Two years after it was first aired I finally got round to watching this thing, and it turns out that it’s actually quite good. Long story short, a girly spy called Sam Hunter (I kid you not) working for a private security company finds out that someone is trying to assassinate her. Is it an angry boyfriend? Some client she screwed? MI6? The Freemasons? A misogynistic conspiracy of some sort? She doesn’t know and neither do we, and we probably never will.
On the plus side, the series is well-directed, maintaining enough tension to keep us going till the next episode, and photographed in a moody and desaturated style that makes you glad you’ve never had to spend a winter in London. The acting and dialogue are mostly good and the characters range from the fascinating – Sam herself and Jack Turner, a villainous, self made multi-millionaire who holds a grudge against the upper classes – to the downright hackneyed in the form of a male agent who is irritating as shit and a female agent who finds him as irritating as shit. Where we run into real problems is with certain aspects of the writing and the casting of Samantha Hunter.
Watching the very first episode you know something is terribly awry. For you see, Samantha Hunter, the tough gal star of the thing, is a midget. That’s right, she’s five feet tall and weighs 90lbs after eating an especially large meal while clothed in wet woolens. This immediately casts a pall of disbelief over the show, as anyone with any sense will be wondering how the hell a woman that small can keep going toe-to-toe with 6’ 200lb men. It’s bad enough that she keeps winning these fights, but when she gets hit with a full powered right hook and not only fails to become unconscious but doesn’t even fall down you know someone’s pissing in your ear and telling you it’s just yellow rain. Melissa George is a highly decorative creature with one of the prettiest mouths in showbiz, and she has a good screen presence and delivers a competent performance, but big and tough she ain’t. As tough female spies go I’ll take 6’ Geena Davis in “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” all the others look like they’d get killed first day on the job. Who knows, maybe George was the biggest (heh, heh…) star they could get to do the role so they had to bite the bullet, but they could at least have modified the fight scenes to be more about speed and agility and less about being able to throw large men around. Perhaps they were relying on political correctness to stop people criticizing their midget, hoping that whereas the audience would have had no trouble laughing at a young Michael J. Fox doing these things, they would quail at doing the same with George lest someone in the vicinity start screaming misogyny!
The credibility problem goes well beyond the miscasting of George to the many absurdities of the writing. In the very first episode Sam is shot in the back of the head with a squib, yet somehow ends up wiping the fake blood from her forehead! Not long after that, she realizes some cops aren’t really cops as they have conveniently chosen to wear sneakers with their police uniforms! You’d think a bunch of expert killers with the resources to get the uniforms would also be able to get the shoes, but I guess that would make things too complicated for the writers. Along the way we are treated to many other bizarreries . Of all these, my favorite is the glaring flaw in the secret room in which Sam plots her revenge against those seeking to turn her into fertilizer. She goes to all the trouble of putting up a false wall at one side of her living room, then making a tiny little entrance at the bottom of the wall and covering that with a large heater which swivels out of the way to give her access to the secret chamber. Cool, I guess. But wait, what’s that thing on one of the walls inside the actual chamber? Why, it’s the one thing you don’t want in a secret room! That’s right, it’s a window! It’s not even a skylight facing the heavens or a side window facing out into the middle of nowhere! No, it’s a window facing the building opposite her own, so all the neighbors can peer in and go “Hey, look, she’s got some kind of secret room in there!” To further emphasize this massive boner the director then makes sure to film Sam through the window, just in case you hadn’t already realized how visible she was to the entire neighborhood! And this room and its bloody great window keep popping up again and again, it isn’t even a one-off ! In later episodes they seem to have realized they had made a mistake and the window is usually seen with the blind down, but by then half the neighborhood would have reported that there was some weird woman across the street getting up to something secretive – or at least semi-secretive! Samantha Hunter – Professional Semi-Secret Agent!
As for Sam’s fighting prowess, it seems to come and go. Most of the time she has no problem dealing with large men, yet when an average sized bloke described in the credits as The Blank Faced Man pins her down and injects some sedative into her eyeball (where else?) she doesn’t even put up a fight. Why they couldn’t write the guy sneaking up on her and jabbing her in the neck is anyone’s guess – maybe it wasn’t colorful enough for them, but it certainly would have been more consistent with the lead character’s usual combative nature.
Another absurdity that stood out for me was the fact that Polyhedrus, the corporation behind the villainy, had some guys gas 600 Pakistani villagers to death so they could put up a dam, yet when a girl escapes the massacre these guys simply track her down, burn one side of her face and tell her not to tell no one! What tripe! They would have killed her, plain and simple. But then there would be no one to give Sam some important information, you see.
Speaking of the corporate factor, that’s one of the best things about the script. It turns out that there’s some sort of massive, 500 year old conspiracy going on to put all the world’s power into private hands ( kind of like neo-liberalism except older and secret ) and Sam has something or other to do with it, at one point even being kidnapped as a child and held captive by the mysterious cabal. Now for some reason one of the corporations responsible wants her dead. Fascinating stuff. Maybe she was some sort of secret weapon that escaped her brain washing! I don’t know what’s going on but I can’t wait to find out, which is a pity because wait is what I’ll bloody well have to do! There I am watching the last ep and thinking “Cool! We’ll finally find out what’s going on,” and then we don’t. That’s right, we are told nothing, zilch, bupkis! We do find out that Jack isn’t really interested in the dam, he just wants to screw over Polyhedrus for having murdered his older son, and that does add even more interest to the character, but that’s all we get. We never find out who Sam’s ex-boyfriend really is, we never find out why Sam was held captive as a child, we never find out why Polyhedrus wants her dead, we never even find out who the hell the dude with the needles is! I am well aware that it is common for a show’s season finale to leave some questions un-answered, but it’s also customary to answer most of the questions set up earlier in the season – that’s what a good season finale does, it answers most and leaves you hanging on a couple, this bloody thing leaves us hanging on all! All of this is made worse by the fact that there probably won’t be a second series, so it’s not like waiting to find out if Rick and the gang will end up being eaten by religious nuts instead of zombies! There has been talk of a second series, but that’s been going on since the first one ended and nothing but promises have been made so far, and given the jerks in charge we can’t even be confident that the questions will be answered if there is a second series. Overall, “Hunted” is a pretty good series with some really stupid writing and an unbelievably frustrating and unsatisfying end. That said, I will still be watching the sequel – if it ever happens.