I may not have always agreed with the choices The Killing, The Bridge or The Americans made. But I always believed the stakes were incredibly high on those series. No one was safe. Anyone could be killed off at any time.
And herein lies the problem with Hostages. So far, the stakes aren’t high enough (perhaps they need to call the series The Hostages?) I don’t really believe that Ellen or any member of her family are in danger. Even when Duncan was ordering her to kill a member of her family, I was confident no one was going to die. Killing off Angela, Ellen’s friend and the innocent surgical nurse friend doesn’t really count. (Is Angela really dead? Maybe not.) “Angela’s death is on you,” Duncan tells Ellen. So maybe Angela’s death raised the stakes for Ellen but it didn’t necessarily raise the stakes for the show.
The family goes back to life as normal in “Invisible Leash,” which is good for the series since having everyone trapped in the house every week wouldn’t quite work. Ellen’s actions postponed the President’s surgery by two weeks. Since we know every episode of the series will roughly be one day and that the first season will be 15 episodes, we already know that the President won’t go under the knife again until the first season finale. “Your clever little ruse has made everything much more difficult,” Duncan tells Ellen before he makes Ellen implant her family with GPS trackers.
I liked that there were consequences for Ellen. The Secret Service is investigating. She is forced to take a lie detector test. And much like Joe Carroll has people everywhere in The Following, Duncan has eyes everywhere. When Ellen is questioned by the Secret Service, one of the agents asks, “How are Morgan and Jake getting along with their new house guests?” The idea that Duncan has people everywhere is less preposterous than the idea Joe Carroll does. It won’t be so easy for Ellen and her family to outsmart Duncan.
Hilarie Burton, who last season wreaked havoc on Arizona and Callie’s marriage on Grey’s Anatomy, began her stint as Brian’s girlfriend, Samantha. Samantha is pretty needy (“We’ve been seeing each other for two months and we’ve never spent a weekend together,” she tells him) so she’s bound to cause problems for Brian.
Duncan’s team still provides the most intrigue, especially because it became clear in this episode that they were not aware of exactly what they signed on for. “I want to know what’s going on,” Sandrine says. Meanwhile Kramer is rummaging through the Sanders’ medicine cabinet in search of his next fix. Archer, however, is the most loyal and apparently will do whatever Duncan asks of him.
Flashbacks show Duncan’s first meeting with Quentin Creasy, the President’s Chief of Staff. It’s a meeting set up by Duncan’s father-in-law. Now Quentin is not pleased by the delay in the plan. “My partners have a very low tolerance for failure,” he tells Duncan.
Last week I was worried that the CBS series could suffer because every week cannot be “Will Ellen kill the President or not?” Now it seems like the show is set up for Ellen trying each week to outsmart Duncan and failing without the audience ever really believing anyone of consequence is in danger. There still could be a great show somewhere inside Hostages. They just need to find it.