Crisis could be NBC’s answer to a procedural hit.
Why? The show is backed by a high-caliber cast, some interesting twists, and enough potential storytelling to twist itself into something really explosive. Granted, none of that guarantees any success, but I will admit to being more involved than I expected to be, given the reveals of the first episode. (Let’s be honest: My main reason for tuning in to this show in the first place was my 20+ year love for Gillian Anderson, whom I will watch in anything and everything. So, it’s safe to say I was pleasantly surprised to find I actually enjoyed what I was watching.)
Anyway, let’s examine the episode. Ninety miles outside of Washington, D.C., an unnamed man is waiting for a security override on what looks like some satellites. As he waits, an FBI agent named Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor) runs up, asking what he’s done. What has he done? That’s for the show to know, and us to find out.
We flashback to eight hours earlier, where we’re introduced through a sort of montage to well-off kids that are being dropped off at their prestigious private school for a seemingly innocent class trip. There’s the son of the satellite guy (whom we learn is Mr. Roth), Anton (Joshua Erenberg), a precocious, affable nerd. There’s Amber Finch (Halston Sage), the resident “popular” girl whose mother Meg (Gillian Anderson) is a high-level IT executive that pretty much paid for most of the school itself. There’s Beth Ann Gibson (Stevie Lynn Jones), whose parents are divorced — she’s being brought to school rather grudgingly by her mother, only to see her father, Thomas Gibson (Durmot Mulroney), whom she dislikes even more. He’s coming because he agreed to chaperone this trip and it’s the only weekend he gets with his daughter. And then there’s Kyle Devore, the son of the U.S. president, who is being protected by some Secret Service agents, including a man named Albert Hurst (David Andrews) and a new driver, Marcus Finley (Lance Goss.)
(In between all of this, we see some guys in orange vests searching for signals on a deserted road and marking exactly where the signal drops. Yeah, this isn’t going to be good.)
On the bus, the kids chatter about the kind of things you expect to hear on school trips — who’s hooking up with whom, who wants to sleep with Amber. Beth Ann is trying to convince another boy, Ian, to come run away with her and “be a hero” – ironic words, given what we know these kids will soon be enduring.
Hurst, whose car is following the bus for protective purposes, sends some people ahead to secure the restaurant where the kids are supposed to be stopping for lunch. The bus stops suddenly in the middle of the road where two state troopers have set up a road block, claiming that a downed power line is causing delays. Finley doesn’t believe this at all, and his day soon turns from kind of bad to really bad, as Hurst shoots him and leaves him for dead. The kids are rightfully freaked out as a guy in a mask boards the bus, taking them hostage and hustling them into a van with threats of being shot if they disobey. For the most part, the kids do as they’re told, except for Anton, who freaks out and tries to bolt. Finley tries to protect and hide him by helping him get into the woods, and as he does, the following conversation ensues among the kidnappers:
“Which one was it?”
“Anton Roth. We need that one.”
(In other words, this is a very calculated kidnapping, folks.)
While all of this is happening, we more fully meet Susie, who is talking with some other FBI agents trying to figure out the case. They get intel that Albert Hurst probably had something to do with the situation; working within the organization, he would have been able to rig the operation from the inside. At some point, we learn that Susie’s niece was on the bus, which kind of clues us into the fact that Susie and Meg are sisters. We also find out that the two are not exactly on speaking terms. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and so Susie puts aside her grudges in order to do her job.
The kids wake up in some sort of mansion, having all been tranquilized. They quickly assess that Anton is missing, and Gibson tries to calm everyone down, which kind of works until a masked man comes to read them a letter. The gist of it goes something like this: “Everything will be over in four days, as long as everyone cooperates. Food and drink will be provided. If you want to talk in groups, it can’t be more than five people. Oh, and by the way, some of your parents have implanted tracking devices in your skin, but we’ve removed them. Actually, we tried to be careful while doing it, but if you need something for the pain, let us know. We’re professionals.”
(In other words, strangest kidnapping ever of a bunch of kids with really rich parents.)
While the kids are getting more confused by their situation, Anton and Finley are hiding out in the woods, and Anton is trying to figure out why someone would want to attack him. It seems that Anton is kind of being billed as the comic relief, but the moment is actually pretty sweet and touching, with Finley promising that despite his own injuries, he’ll get him home. Meanwhile, back at school, Susie has arrived and we get an overly dramatic and awkward confrontation. “Let’s just pretend like we like each other,” Meg says with all the Dana Scully bitchiness she can manage. Susie goes in to talk to other parents, which goes just as well as you’d expect in a room full of worried adults who want to place the blame on each other. (Meg immediately shuts them up with a Silent Raised Hand Of Awesome.) When she and Susie go to talk privately, we learn slightly more about their estranged relationship. Well, OK, we learn basically that it’s been a long time, which means that there’s a bunch of fun juicy backstory and angst we can delve into if this series makes it far enough, and that’s exciting to me. I admit to being a little wary when I first read the description for the show and found out we were pitting Taylor and Anderson against each other. Yet I find their scenes to be among the most interesting of the hour, which makes me excited for what’s to come.
Back at the mansion, Gibson is trying to make good with Beth Ann, who, in case it wasn’t clear, really really dislikes her father. The kids are pretty much doing the same in terms of playing the blame game, until Kyle speaks up and tells them he wasn’t even supposed to be on this trip in the first place, so how could his father have masterminded all of this in two days? Beth Ann soon realizes that it’s not just Kyle that’s a target — everyone in the room has a powerful parent, and therefore anyone could be a target.
Susie gets a call from the FBI saying they found out Gibson was on the bus with his daughter, and that even though he may be soft, he’s smart enough to possibly be an asset. “Is he our hero?” Susie asks, to which Meg scoffs, “No way.” Indeed, just like we saw earlier, Gibson doesn’t really seem to be hero material, freaking out about the situation in the privacy of the bathroom while the kids get their pizza lunch. Gibson finds Beth Ann and tells him he has a plan, that he’s been tracking the way the kidnappers come through to check in on them, and that since they’ve identified him as weak, no one will suspect when he takes their guns.
Still on the run, Anton and Finley make it to an abandoned house, cornered by the two rangers who have been tracking them. Finley attempts to negotiate, which doesn’t really go too well. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Gibson puts his plan into action and tries to hijack one of the men’s guns. We all know this isn’t going to go over well. Sure enough, not only does Gibson get detained, but he gets his pinky finger cut off, causing Beth Ann to appropriately lose it. The kidnappers drag him away, and then the show gets really interesting: The guys rip off their masks, and Gibson asks to see his book, which is filled with random information. He tells him he wants an update, basically implying that he’s working with the kidnappers.
Amber tries to make nice with Beth Ann, because tragedy brings people together, even if they’re normally too popular to talk to you, right? In the back room, Gibson watches the news as a group of men try to figure out how to keep the FBI off their trail. It seems that Gibson is their boss, though I get the sense he’s more of a Jekyll and Hyde, torn between being caught up in some work-related incident that has put him in this situation and really caring about his daughter, whose relationship he has ruined over the years.
And now we’re back to where we started the episode, with Mr. Roth pushing the button on the satellite. On the other end of the phone, a disembodied voice is telling him that he has to do what he’s told, or he’ll never see his son again. Roth’s actions effectively take down the drone looking for the kids, and Susie tries to get him to give up who was on the phone…to no avail.
Still on the run: Anton and Finley. The rangers have now invaded the house, and Finely attacks them while Anton calls 911. It’s actually a decently intense fight, given that Finley’s already been shot, but he manages to subdue the guy anyway. Finley then uses the walkie talkie he stole off the man he shot to issue a threatening warning to the other end of the line, which happens to connect to Gibson and his minions. As a vigil is held for the missing kids, we get an inside look at another phone call, the one that derailed Gibson’s marriage in the first place and made his daughter hate him — someone on the other end of the phone says, “the operation went sideways,” that “they’re all dead,” and that “someone has to be sacrificed, and we know you won’t make trouble.” Hmmm.
Susie returns to her sister, and the two have an emotionally charged conversation about wanting to see Amber — which seems to be the cause of their initial fallout, as Susie is apparently Amber’s birth mother. (The backstory here, apparently, is that Susie had Amber at a young age and gave the baby to her sister because she didn’t want anything to do with a child at the time.) Just as we get this revelation, Meg gets a phone call similar to the one that Roth received, and we see the person giving orders is Gibson himself.
And with that, Crisis sets itself up for a pretty intriguing journey, one that I’m curious to see unfold. What did you think? Will you be tuning in?
Line of the night: “Put it down on the soccer field that I paid for. What are they going to do, shoot me?” — Meg
Crisis airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.