Seal Team Review
SEAL Team, which premieres on CBS on Wednesday, is a testament to two things: Boreanaz’s ability to carry an otherwise boring and forgettable military procedural, and CBS’ awareness of its brand and audience’s appetite for a certain type of bland and forgettable military procedural.
SEAL Team isn’t a great programme, but it knows what it wants to be and accomplishes it considerably more effectively than NBC’s The Brave or The CW’s Valor. So maybe it’s just not my thing, and that’s fine.
SEAL Team, directed by Benjamin Cavell, is about a team of Navy SEALs, although as the opening crawl states, “The United States Navy SEALs are one of the world’s most elite special-operations teams.”
Jason Hayes (Boreanaz) leads the all-star team, a seasoned warrior who has always prioritised his squad over his family and is unravelling at the seams following a tragedy involving one of his guys. Ray (Neil Brown Jr.), Sonny (A.J. Buckley), and Lisa (who handles logistics) round out the crew (Toni Trucks). Mandy, a CIA analyst, is barking out briefings and mission goals (Jessica Pare). Clay Spenser (Max Thieriot), a versatile second-generation SEAL whose father’s legacy comes with some baggage, is also keen to join the team.
The pilot’s mission, which features a high-level ISL target and an assault into Liberia complicated by Boko Haram, comes dangerously near to plagiarising History’s Six, but it’s difficult to predict how many viewers will have seen each of television’s recent efforts to honour our warriors.
SEAL Team also uses a framework that is quite similar to what History utilised in Six, balancing on-the-ground military actions with whatever is going on at home with the wife and kids. The action is solid and average, with a lot of close-up video game-style POV shots to cover up a lack of scale. There is no gritty cinema in this film, unlike The Brave.
The “But will Soldier X make it back from their worldwide fight in time for…” structure appears in both of the first two episodes sent to critics. It’s a piano performance in the pilot. The birth of a child is the subject of the second.
SEAL Team is determined to get a lot of mileage out of not only what these [mostly] men do in the field, but also the manipulation of who they’re doing it for back home, so I can only assume that soccer games, an important anniversary dinner, and a bar mitzvah will be plot points in upcoming episodes.
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If you’re not in tears at the conclusion of the episodes of SEAL Team, it’s probably not the programme for you; I wasn’t, so I know it’s not for you, but I can understand why many people will be.
With this attitude, it isn’t a surprise that the women are underserved in SEAL Team. The first episode lets Mandy and Lisa be active participants in the mission and they almost feel like real characters, but the second episode leaves them in a conference room somewhere, so the best I can say is that they both deliver exposition believably.
I’m a big enough fan of Pare’s Megan Draper character on AMC’s Mad Men that I want to see the actress do much more, but my fear is that when a show like this decides to give a female character a major arc, it usually involves them getting kidnapped, so I can wait.
SEAL Team’s views are best described as jingoistic-lite, which is a vast improvement over Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders’ “Every foreigner is a rapist, killer, or corrupt official” worldview. In the early episodes, someone will occasionally imply something slightly mistaken about American foreign policy before the “Our country, right or wrong” message is slipped in.
More broadly, the show aligns with CBS’ general “Men being men” conservatism, peaking in the second episode when Thieriot’s Clay explains feminism to a grad student he’s trying to pick up at a bar and adds, “Even in 2017, a guy’s got to be able to buy a drink without it being considered a hate crime.”
It’s no wonder that women are underrepresented in the SEAL Team because of this attitude. Mandy and Lisa are active players in the mission in the first episode, and they almost feel like actual characters; however, in the second episode, they are left in a conference room somewhere, so the most I can say is that they both convey exposition convincingly.
I’m a great admirer of Pare’s Megan Draper character on AMC’s Mad Men, and I’d like to see her do a lot more, but I’m afraid that if a show like this decides to give a female character a large arc, it generally includes them being abducted, so I’ll have to wait.
Thieriot, who rose to prominence during the run of A&E’s Bates Motel, is the highlight of the supporting ensemble, making even the aforementioned bar flirting appear mostly unobjectionable. In the second episode, Brown has some wonderful emotional moments, and I learnt his character’s name and everything.
Boreanaz is the one that completely embodies SEAL Team’s chosen goals. His portrayal isn’t as anguished and nerve-wracking as Walton Goggins’ in Six, but neither is the war scarred Jason bears.
Boreanaz portrays Jason as a man that other men would readily follow into a shootout, despite his exhaustion and disappointment over his lost marriage, which he expresses through defensive snarkiness and stubble.
Many viewers, I believe, will be willing to follow Boreanaz and his crew into weekly battles. I won’t, but I was able to see how well SEAL Team performs its duties. What about CBS’s Wisdom of the Crowd…
Cast: David Boreanaz, Max Thieriot, Neil Brown Jr., AJ Buckley, Toni Trucks, Jessica Pare
Creator: Benjamin Cavell
Premieres: Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET/PT (CBS)