In jolly good com­pany

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - Chaos.

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).

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