The Old Man
FX is back in town with another blockbuster in the making. The Old Man by Thomas Perry has been adapted for the screen by Jonathan Steinberg (who is also working to adapt Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and Robert Levine.
The series started with the release of the first two episodes. It is available to stream on Hulu and stars Jeff Bridges as a rogue CIA operative, on the wrong side of his age, on the run after being discovered by the FBI. It is a seven-part series and will release weekly.
The very first time we see Dan Chase on-screen, a CIA operative is the last job profile you’d associate him with. Weary, old, and alone, episode 1 of The Old Man introduce Dan Chase. He lives with his two dogs – Dave & Carol – and often has visions of his screaming wife, Abby, who succumbed a few years ago to Huntington’s disease.
Her terrible issues often kept Dan up at night and he finds himself flustered, having lost the woman he fell in love with. He has a daughter, Emily, who lives off town in an unknown location.
Some signs – Dan microwaving his phone after using it, guns and stashes of money planked under the floor – indicate his tendency to stay hidden.
While coming back from the doctor’s office, he spots a bald man sitting in a coffee shop. There aren’t any visible signs that the man has got something to do with Dan. But having lived the life he has, Dan is wary of such threats. He rummages through the garbage bin and arranges empty cans on a rope.
Sleeping with a torch and his gun on the nightstand, the cans rustle. He wakes up with a sudden gasp, the dogs on the bed in action mode jump off it and head straight downstairs.
In the shadows, he catches the same man from the coffee shop. The dogs help neutralize him and Dan shoots the guy. To make it look like an equal fight for the police, he uses the man’s gun to randomly shoot twice at the roof.
He immediately leaves town and phones Emily about the situation. It is at this time we see FBI Assistant Director Harold Harper, with his grandson, building lego structures. Through their conservation, we learn that the boy’s parents have passed.
Harold is still grieving and cries in the bathroom when his wife brings in the phone. Agent Raymond Waters is on the other end. He explains that Bob Blasky of DCS redirected him to Harold. One of Harold’s old cases – the subject who went MIA in 1987 near Torkham – has seen recent activity. It is about Dan.
Waters was tasked with ascertaining whether Dan was still alive and if yes, locate and retrieve him. Harold says the file has been resolved. At the very outset, the writing is such that it establishes Harold does not want the files to be reopened. His behavior is suggestive of some foul play that he does not want to surface.
Dan is on the run. He stops by at a diner, feeling he has enough distance from the men after him. After calling a man to “ready the house” for him, we see a brief flashback. Younger Dan and Abby discuss the possibility of them settling down and having a home.
This conversation is after the “incident” has taken place. There is also the question of who Mrs. Dixon is that remains unanswered in the first episode. Dan mentions it to the man – who also remains estranged from us – while on the phone call. Maybe it is Dan’s real name? Abby and Dan had to change their names, get new identities to disappear, and remain hidden. We will certainly be hearing more about it in the upcoming episodes.
And then comes a twist. Harold, even before Waters called, knew that Dan was alive. It seems like an arrangement between them for mutual benefits. Harold alerts Dan to the transponder that the bald man had put on his car to track his location.
Most of the FBI’s specialists and highly-trained personnel are behind him and will reach his location within three minutes. Faraz Hamzad wants to see Dan again. There’s another caveat that Harold sounds out. Dan must permanently say goodbye to his daughter, Emily.
Not doing so would then endanger her life. As heartbroken and flustered as he gets, Dan goes ahead with the call. Emily is angry and baffled but cannot do anything about it.
Dan loses the tail. He throws the transponder on the road. Waters asks the tailing agents to sweep the area. The old man has seemingly slipped away – again. Suddenly, Dan comes out of the dark and crashes his car into theirs. He kills one of the agents. But the other one is able to neutralize him.
His dogs, Dave and Carol are left behind and he is taken captive. Dan, though, has other plans in mind as he puts his seat belt on. He successfully crashes the car and staves off the fightback from the agent. And then, the dogs handle the rest. The episode ends with Dan giving Harper a warning call:
“Any more men you send at me, I’ll be sending them back in bags. Any that you send at my daughter, I will be sending them back in pieces.”
The Episode Review
‘The Old Man’ has one of the best tv premieres this year. It is paced, written, and performed to perfection. We have not had too many agency-thriller shows in the recent past that can compete with yesteryear heroes like Blacklist and The Americans.
The timelessness of the genre has been lost somehow, in the modern iterations. Steinberg and Levine seem determined to bring that back with ‘The Old Man’. Bridges is a marauding force in episode one. He executes almost every step of the way – drama, action, emotion.
Bridges has found the perfect balance that makes his character a dangerous man to upset. It gives viewers comfort that we will be seeing the dogs again in the series.
The ending almost gave them away. Dan finds himself on the run and despite having Harold’s sympathetic ear, he indicates that it does not mean zilch. If this is to go on, we can see serious attempts from Harold to neutralize Dan.
From what we know, they seem to have a respectable friendship. But maybe it was Harold just looking out for himself. This is what powerful men like Harold do to stay in that position.
If the level of execution can be maintained at this level, we will have an outstanding show to watch!