This past weekend, I turned into Hulu to see the latest episode of The Old Man only to find out that there were just seven and there wouldn’t be anymore for a while. The series aired on FX and next day on Hulu, which typically runs eight episodes for a series. Disney-Plus does six. Netflix stretches theirs out to 10. Peacock varies. But I was thinking that with all the issues the production went through, it was probably supposed to be eight episodes and done.
Production began before Covid-19 shut down Hollywood. Then, lead actor Jeff Bridges was diagnosed with cancer and Covid on top of that. As of this posting, Bridges is feeling better at 72 or as well as someone can feel at 72 after getting sick from cancer, going through chemotherapy and then having to deal with Covid. I didn’t realize it but a second season had been ordered because the series was just so damn good. And I’ll admit, I was originally thinking it was an one-and-done season and maybe that’s how they filmed it until the reviews and reception were so impressive. There’s a 95 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and 8/10 average from users on http://www.imdb.com making it a rarity in which critics and the audience generally agree.
And what’s not to like about this. Bridges is one of those actors who seems to just radiate in whatever role he’s in, even if he’s playing a bad guy. He was the first MCU villain in Iron Man. But he will forever be known as The Dude from the 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski. And throughout the 2010s, he seems to retire into gruff old man roles, picking up an Oscar nomination for his role as a Texas Ranger in Hell or High Water.
In The Old Man, he plays Dan Chase, an ex-CIA assassin who has been living mostly off the grid for decades in upstate New York. That is until he kills an intruder who breaks into his house going on the run. He’s being chased and rather aided by Harold Harper (John Lithgow in a great role), who is a FBI supervisor. Through flashbacks to the Soviet-Afghan War and its aftermath, we see that Chase and Harper have a strained history.
Chase regularly talks to his daughter, Emily (Alia Shawkat), who is also working at the FBI under the name Angela Adams and has more of a hidden history that I won’t say here. There’s also the mysterious Morgan Bote (Joel Grey) who is a former FBI director but speaks in a same pleasant tone even when he is very upset. Also trailing Chase is a hitman, Julian Carson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), who has been hired by Harper. And there is some three-dimension to Carson that makes him more than the standard hired hitman.
Chase finds himself involved with a divorcee, Zoe McDonald (Amy Brenneman) when he rents a guest house on her property. However, problems arise almost immediately when Chase thought she didn’t live in the nearby house and she didn’t think he had two Rottweillers (Dave and Carol). But she allows him to stay and when it seems like they’re might be the typical romance building, the series takes it in a different direction that I liked. I loved the scenes between Brenneman and Bridges but we’ve been down the series gives her more to do than just be the love interest.
Learning of his past history and what they endure, it will be interesting to see where they take this relationship between Chase and McDonald in the second season. Seven episodes is too short for a season and I’m just hope they’re not stretching this out. The series is based on a novel by the same name by Thomas Perry. Adapting a book into a series has become the new way of doing things and sometimes it hasn’t work. Look at how Under the Dome started off popular a decade ago and then it was decided to make a second season and the series went off the rails there. I stopped watching after a few episodes of the second season and it was canceled after three seasons. The same thing happened with Zoo.
Hopefully season two of The Old Man can keep the same pace and excitement. While Bridges and Lithgow show some of their finest work in recent years, the stand-out is Shawkat. She manages to show how difficult and dangerous it can be to live more than one life. This is one great show in which every actor is perfectly cast and we follow just enough of them.
What do you think? Please comment.