Sleeper Cell

january 1, 2007

I rented Showtime's Sleeper Cell from Netflix and it arrived a few days ago. I just finished watching it and I have to say that I a very disappointed with the show. The ideas are provocative, but the execution is terribly flawed. Sleeper Cell is a show about a FBI agent who goes into deep cover (he spent six years in prison to get close to an extremist terrorist group). When this agent (Darwyn) is released from prison, he gets in contact with a sleeper cell who is planning a massive attack on American soil. The show follows Darwyn's quest to get the details of the attack. It also follows the story of the FBI trying to stop the attack. The ideas presented by the show are some of the best. It is too bad that the writers felt the need to pad the story in order to make it fit into a television season. I can easily see Sleeper Cell fitting into a single three-hour movie. But, instead it is padded with fluff to squeeze into a 11-hour series. The series is nearing the premiere of its second season. The main character, Darwyn is not well-written at all. We are led to believe that he has enough will-power to stay in prison for six years. Yet, when he gets out of prison, he becomes a complete bone-head. He takes risks like dating a single-mom who lives next door to one of the sleeper cell members. He takes another risk by going to visit his mom for a party and to fix her TV so that she can watch a 49er's game. He takes a risk by trying to save a Gitmo prisoner and secretly meeting with the State Department. There are other incidents like this that just make the character unbelievable. It is very easily seen that all these risks that he takes are part of the padding. These flaws ruin the whole series. The producers also felt that they needed to throw nudity and sex into almost every episode. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind nudity and sex in TV shows when used appropriately. But, the way that Sleeper Cell's producers did it was excessive and gratuitous. On top of that, the series builds up to what could have been a huge spectacular ending, but it all ends with a whimper. The ending is very anti-climactic and I feel cheated by it. Had Sleeper Cell been made as a three-hour movie without the padding, I am convinced that it would have impressed me a lot more. As it stands, that was 11-hours of decent entertainment which was a bit infuriatingly. Update:  I forgot to mention this earlier...But, if you want to catch a really good counter-terrorism flick, try out The Grid.  That was a well-written mini-series.