After the murder of his wife Alex Kane, a former military operative turned security expert, is drawn into a dangerous game where an organization of wealthy individuals gamble on his ability to stop some of biggest crimes imaginable happening.
The Player pilot was shown at San Diego Comic Con this year and received generally positive views so I was keen to see if the episode lived up to my expectations. We start off with lead character Alex, played by Philip Winchester, in a very good position. Work is going well and he looks set to be getting back together with his ex-wife Ginny. Then everything changes. His ex-wife is murdered, he gets framed for the crime and he has to work out how to save a kidnapped girl. There’s a definite change in the character, he starts off quite cocky and light hearted but suddenly becomes very serious and angry. Understandably, of course. Winchester plays him well and even though he’s quite a guarded character he’s likeable. I’m very interested to see how they explore his grief at losing Ginny. In the pilot we see him very enraged but I wonder if we’ll see a softer, more emotional side of that. Winchester is certainly a talented enough actor to pull it off.
Speaking of talented actors, let’s discuss Wesley Snipes and how there’s not enough of him in the pilot. His character Mr Johnson, the pit boss, is a very mysterious figure and I still haven’t figured out whether he’s the villain or the hero in all of this. He was so effective in every scene. Despite not having many lines he had such a strong presence he stood out. It’s great to see Snipes in a more reserved role and he’s playing it well. I only hope that we see more of him in future episodes.
The most interesting character though came in the form of Cassandra King, the dealer, played by Charity Wakefield. I originally thought she was going to be a Felicity Smoak (Arrow) type character but she’s so much more. In fact she seems pretty badass. Probably the most intelligent and able character on the show, the line “I’m officially scared by what you can do” said by Alex really sums Cassandra up. There’s an air of danger about her and the fact that she knew Ginny makes her even more interesting. She also has a softer side seen when she encourages Alex not to give up. Their relationship will be fascinating to see unfold. They have great chemistry but she obviously has a lot of secrets that he may not like. She’s one of those characters that I can’t wait to see more of.
Something all of these characters have in common is moral ambiguity, and that seems to be a definite theme for the show. One minute you think someone’s good, the next you’re questioning if they are in fact the bad guy. But then again the whole idea of betting on crime is rather shady. Alex repeatedly asks why if they have the resources to predict crime do they not stop it. This is a question I, as well as many other viewers I would assume, was asking throughout the pilot. Johnson and Cassandra keep it vague but put some semi satisfactory answers forward. It’s a little confusing at times but not enough to put me off. Although I do hope the whole premise and background of the betting system will be explored a little deeper in forthcoming as it would make things a whole lot clearer.
If I had one complaint about The Player it would be the constant gambling related puns. There’s only so many times you can hear “Place your bets” or some spin on it before you get agitated. I feel like it may have been overdone in the pilot just to really reinforce the premise and of course to give the trailer plenty of one-liners. But here’s hoping it’s not a reoccurring theme.
On the other hand my biggest praise goes to the stunts and special effects department. There was a heavy amount of action in the pilot and they really did a great job in making it look impressive and effortless. With a show like this there’s bound to be plenty more action to come and it’s a relief to know there is such a capable crew at the helm.
The Player has an intriguing premise, thrilling action and excellent characters. They’ve brought all of these together to deliver a well thought out and solid pilot. Let’s hope they can maintain this high quality for the rest of the season.
Pilot Rating- 4.5/5