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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Covert Affairs Series 5.

Covert Affairs.
Series 5.

Ugh. To be honest, I'd really rather not do this review. I just have so little to say. It feels like Covert Affairs goes in one side of my head and exits from the other five minutes later. I spend every episode going 'who are these main characters? Where are they? Why are they there? Why do I watch this very week?' It's all very alarming.

Should've reviewed White Collar instead, but I'm still a little bitter about that ending. We'll talk about that another time.

Covert Affairs is the story of Annie Walker, a CIA agent dispatched over the world for a variety of missions. In this series, she goes up against chessmaster Belenko, who wants revenge for the death of his brother. He also has other goals, but if they were ever specified then by golly gosh I did not catch them.

Like Once Upon A Time, it feels like Covert Affairs has worn out its welcome a little. It was never the strongest show, but it had things going for it: Main cast members Annie, Auggie and Joan are engaging, charismatically acted, and have a great dynamic with each other; and the espionage premise is one that's overdone, but always popular and with a lot of potential. When it first started airing, I didn't watch it, because commercials had tried to frame it to appeal to the 'tremendous misogynist' market by splicing together about a dozen clips of Annie tripping over and putting comedic music over it. It was odd. I came around at a friend's recommendation, and while I profess I'm not a keen watcher, I do tune in quite happily when it's on.

But hey, bloody pretty guys, I appreciate it.

I think one of Covert Affair's issues is that it has tried to entrench itself a little too firmly in realism, while its companions in the espionage story television show genre, like Chuck and Spooks, veered firmly off into fantasy about halfway through their first series or earlier, replacing believable bad guys with superhuman agents of chaos whose plans required James Bondian feats to defeat. And that's entertaining. A Chechnyan diplomat with a minor grudge and a lot of connections can't quite measure up to those kinds of over-the-top, ridiculous plots, and as a result, Covert Affairs is forced to delve deep into personal arcs and storylines, which it's just not very good at. 

(Another problem it has is that its incidental characters often aren't very interesting. Newcomer Ryan McQuaid is the human embodiment of a cardboard box, and Auggie's ex-military friend is so forgettable that I have, in fact, forgotten his name, face and defining character traits.) 

But for whatever reason, this series has felt tired. Exhausted, even. The plot meanders, Annie's character development comes grinding to a screeching stop in the second half, along with Auggie's, the villain is weak, and there is the distinct sensation that we've seen all of this before with slightly different bells on. 

Is this from this series? Last series? The one before? I just don't know.

It isn't because the premise lacks potential (which is definitely the case with Once Upon A Time), but rather that it feels like the writers aren't putting in their full effort. The episodes seem phoned in, trite, cliche. It's like they have a list of plot turns they can use, and they just run through the list, in order, until they get to the bottom, at which point they start again from the top. It just feels old, and it isn't helped by the fact that this series can't seem to decide where it wants its plot to go. 

Does Belenko want revenge on the US, or vengeance on five or six specific people? Does he want to manipulate Russia for his own gains, or could he not care less about them? Does he want universal chaos or will he be satisfied with just killing the people who killed his brother? These questions are barely answered, if at all, and the actions of any other players in this particular drama are barely explored. Russia supports Belenko right up until the final episode, at which point they turn against him with very little preamble or suggestion that they would, just to give the protagonists some kind of challenge to face in their (very unconvincing and flat) series finale. 

Ah, the doughy-faced ineffectual villain, perfect.

I do still like Covert Affairs, but I think it's time for it to end. It is time for its very talented cast to move on to other things that will, hopefully, utilise their talent better. Either that, or it's time for it to get a major retool to lead it in a more dramatic, and perhaps a more coherent direction. Maybe have Auggie get rocket booster eyes. I don't know, guys, the sky's the limit. 

(Speaking of, does anyone else think it's creepy that CIA agents aren't allowed to have romantic relationships with foreign nationals? I think that's creepy. I think that's really creepy.)

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