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Ransom - The Return - Review: "A Promising Start"



Tonight CBS debuted the internationally co-produced Ransom, a show inspired by the experiences of crisis negotiator Laurent Combalbert. Created by David Vainola and The Man in the High Castle's Frank Spotnik, and with a cast including Penny Dreadful and Black Sails alums, its credentials are pretty damn good. Although not perhaps as solid as it looks on paper, Ransom's premiere was thrilling and mysterious, even if a little generic and naff. 

The mysterious hero. 

Luke Roberts leads the show as Eric Beaumont, the Combalbert role, who's in charge of the negotiation team and is himself the chief negotiator. The premiere introduces Eric as a little enigmatic, though somewhat charming. We know very little about man except that he has a daughter, and presumably a partner (or an ex). I bet there's a few skeletons in his closet, but that's part of the fun of a series - the character development and backstories. Despite making some risky decisions over hostages, the man is clearly very talented at what he does. 
Throughout the episode the protagonist manages to save a group of hostages from a gun-man holding them in a church, and safely returns a kidnapped child to his parents. Roberts is equally talented as his character, and has the charm, good looks and acting chops to portray an interesting enough lead. Eric needs a significant of character development, but in the same way as with Scandal's Olivia Pope, a mysterious lead isn't always a bad thing.  

Penny Dreadful's Sarah Greene portrays Maxine Carlson, the negotiation team's newest and least experienced member. As a result of her inexperience, Maxine will potentially at times act as a bridge for the audience between us and the show. She's most likely to make the rookie errors we all would, and her knowledge isn't perhaps as refined as her peers'. Although vetted out of the running for a job with the group, Maxine's determination to get the job leads her to sneakily assist the team, and she gets hired anyway. She's also the first character to have their backstory at least hinted at, with hers' involving Eric failing to save her mother. Details of this incident will no doubt seep out each week, but its certain that it'll all play a big part in Ransom. It already did so in that it was motivation behind why Maxine was vetted out by the hiring team, though funnily enough is why Eric keeps her around. Additionally, it's the first piece of evidence we have which demonstrates that the team's chief negotiator isn't one hundred percent successful. He's only human and has made mistakes, professionally and potentially personally, along the way. Besides, maybe Maxine has a vengeful agenda in joining the group? I doubt it, but you never know. Ultimately she's an underdog of sorts, that's for sure, but she's clearly of pedigree because this chick knows a thing or two about hostage negotiations. Expect her to save the day a couple of times in the following few episodes, I'd put money on it! 


The negotiation team worked on a kidnapping case in "The Return".
Brandon Jay McLaren and Nazneen Contractor round off the team as psych-profiler Oliver Yates and ex-cop Zara Hallam respectively. Oliver is the likely candidate for Maxine's love-interest; he's in charge of hiring new recruits and is the reason Maxine is dismissed from the process. Even once she's hired by his superior, Eric, Oliver doesn't seem impressed. What is it they say about secret desiring those you act most hostile to? I predict a little chemistry between Maxver in the coming weeks, but we'll see. Zara unfortunately was rather bland and in the background of the premiere. Her role within the team isn't as clear as her peers, and so for now she remains just a pretty face. Hopefully with some character development, she can be a worthy leading lady rival for Maxine. 

A fair few critics have branded the show "very Canadian" and a "laundry folder", in almost scathing reviews of Ransom, so perhaps the concluding paragraphs of my piece will act as one of the more positive reviews of the show. I appreciate the criticisms, though I wouldn't entirely agree. Whilst the production value and cinematography aren't first-rate, I'd say it adds something to the show, similarly to Covert Affairs. It actually suits this kind of show, and the low-budget feel is much more compatible with the writing and general feel of the show than some over-the-top CGI alternative. Although Variety uses the status of a "laundry folder" as a criticism, I'd argue it's a strength; sometimes its refreshing to have a show that doesn't demand a great amount of attention. Equally, I don't however want a dull or slow-paced show though, so the thrilling and interesting Ransom works a charm for this. So although some critics out there consider this a poor addition to the CBS family, I would say the combination between Covert Affairs, due to its production and the way it feels aesthetically, and Scandal, simply for its intense and interesting concept, is good enough to deserve my attention for at least a few more episodes; I have my doubts as to whether this show will last for the long-haul though, I confess. 

It may be generic and a little predictable (and its definitely a bit naff) but it was a promising start. The main characters weren't unlikable and the concept itself is strong. It has the potential to be an even greater thrilling viewing, particularly as our investment in the characters continue. And sure, the show may not get a second season (especially with its deadly Saturday night slot starting from episode two), but thinking that far ahead is often a bad idea. There's been so many shows I've started, which I assumed would burn out (and I subsequently gave up on), and to my surprise they went from strength to strength. That then leads to a lot of binge watching in order to stop missing out on fandom Tumblr posts and discussions in work etc. I'd say give Ransom a go for a few more weeks, and you never know; the worst case scenario is that you'll waste a few hours watching the handsome Luke Roberts saving the day over and over again. That's not so bad anyway, right? 

Have your say in the comments section below and let me know whether you'll be tuning in to Ransom's second episode "Grand Slam" next Saturday on CBS. 

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