SPOILER-FREE Season One Review
Jeff Bridges, “The Dude,” and a pretty entertaining actor … check. A spy show with twists and turns that’s hours long and fully available on a streaming service … check. Bridges playing the aging spy and titular “Old Man” in the dramatic thriller…wait, what? The Old Man is another somewhat under-the-radar surprise recently landing on Hulu from FX. Does the show live up to the hype of a major actor on the small screen in an unexpected role?
The Old Man is the story of Dan Chase, a U.S. spy who went off the grid 30 years ago. Chase got into complications on his last mission that ended up with him on the wrong side of everyone. He escaped the business with a romantic interest and started a family during his decades in hiding.
Now with his wife gone and daughter grown and on her own, the life he left behind comes back for Chase full force. The show begins by showing us that Chase has become something of an old man. He lives alone in a small town with his two loving Rottweilers, haunted by the memory and loss of the love of his life. When agents come for Chase, though, he quickly snaps back into his former self the best that a 60-year-old retiree can. What brought the world back to Chase, and can the old spy navigate being professionally hunted in the modern world?
The action begins with Chase’s first face-off with another agent in 30 years and only escalates from there. The plot is filled with unexpected twists and turns that involve Chase’s family, the last mission, and all the old players from both sides of the board. We quickly meet a significant player with a hidden agenda in Harold Harper, the assistant director of the FBI, played by an amazing John Lithgow. Harper is connected to Chase’s last mission and is immediately put in charge of capturing Chase after he’s been located.
The plot gets more complex as the show alternates between the present and Chase’s last mission. Who everyone is and what side they’re on is a constant question. While we learn more about who Chase was and why he’s been in hiding, the lines become blurred, but the answers to what exactly is going on are still in high demand
Not, “The Dude”
At the show’s beginning, there are tense action sequences involving Bridges, which fast become the show’s highlight. While the answers to “What is what?” is a serious draw, Bridges in action as the aging spy is the show. Just as in his dramatic turn as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, Bridges dazzles as Chase. Since we’re used to seeing Bridges in comedic or more laid-back roles, it’s a treat to see his performance and dedication to a completely different kind of character. He’s physical, manipulative, and calculated enough to make the brutality displayed by his character in the flashbacks seem quite believable.
Two “Old Men”
Lithgow plays Harper as the perfect opposite of Bridges’ rogue spy. He, too, has lived with secrets and the memories of the last mission in the back of his mind. He has his own comfortable life now and clearly doesn’t want to be drawn back into the danger of the past. Harper is funny, likable, and relatable, but it’s clear he knows more than he lets on. It’s an interesting dynamic as both characters come off as aging, likable protagonists on opposite sides of the law. It feels as though the excellent dual casting and performances here are rare to see in the same production, a fact I didn’t realize until I was watching it.
As the show progressed, I became increasingly engrossed. The plot thickened, Bridges continued to surprise me with his range, and Lithgow was more likable and convincing as a suit-and-tie FBI director than you would expect. So when I noticed the show was in its final episode, I prepared myself for a high-powered finale and more of what drew me to the show in the beginning.
The Real Twist
Unbeknownst to me, the show has been renewed for another season. It ends without actually ending and without the finale I was desiring. This wouldn’t be bad, except as the show progresses, the action involving Bridges tapered off a bit. There was plenty of exciting story and drama in place of it, but I expected it all to come together in the end.
Now I will have to wait months to a year to get that excitement I was anticipating. Breaking the story up feels like a bold choice as it impacts the effectiveness of the first season. Honestly, it felt like season one is the first half of a two-part story that somewhat abruptly ends in the middle. Had I known, I would have waited until the whole story had been released in the second season to start watching. While I enjoyed season one, I didn’t have a good feeling when it ended and looking back now sometime later, I still feel the same way.
Yes, I recommend The Old Man to those who enjoy mysteries, drama, and spy thrillers. It’s a surprisingly fun show that slowly reels you in and gets better as it gets more complex. My recommendation is to either take your time watching the episodes or wait until season two has been released to start the story. I give The Old Man season one 4 out of 5 unexpected twists.