In recent years, NBC has made things more exciting in the drama department, offering up the time-spanning warmth of This Is Us, the action of Taken, the sci-fi fun of Timeless and the madness of Midnight, Texas. With The Brave, NBC is giving television viewers a closer look at the pulse-pounding complications that face U.S. Special Ops teams during their dangerous missions. (Albeit a fictional look.) But starting off by emphasizing plot over its cast of fairly diverse characters makes The Brave feel more like a by-the-books procedural than a pro-military story meant to keep people watching.
Part of the hook with The Brave is that it's being told via two different settings. On one end, we have the Defense Intelligence Agency team, led by Deputy Director Patricia Campbell, the latest TV role for Anne Heche, who hasn't had a multi-season winner in a while. Working under Patricia are the Cultural Specialist Noah Morgenthau (Tate Ellington) and Mission Coordinator Hannah Archer (Sofia Pernas). What we learn about these three characters can be fully written on half an index card. Patricia recently lost her son, but is working through that pain. Hannah used to be in the field, but is now on the other side. And Noah lives about ten minutes away from work.
Things thankfully get more intense, if not more altogether informative, when we're across the globe and following the hands-on work of the undercover team of badasses led by Captain Adam Dalton, as played by Mike Vogel, who returns to CBS after his former series Under the Dome was cancelled a couple of years ago. The other Special Ops squad members include the expert sniper Sgt. "Jaz" Khan (Natacha Karam), CPO "Preach" Carter (Demetrius Grosse), medic Sgt. "McG" McGuire (Noah Mills) and the intelligence officer Agent Amir Al-Raisani (Hadi Tabbal). Their existence is largely predicated on no one but their bosses knowing where they are and what they're doing -- which said bosses are able to keep track of via constant surveillance tech -- and as viewers will be able to tell, they're pretty good at it.
Unfortunately, though, the big mission that goes down in the pilot episode feels more like a direct-to-DVD feature than the start of a TV series, Everyone is working to save a Doctors Without Borders physician who gets kidnapped in Syria, and there are enough mini-twists to keep things from getting stale, even if those mini-twists aren't very surprising. All that said, I will applaud The Brave for ending its premiere episode in such a way that almost guarantees a majority of viewers will tune in to the second episode, if only to see the immediate aftermath.
The Brave is the first TV production created by Dean Georgaris, better known for his feature work in previous years as the screenwriter of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, The Manchurian Candidate remake, and Payback. And so the show's bigger faults are probably on his shoulders, as other aspects are middling to enjoyable.
The production itself is solid, and the pilot boasts the directing talents of Brad Anderson, helmer of features such as Session 9 and The Machinist, as well as being an oft-used director for Fringe. As well, the cast is decent all around, with Mike Vogel believably playing the kind of fearless wonder who can call the shots when the government is hesitating. And I'm at least interested to see more from Natacha Karam and Demetrius Grosse's characters, if not the entire lineup. (Seriously, Anne Heche is basically standing sternly in front of a big screen and/or a phone the whole time.)
If The Brave was the kind of show that would weave audiences through a season-long narrative arc that necessarily held information back from audiences for the sake of the story, then I might be willing to sing more of its praises. But I really don't think that's the case here. And while the weekly missions will no doubt offer some white-knuckle situations putting all the characters in jeopardy, what's the point if we aren't made to immediately care about any of them?