At the end of the 2016-17 television season one of the things I was pleased to hear there would be a Taken season 2 on NBC. That I cared wasn’t something I could have predicted from early on. When I first heard about the series the only thing I was interested in was that one of the leads was Jennifer Beals.
The Taken movie franchise starring Liam Neeson had never been my thing. As such, the concept that hadn’t inspired me to see the movies didn’t draw me in to see the show either. This was especially true because it was a prequel based on Bryan Mills, Neeson’s film character.
Not knowing the character zeroed any interest in Bryan’s origin story. However, Taken season one was airing right after The Voice. The first night Taken aired I had it on as background noise – but I found myself paying attention. By the end of the season I was really invested, so the renewal new should have been all good, right?
Here’s the catch: Taken season 2 will be a very different show. In fact, the only actors from season one will be Beals and Clive Standen. He plays the prequel version of Bryan Mills. Granted, if there were only two characters you could keep from season one – they’d be the ones you’d want. Nevertheless, here’s why the news was upsetting.
Taken Season One: Why it Worked
Standen’s portrayal of the former Green Beret Bryan Mills has an underlying vulnerability that’s not typical of an action hero. Granted, the first scenes in Taken season one are about the murder of Bryan’s sister. It’s a violent and abrupt introduction, the kind of thing that seem heavy-handed in pulling the heartstrings. Nevertheless, that beginning scene and subsequent reveals about his sister work well in establishing Bryan’s character as a tough guy with not just grit – he cares more about others than himself.
When Beal’s character Christina Hart meets him, their connection makes you sit up and take notice. For one, Beal’s character, and the world she’s inhabited long before Bryan stumbled into it, is more layered and complex. In some ways the group of soldiers she puts Bryan with are an extension of her world. Through them though, we come to learn much about the kind of man Byran is, and about who she is. In that sense the team has been vital to the show.
The Taken Season One Finale
The season finale for season one of Taken was super intense! (Spoiler Alert for season 1!) Carlos Mejia (Romano Orzari) – the Mexican drug lord who killed Bryan’s sister – kidnapped Bryan’s girlfriend Asha Flynn (Brooklyn Sudano). At one point, Christina tells Bryan that he’s “too important to us all now.” while trying to keep him from going after them. That fails of course.
Christina and the team go after Bryan, which sends the unauthorized group into Mexico and to one of Mejia’s houses. In Mejia’s escape he slits the side of her neck, nicking a carotid artery. He clearly did it to not necessarily kill her. His goal was to force Bryan to stop going after him by making Bryan have to save her life. It couldn’t have been totally severed or she’d have died in minutes. (I’ve read something similar happened to his ex-wife in Taken 2…)
Right at this point is when his team member John (Gaius Charles) shows up. Bryan hands Asha over to John to be flown out to a hospital. Then Bryan goes after Mejia. John and the team medi-vac Asha out.
To make a long story short, Bryan kills Mejia, but gets shot as well. Because Bryan took the killshot against both US & Mexican orders, the Mexicans shot him and took him away. Christina feels guilty for not sending the team in after him immediately. She – via blackmail – has another agency head covertly looking for him. If he’s dead she “wants his body back.” The entire team feel badly because they know Bryan would have never left them behind – orders or no orders. Meanwhile, John keeps visiting the unconscious Asha in the hospital. Finally, the very last scene has Bryan, clearly wounded, waking up on the floor of a Mexican prison.
Taken Season 2 – Surprise! No More Team!?
With the heck of a cliffhanger Taken season one had, I was really concerned it wouldn’t get renewed! That’s because the ratings for Taken in the U.S. were low. Depending on the source metrics it was either a 1.3 demo and 6.93 million viewers (Deadline) or a 1.0 demo and 5.132 million viewers (TV Series Finale). A few years ago those ratings would have been a definite cancellation. These days though it’s all relative. Taken had good overseas sales, and NBC had eight scripted shows with even lower ratings. It got the renewal. Phew!
It was all good until the news hit that the show was being revamped. Learning about the new showrunner wasn’t bad. It’s Greg Plageman, who was the executive producer/showrunner for CBS’s Person of Interest. That was a really good show!
However the rest of the announcement was a bummer. Plageman has a “new creative vision” for the show andt everyone but Beal and Standen has been cut. So, if you were looking forward to seeing the finale’s resolution in terms of Asha and the team you are probably out of luck. According to TVLine, Christina will be stripped of her team as punishment for Bryan’s actions and the actress who plays Asha has also been cut.
The Pros and Cons of Taken Season 2
1. It’s Hard to Let Go of the Past
These abrupt changes aren’t a good way to keep the audience you have and build out. It’s almost as bad as cancelling it outright. Even if it’s a money/contract issue, you’d think they’d at least phase characters out and wrap the storylines. It’s even worse when you have a cliffhanger finale and then just throw the whole story out. They spend the entire season building the relationship between Bryan and Asha. Even if they are writing her out, it shouldn’t be a incidental footnote for Taken season 2. In general studios need to learn the importance of proper closure on storylines.
Likewise, the news about the team disappearing was bad. The early reviews for Taken were mixed. Even so, the team got positive feedback. As a unit they gelled and enhanced things – especially the field agents: John, Scott (Michael Irby), Dave (Jose Pablo Cantillo), and Rem (James Landry HÃ©bert). In particular, the finale highlighted how close John has become to Bryan. It would be nice to see these guys later turn up in some recurring roles.
2. It’s Going Against the Odds
It’s one thing if a show changes showrunners. There are some notable shows that have done well with that. On the other hand, it’s hard to think of shows that have done the same or better in the ratings by changing showrunners, adding and/or subtracting major characters, and changing structural concepts. The most recent examples of that not working are Castle and Code Black. Castle was outright cancelled, while the ratings for the second season of Code Black were worse than the first. Those shows are two good reasons to be concerned.
1. Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Beals!
Jennifer Beals is the one thing that put the show on my radar in the first place. In the character of Christina Hart there’s a lot for the talented and often underused Beals to work with. For one, Christina’s past seems filled with things that have only been hinted at. I definitely want to know more about how this woman got to the position she’s in. We already know she’s got many shades of gray, but – how dark can she get?
2. The New Showrunner is a Good One
As mentioned before, Person of Interest was a really good show. Plageman wasn’t it’s creator, but he was the executive producer and showrunner from day 1. I’m not thrilled with the slash and burn method that’s been applied to Taken season 2. It definitely seems to be a risky choice. Still, I’m willing to take a chance on what Plageman has in mind. The premise that Christina loses her team due to what happened in the finale is certainly plausible – and that bodes well for moving forward.
3. There are some cool new cast members!
In the face of losing her team, TVLine also revealed that Christina doesn’t take it lying down. Bryan is still in that Mexican jail “fighting for his life” and she intents to get him out! To do that she’s enlisted some new help.
- Joining Taken season 2 is Jessica Camacho. Fans of the D.C. Comics universe know Camacho plays the metahuman bounty hunter Gypsy on the CW’s show The Flash. She’s also had other bad*ss, butt-kicking roles on the shows Sleepy Hollow and Nikita. On Taken season 2 she’s Santana: “ a former Army quartermaster who was discharged for misconduct.” She sounds like just the type willing to take on some Mexican prison guards!
- Also on board is Amy Rutberg. She’s another actress being borrowed from the action-packed comic-book world. This time it’s from Marvel. In the Netflix Daredevil series Rutberg is the smart & sexy lawyer Marci Stahl. Does that mean there’s going to be some major conspiracies happening in Taken season 2? Possibly. However, we don’t know much about Rutberg’s character other than her name: Anna Warren.
- Last, but not least is Adam Goldberg. You’ll recognize him best from the TV series Fargo. He played the hitman, “Mr. Numbers.” In Taken season 2 his capacity for violence is digital. He’s “a grey-hat hacker.” who Christina once sent to prison for hacking into the FBI. Hmmm…that should be an interesting dynamic. Like, how helpful would you want to be for the person who sent you to prison?
4. The Resolution of the Season 1 Finale.
Despite the team being gone, the issue of Bryan being in that illegal-looking Mexican prison is still very much in play. The biggest thing about Mexican jail is that it’s become notorious for being highly corrupt and run by the drug cartels. (Business Insider). Being that Bryan just killed the head of one of them, expect friends of the decreased to make things extra difficult!
Of course, we’ve seen Bryan handles such situations pretty well. If word gets to him that Asha didn’t make it (pure speculation on my part) he’s going to get really angry. Like the Incredible Hulk, the bad guys won’t like him. While he doesnt turn green and gain superhero strength, he does get super intense, focused, and merciless!
5. More About Bryan
For fans of the Taken movie franchise it looks like there may be more tie-ins to the “Taken” aspects of the films. Will it eventually lead to learning about how he met Lenore, Bryan’s ex-wife in the film series? Plus, until that happens, I’m really interested in how he and Christine will get along after this mess in Mexico gets dealt with!
The Wrap Up Verdict: Watch Taken Season 2
It’s true that there are a number of reasons to be annoyed with the changes happening in Taken season 2. The fact that few shows have pulled off so many major changes well is also troubling. Still, people beat the odds all the time. In this case there are more good reasons to tune in than bad ones not to.
If you didn’t watch the first season – don’t worry about it – your golden. If you did, it may be a little bittersweet, but there’s more than enough of interest (see what I did there?) to give it a shot. The set up for the first episode certainly shows some promise for an exciting show!
Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) fights for his life inside a secret Mexican prison and plans a series of dangerous deals to put him on track for escape to the United States. But plans change when Mills and a young migrant girl (guest star Adriana Santos) are taken by human traffickers. Meanwhile, Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals) leverages her spycraft skills to obtain powerful new software that could locate Mills.
Bryan goes rouge on his own escape from prison? Yep!
Taken Season 2 starts Friday, January 12 at 9pm ET – right after the new times lot for Blindspot! Wow, two action shows in a row with strong and complicated characters of both genders? It looks like the pre-partying place be Friday nights is NBC!