HUMAN TARGET - 1.3 - "Embassy Row" Review -

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  • TV Series: Human Target
  • Episode: Embassy Row
  • Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley
  • Written By: Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia
  • Directed By: Steve Boyum
  • Network: Fox
  • Series: Human Target

HUMAN TARGET - 1.3 - "Embassy Row" Review

Kicking High on the Human Target

By Rob Vaux     January 27, 2010

Human Target Review
© Fox/Bob Trate

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Human Target will be moving back to Wednesdays next week, though it's on an hour earlier--8:00 instead of 9:00--to avoid bumping heads with Criminal Minds. That denies it the tasty lead-in from American Idol, but leaves Idol free to rampage across the 9:00 hour at will. As long as it keeps this show afloat, they can broadcast it whenever the hell they like…


In keeping with the "we can't afford to blow up an airport every episode" caveat, Human Target focuses less on impending explosions and more on Bond-style intrigue this week. It doesn't hurt that Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) looks damn good in a tux, or that he finds a partner in crime (Emmanuelle Vaugier) with whom Daniel Craig would be proud to share a martini. The producers have concocted a typically enjoyable bit of balderdash to put him through his paces--something about a spy selling plans to the highest bidder--while adding a running clock by poisoning Chance and letting his colleagues hunt for the antidote. It keeps the show's marvelously buoyant atmosphere intact without subjecting the budget to undue strain.

Which isn't to say there's no action. While the bulk of "Embassy Row" concerns a party at the Russian Embassy (where Chance needs to ferret out the spy), it still finds ways for him to throw a few punches and blast a few bad guys. It follows a simplistic but seaworthy whodunit structure, embodying a few bits of detective work, but marked primarily by the rapport between Chance and Vaugier's Agent Barnes. They have a delightful fight/tango in the center of the episode, combining imaginative choreography with playful banter that establishes them as well-matched equals. Human Target could use a strong recurring female character, and hopefully Barnes will continue to fit the bill.

The remainder of the episode allows them to play off of each other as they run through the burgeoning espionage scenario. The Russians want the hidden spy too, creating a delightfully confused quagmire of conflicting loyalties and friends who may become enemies at the drop of a hat. The finale holds plenty of excitement thanks to the poison coursing through Chance's system, and director Steve Boyum keeps tension and humor nicely balanced throughout the running time. A few bits of hand waving show up--making a lock pick out of far-fetched items, for instance, or a slow-acting toxin that has no appreciable effect until you drop dread--but as usual, Human Target delivers them with a knowing twinkle that makes them more in-joke than faux pas.

Which brings us to Chance's back-up team and yet another chance to sing Jackie Earle Haley's praises. His nonchalant bagman is charged with finding the antidote for Chance, which he undertakes with the same bemused detachment with which he conducts every other operation. Haley's repeated use of "dude" evokes his old Kelly Leak days, and his appearance in the climax holds the right amount of attitude without upstaging Chance. (Chi McBride sadly, has much less to do, but we'll let that slide this week.)

More importantly, "Embassy Row" demonstrates the exact kind of versatility which the show requires in order to thrive. It moves past the set piece notion for the first time, and while I'm sure we'll get back to the public-transit-in-peril scenarios soon enough, that can wait for now. "Embassy Row" doesn't quite rock the doors off the place, but it never drops the ball either: delivering on its promises while exploring some slightly quieter corners of the genre. It even sheds a little light on Chance's past, courtesy of Barnes whose future appearances should be just as much as fun as this one. Like the rest of Human Target, that prospect more than merits a prime spot on your TiVo list.


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MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 1/27/2010 9:29:21 PM

For a minute there I was thinking this was going to be a 'mode of transsportation' of the week show, what with the train and airplane in the first two.  I thought for sure this one would involve a motorcycle.  I'm glad it's not but I'm not really digging the show all that much.  I probably wouldn't watch it if something else was on in it's place but as for now I leave it on while I mess around on the computer or read and glance at it every once and awhile.

GeneD5 1/28/2010 4:39:31 AM

I like this show. It has the right mix of action, gentle humor, and old-fashioned glamorous spycraft. The actors more than make up for the fact that the show must provide big-screen thrills on a TV budget. I'd compare this with character-driven shows like "Leverage," "Castle," and "Psych" rather than the angst-driven procedurals, dour spin-offs ("Stargate" and "Caprica"), or "reality" competitions cluttering up the channels.

wessmith1966 1/28/2010 6:20:24 AM

I don't think the show's dialogue is as well-written as Leverage and Castle, but I'm giving the show a chance to grow. I like that it doesn't take itself too seriously, but the action and the comedy hasn't quite meshed for me yet. Jackie Earle Haley is terrific in such an understated way, and I've always liked Chi McBride in roles that have him in a dour mood alot. I hope Emmanuelle Vaugier's character is recurring, not just because she's a hot tomato, but because Mark Valley needs an antagonist. The writers need to make things tougher for Chance. My suggestion is to make his adventures two-episode arcs. The way the show is now everything resolves itself so quickly that we know Chance is never really out of control. If the adventures were in two episode arcs it would give the story a chance to play out more. episodes could end on a cliff-hanger.

DaForce1 1/28/2010 9:32:55 AM

I forgot this show was on. Not that it really mattered since by the second episode I was getting kind of bored with it.

Jakester 1/28/2010 9:39:30 AM

Colour me unsurprised, Daffy.  Aside from TOS, do you like anything? ;)

I kind of dig Mark Valley.  He was pretty damn funny on Boston Legal, dressing up as Buzz Lightyear.  Jackie Early Haley is a pretty damn versitle actor.  He's just fun to watch, and Chi McBride is just awesome.  So, I like the cast, and the premise isn't original, and it's not compelling television by any means, but it's fun, and I don't watch anything else on Tuesdays, so I'm all in.

phantomx69 1/28/2010 11:54:16 AM

this shows not going anywhere its in the top 20... and a big hit for fox so get used to it...   this is a great show....

midwest216 1/29/2010 3:26:33 AM

Watched the 2nd episode, and I agree with MR.Jawbreaking----0_o . This show is O.K at best, I enjoy Mark Valley as the lead and thought he did a decent job on Fringe in the 1st season. I will give this show a chance, but what bothered me was...spoiler> As Chance snuck into the embassy back room and learned of the Russians plan, the female snuck in right behind did she get a pass key? Then they proceed to have a fight scene against each other, made alot of noise and begin a 5-min conversation about their motives and plan...Really? After all the sneaking and hiding, they had time to do all that without wondering if the Russians were going to return to the area?  Then they go into a crowded ballroom and discuss their plan out-loud.....really??? not very "Spy-like".  Then as they get outside and try to escape the embassy later by climbing a fence the Russian secret service couldnt shoot two handcuffed individuals(one in a evening dress) climbing clumsly over a wall? Really these billy-bad-boys couldnt hit them?!?! And the female FBI agent didnt even mess up her hair and make-up and did all this in heels....OK really? This Director or Producer has to get better for this show to make it a full season.

isgrimner 1/29/2010 8:37:41 AM

I have liked Mark Valley since I first saw him on a Brittish cop show with Sienna Miller.  I can't seem to remember the title and am too lazy to google it, it only last 1 or 2 seasons I think.  He played an American cop on loan to England, and it was kind of a fish out of water show.  He had good chemistry with Sienna Miller too.

I find this show fun to watch, and will keep it on the DVR schedule.  Its kind of a "monster of the week" show, with hints of Chance's past tossed in, but so far there have only been three episodes. 

If they kept it on Tuesday, wouldn't it have been going up against Lost?  I like Mark Valley and all, but Lost is the best show on TV in my opinion, so I would be watching that.  Luckily I can DVR 3 HD channels at once, so I'm sure I would still have gotten it.

GeneD5 1/29/2010 9:54:11 AM

That British show was "Keen Eddie," and it was indeed funny. Not every show can be a juggernaut and inspire a wide and rabid fan base, like "Lost," but I find "Human Target" entertaining like many of the action TV shows from the 1960s through the 1980s. But since it's on Fox, we should enjoy it while it lasts. If you're already bored with it, DaForce, why bother to spend the time reading a review and posting here?



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