Third-episode verdict: American Odyssey (US: NBC; UK: BBC Two)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Acquired by BBC Two. Will air in May

Three episodes into American Odyssey, a sort of Crash meets State of Affairs meets Zero Dark Thirty that sees three separate characters investigating a single conspiracy in countries over the world, and we’ve not seen a single Cyclops. No pirates. No witches. Not even a helpful princess doing her washing. In short, there ain’t much Odyssey in American Odyssey.

There’s a lot of special forces soldier Anna Friel talking Arabic and wondering where she can find a PC with a USB port for her flash drive full of incriminating documents, while being passed parcel-like between different groups of kidnappers in Mali.

There’s a lot of corporate investigator Peter Facinelli looking pained as he discovers that it’s really not that easy to investigate incredibly powerful multinational companies in cahoots with the US military and trying to cover up the fact they’re co-funding al Qaeda.

There’s even a lot of trustfunder-turned-Occupy Wall Streeter Jake Robinson running around trying to find an email from Friel while the very obvious fake journalist he’s with comes up with really poor excuses for why people keep dying/going missing/changing their story et al as soon as Robinson mentions them to her.

But despite its supposed inspiration from Homer, there’s not a single whirlpool or monster, goddess or dead hero to be spotted for miles, let alone a spouse at home weaving a tapestry every night to hold off the suitors.

What. A. Swizz*.

On the plus side, though, as I mentioned in my review of the first episode, it does all feel a step up from the usual military-industrial complex conspiracy theories that we’ve had up until now. There are some Greeks – or should I say ‘Greeks’ given the Alexis Tsipras-alike Greek ambassador is played by Orla Brady. There’s lots of Arabs in various shades of grey (well, mostly shades of black, but there are shades) and they get to speak Arabic… and French, because lo-and-behold, just turned up in episode three as a drug dealer, ready to parle français, is Spiral/Engrenage’s own Grégory Fitoussi – I do hope he didn’t quit to be in this.

Nevertheless, a step up is not the same as ascending to the top of Mount Olympus. Despite narrowly evading a “look around the room to guess the inspiration for the Leet Hacker’s password” scene, episode two saw a silly amount of moments where anyone who’s ever even received an email will know the show is being technically illiterate. There’s a heinous amount of coincidences going on, including one boy’s uncle whom he’s never met turning out to be the exact person on TV he was looking at unsuspectingly (and judgementally) earlier in the same episode. And there are so many suspicious deaths and implausible official denials happening that the baddies might as well put up signposts saying “This way to the government cover-up!”

So while it’s definitely in the upper end of the genre, with some lovely location work, a decent cast and a proper attempt to tie what could be very generic into real world events, American Odyssey is unfortunately a bit more of a miss than a hit.

* Oh, there is one obvious reference to Greek myth, BTW – there’s a character called Kharon scheduled to pop off in later episodes, Kharon/Charon being the ferryman who took travellers across the Styx to the underworld. Not to be pedantic, though, but Kharon isn’t actually mentioned in The Odyssey, as he only appears much later as a figure in Greek religion. Oh well. Still. A. Swizz.

Barrometer rating: 2
TMINE prediction: Given its ratings, it’s unlikely to get a second season, and to be honest, it probably doesn’t deserve one


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.