Amazon’s “Patriot” is a spy show, a comic drama, an epic test of its protagonist’s will. It is a boldly cinematic tale told occasionally through song. Or should say perhaps the best TV show you didn’t know existed.
Moreover, “I fly a lot now, and I keep walking up and down the aisles, hoping to see someone watching it on their tablet,” says showrunner-creator-writer-director-composer Steven Conrad. He added, “My daughter photographed someone, so I know it has happened; it just hasn’t happened to me. So until that day comes … ”
Maybe you’ve seen sporadic ads at bus stops depicting a glum fellow in a hotel room. The one who is with a hostage. Or trying to keep his head above water, surrounded by jellyfish. Both are fair representations of “Patriot,” especially the latter. But even if you’ve seen those ads, you probably still have no idea. The idea that what the show is about.
Even Conrad has difficulty compressing it into a sellable nugget. He said, “Well, what we say about the ‘elevator pitch’ is, ‘You’d have to be in the Empire State Building.’ ”
In the show, John Tavener aka John Lakeman is played by Michael Dorman. He is a low-key CIA operative trying to recover in Amsterdam from a deeply traumatic mission. John’s wife, Alice (Kathleen Munroe), is intelligent and supportive. But she doesn’t know the true depths into which he descends for his job.
His father (Terry O’Quinn) is a big wheel in the agency. He is the one who believes his son, though damaged, is the best choice for an important mission. The mission is to keep Iran from going nuclear.
Maybe simple enough. Infiltrate a Milwaukee industrial piping company sending a delegation to a Luxembourg conference. Under that cover, pass a large amount of cash to a visiting Iranian ally there. But the mission takes countless wrong turns. Conrad’s superb plotting keeps tension ratcheting up What should have been a simple exchange ends up taking two full seasons of “Patriot” to play out.
As the problem after problem arises, John’s solutions can be ingenious. Or we can say complex or abruptly and brutally efficient. Though it all makes sense in retrospect, at the moment. The hairpin turns are hard to see coming. Yet that compelling, often comic intrigue is just the icing on a messed-up layer cake.
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