NBC's new political thriller "American Odyssey" is both wildly ambitious and wildly familiar, and those are just two of the opposing forces it manages to make work to its advantage.
Long before it was set to premiere Sunday,
All these analogies are legitimate, but none should be taken as particularly meaningful. "American Odyssey" is very much its own creation: clever, exciting, colorful without being self-consciously so. Most important, it is only occasionally ridiculous in the way conspiracy thrillers inevitably are.
A spiritual replacement for the recently canceled
In the desert of North Africa, a team of American soldiers unexpectedly finds and kills the commander of Al Qaeda. (Cue Team Six references.) Baffled by this turn of events, Sgt. Odelle Ballard ("Pushing Daisies' "
"Debrief" turns out to mean "destroy," which leaves Odelle as the sole survivor of her unit, alone in a hostile land.
The desert quest has become something of a leitmotif in television. The scoured earth as enemy and metaphor has served a wide variety of modern characters in many different ways —
Friel's Odelle is the heart of the series, and mercifully, she is neither supersoldier nor superspy. She has the skills, courage and resilience of a fine soldier, but her only "power" is a command of several languages and an overwhelming desire to see her daughter and husband again.
Both of whom have been told by Odelle's commanding officer (played by
Meanwhile — and "American Odyssey" is all about the meanwhiles — Peter Decker (
Those of us better versed in contemporary narrative know: dead-eyed but comely young reporter "bad"; slightly loony hacker "good."
Because, of course, Bob is right about so many things, and he and Harrison are soon on their own quest, as is Peter, all of which, one assumes, will lead them inexorably to whatever secret Odelle has on that thumb drive and, one hopes, Odelle.
But not too soon. As Odysseus himself discovered, an epic tale is all about the journey.
When: 10 p.m. Sunday