The opening episode of this new modern-day spy thriller is astoundingly good. In fact, it’s so impressive that the remainder of the series can't quite match that initial impact. Yet the quality of the drama of The Old Man remains so high throughout that it’s never less than a compelling watch.
A plot shaped by flashbacks, hallucinations, seemingly disconnected storylines, and hidden connections between key players, confirms The Old Man's refusal to spoon-feed its audience. With storytelling that revels in the unexpected, this remains above all a character piece. The shocking acts of self-aggrandisement and retribution, and all of the conflicts between loyalty and betrayal, pivot around an extraordinary performance by Jeff Bridges in the lead role. Bridges plays Dan Chase, an accomplished CIA operative who’s been on the run from the agency for decades after going rogue on a mission in Afghanistan. Chase’s past decisions have now returned to threaten him and his daughter. There’s nothing glamorous about the struggle for survival that follows, with depictions of up-close violence that are visceral and unflinching.
Bridges’ portrayal of an ageing spook, struggling to rekindle the abilities of his younger self is riveting and recognisable. He’s matched in the acting stakes by John Lithgow, playing an agency boss nearing retirement and resentful of the scrutiny of a new generation of agents, and Amy Brenneman as a fragile but resourceful divorcee whose life is upended by Chase’s arrival. Superb writing, a captivating cast, a series of audacious plot twists and a thrilling cliffhanger: the show’s deserved renewal for a second series proves that there’s life in the old man yet.
Series one of THE OLD MAN will screen on DISNEY+ in the UK and is available on FX in the US.