Review: Allegiance – Ep. 6 “Liars and Thieves”

Allegiance was cancelled by NBC, losing its slot on network television, abruptly ending a well-written and thoughtful story in the midst of uncertainty and questions. NBC has decided to continue airing the rest of the season online… which is fine. Because honestly, how many of you actually watch television on television anyway? Televisions are just monitors for your computer these days.

This week, Allegiance continued with its sixth episode, titled “Liars and Thieves.” The previous week’s episode left us hanging, with the entire family in the apartment of a potential source of information after a bit of hub-bub. “Liars and Thieves” continues with the O’Connor family working together to try to figure out the plot of the SVR against America. They exploit their new source, kidnapping him and using him to gain access to information that would help them further uncover the mystery of the Black Dagger terrorist plot. This leads to the introduction of an established character into the O’Connor fold. It is easy to see why the show is called Allegiance as we see loyalties evolve, driven by new information, familial and romantic ties, and a desire to save lives. No change appears impulsive or mercurial, but driven by factors that would potentially alter the perspective of anyone involved.

Meanwhile, Alex O’Connor (Gavin Stenhouse) tries to balance his CIA obligations with helping his family. In previous episodes, Alex’s work closely aligned with the missions of his family – headed in the same direction, but each trying to achieve their own goals. With everyone in the know this time around, more tension is created by pulling Alex in different directions, attempting to help both sides to ultimately accomplish the same goal (protect U.S. citizens). The close of the episode bring those two worlds back together again, resolving the dissonance by the O’Connor spy family working out a way for the CIA to send Alex to Italy, leaving a socially inept Alex caught in the figurative cross fire once again.

While some critics may view Allegiance as a tired story, already told by shows such as Homeland or The Americans, I would disagree vehemently. First, the show begs the question, “What would I do in that kind of situation?” Morality is an ambiguous concept, at best, and lines are rarely as clear in real life as they can be in performance arts. Allegiance allows us to relate to the main character, putting us in a position where we see how the shades of gray can taint situations that originally appeared simple. Second, I have enjoyed the strength of the female characters on the show. There has been a thoughtful balance struck between strength and vulnerability of women portrayed by Katya (Hope Davis), Natalie (Margarita Levieva), and supporting cast. The ladies are not damsels in distress, but rather capable and independent women who are willing to fight to protect those they love. But they are also true to their femininity and feelings, which can be a strength, in and of itself. It never appears that the female characters are trying too hard, or compensating for anything. They simply play the cards they were dealt, and they do so with grace and cunning.

Most of all, I enjoy the fact that Allegiance is a different, almost lighter take on the spy thriller genre. While dealing with real drama, there is a freshness to it with Alex O’Connor (Gavin Stenhouse) who doesn’t seem to be the bitter, rude, overly cocky CIA analyst we find typical of the genre. When all the characters on a television show are dark and tortured, plagued by their past, and are a general displeasure to work with (if it were real life), there lies a lack of contrast. With no contrast, there can be no appreciation of the individual personalities of characters. A contrast that is too obvious falls into the comedic realm. Allegiance doesn’t lean toward either cookie-cutter mold, but rather allows the main character, Alex, to be the “every man” (with a dash of mystery that might come in the form of a mental health disorder on the autism spectrum) in an extraordinary situation.

Overall, the show is a smartly-written and interesting. Each episode wraps up a little piece of the story, but opens up other avenues to be explored. Considering the story is wrapped around a catastrophic event that is likely years in the making (as illustrated by the placement of sleeper cells in the population), it is reasonable to expect that it will take several attempts with different methods to unravel the mystery. This allows the story to continue dealing with the big bad without feeling repetitive or boring.

Keep watching Allegiance online by following the link here: http://www.nbc.com/allegiance/episodes

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