Turn off the Lights

Covert Affairs – Pilot

Over the past few years, the USA Network has introduced a number of primetime original programs that have found audiences. Covert Affairs is their newest and while, if the pilot is anything to judge from, the show isn’t their strongest, it does manage to hold audience interest and has the promise of a better future. At its core, Covert Affairs is a spy thriller about the life of a new recruit as she becomes acclimated with not only her new job, but also the effects it has on her personal life. The show stars Annie Walker, played by Coyote Ugly fame Piper Perabo, as she gets called up from the CIA training ground to the big show. Her superior language skills (she is fluent in at least six) make her the best candidate for a new mission

The show finds itself split between two narratives; the plot of the episode and the character relationships. We are introduced to Annie in a rather odd polygraph test, that allows for her back-story to be spelled out. She was hurt by a former lover, who disappeared in the middle of the night and it is apparent that this still hurts her today. She was at the top of her class in almost all tests and has nearly completed her training when she is directed to Langley and put into the world of international espionage. We are told that Annie is the fastest, strongest, and brightest but honestly we are given little evidence of this. There are points in the episode where we see strokes of her brilliance. but for the most part she appears to be in over her head and gasping to stay afloat. This is not a negative point mind you, because I think this may be the intention. Just like Annie, we are being introduced to this new world, so her feelings of being overwhelmed appear genuine. I am, however, left to wonder why of all people, they thought Annie was the best suited for the job.   

When our new recruit gets to the CIA, we are introduced to the supporting cast. There’s Annie's icy boss Joan Campbell, the obvious love interests, Conrad, the blind military-intelligence officer Auggie and the director Arthur. Of the main supporting cast, Auggie is the most endearing. Christopher Gorham, whom you may remember as Henry Dunn from Harper’s Island, plays the blind character brilliantly. He also delivers an element of comic relief. While nothing he says will make you literally laugh out loud, his attitude will make you smile and he provides a good juxtaposition to the heavy drama and weight of other scenes. The other roles are filled well, but some are not given enough time in the pilot. So far, Conrad is the least developed, but he really didn’t have anything to do beside a few, as Auggie puts it, ‘vaguely sexual’ conversations with Annie.

The character relationships within the show are hit or miss. On one hand, Annie’s problems with addressing her love life are logical with the back-story we were given about her former heartbreak. This leads to her sister, played by Anne Dudek of HOUSE’s cutthroat-bitch fame, setting her up with a guy at a dinner party. Even the gentleman's hilarious mustache couldn’t counteract his dullness and Annie appears noticeably unimpressed. This aspect works well, because by this point we are sold on Annie as a character and know that this guy could never keep up. The other drama is oddly focused upon the marital problems between Annie’s boss, Joan and the director Arthur. This is a relationship comprised of very little trust and while the argument before a marriage chancellor is humorous, these interactions make up the dullest moments of the pilot.

The biggest problem with the pilot is that it seems like a safe show. There are no real chances taken, but that does not mean its not worth a watch. I would say that Perabo plays Annie a little too clueless at times, but by the end of the episode you will be pulling for her to succeed. The end has a nice twist that, while predictable, gives the show room to evolve. Without ruining anything, I will say that it addresses one of my questions from earlier.  

Covert Affairs has potential to be a really endearing show and while the pilot is not perfect, it will entertain and, if given a chance, could become a great piece of TV entertainment.




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