Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Anna Friel

American Odyssey” is totally misnamed from my point of view because once again the “managers” (investors) interfered to try to force something sympathetic to their condescending view of audiences.  The creating team was working with the idea of simply Odyssey and even that seems to me a kind of high school idea.  It’s not wrong, but this is far from a wily guy trying to go home after a grueling war.  This is about a female soldier who thought she was going on a few weeks’ raid but has gotten into a Star Wars world where she is a “raghead” (that’s a pejorative) version of Princess Leia with a boy who is no droid.  She is nothing like the Debra Winger character in “The Sheltering Sky,” except that she is as appealing.


Part of the appeal of the film is the sublime sahara where the landscape rolls in human curves and the towns cluster along crowded cubic alleys where ragged wooden doors open into cushioned homes where small stoves prepare local foods.  In this film there are no Star Wars bars or Game of Thrones bordellos.  Well, except for the music venue where the uncle who presents as a woman is a media star with a general for a lover.

This series, which I see as a long movie, an episodic “book” like “The Jewel in the Crown”, consciously sets out to break up assumptions.  If it had been on cable instead of network, it would not have been cancelled, but maybe it is a lot for us to digest as it stands.  So many people — you have to leave the media to know this — have no knowledge of these worlds, no way to interpret the morality, and no skill with the highly technological stuff that drives the plot.  

If you took away everything in the last decade — those little glass wafer phones chiming in all pockets, the desktops that so easily hack into secret info, flaming predator drones watched from satellites, tracer transmitters the size of cough drops, and even the government’s corrupt addiction to outsourced evil — the show would vanish.

This series is really about the globalizing of the planet and the predatory nature of international corporations who act as nations with no borders.  It’s not pleasant, but it’s true.  It’s happening.

Grégory Fitoussi

Once you accept that, the binaries begin to show up.  “Luc Girard” (played by Grégory Fitoussi whom I knew from “Mr. Selfridge” from the BBC and “Spiral” from France) is presumably a fox who has escaped the French Foreign Legion.
Adewale  Akinnuoye-Agbaje

He is balanced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who plays “Frank Majors”, a massive invincible hired soldier.  It’s intriguing that England has formed a cadre of intelligent, educated, impressive Anglo-African actors.  They speak multiple languages and get their start as models.  That seems worthy a movie plot of its own.

Yousef "Joe" Sweid

Yousef “Joe” Sweid as “Shakir Khan” was the most sympathetic mainstream gender-crossover since Peter Capaldi’s performance as “Vera” on an episode of “Prime Suspect.”  

Casting was done by six people, who seem to be two anchor people, two less-used people with long lists of credits, a woman named Gemma Sykes, who must be English, and a specialty man named Saad Fedhari.  According to IMDB, he has a LONG string of credits in the film industry in many countries.  If things go on as they are, he is likely to be working for a long time, since so much happens in North Africa.

I despise these plot beats that depend on women being obtuse and demanding to know things they are not able to understand.  “Decker’s” wife and daughter are plot devices, I know, but there are too many of them in real life.  Odille's daughter is the counterbalance, a sort of Pippi Longstocking.

Sadie Sink

It would not surprise people who know me that I found Peter Facinelli (“Peter Decker”) unsympathetic.  It’s just me, but I thought he was too stupid to be believed.  Not his acting — his part in the script.  Of course, I also disliked Treat Williams and always have, even when he was supposed to be a good guy.  These men have an air of entitlement that’s useful for the plot, but they are “suits”.  The important women all seem to have lost their combs.  Otherwise, their suits are nice.

Nate Mooney

The balance for these fat-cat bullies is the character of “Bob Offer,” played by Nate Mooney, a relative unknown who did a masterful job of unfolding from a nut case who needed a tinfoil hat to a deeply sympathetic but slightly askew nearly-Asperger victim who was capable of loving, not always within the social lines. 

Daniella Pineda

His balance is the cold assassin “Ruby Simms” (Daniella Pineda) who is derailed by love.  They strike me as coastal types: Bob on the Atlantic and Ruby on the Pacific.  You could interpret this series as a collision between the world-view of New York versus the world view of California, or maybe they're merging.

Anna and Omar

In the end the value of the series for me rested mostly on two characters, which is suspect is true for most viewers.  The two are “Odelle" (Anna Friel) and “Aslam” (Omar Ghazaoui)  Between them, they pull the story much closer to the VERY American “road trip” story of Huckleberry Finn and Jim going down the Mississippi on a raft.  So far this is Ghazaoui’s only screen credit.  His value will be apparent if some smart cable channel picks up the series, because he will age and change, creating a gap.  I think he is irreplaceable.

As a concept, this real voyage towards home, never reaching it, is a time trip discovering a future while trying to return to the past.  Simply trying to get hold of the new reality is hard enough, but finding some kind of universal moral dimension is impossible.  The people in control prey on the rest of us, but the worlds of the ordinary people are too small.  We are all moving along alleys where doors, splintered or solidly embellished, open into our paths.  Doubling back is not an option.  The uniforms own the dragons.  That's not a movie.

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