Advertised ceaselessly for months, ABC finally debuted its new spy drama Whiskey Cavalier after the Oscars this past weekend. Anyone who didn’t bother to stay up so late for it (and I certainly didn’t) got a second chance with its official premiere on Wednesday. For all the hype, the show is… Well, it’s mostly okay-ish.
Lest anyone wasn’t paying attention, this is the series that Lauren Cohan left The Walking Dead for. Whether that will prove to be a wise career decision remains to be seen. At the very least, it’s a good showcase for her charisma and screen appeal, and proves that she has the chops to be a series lead. That will be to her benefit whether this particular project lasts or not.
Cohan shares the lead with Scott Foley, playing FBI agent Will Chase. As if that character name weren’t enough of a groaner (he will chase the bad guys, get it?), the pilot episode quickly reveals that the “Whiskey Cavalier” of the title is his nickname, bestowed on him by fellow agent and best bud Ray (Josh Hopkins from Cougar Town).
Despite being hyper-competent at his job, Will is a very sensitive soul and an emotional wreck following a breakup with his fiancée, Gigi. He locks himself in an apartment in Paris, moping and listening to sad music until Ray calls him back to duty on a mission to capture a rogue CDC scientist and degenerate gambler who’s trying to sell a vial of weaponized Ebola to terrorists. This results in some shooting, a foot chase, jumping off bridges onto boats, getting shot (in a bulletproof vest, of course), and making a desperate dive to catch the vial in mid-air and save the world. All in a day’s work…
Umm, what’s the FBI doing in Paris, anyway? Best not to ask questions like that.
Chase’s boss, Deputy Director Ollerman (Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tuck), has concerns about Will’s readiness for duty, but sends him out anyway on a new mission to capture an NSA leaker trying to defect to Russia with sensitive data he’s stolen. If you’re asking yourself why this isn’t a job for the CIA rather than the FBI, that gets answered with the introduction of Frankie Trowbridge (Cohan), a super-hot but no-nonsense CIA agent who tries to scoop the mission right out from under Chase and capture the alleged traitor, Edgar (Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris), for herself.
What follows is a TV hour filled with playful bickering, flirtatious banter, car chases, shoot-outs with evil bounty hunters, plot twists and turnabouts, and instantaneous travel through various international destinations from Moscow to Germany and back to France – in all of which everyone speaks perfect English and nobody questions the legal authority of the American FBI or CIA to be running around shooting guns. All the while, smartass Edgar cracks jokes and comments on the obvious sexual tension.
Eventually, Frankie gets shot (the kind of TV bullet wound that will be all healed up and result only in an itsy-bitsy scar by the next episode), Edgard turns out to be a whistleblower trying to expose corruption in the American government, and Ollerman is revealed to be the real traitor. Frankie saves the day with a bomb hidden in a tampon (for real – this actually happens!).
Also, Will finds out that his buddy Ray has been having an affair with his ex, which is what caused their breakup.
No worries, forgiveness is quickly doled out, justice is served, and Will and Frankie are assigned to lead a joint task force traveling the globe and capturing bad guys. Joining their team are Edgar (exonerated in no time flat), Ray, and Will’s other BFF, an FBI profiler played by Ana Ortiz from Ugly Betty.
Episode Verdict / Grade: B-
Part Moonlighting, part Alias, Whiskey Cavalier is light and frivolous entertainment that actively resists any attempt to give it the slightest moment of thought. The plot is totally implausible on every level, the action scenes are plentiful but pedestrian, and the pilot episode feels like it’s been edited and re-edited and re-re-edited a hundred times by a hundred different hands to trim any millisecond of footage that didn’t play well to focus group feedback. It’s slick and polished, and enormously calculated, and you’ll forget every second of it as soon as the credits air.
For all that, it’s not awful. It’s fine, honestly. Not great, but there are worse ways to waste an hour. Cohan and Foley are both very attractive and very likeable. They have good chemistry. The show’s production values (at least in the pilot episode) are appealingly glossy. I could see this being a hit. I could also see viewers shrugging it off if they happen to find anything more engaging to watch instead.