Anyone Else Feel Like They're Getting Played? #ThePlayer #3WeekRoundUp #PremiereWeek
All pictures courtesy of NBC
NBC's The Player (#ThePlayer) starring Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester is the latest show to tackle the crime drama procedural and give it a twist. But before we dive into what the show is about and my review/recap of the first three episodes, I will again remind you of why I first found interest in this show and would point you to the #Premiere Week button up top if you want a more in-depth look at my reasoning--just scroll down to the NBC section, it's the second to last section.
For starters, the show has Wesley Snipes in it. You remember, he's the guy from Too Wong Foo. No, you don't remember that movie? What about Demolition Man? Drop Zone? The Art of War? The Art of War 2? Come on, you can't remember the guy from any of those movies? Wow! I doubt you'd know him from some of his smaller stuff like Passenger 57 or the Blade Trilogy so there's no use in me even mentioning them. Anyway, he was half the draw of the series for me. The other half consisted of the idea. Let's dive into the first three episodes.
The previous game has ended in death and Wesley Snipes' character calls back to his worker bee instructing her to find them a new player within the opening minute of the show. What is the game? You'll understand in a minute. For now, what you need to know is that they choose Philip Winchester's character Alex Kane as their next potential player. Ex-black ops, Alex lives in Las Vegas as somewhat of a security consultant. During the only official job we ever see him on in the show, he was hired by a rich, high-ranking middle eastern man on a trip with his family to Viva Las Vegas. His job was simply to pinpoint weaknesses in the man's room security. Not only did he manage to get into the room, sit down and wait for the man and his crew to enter, he also identifies an open window as a security risk even though they are on the highest floor of the hotel. He later proves just how correct he was when he has to leap onto a crane attached to the roof of the building just over the man's room, slide down it, and Tarzan his way through the open window and into the rich man's room to stop an assassination attempt. And there is where the story complicates and where we get the beginning strands of the connective mystery throughout the show.
Again, this is a procedural case-of-the-week format, so each week you have a new mystery and crime; however, like most of these shows in the last few years since The Blacklist came out, they try to have an even larger mystery to connect everything and keep you tuned in week after week. Well, Alex's thwarting of the assassination attempt ticks off the group of men who want the rich guy dead or in their back pocket. So, they find out who he is, track him down to his ex's house and supposedly shoot and kill her in the middle of the night. Two facts here. For one, he and his ex have a complicated relationship. Technically still married, they also fall into each other's bed frequently and have little tension and animosity between them. About the only real sign to show that there's trouble in their relationship is the fact that they don't live together. She too served overseas as a medic--this was how they met as she worked to patch him up physically and mentally after a battle.
The second thing of note in their relationship is how I said "supposedly shoot and kill her." Not only does Alex's non-ex, ex still wear her wedding ring but she also has a wedding band tattoo (is that still popular with couples? I know it was big four, five years ago but do people still do that a lot). On the night she is shot, he comes into the bedroom to find her dead already, no gasping for air or final words breathlessly spoken. Then in the morgue when he goes to identify her body, the person has the same face but no ring finger tattoo. Hmm? He notices this because he had her wedding ring and wanted to bury her with that on (complicated relationship, remember). What, then, does this mean? Either someone at some point between the time he got up to go to the kitchen to get a glass of water after he and his wife had sex took the time to not only kill her but laser off the tattoo on her ring finger, or that woman is not his real wife, regardless of how she looks in the face. Yeah, dead people not being the actual dead people you think they are. And we haven't even gotten to the crux of the show yet.
Through a series of coincidences and a rather ridiculous car chase/show of power, Alex encounters a woman named Cassandra King who works for Wesley Snipes' character. On a parking garage rooftop, all three of them meet and explain to Alex what is going on. As I stated earlier, the guys whose assassination attempt he stopped supposedly came and killed his wife. Not done, they wanted to kill him too or at least scare him off. This time, they were going to kidnap the man's daughter. How does this involve the three of them? Well, Cassandra and Wesley want Alex to be their new Player. The game? A group of unidentified super wealthy men and women around the world have grown so bored with their riches that they now gamble on crime. He, as the player, will be who they bet on--for or against--to see if he can successfully stop a particular crime in a particular time frame as set by the house. The house consists of Wesley as the boss or bet setter, Cassandra as the dealer (she helps the player however he needs her to) and the Player who works to stop the crimes. They chose him because he is a man who has acquired a set of very special skills Liam Neeson-style. He jumps at the chance to get revenge on the people who killed his wife and stop the kidnapping. And so the game begins.
Learning of the technology and everything available to the house, Alex starts to put up a wall of moral resistance. While he knows he's going to be doing good, he can't help but think that all the gadgetry and Big Brother-esque surveillance at the house's disposal could be helping the police to solve or stop far more crimes. Finally the viewer gets the moral objection and dilemma that we wanted from Minority Report. They have access to every camera, know every single dollar counted in the casinos as evidenced by the second episode, know flight plans and people entering and exiting the city, and have a an unlimited amount of access to weaponry, money and vehicles including a jet. Finally, they have the rudimentary skills to impersonate any law enforcement agency at will and erase or create identities when needed. They are essentially their own little government. In dealing with criminals, they have large case files or access to the already established CIA, FBI, DEA, and etc. files of these people. This is how they know all about the group trying to kill the rich guy. They know all about Alex too.
Well, using their skills and Alex's skills, they manage to rescue the girl in a wild shootout between lone man Alex and the group of terrorists. Killing most of the men, he exacts his revenge for his wife, but doesn't feel good about it and then the morgue/ring thing happens and he becomes super suspicious.
Meanwhile, Wesley Snipes is working diligently to make everything perfect and tie up any loose ends he thinks Alex might pull at before Mr. Kane even thinks of doing as much. This seems to hint that he is behind the wife's murder but in the second episode he tells Alex that not only does he agree that he thinks the man's wife is still alive but that he will help him find her. And this was after Alex gave one of his hush-hush tech friends a sample of her DNA to test against the blood of the corpse. It tested as a match confirming her death but he doesn't believe it and neither do I. That just means that Wesley Snipes knows what happened to the man's wife because he has to know. Nothing goes on in the city without him knowing as evidenced on the second episode when a group of more ex-black ops baddies roll into town to steal some diamonds (apparently a theme over at NBC as Blindspot had essentially the same plot; the Provocateurs at work for you).
Things get interesting when Alex realizes he worked with the guy but now that the man has turned big and bad he has to kill him because this new group not only has no value for human life, but they demonstrate as much by holding a shootout in the middle of an intersection. But it doesn't seem like Alex has a great appreciation for life either as he jumps from a cargo plane mid-flight with no pilot in order to stop the baddie, this after failing on the first bet. As with most gamblers, the house offers a special double or nothing bet to see if he can stop this man from escaping Vegas. In the finale--a straight out of Passenger 57 callback--Alex fights with the man mid-air as they wrestle over one parachute. He wins and the man plummets to his death into the Nevada desert and somewhere you could just hear Wesley Snipes saying, "always bet on black," and that little old white lady doing the Arsenio Hall "woo! Woo! Woo!" My feeling: what about that big ass plane going to crash land somewhere? What if it smashed into a highway, killing dozens? Craziness.
The third episode featured a tangle with a cartel sniper who killed a group of scuba divers for seeing something they shouldn't have while on vacation years prior. The twist? It took place in LA, with Snipes saying that while the house is in Vegas, crime is everywhere. A new wrinkle to the show, this takes the possibilities of the show's future to new, maybe international heights where the stakes can become astronomically big. But will viewers go for Alex as a hero who seems to always win even when he doesn't (yes, he stopped the sniper though it can be argued that Cassandra sniping the sniper was actually a bending of the game's rules)?
What's my grade? I give this show a B- to C+. While I like this far more than Limitless and almost on the same level as Minority Report, I also didn't feel as duped by its advertising. I did give Minority Report a little more leeway in its grade because of the sci-fi aspect and the complexity of the idea, but Limitless and The Player both share fairly simple ideas. Limitless, the guy takes a pill and becomes super smart. The Player, a guy has people bet on if he can stop crimes. That's it. It's nothing more than if you and your friends gathered together to watch Criminal Minds and bet potato chips and Halloween candies on if the Criminal Minds crew would solve the case by the end of the hour. Of course they will. The only difference is the non-jurisdiction allure to the show and the fact that he can use tactics police and other badge-d good guys can't. And though he seems to be working for a corrupt man in Snipes, there's not much that will jump out at you in the way of "wow!" Again, I feel like this is a show where I can skip episodes, maybe even weeks at a time and come back and have missed very little. While that may be what some viewers want, in comparing this to the other powerhouse on Thursday night which is How To Get Away With Murder, I'm not sure this snatches viewers from that and football. Honestly, even with The Blacklist as its lead-in, the Thursday night 10pm hour on NBC which this show currently occupies seems like it should have something even flashier. I think this show would do better on Tuesdays in the same time slot.
Also, while I find the threading mystery of if his wife is actually dead or not, much more compelling than both Minority Report's and Limitless' mysteries, I find myself nearly unfazed by whether or not he gets that answer. I think that is mostly because of the way his character is played and written. Again, I don't like to be critical about things really, but I will say that I find Alex Kane to be the weakest character on the show both in written presentation and in acting. The woman playing Cassandra draws attention and captivates as she has mysteries just like Alex and Snipes. Snipes is great at playing the cool, calm and conniving boss who seems to lie every time he opens his mouth. But for the titular character to be the least interesting, I don't think that bodes well for the show. Just like Agent Weller on Blindspot, Kane has only one facial expression almost exclusively (like someone just stole his favorite pair of socks). I'll be checking the ratings for all new shows at the end of this week to see how viewers are adapting, but I have a pretty good idea of what I think will be canceled in the next few weeks.
Should you be watching? This is another take it or leave it show. I feel like ABC Thursdays are clearly geared more toward women and CBS has football for the sports lover which will also see TNT's NBA coverage come the end of the month. That leaves NBC with the "rest of the crowd" so to speak. While I highly enjoy Heroes Reborn and The Blacklist (which has managed to do well) and both are geared more toward men though plenty of women watch them, The Player stands out as the weakest part of the night and it ends the night. Even flipping times with The Blacklist would do it good. It is definitely a more masculine show as I can literally count on hand the amount of women with speaking roles I've seen in the first three episodes (4-5 including Cassandra). If you like the simple, guns a-blazing cowboy style of show, then this might be it for you. Otherwise, give it a pass.
What do you think? Am I wrong in thinking that this show isn't as good as the rest of TV on Thursdays? Do you think it's the best thing on TV right now? Have you even watched the show? If so, what do you think Snipes' character has to do with Kane's wife's death/disappearance? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button to comment).
As always, check out my books on Amazon (if you’re looking for Halloween scares check #AFuriousWind, #DARKER, #BrandNewHome or #ThePowerOfTen). For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The final episode of season one of The Writer is OUT NOW. Ahh! That’s right, all 15 episodes are out now available exclusively on Amazon. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right side.
Until next time, “And I just watch your show all the time. Never Miss it! Woo, woo, woo!”
P.S. Granny from Passenger 57. Those were the days, weren't they? When you could just mistake any black person for any other black person and so long as they were famous it was OK. Sigh. I'll keep thinking of a proper sign-off.
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