Ransom: “The Return” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Sometimes a police procedural does not highlight law enforcement. Elementary focuses on Sherlock Holmes, a private detective; Monk centers on the titular Adrian Monk, another private detective; and Lucifer stars Satan himself as a consultant to the LAPD.  Ransom follows a similar formula by bringing a consulting negotiation task force to the table.

Let’s see if CBS is worth paying for Ransom.

The Characters

Eric Beaumont (Luke Roberts) heads the world’s foremost hostage negotiation team. Clearly coming from a disgraced background, and possibly a self-imposed exile from the police department, Eric plays the mysterious and omniscient leader of the group.

If Eric is the old professional, Maxine Carlson (Sarah Greene) will play our bright-eyed, eager-to-prove-herself newbie. She’s fresh out of college and has only ever wanted to negotiate hostages from their captors, which hints to a family tragedy in her background.

The other members of the team include Zara Hallam (Nazneen Contractor), an ex-cop who now handles the tactical side of things, and Oliver Yates (Brandon Jay McLaren), the psychologist who takes charge of evaluating each hostage taker.

The Conflict

Remember how I said Eric had been disgraced? We have to assume he’s having nightmares of that one person he couldn’t save. And it was his fault. What if I told you that the newest addition to the team, Maxine, turned out to be the daughter of that one person he blames himself for? Yeah? Your mind would be blown?

As you can see, this is going to be the center of conflict for (at least) the first season.

The Themes

CBS has become a master of the suspenseful crime drama. CSI, JAG, NCIS, and all of the joke-acronyms I could have fit in there are all products of CBS. That in itself is a theme.

The themes are usually similar: overacting, jokes at the appropriate time, and a lot of team dynamics at play. While this series attempts to zero-in on the hostage/ransom aspect of the police procedural, I can imagine only so many ways to slice that pizza.

The Criticism

My biggest gripe with any procedural is the episodic nature the genre forces on itself. The public and I love villains. We love interesting, well-built, wholly-written villains. It’s impossible to fully flesh-out a character within the vacuum of a single episode, and if you build your series on the model of “baddie of the week” then how can you possibly create that villain that we’re craving?

What you need in that circumstance is interesting characters filling out your main cast, with a phenomenal group dynamic. Angel could do this (even though Angel also had the season-wide villain). I have to admit, I even felt the characters on NCIS were built well enough to carry that show. The enormous audience they play to would agree with me.

Right now (and they could do a better job in the upcoming episodes), we have blatant caricatures filling the ranks of this team. I have a hard time imagining these characters having great, original banter that would endear them to our hearts.

The Conjecture

The season ends with a scenario similar to that which ended Eric’s career, which will shake him so badly, Maxine will need to take over as leader for the mission.

The Conclusion

Police procedurals aren’t bad television. They’re great for those who don’t want to follow the intricate plots and subtle character transformations. This is something I can watch while making dinner or filing my tax return. If you’re looking for something to supplement your daily allowance of CSI, but you hate reruns, Ransom could be what you’re looking for.

For me, though, it felt as if CBS were holding me hostage and they were asking for forty-five minutes of my time as Ransom.

If you’re interested in the series, Ransom airs Saturdays on CBS. If you’d like to see what else Cody is watching, you can check his Trakt page to keep up-to-date with all of his shows.

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