TAKEN is really struggling with what it wants to be. This week’s episode contains the introduction of a new character that is quite problematic for the characters on many levels, and not in a good way. But I have to admit it does have a twist ending I, perhaps stupidly, did not see coming. Take that for what it’s worth.
We start in Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. where an Israeli woman named Leah Wicker is making her way through customs. Getting her passport stamped, we see that she forgets her glasses with the customs agent who has to call her back. I thought this was an error on her part, as she is using the glasses as part of a disguise and isn’t used to them, but as we will see later, it was a hint at what was really going on in a way you might not expect.
We soon see that Bryan and the team are also at the airport waiting for her. She is walking out of the gate and just as Bryan approaches and very suspicious man who was walking purposefully towards her b-lines away. Bryan tells her that his boss, Christina Hart, told him that Leah would be expecting Bryan there. Leah says that her nephew Liev was expecting her, which confuses Bryan, but they get her to a car where they will take her to Christina. They soon recognize an Audi following them. Turns out Leah worked with Christina years back on a few missions while Christina was in the CIA. Leah is a Massad agent. When asked who she focuses on, ISIL, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, she tells the team she works against Iran.
When the car continues to follow them, Bryan and a few of the guys decide to go on the offense, getting out of the car in mid-traffic and walking towards the Audi. Leah takes this opportunity to leave the car and run away, working her way through a farmer’s market and ultimately to a river. Bryan spots her and goes to catch up with her but he’s not there in time–the mysterious man from the airport puts her head in the river drowning her. But Leah grabs a metal rod from the river floor and winds up killing him! She doesn’t know who hired the man to kill her exactly. She’s an Israeli agent and half the world wants her dead.
Leah and Christina meet for the first time in eight years and you can tell they have some affection for one another. Christina says Leah called her for a meeting saying she needed some urgent help concerning the Israeli Prime Minister’s impending visit to the United States. She thinks there is some sort of plot by the Iranians to disrupt it. Christina puts twenty-four hour protective overwatch on her nephew Liev and his wife Lori. Meanwhile, Christina visits her “friend” in the Israeli Counter Intelligence office, showing him a picture of the man Leah killed and asking if he knows who he is. He says he doesn’t but he will have people look into it.
Bryan and Leah share some quality time after he finds that she put her glasses in the freezer. Are we seeing where this is going? He sits with her on the couch and she asks him to tell her about himself. He says there’s not much to tell. “I’m not interesting,” he says. UH, YEAH, THAT’S THE WHOLE PROBLEM WITH THIS SHOW.
A-hem. Sorry. Anyway, Leah says she needs to talk to a man named Reza Saadon, a senior Iranian operative who lives in the states disguised as a Mount Pleasant College tenured professor of Middle-Eastern Studies. This sends Bryan and the team to capture a college professor in the library of a college campus. It’s a boring scene, plain and simple. There’s no tension to it, and it results exactly how you think it will. With Reza Saadon being captured and taken in for questioning.
Leah interrogates him while Bryan and Christina watch. Here’s where it gets interesting. Reza seems absolutely baffled with Leah’s questioning. He asks hasn’t he earned her respect after fourteen years? He reminds her that she turned him fourteen years ago and he is her asset. Leah accuses him of sending a man to kill her. He says that he has been working with her against Iran for years; he’s lied to his ministry, other agents, his wife, now Leah has blown his cover. Leah looks like she’s really losing it. Bryan takes her out of the situation.
Leah admits that she’s sick (with what it’s not said, perhaps early Alzheimer’s?). But Israeli counter-intelligence deals with people are sick like her–they retire them with a bullet. She knows too much to lose her mind. She believes her own people sent the man from the airport to kill her and look like an Iranian hit. Christina also finally admits here, in front of Bryan, that she has been diagnosed with tumors in her brain. Leah says that she lived her life on her own terms, and she intends to die on them; on the beach with a good book and some rose wine. Not looking good, though.
Turns out Rez was going to share some intelligence with her, and her only. So they have to send her back in to talk to him. Rez admits that there is an Iranian force operating in Virginia waiting for the Israeli Prime Minister to arrive. He knows the location of the safe house from where they will stage their attack. Christina’ sends Bryan and the guys to go infiltrate the safe house. They cut the power and go in guns blazing. They were going to shoot down the Prime Minister’s plane, blame it on a terrorist organization so the Iranian government could officially condemn it.
The Israeli Counter Intelligence officer Christina spoke with earlier calls her in and asks for a favor in return. He tells her about their missing Massad agent, Leah Wicker. Does she know where she is? Christina tells him no, she has no idea. It’s starting to look like her own agency is out for her after all. Leah eventually confronts the guy to his face and asks if he gave the order himself. He denies it but she doesn’t believe it. She attacks him and his men, and with Bryan’s help, escapes. Probably a bad idea for Bryan to attack Israeli agents when he pretty much has no dog in this fight, but I suppose he’s taken a liking to Leah. Unfortunately as they escape they go out to her car and her car explodes before him.
Christina is devastated but she said she’s glad the rest of the team got to know her, at least a little. Later that night at 3am she goes to her friend Harry’s house for a little sexual healing.
And Bryan finds some sunglasses in his locker. The next thing we know he’s walking on a beach where Leah lays out with a good book and some wine, just as she said. She faked her death with a remote car started. “Do you know what Christina has that I never had? It’s you. A good man to watch her back,” she tells Bryan. He has no reaction to this, because Bryan doesn’t have many reactions to anything, because he is an awfully flat two-dimensional character. Also, where is this beach and how did Bryan find it by just a pair of sunglasses?
The surprise that Leah was alive worked for me only at first. The more I thought about it, the less it made sense. But a show promising action straight from the Taken franchise shouldn’t have to require a lot of reasoning on the viewers’ part, right? Too bad the action almost always disappoints. Another flop.
Season 1, Episode 8 (S01E08)
Taken airs Monday at 10PM on NBC
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor