Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ + ½ 

Categorisation: Spy Thriller

Availability: Acorn

Plot: Frank Spotnitz (The Ex-Files) creates this 2012 spy series. Sam Hunter is the top Operative (we used to call them agents) for Byzantium, the commercialised espionage firm used by multi-nationals to further their corrupt commercial ends. Byzantium’s clients are cloaked in secrecy. Even the Byzantium team don’t know whom they work for. The series starts in Tangier with Sam undertaking a daring rescue. There are plenty of James Bond-type scenes as she fights her way out of trouble. In fact, throughout the series Sam fights her way out of lots of trouble, often making short work of villains three times her size – and often overcoming six strapping assailants at once (I might be exaggerating here…but not much). Like many protagonists these days, Sam copes with her own demons. Her backstory makes her vulnerable, and also drives the action through flashbacks, as she investigates her tragic past. After the fracas in Tangier, the action moves to London, where Byzantium has its headquarters, and where we meet the rest of the team. Like the Bond films, Hunted has its fair share of sex and violence. There are lots of syringes being plunged into eyeballs, that kind of thing, and Sam uses sex to charm her way into the inner workings of the criminal underworld.

Cast: With the exception of a couple of characters, the acting in this series is pretty mediocre. Stephen Dilane who plays Byzantium boss Rupert Keel, creates a most chilling character, helped along with some of the best lines – ‘of all the infinite variables of chaos that I pondered this morning, the one that never crossed my mind was that you’d be standing in front of me’. The always impressive Patrick Malahide plays the truly evil patriarch, Jack Turner, bringing a good deal of malice to the role. But Melissa George as Sam Hunter and Adam Rayner as Aiden Marsh, her minder and sometime love interest, are both let down by the poor script. They have to rely on the action scenes to redeem them. I must say, I found it difficult to see past George’s permanent pout (I think it has something to do with her top lip). She is always either pouting or fighting. Even with the flashbacks to her past, it must be hard for an actor to develop character under these circumstances. 

Filming and Setting: The cinematography is the strength of the series. It takes us from Tangiers to London, and inside some beautiful places – for example London’s National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows of Byzantium’s office complex looks out onto spectacular sights of the inner city, and we also get to see some of the beauties of Scotland as Sam regains her equilibrium in between operations. The filming is terrific, and often quite beautiful.

Personal Comments: Apparently this series has been hugely popular with viewers, although no second series has been made, nor foreshadowed. There are some interesting things happening in Hunted – the gender-disrupted rent-a spy idea is novel, and it’s fun to see a female Bond character who is every bit as acrobatically ridiculous as the original. But the writing really isn’t good enough, and there is little in the plot that holds up to scrutiny. But if you like an action-packed series, Bondesque but not as good, then this one is entertaining enough.   

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