm begging you.

In the midst of all this happiness, Shooter delivers a couple of twists in its final moments. Bob Lee is acquitted of his charges due to the fact that the firing pin in the weapon he allegedly used had been shaved down just enough to prevent firing, but not enough to be easily detected. Shortly after, we learn that Bob Lee did this himself in his shed before the shooting occurred, but the implications of this are not entirely clear. Could he haves sensed a possible set-up from the beginning and took measures to prevent it? Or was he secretly in on this conspiracy the entire time? Lending credit to this second possibility is the fact that Isaac was actually working with the NSA the entire time, and that they intend to use him to help take down higher value targets. So, could Isaac have let Bob Lee in on this from the beginning and proceeded with an expert display of theater? This remains to be answered as we head into our second season.

Verdict

If you're not a fan of action movies filled with plenty of gun fights, hand-to-hand combat sequences, a fake death, and a hero who always overcomes the odds, this is probably not the show for you. I will candidly admit that Shooter offers absolutely nothing new to the genre, and it doesn't have many huge reveals, but it is still a very fun, binge-worthy ride. To me, the biggest surprise was finding out that the show wasn't going to string along the whodunnit plot line through the entire season when it was so obvious which people were involved from the beginning. I also may owe my excitement of the show to the fact that I was able to watch all of it immediately and not in weekly installments. I'm interested to go into this second season and watch the episodes week-to-week to see how the pacing may seem different. If nothing else, it will be a weekly break from life where I can just watch people shoot at each other. Sometimes you just need that.

So, with low expectations going in, I would give this show a solid 4 stars. If this stellar review has raised your expectations, you may come out of it with a 3.5.

Regardless of what you think, let me know about it! What do you think these ending twists mean? Can season two live up to the fun of the first outing? Sound off in the comments below, and be sure to catch the season two premiere next Tuesday on USA!

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