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Human Target

Season Two Premiere
Director: Steve Boyum
Cast: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley, Indira Varma, Janet Montgomery
Regular airtime: Wednesdays, 8pm ET

(Fox; US: 17 Nov 2010)

Shaking It Up

In its first season, Human Target was a fast-paced show that was often like a mini-action movie every week. While the stunts were energetic, however, the plots of individual episodes varied wildly in believability and quality. Every week, Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) was hired to protect someone whose life was in danger. Having spent years as an assassin for an evil organization, he possessed an amazing set of skills that made him qualified for nearly every situation. Didn’t matter if it was in the jungles of South America, a remote Alaskan island, or the streets of San Francisco: Chance could do the job. For the most part, Human Target managed to be fun and breezy while also feeling like the stakes were high for Chance and the people he was protecting.


A big part of what made the show so much fun was the inclusion of Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley as Chance’s sidekicks. McBride’s perpetual scowl and sour-but-lovable demeanor as Winston provided an effective counterpoint to the stoic Chance. And Haley’s Guerrero was the perfect wild card, a badass with questionable loyalties whose computer hacking and information gathering skills made him invaluable despite his unreliability.


And now that this three-person chemistry is well established, the second season of Human Target immediately sets about to shaking it up. The season premiere introduces Ilsa Pucci (Indira Varma), a billionaire who goes to great lengths to hire Chance. She needs protection from the people who murdered her husband, because now they’re going after her and her fortune. During the process of figuring out who is after Ilsa, the team runs across Ames (Janet Montgomery), a young thief working her own angle. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that after the team takes care of Ilsa’s business, she’s impressed enough to become their benefactor (and boss). Ames shows potential and keeps a cool head under pressure, so the regulars take her on as well.


With five characters in the cast now—and two women in addition to the men—Human Target is poised to become much more of an ensemble show. While Chance, with his pseudo-superhuman abilities, remains the focus, the season’s first three episodes give everyone else plenty to do. The usually office-bound Winston is now stuck dealing with Ilsa. She promises to be an absentee boss but quickly begins showing up at the office every day. He has to explain the team’s not-always-legal methods to her and convince her to let them do things their way. It’s reasonable to start Ilsa out as offering an outsider’s perspective on the team’s usual shenanigans, but her inclination to panic and want to call the police every time they s do something illicit will quickly get old.


By the same token, Guerrero reluctantly takes on Ames as something of a protégée. But she’s the sort of streetwise TV character who thinks she knows exactly what she’s doing, much to Guerrero’s consternation. Clearly not the teacher type, Guerrero has little patience for Ames and tends to come down way too hard on her, even as she brushes him off. And, after a season of watching Haley be an easygoing, yet completely intimidating, presence at every turn, it’s fun to see him get flustered and annoyed when Ames gets in Guerrero’s way.


With a billionaire benefactor in charge of the team, the show seems set to go to even more exotic locales in Season Two. Still, and after the jet-setting premiere, the second and third episodes are set in the team’s hometown of San Francisco, perhaps allowing the new colleagues to get acquainted. While the first season’s episodes occasionally strained credulity even within Human Target‘s heightened action universe, the second season is, so far, keeping it relatively low-key.


That said, the premiere resolves Season One’s cliffhanger with an excellent 10-minute sequence that is high in both tension and action. All three episodes are exciting and focused, although the second drags a bit with a plot that relies more on a moral decision from Chance than an action-based storyline. Human Target will never be mistaken for a great, complex or provocative show, but it does provide a consistently fun hour of action. And there’s definitely room for that on network TV.

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