SHOOTER scores a hit with “Point of Impact.” Based on the Bob Lee Swagger book series by Stephen Hunter, USA puts Ryan Phillippe behind the trigger of its latest action series. Swagger is a former Marine sniper living peacefully with his wife, Julie, and daughter, Mary, in the woodsy Pacific Northwest.
When we first meet Swagger, he’s in the woods fighting on the behalf of a trapped wolf. He takes down a few heartless hunters who have gone hunting for entertainment kills as a break from their soulless lives. We learn Swagger is an excellent family man, sensitive husband, and loving father. We also meet his wife, Julie. Think, Queen Gorgo, of 300, “Come back with your shield or on it.” Swagger’s peace is interrupted when his former commander, Isaac Johnson, a homeland security agent, arrives with an urgent request. Johnson is part of a protective detail tasked with keeping a tier one Chechen sniper, T. Solotov, from assassinating the president on an upcoming trip to Seattle. Solotov wounded Swagger in Afghanistan and killed his buddy Donnie.
At first, Swagger tells Johnson “no,” but Julie convinces him it might be a good time to punch Solotov’s ticket, get some closure. This is a conspiracy story and relies on a few different story pockets. Omar Epps plays Johnson. It might be too soon to call, like Michigan, but I’m gonna call Johnson for the baddies. Epps has the perfect blend of subversive intelligence and narcissistic gravity to launch a compelling villain. He’s connected to governments assets and understands Swagger on a personal level. He’s the right guy to build a solid frame around a deadly sniper, but he can’t do it all alone.
We find our supporting hero, FBI Agent Nadine Memphis, in the second pocket. She’s about to run into a Russian mobster bath house to pick up an informant, Dimitri Voydian. Voydian reached out and said he had some important information for her. Unfortunately, he gets nabbed by a team from Homeland Security moments before she can take Voydian into protective custody. The Homeland Security team is led by Jack Payne under Johnson’s orders. As they take Voydian away he tells Memphis, “diamonds are forever.” Memphis asks Johnson for some cooperation, but he isn’t interested.
Memphis’ boss, John Renlow, tells us she isn’t very likable and dismisses her requests and assumptions. Renlow assigns Memphis a stack of files, sent by Secret Service, of people who may pose a security risk to POTUS. Memphis turns in three, however, there was a file she didn’t think belonged in the stack, Bob Swagger. Renlow also assigns her to augment security for the POTUS visit, working the deep perimeter.
Meanwhile, Swagger gets current intel on Solotov form Homeland’s Solotov expert, Jack Payne. Payne provides Swagger with a model of the weapon they think Solotov is going to use so Swagger can put together a counter-sniper plan to save POTUS. Here we get sequence of shots supposed to show us the all the brilliance it would take to plan or prevent this type of shot. That’s a big ask, it’s like showing a sequence of shots about Mozart composing Concerto 25. Snipers are much more than great shots; they are masters of environmental awareness.
Swagger proposes a few scenarios Solotov might use to set up his shot and suggests the most likely. Of course, this is all part of a frame. If someone were to investigate Swagger, it would look like he was planning an attack, with the exception of motive or exit strategy. Swagger brings Julie on the day the attack is supposed to take place. They stand in the crowd together, watching the motorcade approach when Swagger gets a call from Payne; Solotov isn’t where Swagger said he should be. Swagger does some quick recalculating and realizes Solotov might use a variation of the second scenario he suggested.
Swagger rushes to the building where he thinks Solotov may be setting up his shot, but he doesn’t get there in time. He hears a shot fired and we see blood spatter, but we don’t know if POTUS was the one hit. Swagger finds a room with his rifle set up. Payne enters a moment later, dressed as Seattle PD and pulls a gun on Swagger; time to kill the patsy. Swagger escapes by jumping out a window and bouncing off a car below. A moment later Agent Memphis arrives, gun drawn. Setting up a dead man is one thing, but if Swagger is arrested, there will be a whole new set of problems to deal with.
This is where the pilot ends. I wanted to see more but that’s the point of good television. Shooter is on solid ground. They’ve introduced a couple of heroes, a couple of villains, and a few possible shapeshifter characters. It has a more serious tone than Burn Notice, while presenting itself as a little more red state than Suits. That could shift when they move to beltway intrigue. It’s a solid fit for their programming and I like a juicy political conspiracy.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Shooter airs Fridays at 10PM on USA
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor