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‘Patriot’ is a Satiric Spy Thriller – Wait. What?
February 24, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments

In an early scene from Amazon’s new series Patriot, our hero John Tavner (Michael Dorman, top) catches up with another guy who has interviewed for a job Tavner wants. Tavner exchanges a few pleasantries with him and then calmly pushes him in front of a moving truck.

Right up to that moment, we were unsure whether Patriot was a drama, another high-stakes international intelligence adventure, or a comedy, a satire on high-stakes international adventures.

With that push, we know. It’s a comedy.

The 10-episode first season becomes available Friday on the streaming service.

Like Homeland, 24: Legacy or a half dozen other shows, Patriot gives us an America under major lethal threat from hostile forces in the Middle East.

In this case, it’s more the Iranian government than wild-card terrorists, but it’s safe to say both those elements will become involved as we go along.

Tavner is an intelligence agent, a good one, in an area of government that’s as incompetent as it is shadowy.

He’s planted in a job – yes, the aforementioned job – with an engineering firm that does business in Iran and Luxembourg. His real mission is to quietly funnel tens of millions of euros to the more moderate candidate in the upcoming Iranian presidential election, thus thwarting the radical candidate who wants to jump-start Iran’s nuclear program.

In theory, all Tavner has to do is pick up money and slip it to the right intermediary.

In reality, the government agency for which he works, where his point person is his father Tom (Terry O’Quinn, above, left, with Dorman), can’t even figure out who the intermediary is. The first two million euros gets handed to the guy they’re trying to beat. Oops.

It’s another miracle the money got there at all. The intelligence people assured John that the company for which he works sends its people on private jets, meaning there’d be no security issues over a bag crammed with money.  

The company actually flies commercial, meaning John must check the bag. Naturally, the underpaid immigrant worker on the security inspection line at the airport picks out John’s bag, sees the two million euros, and figures he’s hit the lottery. He hops on his motorbike and takes off for home.   

That’s a good illustration of how things work on Patriot. So is the fact Tom tries to keep John semi-monitored by sending his brother Eddie (Michael Chernus, left, with Dorman) out to watch him wherever possible.

This is noteworthy because Eddie was recently elected to his Dad’s old Congressional seat, courtesy of Tom’s power and influence, so you’d think he might have other things to do.

Truth is, Tom has paved so many of Eddie’s paths over the years that Eddie has never had to have a single thought of his own. Except it turns out Eddie does have some idea what Dad has been up to over the years, and it hasn’t all been good.

We might also mention that John is married and seems to love his wife, but keeps getting sent on these intelligence missions by his father, so he hardly ever sees her.

Instead, he sits in faraway hotel rooms and composes folk-style songs on his guitar. The downside there, his father notes, is that some of the songs have become so personal they detail things about his professional life that really need to be kept confidential.

Patriot approaches satire by laying out a serious story that we could imagine seeing on a serious spy-thriller show and tossing in wildly absurd twists with a straight face. It’s a tricky balance for the writers, so we shouldn’t be surprised if it takes viewers a little time as well.

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Scott M
I gotta slow down. I read that as, "...our hero John Travolta..." ...
Feb 26, 2017   |  Reply
Stephen Kabak
All well in good in what everyone has said on this site although Variety panned the show, but why is the photography so bloody murky that watching the show even on a 4K set makes the complex happenings on the screen even more difficult to watch. As for myself, I think The Patriot is too clever by half, and it only adds to the abundant array of good and bad paid television that is available to the home viewer. As John Dewey wrote in his book, Art as Experience everyone sees a creative work differently and that, of course, makes the experience even more interesting.
Feb 25, 2017   |  Reply
I saw the pilot some time ago and I remember I thought it was quite good and the storyline seemed surprisingly realistic. Hard to imagine, huh?

Staying with the spy theme front I just finished watching the 2 season series, The Bureau and *loved* it. The spy tech is incredible, the storyline is complex with superb character depth.
Feb 25, 2017   |  Reply
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