'Hostages' Review: A Political Conspiracy That Reveals Too Much
'Hostages' Review: A Political Conspiracy That Reveals Too Much
Esther Gim
Esther Gim
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Hostages premieres tonight as a 15-episode series on CBS, and after the pilot, it'll leave you thinking that even 15 episodes might be a little too long for this fast-paced political thriller.

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Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott are great, though. No, they're pretty fantastic. Collette, as Ellen, has this steely demeanor about her that makes you believe she is the top surgeon that she's portraying. Ellen is selected by the President to perform a routine, but necessary, procedure on him.

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Meanwhile, McDermott is a gruff -- but brilliant -- FBI agent named Carlisle who will bend the rules to get what he wants. This is especially true when he and his crew take Ellen's family hostage.

Ellen's mission: to kill the President during surgery. 

This type of conspiracy thriller sounds like a good premise. But the pilot throws not just the entire storyline, but the secondary stories as well.

The tone is set early on that the scope of the conspiracy is huge, as it moves quickly to introduce all the key people involved in the plot to kill the President. It's not just at the FBI -- though Carlisle is calling the shots -- but from the top level all the way down to the local level, covering all of their bases. It's overwhelming thinking about all the people who want the Commander in Chief to die.

Then there's Ellen and her family. You feel for them because it's not just her who's being coerced, but those closest to her. Carlisle even tells her at one point not to think of it as killing the President, but saving her family. It's understandable why the family would be targeted, but rather than have it end there, their secrets are all exposed. The dad, played by Tate Donovan, and their two children all are hiding something.

The show wants you to care about the family because, otherwise, they wouldn't have spent the time creating their own struggles. But it's tough to care. You won't be rooting for them, and it feels like telling their stories will hold the show back.


You might actually be left rooting for the bad guys, Carlisle specifically. His life away from the job is also shown, but you're not left hating them like Ellen's family. Far from it. He's a mystery, and that's the main draw of the show after the pilot. What's motivating him? How did he get into the position he is in today?

It feels like so much is revealed in the pilot that it's difficult to grasp where the next 14 episodes are going to go. By the end, the show already answers the question of what happens the day of the President's surgery. It's not what you'd expect, but the fact that it comes to this by the end of the episode feels like the show has played a majority of its cards already.

It leaves me wondering whether it would've served the show better if Carlisle wasn't revealed as the traitor even before the show aired, but rather let viewers figure it out for themselves while watching.

But that only means that something else must be coming, which is why I'll continue to tune in to Hostages. Perhaps there's a bigger plot than just having a doctor kill the President at the operating table. For the show's sake -- and ours -- hopefully it's coming. Jerry Bruckheimer has to know what he's doing, right?

Hostages premieres tonight at 10pm on CBS.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)



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