The Second Season of 'Patriot' Is Reviewed on TV
Whether you like it or not, sometimes you find yourself on an isolated island of critical opinion because of a television series. However, there are times when you find yourself on that island because people living in the Peak TV era may have forgotten to swim out to it.
Patriot, a quirky and brilliant drama on Amazon Prime, reached the top spot in 2017. I was worried that placing it at number six on my list of the best television shows of the year (out of a possible forty-six) was a disservice to the show. Aside from myself, I don't know if any other critics actually watched all ten episodes of Patriot. I may be the only reviewer who included it on a best-of list for 2017 and consistently, enthusiastically promoted it throughout that year. Amazon's now-defunct strategy of posting pilots online for viewers to "vote" on hurt the series, so the pilot for Patriot was available on the site in November. 5 of... 2015, with the regular season not beginning until February September 24th, 2017
Is that the best way to start a TV show? No However, Amazon is now led by Jennifer Salke and company, while it was previously led by Jeff Bezos. not to put too fine a point on it, is kicking a lot of people's asses
The second season of Steven Conrad's (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) delightfully inventive series Patriot premieres on Friday, and it's better than ever. a singular vision that is both familiar and alien, with familial ties to the style of the Fargo TV series and the films of Wes Anderson. Michael Dorman stars magnificently as U.S. spy John Tavner in this existentialist examination of the covert ops world. S Undercover operative and intelligence officer for his father, State Department Director of Intelligence John (Terry O'Quinn, excellent as always).
At the beginning of the first season, John was in Europe, smoking a lot of pot to cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and job burnout (after killing the wrong target). I loved how he used his bike as a form of therapy by playing folk songs with hilariously detailed descriptions of his secret missions. This was easily my favorite creative conceit in a drama I've seen in years. Season 2 of Patriot wisely incorporates the folk songs even more, with John's plaintive singing describing a mission as it is shown on screen. hopelessly clinging to the vain belief that everything will go smoothly and he'll be able to take it easy for an hour with a glass of wine (it doesn't go well; this is less of a spoiler and more of a pattern in John's harried service to his country).
One of Patriot's many subtle but effective touches is the way it plays off of John's exhaustion and depression as he goes about his missions, which are almost always derailed by the randomness of fate and the unexpected turns of events. making it harder for him to get the job done John's peculiar motivation is explored further in season two; his father saw potential in his son's sterling education and never-say-die attitude from a young age, and he was groomed from a young age to be an off-the-books asset. though the job often requires (killing people) would have an emotional toll due to duty to father and country. (My podcast cohost, fellow Patriots fan Jason Snell, and I have taken to referring to the show as Sad Spies, which is not only a better and more accurate title but also a descriptor used by a character in the first season. )
Conrad's exceptional talent (not only are his verbal gymnastics with dialogue a thing of beauty, he's got a fresh, astute hand as a director) and Dorman's great discovery made the show's first season the most criminally under-the-radar drama of 2017. Despite having a notable cast including O'Quinn (Lost, Secrets and Lies, Castle Rock), Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show), Gil Bellows (Ally McBeal; plus an executive producer here), and, as of this year, Debra Winger, Patriot often gets its best and most memorable work from lesser-known actors like Michael Chernus. Cast members Chris Conrad, Tony Fitzpatrick (who play bumbling but well-intentioned sidekicks, especially Chernus as John's brother, Edward), Aliette Opheim, and Marcus Toji in the pilot episode; This year, Kathleen Munroe, who plays John’s wife, is getting expanded work and running with it
Dorman, however, bears the brunt of the film's expectations because he has to convincingly portray a man who is depressed and then a man who is injured (like, a lot), which only adds to his already downcast demeanor. He must also be the show's central attraction, believable as a spy, funny in nearly every scene, and, as the icing on the cake, a credible performer of those heartbreaking folk songs. It seems like nothing escapes his grasp.
(Incidentally, "Sure Shot" by the Beastie Boys, which is oddly appropriate for the mood, has replaced last season's lovely opening credits music, "Train Song," by Vashti Bunyan in a different intro. )
To fully appreciate Patriot (and most television shows in general), it's best to begin at the beginning. And that's for the best, because the show is, to use a word I kept thinking of while watching it, delightful. Since this is a story about everything going wrong, the plot is incredibly complex, with many unexpected turns. John's "nonofficial cover" name, "John Lakeman," and the insanely boring and complicated job he had to take in order to get to the bigger picture, which was preventing Iran from obtaining and using a nuclear weapon, were both brilliantly established in the first season. It demonstrated Conrad's ability to establish settings and flesh out characters before moving on to the more exciting spy elements, despite the fact that the latter were in the tricky violence-meets-comedy genre (a feat also accomplished admirably by Fargo). Don't miss out on the first season because it's full of twists and turns and bold choices.
The second season has a swagger that is often beautiful to behold; it explores longer, more nuanced, and ornately constructed streams of dialogue between its characters and makes a few sweepingly funny decisions with various body parts. The fact that there are only eight episodes instead of 10 is unfortunate, but if the show becomes popular enough (Salke and Amazon are very pleased with it), it should have a long life.
If there's any silver lining to the Peak TV storm clouds, it's that you don't have to jump headfirst into Patriot's second season on Friday, when you have no idea what to expect. Instead, you can rewatch the first season and bask in its peculiarity. For the reason that the "previously on" lead-in for this season, which is tasked with a nearly impossible job, doesn't really do justice to those twists from season one.
So jump in at the beginning and be the first of many to find this underappreciated series and defend it with the fervor of a rousing folk anthem that creates legends.
Starring Michael Dorman Jolie Olympia Choko, Tony Fitzpatrick, Julian Richings, Gill Bellows, Aliette Opheim, Debra Winger, Chris Conrad, Terry O'Quinn, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Kathleen Munroe, and Gill Bellows.
Author, screenwriter, and director Steven Conrad
Starts this Friday on Amazon Prime.
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