True to its title, The old man, a show about the passage of time, takes an unusual interest in how he spends his time. It feels like at one point, for example, the episode spends half its length with a camera in the passenger seat of fugitive spy Dan Chase’s (Jeff Bridges) car, just watching him talk. on the phone.

These are important calls, of course. The first is with top FBI official Harold Harper (John Lithgow), who orders Chase to cut ties with his beloved daughter and disappear if he is to have any hope of surviving the people on his trail without destroying his life in the market. The first is with his daughter, to whom he must say his last goodbyes.

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But if the plot information in the phone calls is important, so is the time spent staring into Jeff Bridge’s face. Again, in keeping with the title of the series, these close-ups give us an inescapable idea of ​​his character’s age – how the years have grayed his beard and hair and sculpted his face into severe wrinkles and crests, Chester Gould. You cannot imagine such a man running away for long. Dwelling on this physical fact is the purpose of the scenes.


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But can we trust our eyes? Take another long sequence, for example – actually, it’s not a sequence, it’s a long shot that lasts about five and a half uninterrupted minutes. In this shot, Chase rams his car into one of his black-ops pursuers, gets out of the car and shoots the guy to death, then has a seemingly endless mixed martial arts battle against the surviving agent, until only for Chase’s well-trained attack dogs to chase the guy into another car for safety. Remember that old man with teary eyes from the phone calls from the driver’s seat? In his place is a vicious operative who manages to kill three highly skilled men half his age, and we can watch him in action without the camera cutting out. After all the attention the show has given to Chase’s age, seeing him defeat his enemies — with a little help from his dogs — is borderline miraculous. And indeed, Jeff Bridge’s masterful physical performance throughout the episode makes each of his impressive physical feats a borderline miracle. That power of that body? It’s amazing and totally deserved.

It’s the kind of gripping, self-assured action movie that awaits you in The old manthe pilot episode of , the first half of a giant two-episode series premiere. Based on the book by Thomas Perry and directed by Jon Watts (late Spider Man franchise) from a script by co-creators Robert Levine and Jonathan E. Steinberg, who serves as showrunner, it’s the most gripping debut spy thriller since Americans.


The plot is simple. “Dan Chase”, an alias for Bridges’ character, whoever he is really named, has been living undercover in a nice suburban home for decades. He and his wife “Abbey” (played by Hiam Abbass in recent flashbacks and Leem Lubany as a young woman) even raised a family, though their own happy retirement was cut short by Abbey’s Huntington’s disease. But when we catch up with Chase, he’s grown old enough that even putting on his own socks is a struggle, and he becomes paranoid that “they,” whoever they are, are out to get him.

And in the first big surprise of the episode, he’s right! When he catches and kills an intruder, we realize his paranoia is justified. He immediately goes on the run (with his dogs), calling his daughter to warn her. (“I’m fine, the dogs are fine,” he breathes, as if she doesn’t give a damn about her dogs.)

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It was then that his former master Harper came into contact with him. Although he was brought in to help catch Chase, Harper has his own reasons why he never wants the guy caught – there’s a mention of a mysterious figure named Faraz Hamzad operating in Kabul, Afghanistan. but that’s really all we know – so he helps her escape over the phone. This catches the attention of young CIA agent Raymond Waters (EJ Bonilla), who immediately seems to understand Harper’s illicit dealings with Chase. (It’s another welcome surprise from a show that, by its very nature, will dance to the cliche.)

In the end, Chase ignores Harper’s advice and fights his pursuers rather than just give them the slip. He then goes so far as to call Harper on Waters’ phone line, promising to send anyone they send after him home in a sack. He’s not the scapegoat Harper took him for. To quote another show about a big, rocky-faced villain, he’s the one who strikes.


To explain why this episode is so gripping, there’s a brief aside in the middle of the episode that I think is worth exploring. “Space is the breath of art,” Harper tells his grandson, quoting architect Frank Lloyd Wright. (Harper has full custody of the boy following an unmentioned tragedy that befell the child’s parents, one that leaves Harper sobbing in the bathroom rather than crying in front of the poor kid.) The Long Takes , the lingering close-ups, the score judiciously applied by T. Bone Burnett and Patrick Warren – all of these elements leave us ample room to sink into the drama, to regulate our own emotional responses to it rather than being shaken up by rapid editing and intrusive orchestration. The old man creates a space and invites us to observe what is happening, a truly fascinating approach for a thriller to adopt. I can’t wait to see what happens and doesn’t happen.

Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) written on television for rolling stone, Vulture, The New York Timesand anywhere that will have it, really. He and his family live on Long Island.

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