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NBC's new action-packed drama Taken is, of course, a prequel to the series of movies that follow professional badass Bryan Mills as he travels the world rescuing folks who've been, well, taken. It turns out that this is a peek into the character's background that we never knew we needed. We meet Mills 30 years before his well-known film adventures (made memorably famous by tough guy actor Liam Neeson), and while he's still a man with "a very particular, and very dangerous, set of skills," he's not yet quite so boastful as to announce that to everyone he meets. But, if you get on his bad side, he sure will show you.
Taken opens with former Green Beret Bryan Mills (here played by Clive Standen of Vikings) minding his own sweet business when he notices some very bad men are about to start a dangerous amount of ruckus on a commuter train. Being who he is, though, he obviously refuses to do nothing, but, when the dust settles, he realizes that those men were there for him. As you might imagine, someone who was frequently involved in special military operations for many years would end up on the hit list of a big time bad guy or two, and one has finally decided to come gunning for Mills.
His heroics on the train catch the attention of Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals), who runs a team of CIA operatives who deal with cases so tricky and dangerous that they, officially, don't exist. When she and her team put together that the head of a major drug cartel is after Mills, they follow him in the hopes that he'll lead them to their big fish. It isn't long before they see just how capable Mills is at protecting himself and others, and Hart invites him to join her outfit.
I was able to preview four episodes of Taken, which comes from executive producer Luc Besson (who also wrote the original film trilogy), and I will tell you that people do, indeed, get taken on this show...a lot. But, I really appreciated how sly the show is about those abductions. I didn't even fully realize that someone had been kidnapped in every show I'd seen until halfway through Episode 4, which was mainly about getting a kidnapped girl back to her single father. Taken wisely doesn't have a kidnapping at the center of every show; that would get old really quick. So, instead, what they do is have the main plot of getting the conspirator/kingpin/terrorist be subtly backed up by someone getting (I have to say it at least once) tooken.
One of the things I like about Taken is that, aside from the main character and his deadly talents, it actually bears little resemblance to the movies. Mainly, this is because Mills isn't lone-wolfing it through these adventures, he's got a very highly trained and very capable boss and team working with him. Bryan Mills is the focus of the show, so you can best believe that he still does a shit-ton of ass-kicking, but, even when he's briefly going it alone, you know that the team will be there for solid backup when needed. Also, we never run into a situation where Mills has, personally, killed or maimed so many henchmen that you have to suspend a significant amount of disbelief that he hadn't met his match yet.
Having said that, though, one thing I do wish that Taken did a bit better was show just how skilled this team was. His co-workers, who include analysts Becca (Monique Gabriela Curnen), Riley (Jennifer Marsala) and Faaron (Simu Liu), and field agents John (Gaius Charles), Dave (Jose Pablo Cantillo), Rem (James Landry Hébert) and Scott (Michael Irby), clearly know what they're doing. But, I would have liked at least a couple scenes where one or more of them got to shine in a fight scene, mostly because I like the idea of this younger Bryan Mills being able to learn something from these guys, especially since he's new to this kind of team.
Taken is far more tense and suspenseful than the procedurals that fill the airwaves these days, and in that way it's a lot more like watching an action movie than most of the cop/detective shows on the air now. There were quite a few moments where I could feel that something was going to happen, but had no idea what it would be or which direction the threat would come from. Taken also has a couple of overarching plots that really have me interested to see how they will develop into situations that will require the famous set of skills we all know and love.
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