Every hour that I watched the ill-conceived “Hostages,” the CBS drama about a plot to kill the president on the operating table by essentially kidnapping his doctor (Toni Collette) and her family, was an hour I can’t get back. So it was with some skepticism that I tuned into “Crisis,” the NBC drama about a plot to kidnap a group of high school students who are the children of Washington, D.C.’s, power players. One of them is the president’s son. Did TV learn nothing from Collette frowning her way through nonsensical plot twists? The good news is that “Crisis” is not “Hostages.” The bad news is that the mystery motive for the kidnapping is muddled to the point of silly, the bad guys feel familiar and the FBI agents investigating the case are there to add little more than a dose of procedural. But the mostly well-acted character driven plots make the storylines feel personal and increase the stakes. Also, it stars Gillian Anderson, which is a reason to watch any show.
Anderson plays Meg Fitch, the CEO of a company vaguely referred to as an “international IT corporation.” She has her own helicopter and is impeccably groomed. She makes her daughter Amber (Halston Sage) recite the “three B’s” before dropping her off at school. Amber dutifully says: “Be careful. Be smart. Be curious.” It’s the power parent’s version of: “Have a good day.” Amber and her classmates, including the president’s son, soon board a bus for a field trip to New York City. Men in masks pull off a quick kidnapping on a quiet road. One Secret Service agent bravely grabs a kid and disappears into the woods, despite being wounded and outnumbered.
The story moves between the bad men who have now transferred the teens to a mansion, the parents who are receiving disturbing ransom demands and the FBI. One of these FBI agents is Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor), who becomes the lead in the investigation because she has a personal connection to the case. Meg is her sister. The problem is Susie and Meg haven’t spoken to one another for years.
Dermot Mulroney has a central role as Francis Gibson, the only parent to chaperone the trip. Estranged from his daughter, also a student on the bus, he’s desperate for her affection and slightly creepy. If this show is sitting in a queue on your DVR, I won’t spoil it for you but it’s fair to say he plays a central role, though some of his dialogue needs work. He has a line where he refers to himself as a “bug” that made me laugh, although I doubt that was the reaction the writers were going for.
The central question of the show is: How far would you go to protect your child? The story begins with one parent’s answer as he stands in a field of satellite dishes and presses a button on a laptop. His decision has consequences for both the kidnapped students and his future. What are the other parents willing to do? The challenge for “Crisis” is to keep the answers both suspenseful and believable.
“Crisis” is on Sundays at 10 p.m. EDT on NBC.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.