Under Cover Girl.
I enjoy crime dramas, I’m a fan of the spy genre, and I love that Alias and Chuck are two of the main influences on USA Network’s Covert Affairs. However, I don’t want to live in a world where thwarting terrorist plots and defending our national security relies on as much pure luck and sheer coincidence as this show leads us to believe.
Covert Affairs returns us to the conflicting worlds of our heroine, CIA operative Annie Walker (Piper Perabo, Cheaper by the Dozen). These sixteen episodes find the personal and professional parts of Annie’s life in even more conflict, while improving on less than shining aspects which we can only hope will be worked out in Season Three.
The Evidence — The Good
The show wraps up the whole Ben Mercer storyline, which is fortunate since Annie and Ben had a noticeable lack of chemistry. Even better, it means we can make way for the return of Eyal (Oded Fehr, The Mummy) whose relationship with Annie is far more potent. Our hero also finally seems to develop a stronger sense of quid pro quo, especially with Auggie (Christopher Gorham, Ugly Betty) who’s always saving her ass. Annie’s relationship with her sister Danielle (Anne Dudek, Big Love) also changes in fundamental ways, leading to more developed characters for both women.
Things That Could Have Been Better
The green screen effects still need work. Although the show travels to several international locations this season, there are still shots which were way too transparent in their detailing, leaving little doubt of the falseness of the supposed location. Joan (Kari Matchett, Leverage) and Arthur Campbell’s (Peter Gallagher, The O.C.) marital woes still result in an uneven dynamic that threatens to undermine both characters’ credibility. It’s a shame because when these two are on, they’re on in the best way.
While the aforementioned complaints are mostly superficial, the most truly frustrating aspects of Season Two are all concerned with the politics of the spy game. In particular, the CIA leak storyline fizzled and Jai Wilcox’s (Sendhil Ramamurthy, Heroes) near-obsession with his vertical career path was not compelling television. Part of my issue is with the actress chosen to play Liza Hearn, the reporter whose ambition is at the center of the leak. Emmanuelle Vaugier (The Lost Girl) simply lacks the gravitas necessary to convincingly portray a ruthless woman who would do anything for a Pulitzer. As for Jai’s character, he is completely unsympathetic, going from being a part of the team to a full-fledged narcissistic douche. I’m glad for it, in one way, because it means the writers have given up on forcing a romantic pairing between Jai and Annie, a couple even less convincing than Ben and Annie. But it means I only look forward to Jai’s scenes because I’m waiting to see karma kick his ass.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer has moments of pure beauty, serving the wonderful location shots well. Unfortunately, the green screen misses by a mile and the clarity of the visuals only enhance it. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix fares much better, only boggled occasionally by the too-rapid cadence of the actors’ speeches. Bonus features are pretty standard fare, though there is the noticeable absence of commentary tracks. We get some behind-the-scenes bits, an in-character intro to the 2011 Comic-Con panel, a gag reel (always a welcomed inclusion), and deleted scenes.
There are still too many easily predictable things in Covert Affairs; it’s basically fluff. With other strong female-driven action shows, this one is being left behind. I’m also not sure about where this season left its characters. I find it hard to believe some of what is implied will hold my interest for another season, which is too bad because when the show focuses on its core premise — a newly-minted spy and her transition to field work — it’s compelling stuff.