Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pilot Review: The Bureau

The Bureau (SundanceNow Doc Club)
Premiered October 3

One of the best things about the rise of streaming services is that global television is becoming much more accessible, and foreign series that might have otherwise never made it to the United States are readily available. SundanceTV has been at the forefront of this effort, bringing German-language “Deutschland 83” and Italian-language “Gomorrah” to its regular network as well as the Australian series “Cleverman.” Now, AMC Networks’ streaming service, SundanceNow Doc Club, has imported one of the most well-known and acclaimed French series to be seen by American audiences. There’s something that feels inherently different about shows with subtitles and the impact they can make on their viewers, and that adds an extra layer of intrigue to the spy drama found here. The only actor I’m familiar with in the cast is lead Mathieu Kassovitz, who starred in films like “Amélie” and “Munich,” and I think he is the right fit for his role. The plot as it’s set up is very interesting, with an undercover agent in the wind, apparently drunk out of his mind after refusing to try alcohol during his training because of his religion. There was a lot of procedure and background to be found in this pilot, and my hope is that it will pick up a little more in subsequent episodes. There’s a real sense of hardened experience that comes through here, particularly when it comes to Director Henri Duflot, and it feels like Malotru has spent his entire life undercover and forgotten who he really is. Setting the show in places like Damascus and Tangiers ups the appeal, and there’s definitely something compelling cooking here.

How will it work as a series? This show is clearly headed somewhere, but the pacing of this first episode leaves a bit to be desired for it to be truly enthralling. Given what I’ve read about the show, especially that the second season is even better, I’m inclined to stick around to see how it all plays out. For now, I’m grateful to SundanceNow Doc Club for sharing the first three episodes with me, which I’ll gladly check out.
How long will it last? That’s not a concern. The show’s reviews only improved in its second season, and the show did well in its initial release in the United States on iTunes. Canal+ has already commissioned a third season in France, which is pretty much the best kind of success this show could achieve. I imagine it will have a bright future worldwide.

Pilot grade: B

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