Reel TV Review: The Brave – “Pilot”

THE BRAVE -- Pictured: "The Brave" Key Art-- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

The biggest complaint network TV gets when compared to cable or streaming services, is that a lot of the shows can be a bit generic. Maybe chances can’t be taken on network TV and when they do critics like it but audiences avoid it (I still miss you American Crime). Another angle network TV tries to do is take cues from the cable and streaming services that seem to dominate the attention of both critics and audiences. It’s a noble effort but it becomes transparent and it’s very transparent with the slickly produced but overly cliched, The Brave.

Formerly titled For God and Country (I guess they wanted to go with boring over heavy handed with the new title), it desperately wants to be the NBC equivalent of Showtime’s Homeland but it’s so riddled with cliches that it’s hard to take it seriously. It’s slickly produced which is a win for network TV as it seems budgets are getting bigger to make you truly feel like you’re getting a cinematic experience in your living room. The problem is, at least in regards to the pilot, I wish the narrative could match the production values because it doesn’t really bring anything new or compelling to the table.

The interesting thing is that every TV season seems to find numerous networks trying to tackle variations of the same premise (last season it was time travel with Timeless on NBC, Time After Time on ABC & Making History on Fox). Only one of those shows (Timeless) made it to a season 2 and even that show was initially canceled before a very vocal fan outcry made NBC change its mind. This season proves to be no different with 3 shows highlighting the military. NBC is first to the battlefront with The Brave, which premiered last night in a to-die-for time slot following The Voice. CBS’s Seal Team is just a few steps behind with a Wednesday launch while The CW’s Valor must wait until Oct. 9th for its marching orders. Time will tell if being the first out of the gate could help The Brave (although premiere ratings were sub-par last night) but the fact that we’re getting three shows of this nature seems to highlight how safe network TV can play things at a time. The trailers for The Brave seemed like they were cut by army recruits and its execution during the pilot is really no different.

The series stars Mike Vogel (Under the Dome), Anne Heche (Men in Trees), Demetrius Grosse (Banshee), Sofia Pernas (Jane the Virgin), Natacha Karam, Noah Mills (2 Broke Girls), Hadi Tabbal and Tate Ellington (Quantico). As it begins, Vogel leads a Special Ops team (comprised of Grosse, Karam, Mills, and Tabbal), while Heche calls the shots from D.C. (sadly she is given the most cliche-ridden dialogue and despite her being a little off the wall in real life, her talents deserve a better showcase).

“People like this are why we come to work every day,” says The Brave’s order-issuing, safe at home ringmaster. Her title is deputy CIA director, her name is Patricia Campbell, and she’s not referring to tracking down Twitter trolls (although that could be more interesting). Anne Heche plays the role in notably heavy makeup, but still in grieving mode. Her son was killed in combat just 10 days earlier, leaving Campbell with a heavy heart upon returning to the business of exterminating the world’s vermin and rescuing their captives.

First up is Dr. Kimberley Wells (guest star Alix Wilton-Regan), who’s nobly a part of the Doctors Without Borders team in Damascus, Syria before being kidnapped while talking to her husband back home. Special Ops squad Capt. Adam Dalton (Mike Vogel) and his dedicated but sometimes sniping team of undercover specialists are immediately summoned from their base in Turkey. They must be “wheels up within the hour” because the hostage-takers aren’t interested in ransom demands. Instead “they chop off heads,” Campbell says, in this case as revenge for the recent presumed slaying of a terrorist kingpin known to U.S. forces as “Baghdadi.”

Yes…”Baghdad”.  It made me chuckle every time they uttered it and I know that was not their intention. Not to spoil the obvious, but some terrorists have unbelievably amazing recuperative powers to go with their cartoonish names, as do their wives.

The Special Ops team also includes cocky, condescending Joseph “McG” McGuire (Noah Mills), who’s prone to taking verbal shots at fellow operatives Jasmine “Jaz” Khan (Natacha Karam) and Amir Al-Raisani (Hadi Tabbal). Asked derisively by McG if she was “raised a Muslim,” she retorts, “I was raised a New Yorker.” He’s briefly chastised but later doesn’t think much of Amir’s prayer rug. (I highlight some of these dialogue exchanges because this is what you’re getting into if you choose to watch, it makes Quantico look like high art).

Ezekiel “Preach” Carter (Demetrius Grosse) is the other Special Ops risk-taker while domestic front CIA analysts Noah Morgenthau (Tate Ellington) and Hannah Rivera (Sofia Pernas) dig out invaluable information on who’s who and their whereabouts. Whatever the case, Campbell is steeled by the certainty that “we are fighting people that want to wipe us off the planet. That means we have to be as ruthless as they are.”

As always with shows like this, rescuing a woman held hostage ends up intersecting with bigger fish in the grand global scheme of things. Can the team pull off two missions at once? Will there be “go go go go” derring-do in the process? Suffice it to say that no self-respecting, heroic anti-terrorist team will ever submit solely to the “greater good” if it might mean leaving a terrorized hostage behind. Get it? Got it? Good. It has all been done before so I’m pretty sure you’re up to speed.

The acting is adequate for the material and honestly, Mike Vogel is especially good as the hero among heroes. He possesses the right amount of gruff and tenacity to make the role work and one wishes everyone was up to the same task as him. As stated before, Heche is a good actress but the script does her character no favors as she proves to be the biggest cliche of them all. Perhaps it takes more than one episode to warm up to her.

The opening hour ends with an unexpected, big boom of a cliffhanger designed to bring viewers back for more. In that it’s unique and it honestly is smart on their part because I was ready to tap out but now I will tune in next week to see how it’s resolved but if things don’t improve much by episode two’s opening minutes, no amount of bang for my buck will get me to come back.

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About Gaius Bolling 1030 Articles
At the age of five, I knew I wanted to write movies and about them. I've set out to make those dreams come true. As an alumni of the Los Angeles Film Academy, I participated in their Screenwriting program, while building up my expertise in film criticism. I write reviews that relate to the average moviegoer by educating my readers and keeping it fun. My job is to let you know the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of cinema, so you can have your best moviegoing experience. You can find more of my writing on Instagram @g_reelz.