In jolly good company
LIKE its namesake, Chaos is a mish-mash of spy-drama and action-comedy. Think The Unit, splattered with some random bits and pieces of Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother, and you have Chaos spread out in the orderly environs of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) quarters.
Enter Rick Martinez (Freddy Rodriguez), who has trained his whole life to be a CIA agent but meets the mother of all bad first days at work when he learns that his job has been eliminated due to budget cuts. This calls for a semi-angsty soliloquy from our cutesy, wide-eyed protagonist – predictably, about how he has given up his precious teenage years to pursue his dreams.
Sure enough, like any cunning American TV boss worth his salt, deputy director H.J. Higgins (Kurtwood Smith), the mastermind and head of the Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services (CHAOS – who knows where the H came from?) decides there is use for the young man after all and offers him a deal.
He is to walk out of the door as an unemployed civilian or do the country a “great service” by becoming a spy who spies on his co-workers at the secretive Office of Disruptive Services (ODS) department. Apparently, the department’s job entails combating threats to national security amidst bureaucratic gridlock, rampant incompetence and political infighting.
His rogue colleagues, some of the most loquacious, fast-talking CIA agents you’ll ever meet, include the very good looking and wise-as-all-hell leader, Michael Dorset (Eric Close), Scottish-born Billy Collins (James Murray), with a rowdy accent to boot, and Casey Malick (Tim Blake Nelson), the 12-yearCIA veteran they call a “human weapon”. Already it sounds like a cowboy story. a guy going after his dream job of being a spy ends up being a spy ... of a different kind.
Anyway, they figure out Martinez is a mole immediately, put him in an uncompromising position and then blackmails him to get back at Higgins while they go rescue a bunch of people in a desert – which in this case, is a hostage crisis in Sudan.
No, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us either, but as Martinez, now a “double-mole” declares in a later episode: “We’re the CIA, we can do anything” – even if it involves ingesting live scorpions or smuggling an entire family out of communist North Korea.
To add to good old American-style puffery, pseudo-witty banters along the lines of “Trust isn’t earned, it’s owned (and now we own you)” pervades the show throughout. Of course, this is where the bromance between Martinez and company blossoms and everybody loves a good underdog story with a happy ending …
Speaking of which, watch out for the superhot intelligence officer Fay Carson (Carmen Ejogo), who has a penchant to speak in sexual innuendos. Surprise, surprise – she hits on Martinez in the pilot but we quickly learn that she was once married to Dorset. Err. Awkward.
The thing about Chaos is, the moment you start to grasp some semblance of congruence in its multi-layered storyline, it throws insome convoluting twists that completely debunk your judgement time and again. Which is fine except one does get tired from one’s constant attempts to zig-zag along with the overambitious plot.
Then again, this is a spy drama and I thought director Tom Spezialy made good of the cleverly ironic premise of restoring order with disorder – as far as grit-free dramedies would allow themselves anyway.
Still, I thought Chaos lacks the believability it strives to deliver but compensates for it with its likable cast members. Rodriguez, who looks and sounds like a younger Michael J. Fox, is particularly endearing. If you’re wondering where you’ve seen him before, he played Gio, the “sandwich guy” in Ugly Betty.
Chaos probably isn’t for everybody, but as far as action-packed dramadies (or spimedies) go, the boys of Chaos certainly make some jolly good company. n Chaos airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on AXN Beyond HD (Astro Channel 720).