Spoilers, mostly for Season 1

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The Time:
Wednesdays, 9:00 PM, Fox

The Show:

Chance is a mystery man who used to play “offense” as a former
assassin, but who now plays “defense” as a protector of high-value
targets.  Chance has the abilities of a highly trained spy, and
is very well-connected so as to be able to work either within the
system or outside of it in order to safeguard his clients. 
Chance is aided by his partner, Winston, a former San Francisco
detective, and frequently by Guerrero, a former…colleague. 
Christopher Chance is the guy to go to when no one else can or will

The Stars:

•  Mark Valley – Christopher Chance
•  Chi McBride – Laverne Winston
•  Jackie Earle Haley – Guerrero
•  Indira Varma – Ilsa pucci
•  Janet Montgomery – Ames

The Episode: “Ilsa Pucci”

Season 2 premiere picks up the story from last season’s cliffhanger, in
which Chance’s nebulous backstory was fleshed out to reveal that he was
a former assassin who had a change of heart when he was on the case of
Katherine Walters (Amy Acker).  The story took place in the
present and six years ago.  Back then, rather than killing
Katherine, Chance decided to safeguard her from his employers, who were
hired by a mystery client to eliminate her and gain possession of a
certain book with a lot of bad secrets.  Unfortunately, Chance
was unable to save her, nor to retrieve the book, but he resolved with
Winston that they would save the next one, which was the start of their
business together.  In the present, the representatives of that
client, headed by a man identified as The Interrogator, attack Chance’s home and interrogate him about the whereabouts
of the book, under threat of killing Winston and Guerrero.  The
cliffhanger saw Chance reuniting with his former employer, Joubert, in
order to save Winston, who was taken by the assailants.

“Ilsa Pucci” finds Chance quickly resolving Winston’s abduction and apprehending the Interrogator, then leaving Winston and Guerrero for fear of putting them in further danger.  After six months at an ashram in Nepal, Chance is approached by the super rich Ilsa Pucci to protect her.  Chance decides to take the gig and returns to San Francisco to resume his business with Winston and Guerrero.  Once on the case, it’s just another job where Chance foils the plans of an enemy of Ilsa’s, except that she makes him an offer he can’t refuse when it’s all over; and Chance may have picked up a pretty young new addition to the team.

The Lowdown:

If you missed out on Human Target
last season, it’s not too late to get up to speed on it, because it
really is a slick and fun show to watch.  It’s somewhat of a cross
between The Bodyguard, Mission Impossible and the old Nick Mancuso Stingray
show from the ’80s.  What makes the show click is the chemistry between
the surprisingly good Valley, McBride and Haley, who threatens to steal
every episode.  I caught Valley on Boston Legal
and he was alright on it, usually portraying the straight man to James
Spader’s Alan Shore.  But I had no idea he was capable of doing a
character like Chance.  His easy charm and physicality are a great
resource around which to build this show. 

Likewise, former David Kelley alum Chi McBride (Boston Public) is also good as Winston.  He’s the other side of the equation, the serious and the regimented to Chance’s free spirit approach to cases.  I’ve liked McBride since Gone in 60 Seconds and he’s enjoyable in his role here.  As for Jackie Earle Haley…do I even need to explain how excellent he is as Guerrero and what that character means to this show?  You have to watch him in it to know if you don’t already.

The show is slick because the writing is slick: light, fast-paced and with good dialogue.  It has a mythology dealing with Chance’s past that’s being unraveled at a pretty good clip, and in fact almost completely peeled in the Season 1 finale.  But the episodes themselves are usually stand-alones that offer a wide variety of missions for Chance and his crew.  There’s also a chick-of-the-week situation on the show, which so far has included Tricia Helfer, Moon Bloodgood and Emmanuelle Vaugier among others.

Be all that as it may, last night’s resolution of the cliffhanger was either a misfire, or, more likely, there’s clearly more to be told to the story.  “Ilsa Pucci” virtually yadda yadda-ed the quite good story from the Season 1 finale, “Christopher Chance.”  That episode was great, featuring the grizzled old Six Million Dollar Man himself, as well as the bankable Amy Acker as Katherine Walters, Chance’s first “client” as a bodyguard.  I’ve got to lean toward the possibility that that story has more to be revealed, simply for the fact that Chance’s former boss / father figure, Joubert (Armand Assante) was completely left out of the recap. 

If you’re not familiar with the storyline to date, basically Chance was an assassin who “didn’t like the role he was being asked to play” anymore.  Joubert trained him and he was his best killer.  But he was told by Joubert to eliminate Acker’s Katherine Walters, even though she wasn’t a threat to Joubert’s client.  Chance balked and then had to fight off his comrades, including the recurring villain, Baptiste (Lennie James) and Guerrero.  This led to Chance, who was known as “Junior” at the time, seeking out a bodyguard he went up against in the past, named Christopher Chance (Lee Majors), for advice on how to get out of his situation with Katherine.  Junior learned that “Christopher Chance” was an alias held by a series of protectors through the years, and that “Christopher Chance” is the guy people go to when they have nowhere to turn.  When the former Chance was killed when helping Junior, Junior assumed the identity and the mission. 

That episode was told in two time periods, six years ago and in the present, where Chance had to join up with Joubert in order to save Winston.  However, that story was resolved before the first break here.  Joubert was ignored in the recap and disappeared in this follow-up episode.  And an exchange between Chance and Guerrero where Chance asked Guerrero if he “knew what to do,” to which Guerrero said he did, was left hanging out there like a thread you know is going to be pulled at a later date.  Also, one last note on that storyline, I’m with the opinion of others on that: I believe Katherine Walters is still alive.  Furthermore, I think that Winston knows it and had a hand in hiding her, just like he took the Interrogator’s book and hid it.

As for this episode, it was a fairly standard installment once it got going.  Couple of changes are brewing for this season from last, mostly from the inclusion of Indira Varma as Ilsa Pucci (heh, Pucci) and Janet Montgomery as Ames.  Pucci was Chance’s first client this season, the widow of a multi-billionaire who was killed in a plane crash.  Ames is a young thief who can change her look to blend into many situations.  She was hired to switch a ring off of Ilsa’s finger to aid snipers in locating her.  Winston is familiar with Ames, from when he busted her several times as a cop.  She asks to tag along with Chance, Winston and Guerrero when they head to Switzerland to rescue Ilsa from the men who abducted her because she fears for her life. 

When Ilsa is saved, she offers to become Chance’s benefactor, offering the use of her resources in the execution of his cases.  Winston is particularly interested in using her private planes.  Tahmoh Penikett guest starred as Ilsa’s head of security and Rick Hoffman as her lawyer.  Penikett looked like he walked right off the set of Dollhouse and into this episode.  Not sure if Fox is tossing him a bone for his past affiliation, but he was fairly useless here in a throwaway role.  Hoffman does what he does best, and the disposition of his character was no surprise at all, because if you know Hoffman’s work, you know what kind of guy he’s going to portray. 

Seems to be some speculation afoot that the inclusion of Varma and Montgomery will disrupt the flow of the show, which has the perfect trinity in the three male leads.  Varma’s inclusion could be fine, and I get the feeling she’ll be more recurring than regular cast member.  Although I think that Chance, Winston and Guerrero having access to virtually unlimited resources could spoil the atmosphere in which they do business.  Theirs is a seat-of-the-pants operation, where they have to be inventive, call in markers and hit up old friends, which was part of the appeal of the show.  Taking that away might indeed alter the flow of the stories as things get easier for the team due to Ilsa’s generosity.  So that remains to be seen.  I hope that she and Chance don’t start up a relationship, because I’m rather enjoying the babe-of-the-week scenario.

As for Montgomery, yeah she’s been shoe-horned into the program and the question of interrupting the flow of Chance, Winston and Guerrero seems valid.  I had the same reservations when Katie Cassidy (Ruby as a blonde) and Lauren Cohan (Bela) were added to Season 3 of Supernatural.  But that situation worked out fine and I’m not too worried here.  Kind of curious why the producers hinted at the same possibility for Autumn Reeser’s Layla, a tech that appeared in last season’s episode, “Lockdown,” and then was brought back in for another case by Guerrero on the episode, “Baptiste.”

In any case, Human Target is a fun show with a lot of potential that’s buoyed by the three leads and should be checked out.  Glad that it was renewed and I hope it sticks around for a few seasons at least.

7.3 out of 10