Covert Affairs 1.1: "Pilot"

Pilots are often an exercise in creative frustration. The producers want to put their best foot forward and engage the audience, but they also have to set up the basic sandbox in which their toys will be playing. At the end of the day, that means a lot of plot and character exposition. It's rare for a pilot to hit the ball out of the park. Even some of the best shows started out by stumbling out of the gate.

"Covert Affairs" starts out rough. I'll give everyone credit; they do everything possible to sell the notion that Agent Walker (Piper Perabo) is talented enough to play in the big leagues of the intelligence community. At least, they eventually do so. They begin by making her look like she's way out of her league and far too irreverent to get far in the serious world of real politik.

The hook comes at the end: Agent Walker's former love interest, having disappeared from her life, is still alive. Walker's bosses at the Company (the CIA, natch) are using her to flush him out, which will inevitably be a source of much angst when she discovers the truth. As ongoing story arcs go, it's fairly tame right now, so hopefully it will get a lot more complicated.

In the meantime, the writers just have to convince me that Walker has the chops to be a CIA agent on a level not so far removed from the iconic Sydney Bristow. The comparisons to "Alias" are inevitable, and compared to that pilot, this is sorely lacking. The family and co-worker relationships aren't on the same level, and neither is the writing. Most of the cast has plenty of credibility, but there were some spotty performances.

For example, Auggie (Christopher Gorham) is supposed to be blind. It's a character aspect noted often in the story. So it's a bit problematic when the blind character is openly watching data move across the screen, following it with his eyes. This happens more than once. It's not just Gorham's fault, because this is something that could have easily been caught during the take. It's that lack of attention to detail that prevented this episode from coming together in the manned intended.

That said, it wasn't horrible. It was just a bit bland and clunky. And frankly, that's what one comes to expect from pilots. There's enough potential for "Covert Affairs" to evolve into a tighter, better show, and this summer season is the perfect time to give it a chance.


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