“Beware of an old man in a profession where men die young.”
I’d seen glimpses of this show in reviews, and online, and wow was I blown away when I actually watched the first three episodes. Jeff Bridges is simply phenomenal as an ex-operative now on the run when his past has caught up to him. That opening quote I wrote defines this show. Everyone keeps underestimating him due to his age. From the operatives they send after him, to their handlers as well. Only our dear John Lithgow as the Assistant Director of the FBI knows the extent of his skills.
That first episode had me clapping near the end at how our hero overcomes the odds. Nothing like having a good pair of loyal dogs to protect you.
“Do you recognize me now?”
A good adaption utilizes the source material well, and faithfully adapts it, only making changes that benefit or improve upon the material. If your changes impact the story negatively, or bog it down, then you have failed at adapting; you have shown that you are an idiot. Lauren S. Hissrich knows this well with her Witcher bastardization, and now the writers of this show can join her in being an idiot. Talk about jumping the shark. Yea, let’s move away from the book entirely and try and tell our worse story instead of the good one you have right before you.
“The world is full of monsters. Sooner or later, we all take our turn.” Episode 4. What a load of malarkey.
“Rich folk don’t explain shit.” Well, ain’t that the truth! Episode 5.
And in episode 6, we learn who the titular Old Man really is.
The finale gives one last twist that makes me go “blurgh”. Cheese factor ten thousand. Once again, if you are going to change a source material, make sure that your material improves upon the base story and doesn’t tell a worse off story than is given. The plot benefitted greatly from changing the thing that Dan Chase stole from the Afghan warlord to be the dude’s wife instead of 20 million dollars. That gives more of an emotional impact, and a way of connecting to a character than caring about money. There’s a person at stake here. That works. Taking the dogs away, extending the character of Zoe, changing Julian into an assassin instead of a character foil to Dan, and that last twist during the ending, congrats writers! You are idiots.
The first three episodes were a mastercraft in direction, cinematography, musical score, action choreography, and first class acting all around from everyone, especially Jeff Bridges. It is painfully clear that critics only reviewed the first three episodes before singing their praises of it. And that’s fair. Those three are worthy of praise. The following four episodes should be called out as they are. An embarrassment, and these writers should be ashamed of themselves, but they won’t, they got their fat paychecks.
When I started watching, I was so ready to recommend this show to everyone. But now, I can’t in good conscience do so. I can say the first three episodes are all you need to watch because after that, pardon my language, it gets fucking derivative. Turns into a bunch of psycho babble bullshit, and going back and forth through tired old trends. The ending pulls a move similar to the Outer Range, in that nothing is solved or even approaches an ending. Sure, you learned something new about the character, about something he did, but there is no resolution. You are left there holding yourself in your hand, waiting for the next season to be jerked off.
If it wasn’t for the grace and skill of Jeff Bridges, and the equal powerhouse of John Lithgow, this would be another nameless spy thriller in the long line of them. But because I love Jeff Bridges’ acting, I stuck with it. I loved watching him chew up the scenery. And of the actor that portrayed his younger self, Bill Heck. He was excellent, and his lines spoken in the Dari language made him seem like he was born in the region. Or so I read online. Pej Vahdat can also claim this honor. He was simply superb. The dedication to his craft is shown. I felt like he knew what he was saying, and not just speaking it phonetically.
Overall, this season should be taught as a lesson to not mess with a good story thinking you can tell it better. First three episodes are pure perfection, and then the writers became too full of themselves and thought they knew better than the author of the book they were adapting. Most authors won’t say anything negative about their adaptations, and I assume the same with this one. If only we had more Rick Riordan like authors to stand up for their works. Perhaps then this show could have been perfect until the end. Alas, after an exquisite entrance, it stumbled out the door and fell flat on its face.