Whiskey Cavalier Review – Spy Hijinx Takes A Shot At Mainstream

Whiskey Cavalier is a show that has to be a lot of fun to make, and a lot of viewers could easily end their own reviews there. This is a show that asks a lot of its audience, but isn’t quite clever enough to broach the subject until you’ve already shown up.

Purporting to offer up a somewhat irreverent spy extravaganza with the FBI and CIA clashing, and starring easy draw actors, Whiskey Cavalier is actually much closer to live-action Scooby Doo that nevertheless suggests it has “a badass CIA operative.”

Will Chase (Scott Foley) is an FBI agent, and we enter the show with him on the trail of Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams), who has apparently stolen classified information. While on Standish’s trail in Russia, where he has been taken captive by nefarious people who want said information, Will meets Frankie (Lauren Cohan), a CIA operative who is also after Standish and takes the pair of them captive until she can turn Standish over to her superiors.

It sounds good on paper, even when you throw in the constant “my government agency is better than your group of idiots” banter. Paper, however, doesn’t quite relay the lunacy of Frankie blowing up a window in a bar, apparently for no other reason than she doesn’t like doors, the utterly impossible appearance of Frankie on a train that’s straight out of a cartoon, or the repeated “Aha! Now you’re my prisoner!” antics that are part Marx Brothers and part Gilligan’s Island.

The real problem with the show is that it won’t pick what it’s doing. A spy series that has some laughs and doesn’t exactly take things as seriously as the situation might normally demand could be a hit, especially with this cast, but the show bounces around so frequently that there’s no solid ground at all. You can’t throw together a story that wants even a mildly serious tone and then Get Smart your way out of danger, or offer up characters who would obviously off everyone in the room at the first sign of danger and have them laze their way through a lot of dialog because it’s joke time.

Whiskey Cavalier
courtesy ABC

The result of this waffling approach, especially through the pilot’s establishment, makes for something that’s hard to sit through unless you can steel yourself to leave all expectations at the door for an occasionally humorous ride with some of your favorite actors. Just when you think the show might have gotten it out of its system, the pilot ends with a guy who is all but required to say, “and I would have gotten away with it too!”

All that said, this feels like a show that was pitched with a hard push toward where we end up after 6-8 episodes, and we’ll figure out how we get there later. Once we figure out our team, and the initial “mine’s bigger than yours” is behind us, this could settle into a semi-comedic procedural worth the time. It’s going to need a bigger divergence from what it seems to be after, or from the appearance that it doesn’t seem to be after anything, if it really wants to win over fans though. The constant shift in tone makes audiences ask questions they don’t want to keep asking, and distracts from what fun there is getting involved with this crew.

Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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