TV Recap: American Odyssey, ‘Gone Elvis’ (Series Premiere)

Written by Aaron Sarnecky

American Odyssey


After killing a top Al-Qaeda commander in North Africa, a team of soldiers is ambushed by private military assassins. Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel), the only surviving member of the unit, must now fight to stay alive. Back in the States, political activist Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson) and corporate litigator Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli) are both individually uncovering a cover-up involving the U.S. government. 

American Odyssey continues the miniseries trend television seems to be on right now. The fact that American Odyssey immediately followed another NBC miniseries, A.D., hammers this home. And it leaves me wondering why. Miniseries are nothing new, but I never remember there being so many in such a short amount of time. Perhaps the networks are finally realizing that not all concepts are grand enough to work as full series, nor simple enough to work as movies.

Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Such is the case with American Odyssey; there is no way this idea could support a whole show. But that’s not to knock the plot, because it does actually have some interesting developments. These developments might not necessarily be the most original or exciting, but they definitely point to something bigger. Bigger than the characters realize, that is.

It reminds me of 24, one of my all-time favorite shows. It’s clear there’s a conspiracy, but we don’t know who’s exactly behind it or what their true objectives really are. It’s obviously tied to contemporary political issues, but that still doesn’t give us the villain’s identity. The real-life issues simply contribute to the themes.

There are a notable amount of differences between 24 and this, though; the largest difference concerns the characters. To be fair, Odelle is a likeable enough protagonist. She’s an accomplished soldier, as well as a loving mother. But nothing grabs me about her, or any of the other characters. TV show mysteries are usually never too profound. What often makes them intriguing is how they’re related to the characters. Odelle simply seems to be a cog in a much bigger machine; she’s not special, and this likely isn’t personal. And while that might be more believable, realistic, or whatever you call it, it’s not the most entertaining.

The show appears more interested in the grand conspiracy, which is evident when you look at the number of plot twists involving the death or disappearance of other characters. Unfortunately, building up the mystery this much might very well lead to disappointment. Don’t expect any shocking twists, because it’s clear it’s already going to tie back into the theme of corporate greed; it probably all boils down to money.

Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

These observations aren’t really complaints. I’m just warning you to manage your expectations accordingly. There are, in fact, are a handful of good things about the show. The production value of the show is top-notch. It’s very clear they shot this on location, which provides a good level of realism. Characters even appear to ride real camels in one scene. The effects are great too. The missile strike that takes out Odelle’s unit is among the best pyrotechnics I’ve seen on TV.

Going to back to the story, to be fair, the premiere did get the ball rolling. It’s clear that Odelle has a long journey ahead of her and a lot of action is sure to come. This show has the potential to be a good miniseries that might be worth checking out. But that’s only if the show focuses more on the characters, instead of the outcome. An odyssey, after all, is more about what happens along the way and less about the destination.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Average)


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