Is the pilot a success? To be successful the least it needs to do is encourage a viewer to keep going past the first episode and while I didn't necessarily love the episode by its conclusion, I was becoming interested in the bigger story that the show's first season will tell. Based on this episode I would continue to watch at least a couple more to see how it was developing. So, while I was interested in this episode, I wouldn't say that it sold me on the show just yet.
However, some of the best TV shows take a while to get going and one of the good things about the medium is its ability to draw viewers in for a long story, and thus introduce us to characters slowly, rather than shove them down our throats. Any attempt to have fully developed characters after one episode would probably lead to numerous clichés, which I'm not saying Hunted's pilot is without, but it does at least try to avoid them.
We begin with a scene in a hotel room in Tangier, and for those of you interested, we see Melissa George's boobs in this first scene. Middle-eastern music plays as we sweep over the city, its architecture and its stone statues.
The credit sequence features an hourglass motif that I'm sure will come to be something more important than just the idea of time running out. The theme music is haunting with a whining, grating and mournful feel to it. There's also the idea of twinning represented as we see Sam, the main character, coming face to face with herself - whether this is just invoking the idea of dead ends or something more I can't say. In the pilot however there's also the use of shadows and of seeing Sam reflected in surfaces that I believe will become a stylistic feature of the series.
So, Sam wakes in the hotel room and sees the man she's with remove keys from the safe. We cut to a car where they pull up outside a large, old building with gates and stone statues that looks like a mansion gone to ruin. They go inside and the man does something secret while Sam waits. When they leave as they are about to get into the car Sam sees a red dot – a target from a sniper rifle appear on the man's head, so she shoves him back and takes the bullet. The caring man leaves her dead in the street.
But not really. It's a clever con but we know that Sam is the star of the show. Her team arrive to collect her and she goes back inside, supposedly to collect her bag but really to free a doctor who was being held inside. There's camaraderie in her team as the only other female member, a girl with a Scottish accent ribs Sam saying, 'I could see you breathing.'
Sam arranges a meeting at a café with a man on her team who she needs to tell something. These two are also lovers. She tells him not to be late, but he is. We see her pull up outside the café and look at an ultra sound picture. This is obviously the news she needs to share with her partner. She's waiting at the café when several gunmen arrive in the back of the truck – she's been betrayed. She uses some cool spy moves to set one on fire before killing him and killing the rest after sending a man for the police. When they arrive it becomes clear that they aren't the police and they're no friends of hers. She is shot in the side. Our screens fade to black and one year later comes up on screen.
During the year Sam has been hiding out, and regaining her fitness (and her ability to hold her breath underwater - something that has me wondering if they'll work this in later). She's living a frugal and repetitive life in the countryside – collecting every paper she can and skimming through circling strange symbols before adding the day's stack to a large pile. She eats canned meat and retreats to her attic where she has a conspiracy wall and is trying to piece together the details to figure out who wants her dead.
When she's finished her training and regained her strength she leaves the house to return to London to continue her hunt to find the people who want her dead. She takes nothing unnecessary with her, except for a book of fairytales that her and her mum used to read together. We have seen this in flashbacks. This back-story is further fleshed out in the episode and will play a part in the longer story I believe. It will also explain to us why Sam doesn't sleep in a bed but rather curled into a ball in a corner, and always near the window.
The difficult thing about having a show where the main character is isolated and unable to trust anyone is that it's difficult to build these characters into likeable ones. The little detail of her taking the book is an attempt at humanising her.
The rest of the episode is filled with plot development and introduces us to a lot of different characters. By the episode's end there are no answers just more questions, and it is clear the show will be highly serialised and there won't be 'case of the week' stories where we get some kind of closure in every episode.
The plot we're being introduced to is a complex and dangerous one and the show should be tense but never quite gets there. Whether the tension will rise as we become more attached to Sam as the series progresses I can't say. Melissa George is also not quite as good as she normally is – there's something I don't quite believe about her portrayal of this tough-as-nails character. She seems more like a petulant teenager at times. Perhaps she's just working her way into the role.
I did thoroughly enjoy Stephen Dillane's turn as Sam's boss 'Keel' – he conveys how much of a control freak this man is with precise movements and line delivery but there's a menace there that tells us he could be very dangerous. Sam isn't a government agent, she works in the private sector, and so I am interested to find out more about this agency she works for and how they fit into the over-arching story.
The pilot finishes at a very interesting point and I'd be interested to know what happens directly after, so it's a success on that note. However, it can't rely on these cliffhanger type endings to make people keep watching. We need to go beneath the slick surface and high production values to get to the heart of the story in the next few episodes to keep people watching.
Hunted's pilot episode is available to watch for free through iTunes.