Season 1, Episode 1
Air Date: Sunday, January 1, 2017, 8:30/7:30c (estimated) on CBS
“I’m listening” – Eric Beaumont
World renowned crisis and hostage negotiator Eric Beaumont (Luke Roberts) and his team are brought in during tense situations to save lives when no one else can. Taking an array of cases ranging from abductions, extortion, and more, Beaumont’s vast insight into human behavior allows him to get into the minds of the criminals in this intriguing new series from CBS, Ransom. Beaumont is part negotiator, psychologist, peacemaker, and when he needs to be, badass. Despite facing off with some of the most ruthless criminals, Beaumont refuses to resort to unnecessary violence, even when his own life is in peril. His ability to anticipate peoples’ moves is put to the test when Maxine Carlson (Sarah Greene) joins the team. Will she be able to fit in with everyone or will the secret she’s carrying divide them all?
Co-created and executive produced by Frank Spotnitz and David Vainola, Ransom is inspired by the lives of real life crisis negotiators Laurent Combalbert and his partner Marwan Mery. If you haven’t heard of them, it might be because Combalbert and Mery are based in France. While the storylines in Ransom are fictional, they’re inspired by that team’s real life cases. Influenced by French negotiators, filmed in Canada, and shown on American television, Ransom plays loose as to where exactly these cases play out. Time will tell whether the series will have an international flair or take place on American soil.
Ransom doesn’t waste any time setting up the action as the audience is immediately thrust into a tense hostage negotiation before getting to know all of the players involved. It isn’t until later in “The Return” that we meet Beaumont’s team, which consists of ex-cop Zara Hallam (Nazeen Contractor) and psychological profiler Oliver Yates (Brandon Jay McLaren). While the series premiere introduces us to the main characters of Ransom, episodic writers Spotnitz and Vainola are deliberately vague with some of the dialogue, hinting the characters know more than the audience. This is especially true during many of Yates’ conversations with Carlson. The unknown subject matter comes up several times during “The Return” and seems important yet isn’t fully explained. This gets a tad frustrating but time will tell if the payoff is worth the wait.
For Ransom’s premiere, “The Return” could have followed the seemingly standard television kidnapping storyline, but instead takes a unique twist that had me riveted. It doesn’t hurt that Alex Carter plays the bad guy, Yannis Kalvos. Having appeared on countless television shows, Carter seems to enjoy playing a dirt bag and “The Return” is no exception. I first started to appreciate Carter’s work when he appeared as Jason Bly on the USA Network series Burn Notice. My hope is by casting a talent like Carter as the protagonist in the pilot, Spotnitz and Vainola are sending the message they intend to have Ransom’s criminals be multi-layered characters rather than the typical one-dimensional baddie of the week.
One of the advantages of being a critic is you often get to see things with limited insight into a show. This was the case for me with Ransom as I screened it without having seen any commercials or write-ups for the show. As a fan of the 1998 film The Negotiator starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey, I’m excited to see a weekly series that provides a fictional look at the lives of negotiators. While the series has nothing to do with the film, I enjoyed seeing a few scenes in “The Return” that are reminiscent of The Negotiator, and reminded me why I enjoyed the film.
Pilots are always tricky to review because you are judging an entire series based on only one episode. If I had to compare Ransom to another show, it would be CBS’ Bull only with negotiations rather than court cases. Both shows feature brilliant men with an uncanny ability to read their opponents, and each surrounds himself with an elite team composed of people in relevant fields. While I’ve only seen one episode of Ransom, both shows have a similar look and feel; I assume over time Ransom will find more of its own identity. That said, as someone who thoroughly enjoys both CBS shows, I wouldn’t mind seeing the two doing a crossover episode.
Ransom has the makings of an intensely enjoyable series. Like most pilots, “The Return” gives the audience the who, what, and when. Noticeably missing are the where and why. The where might not be important but the why will help determine the success or failure of Ransom. Why does Beaumont do what he does? Why is he so willing to throw himself in harm’s way? Why is Carlson so eager to join the team? These are questions “The Return” causes you to think about but never provides the answers. Given how little the audience is shown as far as backstories are concerned, there’s lots of room for the show to grow. In the meantime, Ransom is definitely worth checking out.
Ransom premieres Sunday, January 1 at roughly 8:30/7:30c following an NFL double-header. It moves to its regular time slot the following Saturday at 8:00/7:00c, only on CBS.
Tweet me @Staffaroadtrip or leave a comment below to let me know what you think about “The Return.”
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Photos: ©2016 CBS Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
© 2016, Greg Staffa. All rights reserved.
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