If Whiskey Cavalier Season 1 Episode 1, “Pilot,” is a reliable indicator, the network has a true diamond in the rough on its hands.
I had the pleasure of viewing this pilot at the ATX Television Festival last summer, where it was introduced simply as “a fun ride.” I laughed it off at the time as ABC desperately trying to hype their new baby, but the description turned out to be spot-on. The show is almost like a modern, comedic spin on Die Hard with a lightheartedness the world could really benefit from.
The opening scene is a perfect juxtaposition that brings viewers directly to the heart of the show’s universe: FBI agent Will Chase wallowing in his feels while his FBI vest and long guns rest in the closet behind him. Not only does Will wallow, but he does so while belting Total Eclipse of the Heart.
This imagery immediately sets the tone and tells viewers that while there will be action, there will also be a good number of laughs.
The imagery also conveys the grandiosity of the show as Will embarks on a foot chase set against the stunning backdrop of Paris, France. Sure, we are supposed to be dazzled by Will’s ease in jumping off of a bridge onto a boat below, but it’s difficult to focus on his ninja skills when the Eiffel Tower is casually photobombing over his shoulder.
The sequence leading to the title shows the seamless blending of comedy and action. Will saves the day but is then distracted by a couple getting engaged on the corner.
This leads to a tense moment after Will is shot, but he thankfully sits up, begrudgingly removes the bullet from his vest and hilariously mutters, “city of love, my ass!”
Our protagonist is the textbook definition of a hot mess; the poor guy’s breakup with his fiancée, Gigi, is a viral sensation around the bureau. You can’t help but root for the guy, though. The way he intersperses affirmations of positivity and love (“we accept the love we think we deserve”) as he does his work is really quite endearing.
Most of the comedy in Whiskey Cavalier comes from the quips and asides that happen alongside the action. The sequence in Moscow as Will meets Frankie is exceptionally funny thanks to Will’s colleague, Ray, providing play-by-play commentary. Without Ray’s analysis, the scene is simply an FBI agent doing his job. With it, the scene is an amusing set up to an explosive ending.
Explosive is the perfect word to describe Will’s frenemy, Frankie Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan. Frankie’s ability to flip between playing coy and kicking ass is the thing that makes her one of the CIA’s most lethal agents.
The remainder of the pilot following she and Will’s meeting is an amusing, even adorable power struggle. One second, she has him handcuffed, then the next, he’s the one holding the gun to her back. The next thing you know, Will is stuffed into the trunk of a car while Frankie is meeting her colleague, Jai, for beer and a box of tampons.
Oh yes, I said tampons. Hold that thought.
Will and Frankie’s chemistry is evident from their first scene but really fortifies itself after Frankie is shot. The pair share a cute scene inside Ray’s cabin that involves Will standing over her with a knife.
On any other action show, you’d grip the seat cushion while yelling at the television. Here, however, you just laugh and realize that these two might actually be great together.
Are you still holding the thought about the tampons? Good.
Let’s also take a moment to discuss Edgar Standish, played by Tyler James Williams. Edgar is a misunderstood genius who takes over the running commentary from Ray. His remark about sexual tension in the car is one of the funniest moments of the pilot.
Now, back to the tampons. I don’t know about you, but I expect one hell of a payoff when a plot point contains feminine products. Thankfully, I laughed out loud both at the ATX Television Festival and upon rewatch. It turns out that explosive tampons — another perfect way of blending comedy and action — tend to have that effect.
Explosive tampons (the more I type it, the more I realize it would make a great band name) actually have multiple effects. They make the audience laugh, but also break up the action that unfolds while Frankie is unconscious.
Sure, Will and Ray’s commanding officer betrays the entire bureau, but his treason pales in comparison to the revelation that Gigi has been cheating on Will with Ray for seven months. Screw the national security risk. “City of love, my ass” indeed, Will.
Following the action in Lyon, the FBI and CIA come together to give us our team: Will, Frankie, Edgar, Jai and FBI psychologist Susan. All they have to do is take two steps down a hallway for us to feel the #squadgoals radiating.
The one con about Whiskey Cavalier is its timeslot. The show has strong lead-ins in fellow ABC comedies, but is a comedy disguised as a one-hour drama.
Elsewhere on network television, Wednesday is night of dense, heavy-hitters that I fear could overpower the show’s fun, light-hearted nature. Hopefully, Whiskey Cavalier can shine bright enough to stand out in its debut season.
What did you think of the pilot episode of Whiskey Cavalier? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Whiskey Cavalier airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on ABC.
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