Hunted Review: “Utterly Addictive, Sure To Fill The Gap Left By ‘Spooks’ & ’24′”

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Hunted, the new drama series from Frank Spotnitz, is set to premiere on BBC One on October 4th and on Cinemax on October 19th. The series, which promises to be a “suspense thriller set in the world of international espionage”, hails from the teams behind Spooks and The X-Files and is already in contention for a second season pickup. The overall premise of the series is that Sam, a private intelligence operative who works for a company named Byzantium, is almost killed on a mission overseas. Convinced she was set up by a member of her own team, Sam goes into hiding. After recovering from her wounds, she then returns to work, hoping to identify the colleague who wants her dead.

The drama series opens with Sam Hunter (Melissa George) and her team on assignment in Tangier to rescue a kidnapped doctor. After the team successfully rescues the target, Sam and love interest Aidan (Adam Rayner) arrange to meet at a local cafe. However, Sam is left waiting for a rendezvous that never comes and she instead finds herself in the middle of an ambush, when a truck full of armed men arrives instead. Sam, after getting the Cafe owner to call the local police, manages to fight off her attackers. Upon re-entering the cafe, however, she is confronted my two uniformed police officers. A quick glance at the non-regulation foot-wear tells Sam these gents are not what the purport to be. Alas, that revelation comes to late, as she is quickly shot by one of the “officers” and left for dead.

One year later, Sam is in hiding, recovering from her wounds and following a strict training regimen to get herself back to being fighting fit. She is also quietly investigating the members of her team, trying to piece together who it is that wants her dead. After further re-training, she decides it is time to re-enter the fold and heads to London. After finding a suitable flat (and by suitable we mean somewhere Sam can build a hidden room to house her investigation), she heads straight into Byzantium’s headquarters to meet with her boss. After some convincing, she is reinstated and ordered to attend a briefing for the team’s new assignment.

Here, Sam meets the new team member and the rest of the team is briefed that their uber secretive client wants to prevent Jack Turner from buying a Pakistani dam, what’s more, this client also wants to know why someone like Turner is even interested in purchasing it. Sam is picked to infiltrate the residence of the Turner’s and get answers for the Byzantium’s client. But just as she worms her way into the Turner household (working as the tutor/nanny to Jack Turner’s grandson), Sam is informed that there is a mole operating within Byzantium, presumably the same person who wants her dead. With this new information, Sam goes back to work, all the while unaware that an assassin, who has been hunting her since Tangier (whom I will henceforth refer to as Creepy Assassin Guy or CAG, for short), has picked up her trail and is on his way to finish the job.

Hunted comes from some fairly heady auspices: not only former X-Files producer Frank Spotnitz but also Kudos Film & TV, the production company behind Spooks. Given that, I went in with a few assumptions, some right, most wrong, others way off the mark. My biggest (incorrect) assumption was what the series was about. Through people I’d spoken to and interviews I’d seen, I knew that the series centered on a private intelligence company. At the time, and right up until I watched episode 1, I assumed we were talking about the fairly common-place practice of intelligence agencies using contractors for some of their operations. I was wrong on that front, there is no meeting with the director of MI6 where you’re told that Byzantium is a contractor. No, this is private intelligence in the broadest sense; a private company with intelligence operatives (comprised of former government intelligence and special forces operatives) who sell their skill-set to private clients.

The one thing that I did correctly assume was that the series would not disappoint. One thing that is clear is that Hunted is an utterly addictive and well rounded action/thriller series, sure to fill the gap left by the likes of the aforementioned Spooks and dare I say even 24. I initially watched episode 1 the better part of a month ago, my only negative comment at the time was to do with exposition. I’d hastily written on a notepad that in the first 20 minutes or so the series never overtly establishes that Sam and co work for Byzantium or what and who they are. However, as time passed (and the more I considered it) that negative comment morphed into a positive. The need to grab the audience’s attention in the first episode of a new series usually mandates a lot of exposition – or in literary terms an “idiot lecture”- something which almost always feels forced and unnatural. That’s not the case with Hunted. Across the first hour, pieces of information are slowly dripped out. The fact that Sam and her team aren’t with government, but are indeed with a private organisation is mentioned fairly early on, then the name Byzantium appears shortly before Sam returns to London etc. It presents as a supremely well written series that allows for a more natural and organic feel to the storytelling.

Sure, the series will have the odd detractor or two. But it is tightly written, well paced, with fantastic camera work and top class performances from the likes of Melissa George and the rest of the cast. What VFX there is in Hunted is impressive (disclaimer: I want Byzantium’s briefing room table). Furthermore, the series presents a lot of potential with a very intriguing A and B plot that will keep viewers on the edges of their seats (who is CAG and who does he work for?) and a dark back story to George’s character that is sure to be explored further as the series continues. Also, knowing that George did all of her own stunts makes one wince just that bit more throughout the fight sequences. Though a co-production with HBO/Cinemax, I consider Hunted to be a British show and this is the first time ever that I can recall considering a British show to be better than anything coming up from the US networks. Simply put, Hunted is an adrenaline fueled series which is sure to become a hit on both sides of the atlantic.

Hunted premieres in the UK on BBC One on Thursday October 4th at 9pm and in the US on Cinemax on Friday October 19th at 10/9c.