Season 2 of Taken has Become the “Law and Order” of the Spy Game

Season 2 of Taken

Photo by: Steve Wilkie/NBC

In the beginning, I had my doubts about season 2 of Taken.  The show was vastly different from the first season.  Most of the old cast was gone.  The new premise involved a fancy computer program – much like the new showrunner Greg Plageman‘s former show, Person of Interest.  

Then, for several episodes, the only connection between the Bryan Mills (Clive Standen ) of season 1 and his character in season 2 was his fighting ability.  It seemed as though the growth and insight that was happening via the work with his team and the relationship with his girlfriend had been wiped out.  That’s changed a little, but they didn’t even mention the murder of his sister until episode 8.

So, if you got interested in this show because you were curious about how they would evolve the younger Bryan Mills into the character Liam Neeson portrays in the Taken film franchise, the new season is a bust. Nevertheless, season 2 of Taken has developed into an interesting spin on the procedural.  Starting around episode four, it is particularly reminiscent of NBC’s classic Law and Order series in that each case of the week has a “ripped from the headlines” plot.  Of course,  given what the show’s based on, Taken is far more action-oriented and has more violence.

Season 2 of Taken – The Cases

On season 2 of Taken, the headlines aren’t local murders or crimes.  Instead, the stories are being created around national/international news * politics, or things the writers think should be news.  For instance, Taken “OPSEC” combined the issue of protecting the president’s “nuclear football” with illegal black ops prisons on US soil.  As far-fetched as the latter sounds, the idea, to my surprise, wasn’t.  A bit of research shows that the plot point described in the show fits something called a Communications Management Unit (CMU).  Who knew?

Other issues that have been tackled include things like US problems with the country of Turkey, sex trafficking, and the North Korean nuclear program.  There even was a Julian Assange type character that the team has to kidnap out of the Ecuadorian embassy to face trial in the US. 

Most of the cases are well-constructed.  They do tend to have a lot of political wish-fulfillment in the endings though.  Wouldn’t it be nice if getting Assange was that simple?   Still, as a distraction from the actual news, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Problem Cases

Thus far, episode three is the worse of season 2, but that’s before the show started to gel.  Other than that, the most problematic in the day-dreaming department was Taken season 2’s episode seventh episode.  “Invitation Only”  deals with North Korea.  It is particularly fanciful and goes a bit too far.  The episode imagines that an Israeli scientist kidnapped nearly 30 years ago is responsible for North Korea being able to develop a nuclear bomb.  

The plot made for an interesting kidnapping challenge and some heartwarming moments.  We would all like to let the North Korean people know about the world beyond their borders.  What felt out of line was the idea that someone non-Korean had to have assisted in them developing an atomic bomb. It came off as racist.  Just because its leaders have brutally sacrificed the well-being of its people doesn’t mean there aren’t North Koreans that could have succeeded in this. 

Season 2 of Taken – the New Team

Like those Law and Order shows, the different sides of the argument regarding the situation get discussed in passing by the various members of the team. Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals) is the voice of the government’s point of view – and the righter of wrongs that she sees in some of the government’s actions. As the gray-hat computer hacker working under duress, Kilroy (Adam Goldberg) always points out the hipster, counterculture, hacktivist point of view.  Santana (Jessica Camacho) is a passionate, kick-ass rule-breaker in the name of justice – with a fondness for weaponry.  She also seems to have a not-quite-legal supplier of weapons and information in every part of the globe.

As for Bryan Mills, who ostensibly the show is supposed to be about, he’s been reduced to the guy “with a special set of skills.”  It fits the action-hero model of the Taken films, and Standen is good in the role. The action sequences on the show definitely give homage to the movies.   Ironically though, after the episode tying up the loose ends from season 1, Bryan has become the least interesting member of the team.  The few attempts at building a character arc have rung false and fallen flat.  He’s best at being a sounding board for Christina, a comrade-in-arms for Santana, and a male buddy for Kilroy.  Mostly though, his role is to be the guy that can take out three or four assailants on his own on any given day.

Season 2 of Taken – Is it Working?

Despite this change of focus regarding Bryan, season 2 of Taken is still an enjoyable romp.  One reason is that the writers have a nice feel for comic moments to lighten things up.  This clip from 2 x 9 is a perfect illustration of the humorous team dynamic that’s developed.

As you can see, Kilroy is the bringer of comic relief and technical know-how.  Also, you can see how all three see Christina as the boss.  This is despite Bryan and Christina talking about doing this together in the season opener. While she and Bryan do have private talks about things, she’s clearly in charge. (FYI:  Christina totally knew what they were looking at and busts them on it later.)

In fact, it’s Christina that is really the center of Taken season 2.  While Bryan was doing what he could to escape from that Mexican prison, it was her determination to get Bryan back that actually does.  She’s also the one who stole the technology for the machine. What this team is about is largely her vision. To borrow from another popular procedural, she’s become to Taken what Jethro Gibbs ( Mark Harmon) is to CBS’s NCIS.

The Wrap Up

In general, season 2 of Taken is less ambitious than the first season.  Considering the source material, maybe that was a good call.  Season 2 of  Taken has put more of a backstory on the other characters and just let Byran be the elite fighter that he is in the films.

Making the show more procedural-like was smart as well.  Procedurals are television’s bread and butter, and they are a goldmine for syndication.  So long as the stories and characters are interesting, and the acting is solid, they don’t have to be brilliant.  If there’s some food for thought presented in an entertaining way, so much the better.

Season 2 of Taken has all of the above. It may not be as inventive or character-driven as some of NBC’s more recent procedural offerings.  However, the show Law and Order wasn’t particularly so either – and it ran for twenty years.  

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