I have to start by saying that my favorite character, who was formerly named Maria Gonzalez, is now named “Sandrine,” presumably because everyone on the show was just calling the character by the actor’s first name (she is named Sandrine Holt). I am irritated by this largely because it renders my magnum opus factually incorrect, but from a critical standpoint, I guess this is just another shred of evidence that points to no one on Hostages really caring much about Hostages at all.
And this little detail makes caring about Sandrine’s subplot in “Truth Or Consequences” really quite difficult. It takes some close viewing to even catch on to what her subplot is, but basically, she owes a guy $50,000, which is the type of thing that happens to you when you are a cool leather-jacket wearing gangster type, okay? It’s not stated why she needs that kind of money or how the guy who casually beats her up knows her, but she shows up to the house six hours after she was kidnapped with bruises all over her torso and a burning desire for a lot of cash.
I call attention to this primarily because while it is nonsensical and out of left field, it makes just about as much sense as anything else that happens in “Truth And Consequences,” and it has the added benefit of a certain amount of mystery that I find appealing. Nothing else in the episode is even remotely appealing, and if it weren’t for a turn toward the absolutely brutal somewhere in the middle of the episode’s second act, I would be inclined to give this episode an F.
Along those lines: Why are the Saunders kids the dumbest kids in the entire universe? I give some props to Morgan for having a certain amount of sense. She knew well enough to try to get the hell out of dodge, even when the parents didn’t show up. This is a situation in which they have been forcibly implanted with GPS chips, threatened with death while bound with duct tape, and pushed to reveal their darkest teenage secrets to a group of black-clad kidnappers. And yet for some reason, Leo is dithering in the bus station, trying to decide if he should get on a bus and leave the country.
Leo decides to act on his suddenly chivalrous impulses by calling home, which allows the kidnappers to trace the call and bring them both back, anticlimactically putting the show right where it started at the beginning of the episode. This stellar storytelling also neglects to explore the thousands of other things that Morgan and Leo could have done while off the grid—called the police, gone to the media, run far far away, hatched a daring rescue plan for their parents, whatever. I know that they’re kids, but they are also, respectively, dealing pot and pregnant. They aren’t that young.
What’s frustrated me from the start of this show is that Hostages is all bark and no bite. It’s a lot of talk about the Saunders family being in danger—a theatre of terror, without any actual danger. Hostages is unwilling to kill or seriously harm any of its characters, despite constantly threatening them. This is not Breaking Bad. But it really wants to pretend that it is.
Last week’s cliffhanger had Duncan shooting Brian to get Ellen’s attention; in the opening of “Truth And Consequences,” Ellen rushes back to the house and manages to save her husband from a life-threatening gunshot wound. Everything about this scene is ludicrously implausible—how on earth could Ellen be so calm when she’s operating on her husband? Why is Duncan even trying to save Brian? In what universe is she not sobbing, her hands shaking, as she extracts a bullet from her husband’s chest? How is she not in total emotional meltdown? Considering Hostages is a totally implausible thriller melodrama, why isn’t she in total emotional meltdown? Hostages wants to be dark, but it’s afraid to commit to whatever horror it’s spinning out. None of the characters are inhabiting the spaces of terror that the show is opening up.
For example, Duncan has turned into a psychopath while we weren’t looking, and in “Truth And Consequences,” he starts turning on his own. He throws one of his men to the police because he killed Andrea when he wasn’t supposed to, and then he drags Ellen to the middle of the woods and forces her to dig a grave for her friend Andrea. Duncan’s tactic with Ellen is pure brutalization, a horrible and isolating psychological torture designed to break her. This is darkness if there ever was going to be darkness. It doesn’t land nearly as well as it could. Duncan is mostly cryptic and implacable in the first half of the episode, while Ellen is strangely calm in the face of horror.
But it does land, finally, when Duncan surprises Ellen by dumping Andrea’s body into the grave she has dug, thinking it’s for herself. It’s sickeningly awful—honestly, I cannot believe I am endorsing anything with kidnapping and murder and the wanton victimization of women as good storytelling—but for once, the darkness of Hostages hits home.
- Brian is in pain, but still manages to worm out backstory from Kramer. Rookie kidnapper used to be an alcoholic!
- So Ellen killed a rapist with a scalpel, and that’s why Duncan targeted her. Okay.
- Unfortunately, Morgan’s baby daddy is still showing up and creating fake drama, but fortunately, it’s a little more interesting this week. (A little.)