I propose that Hostages change its name to Stockholm Syndrome for its second season—it would be a more accurate title, and might prepare its viewers a bit better for the onslaught of nonsense that is to follow. It raises important questions, too: Do the hostages suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, or do we? For whom do the captors ape their hackneyed plots? Who hostages the hostagers?
I don't even know whose side we're supposed to be on anymore. There's Ellen, now a criminal in her own right, stealing blood samples from the president and threatening his daughter with imminent morphine overdose. There's Duncan, implacably stupid as always. There's Sandrine and Kramer, making out in a corner, as if this show is really a romantic comedy about them. There's Archer, back from prison and casually conniving—because what else is he going to do to get through the interminable hours of his miserable life?
I think I'm getting Stockholm Syndrome, because there are a few things about Hostages late-stage growth that I've perversely kind of enjoyed. As insane as the show is, I've been impressed that it's gone as far as it has with the wanton murder and devastation. Duncan and Kramer's conversations in "Loose Ends" have the furtive, beleaguered quality of soldiers stuck in the trenches, unsure of what they're fighting for, conscious of only the ceaseless requirement to kill and kill again. Nothing quite so nuanced or heartbreaking, but it's certainly there.
Last week's episode—which Phil Dyess-Nugent generously covered for me—had a truly shocking murder in it, and it's made me wonder if at some point in the last two weeks, Hostages has decided to make a hard left into unhinged horror. I really did not think, up until Boyd ended up a corpse, that Hostages would go so far as to kill him. In the first few episodes, the show was reluctant to incriminate the kidnappers, obscuring Angela's fate and keeping Duncan and his team relatively tame. But Boyd's death is quite the turning point—not that the show realizes it. Boyd was not just innocent—he was also not clearly disposable, like Angela, or aligned with some government or criminal agency. He was just a guy that we'd gotten to know over the course of several episodes, and then Sandrine gunned him down (with Duncan's tacit approval). He was Morgan's baby daddy and now he's dead, and that's not something I expected from this otherwise predictable action-drama.
I think this is what is the oddest thing about Hostages—it really wants to be good. It thinks it's good. It thinks it's like, right up there in prestige-drama territory, with the Breaking Bads and Sopranos of the world. Or at least in the tier with Scandals and Orange Is The New Blacks. Look, it wants to say: We just killed a guy for no reason, and someone is pregnant, and there's a conspiracy at the top of the White House, and the president is a bad guy, too, that's the twist! And also the twist is that his daughter is Duncan's wife! And also the twist is that Duncan is a great guy and we're on his side! And there are more twists when you are tired of those twists! Twisty twists! Cinnamon twists! Twists everywhere.
Unfortunately, the show can't hold on to any of the emotional resonance from its plot developments. In part that's because there's no one to root for. In part that's because the plot developments are largely stupid. I don't know, maybe it's because there's just too many of them and the writers get confused and then Sandrine floats around in her black leather and they're like I know, let's write a subplot where she's the love interest, because what else are we going to do with her?! But this disjointedness makes Hostages a brutal show without recourse, a show where increasingly terrible things happen just for the grim, potential amusement of the viewer, without any piece of humanity, justice, or even interest to pin down the horror. It's shameful, really. I always end up embarrassed for shows like this, because it's all flash and horror, trying to shock us with its daring—and thus overlooking the real building blocks of narrative, the attention to character and scene that makes a show about anything really great. Hostages is doing that sad thing of chasing after subject matter when it's really technique that it needs. Make Ellen a better character. Make Duncan sympathetic. Make Morgan into the unexpected River Tam of this show, a victimized girl that turns into a stronger woman. Do more than teen pregnancy and pot-dealing. Do more than men of color in prison and a skinny girl looking "hot." Try harder, show, and the world will try back at you.
- CBS wants you to know that every week, more people watch Hostages. How many more? Who cares!!
- The promo for this week's episode spoiled the twist in the final minute of "Loose Ends." So, yeah.
- Leukemia is a blood type now? One of you smarties will know the answer to this in the comments.
- As it turns out, the actor who plays Kramer is one of my college friends' brothers—I suspected there were only a few Coiros in show business, but I was a bit afraid to get in touch with my friend Claire and verify the information, because I've basically panned his big break for nine weeks straight. Her response: "Yup! That's my brother. Once again in a role that we can't let our grandmother watch." Poor Grandma Coiro. Poor all of us, really.
- #freecoiro #freetoni #teammorgan #sandrine4lyfe