'Human Target' Review: Episode 1.01, 'Pilot'

DESCEpisode Title: "Pilot"

Written By: Jonathan E. Steinberg

Synopsis: Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) is a security contractor that offers a unique form of protection — by luring a culprit away from their intended mark, Chance himself becomes the human target of any given situation. One month after an explosive case, Chance accepts a job protecting engineer Stephanie Dobbs (Tricia Helfer), whose work on a California bullet train has drawn the praise of her colleagues... and the attention of an assassin.

Risk Assessment: There is a lot to like about "Human Target." For starters, the main cast is terrific across the board. You typically know what you're getting out of Chi McBride as Winston, a giant that oscillates between gentle and intimidating with some frequency. Jackie Earle Haley plays Guerrero as a rabid information gatherer that would sooner slit your throat in your sleep than risk a gunfight because it's the surefire bet. He's just as excellent as McBride, though it's a bit bizarre seeing Rorschach on the small screen.

The main attraction, however, is Mark Valley's portrayal of Christopher Chance. He's snappy, witty and pretty badass to boot. He's not without his faults — overconfidence and recklessness are two of them — but more often than not, Valley provides a thoroughly entertainment performance. If nothing else, the show's cast is enough of a reason to tune in each week.

That said, there are problems. Although it's named after the DC Comics and Vertigo Comics series, the show takes very other cues from the books, other than Chance's name. I wasn't particularly bothered by that fact, but if you're a diehard "Human Target" lover looking for a deep connection to the comics, you're not likely to find it.

Additionally, as great as the cast is, it's too small and isn't diverse enough. The lack of a stable female lead is discouraging, especially when Tricia Helfer ("Battlestar Galactica") was on hand for the pilot episode and would have made for a great addition to the regular roster.

The cast's size hints at another problem as well, namely that there doesn't seem to be any deep mythology to speak of. If subsequent episodes go by the one-and-done formula, then "Human Target" will be filled with standalone episodes without much of an ultimate goal or payoff. That's great for a show's sustainability if it can achieve a "Law & Order" level of audience, but without some meaningful connectivity between episodes, "Human Target" won't have much reward for long term investors.

Having said that, the pilot episode is still a pretty tremendous hour filled with riveting action, tense stand-offs and, as mentioned, delightful performances. If you're into all of that and can stand the apparent lack of an overarching thread, you should enjoy "Human Target."

Next Case: In "Rewind," Chance's thrill-seeking career lands himself and Winston aboard a passenger plane, where they must work together to protect a client from a deadly assassin.

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