On the list of things that I consider unnecessary, TV prequels to big budget thriller franchises is pretty high up there, right below, say, a third Taken movie. These types of shows tend to scream pointless cash grab, and don’t often add anything important to the mythos of the movies they’re based on. Unfortunately, the first season of Taken follows this trend in many ways, and could have easily been a completely different show with nothing but a name change. Fortunately it is still extremely entertaining in the 24/MI:5 vein of spy/covert action television drama.
Clive Standen (Vikings) plays Bryan Mills, a young former Green Beret swept up in a dangerous game of vengeance and lies after losing his sister in a hit gone wrong. Recruited by the CIA, Mills hones his deadly skills while taking on suicide missions, becoming the man we know from the fan-favorite film franchise.
Standen stands-out as the younger, hungrier Mills, first as a desperate man trying to uncover and kill his sister’s murderer, and later as the CIA’s newest recruit taking on missions from a woman (Jennifer Beals) he initially feels betrayed him. His skill as an actor are worth much more than the generally clichéd plots thrown at him. Standen broods with the best of them, yet is equally at home in a firefight. He is an eminently likeable lead with a confidence that belies his age; his version of Mills being a much more complex character doesn’t hurt. He is everything a show such as this needs, and his slow transition from who his character is to what he’ll need to become is highly believable and almost relatable. His star turn as Mills is the anchor Taken needs to return with a second season, even if much of the cast won’t be returning with it.
The rest of the cast is confident enough with some run-of-the-mill dialogue (Brooklyn Sudano as his sister’s best friend especially), but they shine in the prerequisite action sequences, of which there are many. Beals is great as the no-nonsense Christina Hart, the head of this ragtag bunch leading from the shadows (cast by her computer). She seems to gleefully embrace her character’s air of authority, while at the same time exuding a coldness and ruthlessness required of a head of a government spy organization.
Taken is shot wonderfully, in general. The action sequences are fast paced but clear, not giving much time to breathe in-between shots fired. Each episode barrels forward like a runaway train, until a moment of exposition gets in the way. The relationships between the characters seem overly forced, but not enough to derail the show completely. If you’re looking for high-octane action you could always do worse, there is Taken 3 after all.
Taken Season One is out today on DVD and Blu-ray.