I think this season of Covert Affairs might have me going through the stages of grief. The premiere had me in pure denial, the last few weeks have been anger, and tonight had me straight up bargaining with the show to do something exciting at any time during the hour. I’m at the point where I just need to skip depression and go right to acceptance, because it appears no matter how many elements they have with which they could make a compelling and surprising show, they just aren’t very interested in making that show. I genuinely enjoyed most of season one, but unless I accept where we’re headed in season two, it’s going to be a long ride for all of us.
Tonight’s mission involved Annie supervising a secretive spy exchange with Italy, a mission described by Auggie as simple, so we immediately know it will be nothing of the sort. Things go south immediately, putting Annie on the run with obstinate Italian Carlo Reni, who insists he is a journalist, not a spy. Reni is being chased by an assassin, and he and Annie banter their way through the Argentinean countryside, because banter is Annie's third best spy skill, right behind defensive driving and speaking foreign languages. Ultimately, he turns out to be exactly the journalist he claimed to be, and the story he is writing about a conspiracy within the oil industry is why he has assassins on his tail. After a spirited chase through Buenos Aires, Reni gets his story published, and they both are extracted by the CIA after a hand-to-hand confrontation with the assassin, who really has killer tracking skills. Also, Reni has completely fallen for Annie, as all men in her orbit seem to at some point.
On its face, there was nothing wrong with the mission in this episode. It had a few misdirects, some double crosses, a few action sequences, and the mandatory spy banter that’s become so ubiquitous in these types of shows. The problem was none of it was very interesting. All of the double crosses were unsurprising, the spy/journalist reveal was absolutely obvious, and even the reason the journalist was being hunted was staid. In the end, the moral of the story was that Journalism Is Important, which is perhaps the most boring story you can tell about a journalist. In short: We’ve seen all this before.
Another potentially greater issue is what the show is trying to tell us about Annie as a spy. She’s trusted enough to constantly go on solo missions, but is she competent? Part of the appeal of the first season was seeing a new operative being thrust right into the field, but at this point, I’m unsure whether or not she is supposed to be an expert or still a newbie. Sometimes, like tonight when she anticipates Reni trying to sneak out of the bathroom window, she’s one step ahead. Other times, she’s three steps behind or doing something amazingly stupid. Often, the show treats her mistakes as if they are not an issue, which is more than a little bit confusing.
(I know, I promised acceptance but it’s so hard.)
One aspect of the episode with promise was Arthur’s offer to promote Auggie to head up the Office of Congressional Affairs. Whether that promise turns out to be a good or bad thing remains to be seen, as taking the position means Auggie would be out in the open and no longer able to work in the field. Seeing as the only thing about this show that unequivocally works is the chemistry between Perabo and Gorham on (and off) missions, his not being there to guide her every move seems like a risky proposition. This promotion is also leading to something with Jai, who was previously on track for the same job and whose dissatisfaction with his current station is palpable. Jai going rogue seems like a possibility at this point, which would not be surprising but might be satisfying. Anyone on this show deciding to take a darker turn would be a turn for the better.
- Once again, Annie has no gun despite graduating from the Farm last week. Listen, I hate guns, but I’M NOT A SPY. WHO GETS SHOT AT FREQUENTLY. Guns are kind of important here.
- Oh, hi, Captain Aceveda. You sure like playing a pain in the ass.
- “Buenos Aires Wharf.” Can we put this in the pantheon of most unnecessary chyrons ever?
- I'm pretty sure the show was trying to tell us all Italians are sexist. Or something. Whatever it was, it was pretty annoying.