BBC1 TV Hunted – Playing a Harsh Tune in Mary Poppins World

‘Think about the chaos you’ve unleashed’

A spoonful of sugar does not always help, as Australian born American actress Melissa George finds out when operating in a foreign capitals in the first two episodes of a new eight part television drama series for BBC1 – HUNTED reports our British correspondent. Melissa George stars as espionage operative Sam Hunter, who in the first episode has to survive an attempt on her life, which forces her to go dark. The foreign capitals Melissa is operating in may on the surface appear enticing and exotic, as well as fearfully attractive in many ways, but from experience we know that they often mask an underbelly very different to what we envisage. While perhaps picking up the mantle left lying around by the demise of our long time spy favourite Spooks this is very different; edgy and a fairly sleek new series to date, so if you want to find out the rest for yourself do not read on, lest we spoil it.

Back at London Sam finds out on a new assignment that being a nanny is not like being in a Mary Poppins world, especially when you know the ten year old boy you are caring for has a grandfather, who is one of the nastiest, most dangerous and wealthiest crime bosses in the U.K. There is no violin on earth that will help you to play the right tune so that will make all the bad things happening in your own and the child’s life go away, despite your wishing hard. Instead, you find you will tend to attract trouble and more people will come into your life wanting to cause you grievous bodily harm. They head directly towards you, much like flies heading straight for an overflowing honeypot.

Crime boss Jack Turner, played with great strength and toughness by the always impressive actor Patrick Malahide has a handsome son Stephen, near to our heroine’s age. His older brother and father’s heir is dead, forcing him as ‘the spare’ to acquire an interest in a business previously his father had never wanted him to know about, let alone be a part of. But Dad is a true dynasty maker and wants his legacy to endure and it seems he will compromise or sacrifice everyone and anyone near to him to achieve his goal.

Stephen’s life we discover was previously very different, sheltered in some respects from much of his family’s real life. We find out that his brother was brutally and viciously murdered and that his wife committed suicide, both during the past year. We do not know why as yet, but we can see that his son is about to be ‘taken’ and that Sam is heavily involved.

So it’s a dilemma whichever way you look at it and the path Sam Hunter must follow ahead is not going to be an easy one.

Stephen Turner played by actor Stephen Campbell Moore is best known for his roles in the The History Boys and the movie Amazing Grace, in which he made good impressions. His son is played by a young, appropriately named actor Oscar Kennedy. He played Young Pip in the 2011 BBC production of Great Expectations.

Sam levers a well orchestrated ‘kidnapping attempt’ to her advantage and ends up living in Stephen’s father’s flash ‘classically inspired’ town house. The group she works with and her Boss at Byzantium want her to find out just what his crime-boss father is planning to go down. The client who has hired them all believes that it is going to be ‘big’.

Is Stephen what he seems or a chameleon, blending into his environment while he also waits to play a different tune?

We first encounter Sam’s character in Tangier, where her death is staged to help her rescue an important captive. But three men with big guns turn up at a ‘secret’ meeting place Sam has made with a sole member of her own team Aidan Marsh (Adam Rayner), the man she just happens to be in love with, and pregnant to, and she is shot. We don’t know how or why at first, but then we find out as the first two episodes unfold that she has survived.

She had asked to meet Aidan to tell him their good news but instead suffers appallingly, loses the baby and probably her ability to ever have another in the future. Consequently she removes herself from the spy scene for a long time, hiding out to aid her recovery.

Training to get back into life and work by eating tinned Pork and Ham, while dwelling in a divinely rustic isolated cottage beside a loch in the hills, dales of Scotland over which she runs for miles each day, has distinct advantages. It’s great in terms of security and solitude and for providing a place to get hopefully your head and heart back into working order.

However the isolation’s biggest attraction is that it allows her the time to focus solely on the task at hand.

Sam is able to plan and consider her options and endeavour to find out if the person who betrayed her was the man she loved or someone else, with an ultimate goal of bringing them down so that she can prevail.

Sketchy flashback memories of the innocence of a childhood once lived in this idyllic place, and seeing her mother lying on the ground after being attacked and herself being ‘taken’ do not help the process. It only highlights the known fact that whatever does happen in our formative years has a decided impact on the rest of our lives.

Seen in flashback also helps us to know that there is more to the initial memories than meets the eye, as Sam curls up on the floor in the corner of a room to sleep, rather than in a bed.

Disciplining herself, by learning to hold her breath under water is only one of the training tortures she inflicts upon herself, as she endeavours to make herself fit, both in mind and spirit so that she can tackle whatever is to come.

Hunted has an award-winning writer and executive producer, Frank Spotnitz best known for The X Files. He freely admits that he enjoys the spy genre, as it provides so many opportunities for stories combining action with suspense while revealing the double identities most people seem to have. Those that are seen, and the unknown unseen side of their personality.

Spies simply cannot be trusted, which puts our protagonists always on their guard. From time to time you just know that they would love to let down and allow trust to develop. Whenever they do however it always seemingly comes back to bite them from behind. Then there they are again alone and feeling vulnerable, until they can build their defences up yet again.

Melissa George has built herself an impressive acting career since leaving Australia and the safety of the Home and Away television series set, where she had spent three years before impressively winning two Logie Awards as Australia’s most popular actress and new talent. She spent nearly a decade enjoying success based in Hollywood and became an American citizen in 2008.

She spent a decade getting her name known before gaining the role in the enormously successful Canadian production of ‘In Treatment’ starring Gabriel Byrne  for which she was nominated for a Gold Globe Award. Other roles have followed, but Hunted will ensure she lives in London for six months at a time over the next few years if it is renewed.

The ensemble cast gathered as the Byzantium team are also an impressive lot, some we think we recognize, others we do and as well, there are a whole lot of new faces to learn about.

Stephen Dillane plays Rupert Keel, he who must be obeyed, because he is the manipulative boss who heads the Byzantium organisation.

He’s one of the ones we recognise who like the MI6 boss Harry in Spooks is good at being ‘dark’, firing off the impression that so much more is going on beneath that icy surface.

The photography at times also reminds us of that former ‘kick ass’ show.

Keel is someone who has surrounded himself with a wall to survive and so that he can make his operatives do his bidding.

He is also a thorn reputedly in the side of his MI6 counterparts, because he knows that being a head of a privately funded big corporation can turn out to be much more powerful than any government held position.

Dillane is a distinguished theatre actor winning a Tony Award in 2000 for Tom Stoppard’s play The Real Thing.

He’s played a spy before too, so knows the ropes and brings an icy edge of coolness to the role that has to be encountered to be fully appreciated.

Adam Rayner plays Sam Hunter’s confused partner Aidan Marsh, he who has decidedly ‘cool’ blue eyes and an even still cooler disposition.

He is quick witted and highly capable and perplexed when this woman he loves just ups and disappears without a word or trace for nearly a year.

We find out that Adam was trained in the dark depths of the world of private security, rather than the well organized halls of MI6 as did most of his colleagues, which perhaps gives him an edge over the rest of them.

Rayner’s acting credentials to date, include theatre and Shakespearean gigs, a well trodden path and training ground for great British actors of renown in the past.

He should gain a whole legion of new fans with his dishy looks and respectful manner.

We haven’t seen a lot of Ian Fowkes yet, played by Lex Shrapnel.

He’s playing an ex-Royal marine, who gives off the impression of a lot more going on behind that boyish eagerness to befriend his colleagues and overcome a chip looming large on his shoulder.

He believes he is on the side of right and good, but then finds out that all the team he is working with, in other arenas would most likely be classified as bad guys. Then there is a distinct possibly that one is a traitor and murderer, not an comforting thought. Lex was born into a family of actors sand writers and he is one of the adored grandson’s of Academy Award winning Scottish actress Deborah Kerr. He’s appeared in lots of fav TV shows to date, including playing John Tracy in Thunderbirds in 2004 and in Captain America in 2011.

Zoe Morgan Morven Christie) is the other ‘girl’ on Sam’s team, shrewd and a planner, known for her computer engineering skills at MI6. Morven grew up in Scotland and studied acting in London before playing Juliet and Hero for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where it seems the producers seemed to have gleaned a lot of their team. She is the girl who played Jane Bennett in the hit ITV miniseries Lost in Austen, which has become renowned for its modern twist on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

Deacon Crane (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is playing an ex-navy SEAL, whose qualities always include devotion to duty and loyalty to a fault and so could also cloak or mask the idea that he could be the informant or mole.

Only time will tell.

But he does greet Sam warmly when she returns and looks like he is setting out to keep her safe.

After a year of time out, but not out of touch and back in town Sam is finally read to plunge herself headlong back into the pace of city life and the deadly world of betrayal.

She has had her quiet moment in the sun, or more accurately masked herself behind the cold and swirling mists of Scotland to remain undetected, at least until it suits her purpose.

Back at London she sets herself up in an apartment into which she builds a secret room. Not only is Sam a sterling operative, but also proves herself very versatile and exceedingly practical; must have been that good tough Scottish climate.

When Sam finally reports for duty at headquarters she does so quietly, totally disarming her boss who cannot believe that out of all the prospective moments of chaos he has planned to happen and surmount in his day ahead, having her walk in the door to preoccupy it wasn’t one of them.

The members of her team find out the next day, when she has the go ahead to return, that she hasn’t disappeared, or is not dead, and annoyingly she won’t tell them where she has been, which is for them all very disconcerting. Everyone knows she is Byzantium’s ‘best operative’ and so reluctantly and yet eagerly they let her back into the fold.

‘Don’t speculate on who the client is’, Deacon warns the team who now have eyes in the house where Sam is staying…’speculation leads to assumption and assumption leads to mistakes and mistakes will get you killed’.

So who is the man who kills people by stabbing them gruesomely in the eye? His name’s horrid enough to strike fear into any heart,, Dr Goebel.

What does Sam’s mother and the events of her childhood have to do with all that is going on? Why is her boss Keel meeting the man who she had been sleeping with in Tangier that they fooled by faking her death, only for her to be later be ‘hunted’ down and shot?

The writer and producers have laid down these and some other great back story lines so far so that if the series gains a second series they can draw on them to expand both the action and drama.

We will chime back in at the end of Series 1 for our next report. But for now Sam Hunter is back on the job and it’s ‘game on’. The question remains just who is the Hunter and who is being ‘Hunted‘?

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

BBC ONE – HUNTED

Sam Hunter
Melissa George
Aidan Marsh
Adam Rayner
Rupert Keel
Stephen Dillane
Deacon Crane
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Zoe Morgan
Morven Christie
Ian Fowkes
Lex Shrapnel
Bernard Faroux
Dhafer L’Abidine
Jack Turner
Patrick Malahide
Stephen Turner
Stephen Campbell Moore
Edward Turner
Oscar Kennedy
Sam’s Mother
Jane Riley
Young Sam

Director
SJ Clarkson
Producer
Eliza Mellor
Writer
Frank Spotnitz

 

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