SHOOTER gives us an Agent Johnson centric flashback episode “Overwatch.” Good action thrillers rely on dynamic antagonists, or teams of antagonists, and a villain. Episodes like “Overwatch” are important because they help shade what seems like villainous activity. For instance, this episode, we’ll see Isaac Johnson follow kind, elderly, Mrs. Fenn home after Bob Lee’s funeral and murder her. No matter what, he’s a killer. However, a good backstory hints at the journey he took to arrive at that moment.
The flashback begins in Afghanistan where Captain Johnson was Bob Lee’s commanding officer. In the first sequence, we see Bob Lee and his spotter, Donnie, in a sniper hide performing overwatch for a Marine patrol. Johnson watches drone coverage from his operations cell and sees a team of baddies headed straight for Bob Lee. He orders him to evacuate his position, but Bob Lee disobeys orders to save the Marine patrol from an RPG attack.
Later, Johnson must confront Bob Lee about disregarding his orders. Johnson isn’t on a power trip, it’s a legitimate issue. Officers in general and commanding officers specifically are privy to more information than regular Marines under their command. There is a bigger picture. Bob Lee chose to save the twelve lives of a Marine patrol while Johnson is concerned about more Marine patrols in the future and their overall mission.
This is also where Johnson meets Meachum for the first time. He shows up when Johnson’s unit gets a mission to kill a high value target named Mullah Abdul, a brutal head lopping maniac. The plan is to send Bob Lee and Donnie to Musa Qala the night before Captain Johnson and his Afghan counterpart, Captain Rahim, enter to talk with village elders about handing over Abdul peacefully.
Bob Lee and Donnie are supposed to secure Johnson’s team and make sure no one leaves town during the visit. However, Meachum convinces Johnson that Abdul is more valuable alive. Meachum wants to fake Abdul’s death and squeeze all the information possible form him. Save more Marines is the argument and Johnson buys it. He reassigns Bob Lee and Donnie to a terrible position where they will be exposed and unable to do their security job.
The next day, Bob Lee and Donnie report they are in position but can’t see anything useful when Johnson and Rahim roll into town. Meachum watches the mission from the drone coverage back at the operations cell. Rahim turns on Johnson and orders his men to fire on the positon where Bob Lee and Donnie were ordered to set their hide. Mullah Abdul is there too and plans on adding Johnson’s head to his collection of videos. That’s when Bob Lee opens fire, kills Rahim and Abdul, and saves Johnson’s life.
Of course, Johnson is happy to be alive, but Meachum isn’t happy about losing Mullah Abdul. I think Meachum is hiding something about Abdul and why he actually wanted him alive. Still, he convinces Johnson that the whole thing was a test and Johnson failed by not controlling his men. Meachum teases there are bigger positions for people capable of seeing the bigger picture. Johnson is now supposed to be a guy that does bad things for the greater good. I can accept that, but I still think Meachum is toxic, lazy at best.
Meanwhile, Jack Payne re-introduces himself to Agent Memphis as “Matt Sims,” form Homeland. By the way, why do we still fund this agency. The United States got along fine for over two hundred years without Homeland Security; it was a hasty creation in a time of panic. It’s practices and record are dubious at best. Memphis is trying to connect Swagger to the Russians and wants to talk with her former contact Voydian. “Matt Sims” tells her Voydian was killed and creates a cover story to throw her off the trail. Memphis doesn’t believe a word of it and thinks “Matt Sims” must be CIA and hiding a bigger secret.
Jack Payne drugs Memphis and takes her back to her apartment where he monologues about setting up her suicide. This doesn’t just reveal Payne’s bad intentions; it gives credit to Bob Lee’s claim that Payne killed Officer Timmons. Bob Lee attacks Payne before he can kill Memphis. They have a proper fight and Memphis pulls a gun on Payne, but he escapes.
This is an interesting wrinkle because now Bob Lee’s fake death is revealed to the people it was meant to fool. It isn’t clear that Payne is going to go public with the news, Meachum may feel freer to hunt a man that’s already had a funeral. Memphis agrees to partner with Bob Lee, but doesn’t know how to proceed. Bob Lee tells her to go back to work as if nothing happened.
Shooter is on solid ground. All the characters are interesting, the story is clever but not overcomplicated, and there is a steady supply of action; fights, guns, and explosions.
Season 1, Episode 4 (S01E04)
Shooter airs Fridays at 10PM on USA
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor