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Recommended: The Old Man on FX

Fans of espionage thrillers should devour this quality spy series starring Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow.
  • Jeff Bridges in The Old Man (Photo: FX)
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    The Old Man Season 1 | FX
    Hourlong Espionage Thriller (7 episodes) | TV-MA

    What's The Old Man About?

    Seventysomething widower Dan Chase has lived a normal life for decades, but after an assassin breaks into his home he realizes his past as a spy has finally caught up with him.

    Who's involved?

    • Jeff Bridges plays Dan Chase (or Johnny, or Henry, or Patrick, depending on whom he's talking to.) Thirty years ago, he angered both the U.S. government and a Middle Eastern warlord, and now it seems they all want payback.
    • John Lithgow is Harold Harper, the FBI's Assistant Director of Counterintelligence. He's been entangled with Chase for ages, and he'll play any angle to keep his own secrets hidden.
    • E.J. Bonilla (Bull, Revenge) is Raymond Waters, a CIA agent convinced Harper is hiding something.
    • Alia Shawkat (Search Party, Arrested Development) is Harper's protégé Angela Adams. She isn't happy Waters is pestering her mentor.
    • Amy Brenneman is Zoe McDonald, a divorceé who rents her guest house to Chase, not realizing he's on the run.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    There are two scenes in the first episode of The Old Man that will be catnip for fans of espionage thrillers.

    In the first, Chase takes out his would-be killer with the ease of a man who cannot be defeated. He has the fluid movements of a peerless agent, and even better, he's got two adorable dogs that he's trained to help him fight bad guys. This is a suburban action fantasy come to life, much like the moment in the recent film Nobody when Bob Odenkirk's character goes from chasing the garbage truck to bringing down a squad of goons.

    At least in the four episodes screened for critics, The Old Man's first season maintains the wish-fulfillment premise that Chase is never too old to shoot a drone out of the sky, escape a pair of handcuffs, or pause for a cute moment with the puppies. Is he morally complicated? Yes. But does he have a basically heroic nature, despite his past misdeeds? Absolutely. And starting with that early scene, the show allows him to be a grizzled protagonist we can root for.

    The other key scene in the premiere comes when Harold Harper decimates Agent Waters with a withering speech about his unimpeachable power. He's the sleek intellect to Chase's brute force, which means he manipulates the spy world like those impossibly cool (if spiritually weary) agents in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Harper is just as troubled as Chase and his past is just as murky, and his chess-game approach gives the show a cerebral edge.

    These ingredients have been assembled in many other stories, but when executed at this level, they're no less delicious. Given the propulsive writing, the beautiful cinematogrpahy, and Bridges and Lithgow's lived-in performances, The Old Man ought to be a treat for anyone with a taste for cloak and dagger.

    Pairs well with

    • Reacher, Prime Video's addictive action thriller that knows it's serving a fantasy of pure good vs. pure evil.
    • The Americans, streaming on Prime Video, is the best spy drama in recent memory (and maybe of all time), and it's a clear inspiration for The Old Man.
    • Bloodline, Netflix's mystery series that also pits cunning against force as a family tries to deal with its dark past.

  • The Old Man (Season 1)
    Two episodes premiere June 16 on FX and stream on Hulu. New episodes Thursdays.
    Created by: Jonathan Steinberg and Robert Levine.
    Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, E.J. Bonilla, Alia Shawkat, Amy Brenneman, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Bill Heck, and Joel Grey.
    Directed by: Jon Watts and Greg Yaitanes.
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    TOPICS: The Old Man, FX, Alia Shawkat, Amy Brenneman, Bill Heck, E.J. Bonilla, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Greg Yaitanes, Jeff Bridges, Joel Grey, John Lithgow, Jonathan Steinberg, Jon Watts, Robert Levine