Before Hang On To Yourself, the third season premiere of Covert Affairs (USA Network, Tuesdays, 10/9C), has even gotten past the teaser, every changes – explosively!
Change is in the air on Covert Affairs. A major death only just gets the show’s third season premiere underway. Following the opening credits, Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) gets reassigned (but not before a harrowing trip to Polygraph), super tech guy Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham) gets an unwanted but necessary promotion, and Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett) finds her Department of Clandestine Operations suddenly undermanned.
Annie finds herself in a completely different type of division – no desk (operatives are expected to, well, operate), a boss, Lena Smith (Sarah Clarke) who was responsible legendary ‘big wins’ and treats her like an equal, and an assignment to find out what’s going on with a presumed Russian agent named Simon Fischer (Richard Coyle).
Meanwhile, Auggie’s new job entails digging through about five times as many operations as he expected and most of them are paperless – and not, as one of his operatives it, ‘in an environmental sense.’ And Joan, well, she’s not at all happy with her husband and boss – mostly as her boss – for leaving without some assets she’s worked hard to develop.
While Auggie and Joan are still in a familiar environment, at least, Annie finds herself in Marrakech, Morocco, finessing her way into Fischer’s life, fleeing German tourists, and getting stuck in a sandstorm with Fischer.
Kudos to Coyle and Clarke for adding some new sizzle to the show.
Coyle’s Fischer is a very interesting fellow – he buys 40,000 acres of land in Morocco to create a preserve and so comes across as being very green as well as very rich and exceedingly charming. He and Perabo have some serious chemistry.
Clarke’s Smith is unorthodox and a real risk taker. Her investment in Annie is detailed in a brief sitdown in which she establishes her criteria for having requested her to be reassigned to her division. In Smith, we have another strong female character to enjoy – never a bad thing.
With the core cast of the series now spread out, as they are, it seems pretty clear that season three of Covert Affairs is moving into more serialized territory – and that somehow, there will be a connection of some sort between the disparate threads that are being set up.
Series creators Matt Corman and Chris Ord have set a lot of wheels in motion in Hang On To Yourself, but even though all the disparate plot arcs seem to be off to a terrific start, it’s the character beats that sell the suspense. Scenes like the one where Annie is terrified at the thought of having to start her car (you did get the ‘explosively’ thing, right?) bring home the idea of just how dangerous her job really is in a way we haven’t seen before.
Hang On To Yourself is so taut with suspense, it’s hard to believe there are only a couple of action set pieces, but that is to the credit of Corman and Ord and the director (my review copy lacked cast and crew credits). Under less talented hands, the ep could have been a meandering mess; instead, it’s gripping.
As much for what is promises in future as for what it lays on the table immediately, the third season premiere of Covert Affairs is an outstanding hour’s entertainment.
Final Grade: A
Photo by Didier Baverel/Courtesy of USA Network