I’m just gonna come out and say this—it’s unfair that some 20 years after Firefly was so rudely canceled, Morena Baccarin is somehow even more gorgeous than before. Thankfully, the talented actress isn’t just a pretty face. She’s shown over the years she’s a very capable actress, ranging from a calm doctor in Gotham to the ruthless lizard monarch in the V remake to Deadpool’s awesome better half. But I’ve never seen her cast as the lead character in anything before, which is a big part of why I decided to cover The Endgame. The other is because the show is decidedly inspired by another favorite of mine, The Blacklist.
NBC must like their criminal mastermind capers, cause I see a lot of similarities between The Endgame and The Blacklist. Both shows have a charming yet sinister anti-hero who manages to know everything that’s going on and manipulate events to their advantage. Both shows also deal with Eastern Europe and Russia, and the aftereffects of the disintegration of the USSR. They also both feature villains secured in heavy-duty containers. There are more comparisons I could probably make, but I don’t want to spoil anything if you’re unversed with either show. What really matters is how well The Endgame stands on its own two feet. So far, I can confirm they stand steadily and with confidence.
The Endgame Pilot starts with a modern fairy tale about a daughter who loved her father. We are shown a rather sturdy and angry young woman, who levels a RPG at a passing vehicle and then explodes it, flipping it dangerously. We naturally assume that young anarchist is Morena Baccarin’s character as a child. She plays Elena Federova, a criminal mastermind and leader of the organization that roughly translates to ‘Snow White’. And no, I doubt that’s the last fairy tale reference we’ll hear in the show.
What’s surprising is that it turns out the angry young woman wasn’t actually Elena. Instead, Elena’s the young girl who was in the vehicle that got attacked, and her kind father was murdered in the resulting catastrophe. She manages to escape and run into the forest, but is pursued by the murderous bitch child and her cruel father. Elena gets stabbed, but instead of dying, she summons some fierce inner strength. She rips out the knife and hurls it into the neck of the older man, then snaps the neck of her young assailant. Which is how Elena’s story starts, but far from how it ends.
In the present, Elena is trapped in a metal box. She seemingly was captured by the American government, and they think they have her as an unwilling captive audience that will shower them with useful intel. It’s quickly made apparent the situation isn’t as straightforward as it seems, and even in confinement, Elena starts making moves. She has a mole in the FBI that plants a note on the director, and with a diabolical smirk, she implies there’s more mischief to come. In fact, she promises that by the end of the day, one of the three people interrogating her will be out of a job.
The other main character in The Endgame is Val Turner. She’s played by Ryan Michelle Bathe, and I’d like to say I’m also familiar with her. But most of her extensive resume appears to be from medical dramas and romantic dramedies, which aren’t the types of shows I usually watch. Regardless, I can say I’m a fan after watching her portrayal of a motivated FBI agent in The Endgame. She’s a dedicated agent whose husband inexplicably turned to crime and wound up in prison. She suspects that situation isn’t kosher, but can’t prove her suspicions. Instead, his imprisonment hangs around her head like an albatross, keeping her pushed to the corner and ignored by her bosses. But they start paying attention in the pilot, since she has past experience with Federova, and is apparently the only one able to accurately profile the criminal mastermind.
Val’s troubles begin when she’s visiting her husband in prison, and he says that he suddenly wants a divorce. Things quickly get worse, as abruptly several New York banks get hit by armed robbers. Val looks into it and starts to notice discrepancies, such as how one bank was hit two days before it was supposed to get a huge infusion of money. She starts to become highly suspicious and finally gets drawn to Fort Totten in Queens, which is where Elena is being held. Some years back, she tried to have Val killed, and Val is eager to bring her to justice.
Val is tasked with her expertise and past experience with Elena, and she starts to see more of the pattern. Like how all the bank robberies are Elena’s doing. She recognizes the real target might be the Federal Reserve, but when she gets there, a false SWAT kidnaps a woman with access to the building and makes their way into the facility. Then Val gets a call from the lawyers representing her husband and learns that Elena framed him for the crime he’s doing time for. She’ll play ball and let him go, assuming Val agrees to do as she asks.
Overall, I thought The Endgame Pilot was a very solid start, full of action-packed heists and clever ruses aplenty. As a fan of The Blacklist, I think this show has the potential to be just as good, if not better. A lot will depend on what Elena’s endgame actually is, and whether Val is able to stop her from reaching it.