There’s something about a show that can literally use a one-word verb as its title. One that summarizes the entire narrative. Kidnap! Bankrob! You get the idea. So for those of you still wondering what happens in this action thriller series, you can lean on that title and be confident that you have it figured out. There is a plane. There are a bunch of people on that plane. And a small group who decide to take that flight captive. That’s it. Other than the fact that they’ve not planned for Idris Elba to be on that plane. Not a cop. Not an air marshal. Nope, he’s just a dude trying to get back to his fractured family. And those are the most dangerous types.
Is this show realistic? Absolutely not. It stretches credulity to a point that it verges on satire. But that’s what makes it fun. We’ve seen realistic hostage movies and television shows. They’re generally bummers. But, honestly, we’ve also seen this thing before. Just not on a plane. Unless, of course, you include… like 47 movies with “hijack,” “flight,” “airport,” or “sky” in the title where some ruffian takes down a gang of hijackers through shear will and moxy. So, yeah, we’ve actually seen this thing 1,000 times. Die Hard on a plane. To be fair, this show — while not in any way original — uses its main character/savior, Sam Nelson (Elba), as a more intellectual foil than one who blazes his way out of the situation. Why you use a very fit man like Elba to just talk his way into and out of things rather than just punching and shooting shit, I don’t know, but this was the choice. It felt odd, his passivity.
Taking off from Dubai on their way to London, we have a plane full of characters. The douchebag. The family man. The kid. The teenaged girl football team. The renegade. You know how it goes: we will have to interact with some of these folks at some juncture and they with each other, so we get little introductions to each as they board to give us a small idea of who we’re dealing with. The hodge-podge crew eventually hijacks the plane (it wouldn’t be a show without that part) and we start to speculate what their motivations are. These don’t seem like your typical hijackers, after all. Meanwhile, the plane flies through all sorts of unfriendly airspace, is constantly threatened with shoot-downs, only to be saved at the last second because that’s how life works, I guess. And all the while Sam bends the situation to his will. He is a professional negotiator, after all! What luck. Anyway, we vacillate during the flight as to what Sam’s motivations are as well. Does he really have his fellow passenger’s best interest at heart, or is he just into self-preservation so he can land safely to stalk his wife, who’s living with another man? Or are is his seeming sketchiness and many fuck-ups all part of a larger plan to land the plane safely? He’s complicated!
Honestly, there’s not a whole lot of plot to unfurl here. The show does a good job of keeping the tension pretty high, making you question every character’s level of honesty and dedication to the cause and wonder who else could possibly shoot or get shot on a plane without a giant hole being ripped in the fuselage. Despite the misdirects and feints, nothing that surprising happens. No aliens. No ghosts. No real twists. Though when we do find out why these people decided to hijack a plane it’s… convoluted. A bank shot into a bank shot. A plan that could only be dreamt up by a room of TV writers. There are other bits of ridiculousness in the show, including a team of murderers that actually dress as cleaners in head-to-toe clean suits in order to throw off suspicion. You know, because every person in London has their flat tidied by two shady dudes in scrubs that happen to not shed DNA on premises. And scenes of a giant commercial airliner flying yards off the ground, with Londoners just casually strolling around without a care. As if people wouldn’t be running screaming like lunatics if something that large were about to crash into their city. Or them. But, again, ridiculousness doesn’t necessarily disqualify this as a fun watch. I do with they gave Elba a little more ability to stretch his range (he’s a pretty taciturn guy, ultimately) a bit, but it’s worth a watch if you just want some mindless, old-fashioned thriller TV.