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TV Series Review

Bryan Mills wasn't always an old vengeful killer with a particular set of skills. No, he was once a young vengeful killer … still honing those skills.

We meet that killer in NBC's TV take on Taken, a prequel to Liam Neeson's semi-beloved, seriously bloody big-screen franchise of the same name. But instead of saving immediate family members from truly terrible bad 'uns, Bryan's grieving for the family member that was taken from him: his poor, dead sister, killed by notorious cartel boss Carlos Meija.

Conveniently, the former Green Beret is part of a super-secret special intelligence agency. (So many secret agencies on television … no wonder our national deficit is out of control.) So as he tries to prove his worth to his steely boss, Christina, as well as his new teammates, Bryan also manages to get revenge on Meija (in the Season 1 finale) for the dastardly deed he's done. But Bryan still has work to do: He vents his seriously scowling intensity on other criminal lowlifes or career terrorists that unwisely wander into his crosshairs.

PAGING JACK BAUER … OH, NEVER MIND It's safe to say that Taken hasn't exactly taken the television world by storm. It suffers from so-so ratings and scathing reviews, both of which seem well-deserved.

Given its cinematic forebears, it's to be expected that this NBC fill-in show would be preoccupied with bloody, terminal justice (if we characterize this sort of vengeance as justice at all, that is). And while this broadcast series doesn't boast premium-cable levels of gore, it certainly doesn't skimp on its fake hemoglobin budget. People die with disturbing frequency here—often via bullets and sometimes with copious amounts of blood exiting their aspirating arteries. Equally troubling are the bad guys who don't die, but who are instead captured and threatened with torture and death. Seems like Taken's creators feel that 24's Jack Bauer was just an old softie.

Taken isn't above showing men and women in various stages of undress, either. And while explicit sexual activity hasn't been a big problem in the early going, the show's format suggests that the camera may tiptoe into the boudoir when it's not busy filming the latest kill mission. Language can be an issue, too.

TAKE IT BACK Ironically, for a show so preoccupied with black vengeance and crimson death, Taken is quite silly. When Bryan, watching a television monitor, spots a dark grenade in the middle of a bare, white floor, the achievement is treated as if he cracked Cretan hieroglyphics. And despite the special ops team's reliance on slavish obedience, teamwork and unquestioned trust, no one seems to much mind when Bryan opts to leaves his post to run down a street or scale a building or, I don't know, pick up a latte.

Admittedly, the movies required a certain suspension of disbelief, too. But unable to lean on Neeson's steely, baritone gravitas, NBC's Taken must instead rely on lead actor Clive Standen's clenched jaw and scruffy chin to give the show its moxie and menace. And, at least in the early going, the scruff doesn't seem quite up to the job. When a captured bad guy asks what dark-site boat he's on, Bryan crouches, glares and hisses, "ship"—apparently correcting the villain in his nautical terminology. Indeed, one feels like Taken might've served NBC better as a Naked Gun-style comedy.

But it's not, which leaves us with just four final words of advice: Don't be taken in.

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Episode Reviews

Taken: June 1, 2018 "ACGT"
Taken: March 6, 2017 "Ready"



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Clive Standen as Bryan Mills; Jennifer Beals as Christina Hart; Jennifer Marsala as Riley; Gaius Charles as John; James Landry Hebert as REM; Simu Liu as Faaron; Michael Irby as Scott; Monique Gabriela Curnen as Becca; Brooklyn Sudano as Asha Flynn; Romano Orzari as Carlos Meija






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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