Do we need another movie or TV show with “American” in the title? There’s American Hustle, The Americans, American Horror Story, American Sniper, American Crime, (the please let it be renamed) American Crime Story AND now comes NBC’s American Odyssey, a show apparently conceived as a modern-day Homer’s Odyssey.
At first, American Odyssey is a jumbled confusing mess, as senseless as the war in Mali, where Odelle Ballard (Pushing Daisies‘) and her troop are hunkered down. By sheer luck, they’ve found and killed Abdul Abbas, an Al Qaeda leader, a success that’s sure to bring them fame and glory. Instead, it brings bullets in the form of Osela, a corrupt private military led by LOST‘s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Odelle is the lone survivor and finds herself captured by Muslim extremists. Or at least that’s what we’re led to believe initially.
Back home, her survival has been covered up, and her family and the country mourn the soldiers the day after they took down Abbas. This has tickled the wacky hacker conspiracy theorist Bob Offer’s (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Nate Mooney) Spidey sense, not that anyone will listen to a dude who’s living with his Mother. Bob’s one of the only compelling characters on the show, and thankfully he’s not completely ignored by Harrison Walters (The Carrie Diaries‘ Jake Robinson), a former rich kid turned protest leader for G8, the Occupy Wall Street stand-in.
The third part of the puzzle is Peter Decker (Twilight‘s Peter Facinelli), a lawyer working for a corrupt company under fire from the IRS. When the IRS drops the case under suspicious circumstances, Decker dives in, finding more cover-ups involving U.S. soldiers, and becomes another pioneer for truth, justice and the American
The entire show, even though it’s a political conspiracy thriller filled with “mystery,” feels all too familiar. I’m all for any show that points out the hypocrisies, corruption and the cracks in America, but I’m not convinced this show has anything new to add to the equation. That is, except Omar Ghazaoui, a 14 year old Moroccan boy with no acting experience NBC found a block away from their production offices. Omar plays Aslam, a boy tasked with guarding Odelle, an impossible and tragic position for any kid trying to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to be in. Aslam and Odelle strike up a tenuous, uneasy alliance, and it’s the start of their Moroccan odyssey that proves the most compelling in the show’s first hour, and the biggest reason to tune in for future installments.
This is a relationship and a POV that network shows don’t often spotlight, and it’s even more refreshing that the lone survivor soldier is a 5’2” woman rather than a grizzled white dude. The other two main subplots seem like old hat, but there’s enough here that makes American Odyssey deserving of a look, even with that awful title.