When I first read about Persons Unknown it instantly sounded like a cross between Lost and the James Mangold psychological thriller Identity... which it is based on the first two episodes, but that’s certainly no bad thing, especially when it’s written by Christopher McQuarrie (of The Usual Suspects scriptwriting fame).
So let’s get the premise out the way first. Basically a group of strangers wake up inside a hotel in the middle of nowhere with no clue of how they got there, who put them there or any obvious link between each of them. As the disparate rabble explore their surrounding they find they are the only inhabitants of a small American (?) town... well, almost the only inhabitants. There is also the handy Chinese restaurant across the road that serves up a mean chow mein with no questions asked. Plus the hotel night manager who offers up as much meaningful information as Dungeon Master. Add to this the fact that an army of blatantly obvious cameras stuck on the ceilings film all the action for an unknown audience and it’s fair to say there’s a Machiavellian plot afoot.
The first episode was really about getting to know the ensemble characters and it’s fair to say that nobody’s been missed off the list; there’s the plucky heroine desperate to get back to her daughter (Janet), the level headed everyman who seems to talk a lot of sense (Joe), the slutty party girl (Tori), the tough talking military grunt (Graham), the loose cannon (Blackham), the sly thinker (Charlie), and the one who seems to know just a little bit too much (Moira).
Oh, I forgot to mention something quite important. You’re probably thinking why don’t they just walk out of the town. They tried that. Unfortunately they weren’t counting on the energy field around the perimeter of the town that knocks you out cold if you try to walk through it.
Joe’s a swell guy, he seems to have enough intelligence to galvanise the group, but he’s just too much of a nice guy. Surely in a show that’s all about conspiracy Joe can’t be as innocent as he seems?
Another great character was Renbe, the trashy journalist investigating the disappearance of Janet back in San Francisco. He’s just the right side of sleazebag (for the record the right side of sleazebag is firmly on the sleazy side). I’m looking forward to seeing how his story pans out. Get Renbe into the town, that’s what I say. The ‘sleazebag’ mould would gel nicely with the rest of the ensemble.
Question, was I the only one who though that Janet’s Mum was exceptionally strange? She even managed to put the hook in Renbe and that’s saying something.
Persons Unknown continues every Monday night at 9pm and 10pm.