By Dave B.
Patriot (Amazon) is an odd show. It follows the misfortunes of John Tavner, a US covert agent (played by Michael Dorman), who is engaged in an illegal operation to influence the Iranian presidential election in 2012. Tavner is highly-trained and more than competent, but he suffers from PTSD and is emotionally ill-suited to his profession. For example, as self-therapy, he performs folk songs about his traumas that often unconsciously reveal sensitive information about his missions. Tavner performs his duties to the best of his ability in a life that he is not meant to live. What makes Patriot truly odd is that, in some sense, the quality of the show unintentionally mirrors the duality of its protagonist.
The acting in Patriot is superb. There are Emmy-caliber performances throughout. The show is dark and tragic, but also wickedly funny at times. The cat-and-mouse nature of the major plot points is managed brilliantly and Tavner’s efforts to overcome his unbelievably (and sometimes self-inflicted) bad luck add real excitement and tension to the story. All of these elements make the second half of the 10-episode show, fantastic.
The problem with Patriot is found primarily in the first five episodes. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t work at all when it is overly focused on Tavner’s inner turmoil. The pacing slows. The rest of the brilliant cast is nowhere to be found. Viewers are forced to endure the protagonist’s inner monologue through the medium of folk songs. This wouldn’t so bad if it happened sparingly. In the first five episodes of Patriot it feels as if it happens all the time. I experienced several significant periods of boredom during those episodes. I may have quit this series before the first episode had ended if it had not been recommended to me by someone whose opinion I deeply respect.
I’m glad I stuck with Patriot, however. It improves with every episode. By the sixth one, I was fully engaged with and empathetic towards Tavner (who can be difficult for viewers to connect with as he is not really very connected with his true self). The ending is designed for there to be a second season, so I assume that there will be one (although, since I like this show, the odds of its cancellation are probably at least 45%). I highly recommend this show. The mix of dark humor and tragedy, combined with phenomenal acting eventually overcomes early pacing and focus issues. Patriot is definitely worth your time. 7.5/10