Crisis Has a Solid if Mostly Predictable Debut

If there’s anything good about NBC’s new drama, Crisis, it’s the adults rounding out the cast. One Tree Hill veteran James Lafferty is teacher Mr. Nash, Lance Gross is a newbie Secret Service agent Finley, Gillian Anderson is Very Important Parent Meg Fitch, Dermot Mulroney is Not-So-Important Parent Thomas Gibson, and Rachael Taylor is Susie, Meg’s estranged sister and an FBI agent. All these more established actors (though Gross and Taylor are still mostly unknown to large audiences) manage to make up for the lackluster at best and annoying at worst performances of the younger cast, who the show almost feels forced to have to deal with while being far more interested in the parents trying to get their kids home. The show’s theme, which we get smacked upside the head with throughout the pilot (an assault which will probably continue throughout the show’s run) is what the parents (CEOs, United Nations ambassadors, royalty, the US President, etc)  will do to protect them, and naturally, it’s a lot. Perhaps this is why the show is so much more interested in the adults in this scenario and did their casting accordingly. 

There’s nothing incredibly original in Crisis‘ conceit, though it picks up momentum with a twist (more on that later), but it’s a solid pilot which has promise to move into a solid show. Most of the irritants in the pilot are things that usually plague these sorts of dramas: overwrought interpersonal drama, annoying kids in crisis situations, parents hindering the authorities more than helping them and some bureaucratic whatever with an added dose of high school politics. For the most part Crisis avoids some of the trip-ups of other pilots. It’s all mostly tablesetting though there are plenty of questions in need of answering, but Crisis feels neither incomplete nor overstuffed with information.

The annoying kids in crisis situations is by far the most grating on the list of problems if only because, unlike some other attempts at the hostage-situation drama, the kids actually get a nice amount of the episode’s focus. Most of the kids are set up in a nice, empty house, but one of them escaped with Finley’s help. I’m sure Anton (Joshua Ehrenberg) is supposed to be precocious, but he’s not. He’s annoying, and the fine line between precociousness and annoyance is one many shows don’t know how to walk. Anton being scared during the crisis is realistic of course, but who needs realism? This is TV. I’m just kidding. Sort of. If there’s one bit of realism TV writers should collectively decide to abandon, it’s the scared kid who can barely function during a crisis and nearly ruins things for everybody else.

The other kids are only barely fleshed out. There’s Beth-Anne (Stevie Lynn Jones) who found time even in the middle of this whole ordeal to be embarrassed by her frumpy father before changing her tune after he got his finger cut off. Class president Amber (Halston Sage) is Meg’s kid, and she gives the weakest performance and is also engaged in some kind of weird flirtation/relationship with Mr. Nash that nobody needs/asked for and was very upset when she learned he had sex with a woman his own age. There are also some boys around, including the President’s son, but none of them matter much just yet.

A particularly effective twist in the episode is Mulroney’s nerdy and frazzled Thomas Gibson turning out to be the mastermind of this whole endeavor. A former CIA analyst with an axe to grind after being written off as a pushover and blamed for some failed operation, Thomas sacrificed his pinky finger to sell his ruse and get away to do his string-pulling. It’s an effective way of injecting some note of originality into a relatively predictable story, and Thomas is immediately more interesting now that he’s doing more than trembling and asking to use the bathroom. Though he has a dumb college-ruled notebook he’s planned the whole thing in, he appears a semi-competent villain though his apparent desire to get back into his daughter’s good graces (by kidnapping her and her classmates because how else would you do it?) may prove tiring down the line since it may very well have sapped all self-awareness this man had.

Our face of the investigation is Taylor’s Susie Dunn, and while she’s not up to the level of some of her costars, Taylor’s perfectly competent in the role. Susie’s nothing to write home about though she also got some semi-interesting if soap-operatic momentum with the reveal that she and her sister’s estrangement came as Susie gave her daughter (Amber) up to be raised by her sister. Anderson and Taylor certainly pass as siblings, and there’s intrigue to be found in their fractured relationship, and this also falls back into Crisis’ cushy theme of parents and the lengths they’re willing to go to for their children with Susie’s renewed interest in Amber. Both Anderson and Taylor could do well with better material. The pilot hardly made use of the talents it has at its disposal with Anderson in the cast, but her task from the kidnappers will likely give her something to do.

Finley’s a solid character as well, despite some shaky dialogue Gross has to wade through. The pilot positioned him as the action-oriented one in this whole ordeal, and though the role of the well-meaning and skilled agent is a role that’s always present in these dramas it’s hardly ever played by a black actor.

As far as pilots go, Crisis held up well, but only time will tell if it’s able to hold water the longer the crisis at its center goes on. Thomas told the kids the whole ordeal would only take four days so either it’s going to be the longest four days ever, something’s going to go wrong and prolong it or we’re going to reach the end and have to wade through the aftermath.

Stray Observations

  • It’s a certain kind of show that can show multiple non-white kids in attendance at Ballard and on the bus and still focus mainly on the white ones. Interesting. But hey, it’s only the pilot. Maybe they’ll switch it up.
  • The song being sung by a choir at the episode’s end was terrible. Children are very important to this show – I get it. We didn’t need a children’s choir singing
  • Theories on how Secret Service agent Hearst got roped into this whole mess? Probably some threat to his kid.
  • Crisis is a really apt title. There’s really nothing else to call the situation all these character’s are in, is there?

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