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American Odyssey (the ‘American’ was added at the last moment because patriotism just makes everything better) is a conspiracy show like many before it and many still to come. However, you should not write it off right away, as it manages to do several things better than most of its siblings.

The series mainly revolves around female special forces soldier Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies), with important secondary roles for corporate litigator Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli, Nurse Jackie) and a trust fund kid Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson, The Carrie Diaries). During a raid on the wife of an Al-Qaeda boss in Mali, Ballard and her team stumble on the man himself and manage to kill him. Ballard finds information on the man’s laptop about a large American corporation funding the terrorist group.

When Ballard’s findings are reported up the chain of command, her team is ordered by Colonel Glen (Treat Williams, Everwood) to stand down. They are to hand over everything they found to private military contractors lead by Lost‘s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Not long after that, just when Ballard is taking a leak in the bushes, their camp is blown up by the same military contractors, leaving Odelle Ballard as the lone survivor in the middle of the desert. Luck is not on her side though, as she is captured by local rebels. The leader of the rebels assigns his son Aslam (Omar Ghazaoui) to watch her.

Back at home, the privileged Harrison Walters, who is a member of an Occupy-like movement, meets Bob (Nate Mooney, who is giving off a strong Steve Buscemi vibe). Bob has hacked his way into Ballard’s email and finds her final cry for help. Harrison makes a rookie mistake by immediately telling the beautifully mysterious reporter who is suddenly interested in their cause, even though she is clearly not telling everything. Sure enough, both she and Bob suddenly disappear together, alongside his evidence.

Odelle manages to bond with Aslam to the point that he allows her a phone call to tell her family that she is still alive. This is of course another rookie mistake, as their phones are obviously being monitored, and the private military contractors soon arrive in the village to kill Ballard. Odelle and Aslam’s bond is strengthened by mutually assured destruction, and they flee together. Before that, though, Aslam takes a picture of the presumed-dead Odelle and sends it to Al-Jazeera (because what the hell, right?).

Conspiracy shows have been done so often that at this point it is hardly interesting how high up the conspiracy goes. However, Anna Friel does a great job at being the only person on the show that you unconditionally root for, and at grounding an otherwise action-heavy show with a personal angle. This is especially noticeable in the bond she forms with her capturer Aslam.

It is also a good thing that American Odyssey only focuses on three main storylines, as conspiracy shows tend to be overstuffed with secondary and tertiary characters that are just lingering around. The show is even prepared to kill off some of those tertiary characters to keep the story compact, which is illustrated best in Peter Facinelli’s storyline. That storyline, though, is so boring that I haven’t even gotten around to discussing it. All you need to know is that it revolves around a family man and corporate attorney who is involved with the company funding the terrorists. He finds out that this is the case through one of the private military contractors who wants to clear his conscience and is subsequently killed off.

American Odyssey, which is mostly shot in Morocco and filmed shaky-cam style, has the feel of a movie, and that very much works in its favor. It helps forget the thing that bugs you during most conspiracy shows: this development is fun now, but how will it turn out 10 episodes later? Let’s just hope that the writers haven’t forgotten that. Because if they have, only divine intervention (in the form of amazing lead-in ratings from The Bible’s follow-up A.D.) can help American Odyssey survive.

American Odyssey has concluded its run after 1 season.

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