Disclosure: I’m a sucker for anything Washington, DC.-related. In fact, that’s what nudged me to finally cue up the pilot for a little show called Scandal a little over two years ago, famously sluggish as I am in getting around to midseason screeners. (Good call on checking that one out, Matt!) I mean, I will watch The American President each and every time I come across it on cable.
The crisis at the heart of NBC’s newest Sunday night drama is the hijacking of a school bus carrying the high school-aged kids of D.C.’s elite — including the president’s own son, Kyle; Amber, the daughter of corporate titan Meg Fitch (played by Gillian Anderson); and Beth Ann Gibson, one of two harder-scrabble teens who only got into the lofty Ballard High via scholarship. Equally deflating for Beth Ann is the fact that her horrifically coiffed father, Thomas (Dermot Mulroney), an apparently disgraced former CIA analyst, is among the trip’s chaperones.
At the time of the initial abduction, which was orchestrated in part by a dirty(-ish?) Secret Service honcho, one of the kids, smarty pants Anton, is whisked away to safety by What an Awful First Day I’m Having Secert Service Agent Marcus Finley. While Marcus makes like Rambo/John McClane, drawing one of the baddies into a honey trap, FBI agent Susie Dunn back in Washington wrangles the most powerful PTA in the world, all of whom want answers and action — and one by one will be coerced by the kidnappers into helping abet the master scheme, in the name of protecting their kids. (In the first episode, Anton’s dad is leveraged into sabotaging a government satellite; next week, Meg covertly fulfills a “simple” task, unaware she is playing a part in something more sinister. And at some point, yes, you’ll get Lily Snyder in a bomb vest.)
The first episode you saw tonight dealt by my count two-and-a-half to three twists: One, Beth Ann’s dad isn’t the complete dork she believes him to be; guy’s got skills, but apparently landed on the wrong side of a CIA scandal back in the day. Two, Mr. Gibson, despite all appearances to the abducted kiddies, is the mastermind of this plan, and I guess was game to give up a pinkie for the cause. What we are to wonder, I assume, is if he has a sinister endgame or himself was leveraged into running this op (but ultimately plans to torpedo it).
And then at hour’s end there was the Susie Dunn reveal — that she is more than just an “aunt” to kidnapped Amber Fitch, she is actually her mother, but had her sister Meg raise the kid for reasons TBA. And likely because of that, the sisters have been estranged, but now must try to work together toward a common good.
Next week, a parent besides Meg gets coerced into doing something sketchy; Finley sadly isn’t exactly regarded a hero for his bravery there with Anton; and the kids start getting anxious about those seemingly getting preferential treatment.