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'Whiskey Cavalier' Is an Enjoyable Hour, but Can It Endure?
February 24, 2019  | By David Hinckley

ABC’s new spy series Whiskey Cavalier first struck me as James Bond on steroids, until I realized I was understating the situation.

Whiskey Cavalier really is a live-action version of Archer, the animated FXX show that’s more like a spy thriller on LSD.  

That’s a compliment in my eyes because I love Archer. My only concern is that the concept may not be as durable with actual people.

We’ll know soon enough. Whiskey Cavalier gets a sneak preview Sunday after the Oscars, theoretically, about 11:35 p.m. ET, before it moves to its regular timeslot of 10 p.m. ET Wednesdays.

Whiskey Cavalier revolves around Will Chase (Scott Foley, top), an ace FBI agent whose nickname is Whiskey Cavalier, and Francesca Trowbridge (Lauren Cohan, top), an ace CIA agent whose nickname is Frankie.

You may have heard that the FBI and the CIA are somewhat competitive when it comes to tracking down bad guys, which explains why Will and Frankie don’t bond when they find themselves working the same case.

Seems a government agent named Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams, top) is suspected of downloading the names and identities of CIA agents with the intent of selling the list to the Russians.

So Will and Frankie both hop on Edgar’s trail and meet in Moscow without realizing, at first, they are both nominally on the same side.

Sort of.

As spy tales go, this is a familiar kind of plotline. What sets Whiskey Cavalier apart is the level of lethal danger in which both Will and Frankie constantly find themselves and the matter-of-fact manner in which they both deal with it.

Without going too deeply into spoilers, let’s just say they both get shot at point-blank range and seem no more troubled than if they had suffered a nosebleed.

They also have extraordinary fighting skills, including several moves out of the Bruce Lee manual, and it’s rare that five minutes go by when they aren’t fighting either some snarling psychopath or each other.

Or blowing something up.

They do all this while exchanging cutting, witty banter, which in turn reflects the fact that almost everyone in this show seems to have been issued a silver tongue. Edgar is also quite the quipster, even when he has a gun pointed at his head or he’s crammed into a car trunk with Will.

The first episode of Whiskey Cavalier, logically enough, sets up the show’s longer-term premise: that our two antagonists will end up joining forces as part of a team that also includes FBI profiler Susan Sampson (Ana Ortiz) and two mystery guests.

The improbability of much of the action, the tidy resolution of seemingly impossible dilemmas and the calm indifference with which passersby regard volleys of gunfire give Whiskey Cavalier a tone, style, and attitude that could have easily come from a graphic novel.

It’s a gambit that works beautifully for Archer. It may be trickier with live-action drama, which is no reflection on Foley or Cohen. They’re charming. They’re the best part of the show. The problem is that this kind of deliberate excess often has, in the past, worn viewers out. Once you get the central joke, seeing it reprised once a week can get exhausting.  

That prospect doesn’t seem to faze ABC, which clearly believes there’s a market for “too much is not enough” dramedies and, for proof, can always point to the success of Scandal.

Perhaps ABC wants to make it clear it won’t abandon the concept just because Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes has moved on to Netflix.  

Whiskey Cavalier has passages of great fun, and it’s nice to see Cohan enjoying herself after her long run as the tormented Maggie on The Walking Dead.

The show is an entertaining date. The question is whether it can parlay that into a relationship.

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