'The Enemy Within' Season 1 preview: Predictable plot is saved by layered characters in NBC espionage drama
While the NBC show seems similar to other counterintelligence dramas out there, the deft treatment of its characters elevates it a notch higher
NBC has been super secretive about its upcoming spy thriller-drama, 'The Enemy Within', and hasn't released any information about the show except for the same copy-paste synopsis that everyone's heard time and again.
Despite it being one of their biggest shows of the year, the network has done very little marketing for the show which premieres on February 25, and this may just be their reverse-tactics for getting more people talking about the show.
While we were curious about the show's premise for the longest time, NBC was generous enough to provide a preview of the pilot episode, and if you can see past the done-to-death plotline, the series does unfold as a pretty awesome thriller.
'The Enemy Within' is said to be 'The Blacklist' on steroids, and the first episode was thrilling enough to make us believe the description.
The show opens with the line, "The FBI estimates there are one hundred thousand foreign spies working in the United States today. More than anytime in history", and this is essentially what the series is about, using a convicted spy in order to catch another who's infiltrated the CIA.
The CIA forgoes their top strategist in order to catch the mole, and it's only because the mole could be anybody. The series has cast Jennifer Carpenter as a former CIA operative -- the spy of all spies, Erica Sheperd, who is arrested within the first minute of the series itself. She is branded the most despised traitor in modern American history, having given away the identities of several CIA operatives with fatal results, and confined to a supermax prison.
Her close ties to a Russian intelligence officer, simply named Tal, is the main reason for the FBI recruiting Sheperd to be a pawn in their game.
Tal is also the same person who blackmails Sheperd into doing his dirty work, and we don't get the reveal of exactly why she took up the job.
Tal is played by Russian actor, Alex Feldman, who previously played the Russian arms negotiator in the series finale of 'The Americans', quite fitting if you ask me. The intelligence officer is on a killing spree, taking out agents wherever he can, and this is the main reason for Sheperd's recruitment.
Her close relation to and her understanding of the agent is exactly what the FBI is looking for in order to catch the Russian operative. Speaking in reference to how she landed in prison, "You need to look for someone on the inside," says Shepard to an agent, "That's how Tal wound up with me."
A reluctant team is formed of FBI agent, Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut) and Sheperd, and Keaton holds an intense hatred for Sheperd because one of the CIA officer's names that Sheperd gave away, was Keaton's (now deceased) fiancé.
As mentioned earlier, the storyline kind of reeks because it's been done way too many times in the history of spy-thrillers, but the performances of Carpenter and Chestnut are so compelling that we overlook the done-to-death plot and focus on the characters instead.
We do sympathize with both Sheperd -- because she's a single mother, who's now in a supermax prison for something she was blackmailed to do -- and Keaton -- because of the loss of his lover -- who is frustrated with chasing someone who seems impossible to catch.
The characters are also pretty layered, and we see Sheperd as a chameleon, changing her appearances to suit her needs throughout the show.
From the first look of it, the premise looks predictable but there are also strands in the storyline which if followed right might elevate this show to something eminently watchable.