The promos for the sophomore season of Covert Affairs claimed that "spies have more fun." After watching tonight's premiere, I beg to differ.
You have no idea how much I wanted to love "Begin the Begin." Perhaps I had overhyped it in my mind, but I found myself slightly underwhelmed by the return of Annie Walker - and not just because the show let Ben live. It's not that this was a particularly bad episode, it was just routine and lacked the passion one generally expects from a season premiere.
Nothing much happened to move the story along. In fact, by the end, we seemed to be almost right back where we started: Annie working for the CIA unaware of Ben's whereabouts; Ben working off book.
The only thing different is that Ben's now working covertly for Arthur (I'm a little fuzzy on who exactly Ben was working for before) and Annie seems to be less fazed by his disappearance.
I hope the latter is true because if she yanks out that blasted shell bracelet this season, I'm not sure who I'll take it out on.
Despite the overall predictability of the mission-of-the-week (the big blonde Russian chick practically bellowed "assassin"), Annie's gut was spot on and her perceptibility impressive. I wouldn't have tied the candy bar to the tennis player's true agenda, so score one for Annie Walker.I know Annie's supposed to be a good agent, but she's still very green - and impulsive. Definitely not experienced enough to be rushing into situations with potential gunfire, unarmed (seriously... WHEN is the girl gonna get a gun?).
It's not like she's Supergirl, as much as she'd like to think she is. Even Auggie knows this, which is why he cautioned her to "think it through," something she summarily ignored. It seems once the adrenaline starts pumping, her ability to reason goes out the window.
Of course, without Annie's tendency towards the impetuous this show could be intolerably boring, so I suppose I can accept it in exchange for some pulse-pounding action, which I hope improves as the season progresses.
Auggie, on the other hand, can do no wrong. Not only does he offer up the best advice (definitely don't compliment your own equipment when trying to impress a girl), he makes for one slick partner in crime-fighting. The highlight of every episode, bar none, is when he and Annie share the screen. It's something that should happen much more often.
Generally, I like Piper Perabo just fine and think she makes the most of her role as Annie, but there's an extra spring in her step whenever she has a scene with Christopher Gorham that I find becoming. It's not that surprising, though, since Gorham is so charming and so effective, he could give life to a corpse.
One thing that sort of took me aback, and I'm not sure if it was the quality of the screener I was watching or what, but Auggie's voiceovers sounded a lot like those in a first-person video game. So much so that I had the urge to scramble for an XBox 360 controller.
I was also disappointed that we didn't get any traction on the Liza Hearn/Henry Wilcox cliffhanger. She's just writing more inflammatory articles about Arthur? That's so last season! What happened after she and Henry drove off in the towncar together?
I hope the arrival of a high-priced attorney on Arthur and Joan's doorstep to combat the Liza Hearn-induced legal woes doesn't mean we're in for a lot of legal humdrum, because that could seriously grind this series to a halt.
Where is the intrigue? Where is the suspense? Where is something even remotely related to a purpose for either Jai or Danielle?
I had a chat with a friend this week about Covert Affairs in general and we seemed of the same mind that the USA Network formula might be hindering more than helping this spy drama. Setting my bias aside (I'm a die-hard Alias fan), a series about the world of espionage should have more edge than your typical run-of-the-mill procedural.
Spies generally connote a certain sexiness (in terms of story more than character) that I think Covert lacks. It seems a little too safe. It's a bit surprising, in fact, that this comes from the same folks who gave us the Bourne trilogy.
I hope it can manage to deliver up some stronger stories and surprises over the next few weeks because this just didn't provide the jumpstart I was expecting.
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.