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Xposé #53
First Wave review here

4-star rating. RecommendedThe Pretender 2001

TV Movie – TNT
Written by Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle • Directed by Fred Keller • TX January 22 2001 • Reviewed by Brian Barratt
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Michael T. Weiss, Andrea Parker, Steven Long Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle on the return of The Pretender in this issue

Cancelation has served The Pretender well. After a rambling and unfocused fourth season, the show’s reincarnation as a TV movie has sharpened the wits of the production team. In fact, it’s fair to say the fans have rarely had it this good.

Michael T. Weiss, The PretenderAfter no less than two reprises that define the concept, we’re thrown back to events from the fourth season cliffhanger, as Jarod, Miss Parker and Ethan are presumed dead in the wake of a massive blast in the city subway. Unfortunately, the throwaway resolution is flimsy, as the three (largely uninjured) characters just pick themselves out of the wreckage and walk home. It’s as if writers Steven Long Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle were eager to just brush over that ill-conceived cliffhanger, and get on with this new era of The Pretender.

Once again, Jarod is at liberty with Ethan in tow, Miss Parker is back at The Centre, and Mr Lyle is up to No Good. Yet the actions of an assassin known only as The Chameleon force Jarod to take on the role of an FBI agent and lead an investigation – in the process incriminating himself. This deranged nemesis is known to Jarod, their relationship dating back to his days at The Centre – and that fateful day when he escaped...

The opening sequence aside, The Pretender 2001 is a smart, surprising and absorbing 90 minutes that easily achieves the goal of satisfying both casual viewers and long-time fans. This is an event movie, bigger and better than before, offering multiple Pretenders, some giddying action sequences, and supernatural undertones. Filmed in Canada, the production standards are evidently lower than we’re accustomed to in the series (the sets are less immaculate, overall it feels less glossy), but the budget has been redirected wisely – particularly in the scenes shot outside The Centre (previously we’ve had to contend with stock footage).

Long Mitchell and Van Sickle fill the limited screen time wisely, spinning the format off into new directions without betraying what has gone before. The large ensemble all return for a satisfying piece of the action, although once again Patrick Bauchau is poorly served as Sydney – a trend that began in series four. If you can’t find anything for him to do, guys, why bother bringing the character back at all?

Forgiving its few faults, The Pretender 2001 bodes well for Jarod’s future with TNT. Even so, perhaps it’s time for Long Mitchell and Van Sickle to start tying up all the loose threads (Major Charles and the clone Jarod, anyone?), before the show really is gone for good...

4-star ratingFirst Wave – Season Three
01: Mabus

The Sci-Fi Channel
Written by Daniel Howard Cerone • Directed by Michael Rohl
TX: January 8 2001 • Reviewed by Paul Spragg
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Episode 2 also reviewed in this issue

Last season we left Cade Foster lying on the floor dead, shot by long-term partner Eddie. As this season starts, we discover the events that lead up to that event. A Gua called Mabus has arrived on Earth to launch the second wave, and Cade must stop his consciousness reaching a husk body to buy the Earth some time.

Traci Lords as JordanThe stakes are higher this year and the production values stronger. With two years behind it, you can feel the confidence in the way First Wave is directed and acted. Roger R Cross is clearly loving playing pure evil as Cain, Sebastian Spence is more the action hero on a mission than ever before and Rob LaBelle is becoming more integral to the stories. This season there’s also Jordan in the mix, but she only makes a fleeting appearance here.

I don’t know how much of the explanation for last season’s final events was worked out when that episode was made, but this story links in flawlessly, explaining what’s been going on without getting bogged down in narrative, and setting the series onto a new path with an expanded premise for season three without losing any time. If there’s any problem, it’s that the last 10 minutes are rather rushed and the explanation of Cade’s death is a touch convenient, but with all this action and some surprises, this opener bodes well for the rest of the season.

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Images © TNT, Sci-FI
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.
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