Did we like it?
A fast-paced, slick thriller about the global perils when an infectious, lethal disease breaks out across America, even though it is so convoluted you sometimes felt as lost as a small boy wandering around a blue whale’s intestine.
What was good about it?
• The mysterious disease that caused panic across the USA and the way in which it seems to infect at random (a man playing with his daughter and a waitress were among the first victims). But there is also a sinister familiarity to the symptoms of a bleeding nose followed by death shortly afterwards – both of which were trademarks of Hillary Briss’s “special stuff” from The League of Gentlemen.
• A great cast even if they mostly are slightly falling stars (Stephen Dorff, Mira Sorvino) who are using top quality TV like this to propel themselves back into the capricious pantheon of Hollywood. Or others, such as Sophia Myles, who are clearly in an inexorable ascent and see no harm in giving their careers a timely boost. Or others, such as ex-LA Law star Blair Underwood, who have finally managed to haul their talented hides from the amorphous Swamp of the Typecast.
• The first part wasn’t so much a drama as a frenzied stampede in which Covert One agent Rachel (Sorvino) took a briefcase around Berlin to first pick up funds with which to trade a phial of some deadly disease (although not necessarily the one that has killed people in America). Ex-Covert One agent Jon Smith (Dorff) was then the target of his former employers who needed him to head up the investigation into the outbreak of the disease and also Rachel’s disappearance. All very X-Files but also very good.
• Alongside all the traditional thriller elements is the use of doppelgangers. The man claiming to be Griffin may just be an agent for the enemy, but the enemy have also murdered a high-ranking official at the biochemical lab and replaced her with an exact copy. This is reminiscent of The X-Files once again, but on that occasion the doppelganger was an alien, and we don’t think it is aliens here.
What was bad about it?
• Being informed that the action had switched to “Berlin, Germany” as opposed to what? “Berlin, tepid MOR 80s one-hit wonder rock group”, a pit of hell where the soul is tormented one of the worst songs of the 20th century while skeletal effigies of Tom Cruise pilot paper-like planes made from the flayed hide of Kelly McGillis to act as a mild visual anaesthetic.
• As it inevitably involves the US secret service, a new division has to be invented that is even more secretive and exclusive than the last one with an even sillier name. “Covert One. Its existence is officially denied.”
• The inundation of different nefarious factions introduced within the first half-hour was a little overwhelming and confusing. It’s a little like opening an over-stuffed cupboard and the contents falling on top of you. Firstly, Rachel was on a mission in Berlin for Covert One, she then visited a Chechen terror group before being jostled in the street by a man claiming to be an ex-Covert One colleague, Griffin, who was presumed dead. He ushered her into another hideaway where she passed the ransom over to what seemed to be an Arab terror cell for the bio-terror phial, before being picked up by a pair of Covert One agents. Only these agents first robbed her of the phial and then tried to strangle her. After shooting both dead she fled. Later at her safe house she was attacked by a Russian posing as a German cop, and after she had fled from there another nasty-looking thug arrived who may or may not be a member of one of the plethora of terrorists/evil governments already present.
• The way Jon gazes adoringly at Sophie (Myles) suggests that she will either be killed or kidnapped as a bargaining chip in order to make Jon act irrationally and strike a deal with the enemy (whomever that may be). More certain of his doom is Gus the jovial gate guard at the biochemical lab where Sophie and Jon work; he had just enough dialogue to implant him in the viewer’s memory to elicit sympathy when he is killed in the next episode or two.