I was going to write a whole piece here about how the plan for Hostages was going to be unusual. It was going to mimic the structure of American Horror Story, telling a different, self-contained story each season, with different characters and probably different actors. I like this structure. It immediately sidesteps an issue that I often have when watching pilots – how is this going to be sustained over multiple seasons? It’s too easy for shows to degenerate fast when they start stretching their ideas out and introducing new characters and increasingly complicated twists and turns. Re-creating the show each year gives it new energy.
The first unfortunate thing for Hostages is that, it’s not going to get the chance, because by the time the series made it to the UK, it had already been cancelled. Mind you, due to the structure that still means there’s a complete story and shouldn’t really affect your enjoyment of the show. The second unfortunate thing for Hostages was that the structure was the only thing about the show that I did like. I didn’t like the story, I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the writing and I didn’t like the tone.
I thought it was going to be quite a tight psychological thriller and instead it was a daft melodrama full of overly ponderous dialogue and pointed direction. Everyone has something to hide, there are layers of secrets and deception with each character and it just becomes increasingly ridiculous. From the get go, the fact that this woman is operating on the president and doesn’t have the most basic of security presence around her is idiotic. She hasn’t even had any kind of vetting done, which would have brought most of her family’s secrets to light. She’s an absolute gift to a blackmailer. It’s stupid.
But maybe that’s what they were going for, maybe they weren’t looking to be particularly subtle. I would be ok with that if it had been full on explosions and daftness like 24 or something. But you’re going to be horribly bored if that was what you were looking for. Nothing happens. Oh, there’s a foiled bank robbery at the start which is over in about 30 seconds and a dog gets drugged. That’s all. a dog. And (spoiler!) he gets better.
I also failed to connect with any of the characters. There’s something about Toni Collette that I’ve just never really got on with, her characters always feel distant and cold, even when they’re really not. Dylon McDermott is probably the most interesting character, but even he is saddled with the ‘mysterious’ role which just means that his character is completely up in the air, utterly different to whoever he’s opposite at the time.
I think it’s probably a personal taste thing, I wouldn’t be as critical of people who did like as I would of some terrible shows out there, but I was disappointed in this. Half way through I suddenly started thinking about how great it would have been if the show was made in Denmark.