Early on in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced television suspense, Hostages, the superhero awesomeness of both leading characters—respective pro- or antagonists depending on perspective—is established with little subtlety or grace. Existing as fantastical sketches of writer indulgence projection, Dr. Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) is a wife, mother and kick-ass surgeon so talented that the President (James Naughton) has opted to have her conduct a routine procedure on him.
Conversely, stoic FBI agent Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) has inexplicable insight into hostage situations—as per the title—knowing immediately when a criminal dressed himself up as a hostage to escape a situation, shooting him without batting an eyelash. In the world of Hostages, he isn't reprimanded for taking a ridiculous, altogether narcissistic and sociopathic, decision like this; instead, someone makes a flippant remark and he goes on his way, planning a kidnapping with his brother-in-law Kramer (Rhys Coiro) and the mercurial Archer (Billy Brown).
And in case the humdrum set up of a successful doctor with a seemingly idyllic home life conducting surgery on the President didn't alert the audience, Carlisle's plan involves breaking into her home and forcing her to "accidentally" kill the American leader. Why he wants the president dead and why his plan was interrupted at the last minute with replacement partner Sandrine (Sandrine Holt) is incidental, sure to be investigated in later episodes as a way of putting off the inevitability of the central surgery.
Predictably, these home invaders prove friendlier than expected, immediately catching on to the many inconsistencies and familial lies within the Sanders' clan. Her husband Brian (Tate Donovan) is suspected of having an affair; her daughter Morgan (Quinn Shephard) is having a pregnancy scare; and her son Jake (Mateus Ward) is getting involved in other nefarious dealings.
That everyone will learn a lesson from the gun-toting criminals with a heart of gold is as expected as the twist that should come mid-season to make us identify with the rogue FBI agent. How Hostages will fare after Dr. Sanders finally performs the surgery or finds a way to get herself out of the entire mess is debatable. But there's a definite Prison Break vibe that doesn't bode well should the show generate enough ratings to make it through its first season.
Nothing that occurs throughout the pilot episode is original or remotely inspired but there's a solid handling of action and pacing to keep it all flowing in an accessible enough manner to entertain those looking to turn their brain off.
Hostages premieres on Monday, September 23rd, 2013 at 10pm on CTV. (Warner)