Spies were great in Slow Horses; they are even better in The Old Man. One might say this is really two old men, Jeff Bridges, age 72, and John Lithgow, age 76, still at the top of their craft. Both have secrets buried for over thirty years that they want to keep that way. Recent events in Kabul, specifically a man with a long memory, threaten to expose matters Dan Chase and Harold Harper prefer unexposed. Chase has a daughter to protect (or does he?), Harper his reputation. Both are desperate. One has a set of skills, the other 10,000 agents and a $10 billion budget. Neither are to be messed with.
A six-episode series on Thursday nights on FX, The Old Man is a different kind of show. In the first two episodes, Bridges and Lithgow are never on the screen together, yet their phone conversations are riveting. It has the feel of an old-time radio show. Bridges converses with his daughter, never seen. Is she real or imagined, alive or dead? Characters are allowed time to speak at length without interruption. All seems so old school, but so effective as we learn Chase was called Baba-Khokhore, “the beast who eats everything.” Harper was the CIA Station chief advising Chase not to ally with Faraz Hamzad, an Afghan warlord fighting the Russians. Intrigued? We have just begun to scratch the surface. I give The Old Man 4.5 Gavels and it receives a 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating with an excellent 8.5/10 IMDb score.
Warning Chase that the CIA located him, Harper advises Chase to disappear. If not, the government will order Harper to find him and bring him in. What leverage does Hamzad have that the US is willing to turn Chase over to settle a thirty year old grudge? Abbey Chase, now deceased some five years, had a foreign accent. Did Chase steal Hamzad’s betrothed? Did Harper help them flee Afghanistan? Will a hired assassin be able to do what the CIA and FBI can’t? Zoe McDonald is about to step into a quagmire from which there appears no escape.
Clearly, this is Jeff Bridges best work since nominated for an Oscar in Hell or High Water. The extended fight scene at the end of episode one is a bit much, but his cunning is spot on. Still reeling from the loss of his son and daughter-in-law in a car crash, a weary Harold Harper gets the call demanding he take charge of the Dan Chase matter. He intends to share no more than absolutely necessary, even at the necessity of hiring an assassin. John Lithgow is brilliant in this role. Now, add Amy Brenneman as lonely Zoe McDonald into this vortex of international spies. No one close to Dan Chase can ever be safe.
After The Old Man kills three of his agents, Raymond Waters asks “Who is this guy and what are we dealing with?” “He’s a ghost and you will never find him,” answers Harper. Yet, Harper knows him and his habits, only too well. Finding him is one thing. Bringing him in or killing him is another. Like all great spy yarns, The Old Man has plenty of layers already disclosed with many, many more still to come.
“The spy genre is so well worn one would think there’s not much new to be done, but The Old Man largely confounds those expectations, thanks to the stellar combination of Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow.” CNN.com
“The Old Man wants you to feel the pain of both an unclean conscience and a fight to the death. One way or another, everyone here gets dirty.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Sometimes a series is so breathtaking and complex and smart that it blows your mind. FX’s The Old Man is one of them.” What She Said
Sometimes you wish you said What She Said.