Review by C.J. Bunce
After the 2019 Academy Awards recognized genre films Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and gave top awards to Green Book and Roma, ABC aired the pilot for a new series. Whiskey Cavalier begins with a solid pilot episode, and you can find it in its weekly timeslot beginning Wednesday evening on ABC. It borrows from two familiar sources for network TV: the spy genre, like Mission: Impossible, iSpy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Avengers, and Chuck, and the “will they or won’t they” investigation shows like Moonlighting, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, and Private Eyes. Whiskey Cavalier–the military/NATO spy call sign for FBI agent Will Chase (yes, that’s his name), stars Scott Foley opposite CIA Agent Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan. It’s more action and fun than drama–a good thing that works for this offbeat new series.
The first episode finds Agent Chase as a sad sack agent, recently dumped by his French girlfriend, crying as he listens to songs from his break-up mix tape, assembled from recommendations from other FBI agents. Those familiar with Michael Dorman’s lead character in Amazon Studio’s series Patriot will see much in common between the leads. Chase doesn’t have his heart in his job until he’s in action, and then he becomes full-on Jack Ryan (actor Scott Foley has a vibe crossing Jack Ryan series star John Krasinski and White Collar co-star Tim DeKay, and the pilot includes a humorous reference to his Chris Evans’ Captain America appearance).
As Chase tries to intercept an alleged hacker/thief/traitor, CIA Agent Trowbridge steps in, and that’s when the chemistry begins. You can almost hear the 1970s movie trailer voice-over: “What can happen when we combine this sensitive FBI agent and this tough-as-nails CIA spy? Can they work together to save the world without killing each other?” And yet, the pilot was edited into a fast-paced drama, not at all bogged down in origin story, and it supplies a supporting cast of characters that seem to gel from the start, played by Ana Ortiz, Vir Das, and Tyler James Williams. In brief, it’s fun and it works.
TV viewers may recognize Scott Foley from Dawson’s Creek and Felicity, medical shows Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy, and most recently on True Blood, Cougar Town, and Scandal. Lauren Cohan has actually played roles like this before–most notably she played Vivian Volkoff, daughter of Timothy Dalton’s character on Chuck. She’s also known for her roles on The Walking Dead, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Life, and Archer, and movies including Casanova, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and The Boy.
So will this be another short-lived effort, or the next Castle?
If you’re looking for the next upbeat, light-touch action series to add to your weekly viewing line-up, with the fun of Leverage, White Collar, Burn Notice, and yes, Castle, this may be for you. Whiskey Cavalier airs in the 9 p.m. Central timeslot Wednesdays on ABC, beginning February 27.