Judge Cynthia Boris was screaming at the TV. Screaming, mind you.
"You're not very good with people, are you Mr. Knapp?"
2006 was the year of the serial drama. Hot on the heels of 24 and Prison Break, the major networks scrambled to find a series that played into the "one incident, one season" style of storytelling. It's an ironic twist for an industry that has always looked for properties with longevity. I mean, once the crime is solved in Season One, where do you go in Season Two? Of course, that's what they said about Prison Break and they're headed for Season Three.
In the end, what to do in Season Two wasn't the problem. The problem for shows such as Vanished and The Nine was how to make it through the first season with viewers too afraid to tune in to a mystery that would have no end. In what may have been a precedent setting move, NBC gave its series Kidnapped fair warning that it was about to be canceled, and the go-ahead to wrap the series in thirteen episodes instead of the usual twenty-two. The network yanked the show after five but since the series was complete they were able to release it on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Leopold Cain (Will Denton) is the teenaged son of a wealthy industrialist (Timothy Hutton, The Last Mimzy). He speaks French, likes to swim (holding his breath underwater is a specialty), and he has a bodyguard named Virgil (Mykelti Williamson) who gets shot when Leo is kidnapped on his way to school one morning.
Conrad Cain and his wife Ellie (Dana Delaney) hire a freelance "retrieval specialist," a loose cannon named Knapp (Jeremy Sisto, Broken) while the FBI sends over their top man, Latimer King (Delroy Lindo, Gone in 60 Seconds).
As the plot unfolds, King and Knapp find themselves wound up in a string of secrets and lies that make them wonder if Conrad Cain isn't involved in the kidnapping of his own son. Print yourself a scorecard; you'll need one to keep track of this thrilling—but complicated—TV series.
Wow. Want to know what I thought of this show? Ask my husband and son. I drove them nuts with all of my shrieks, screams, and shouts at the TV. I can't tell you when I last saw a show that so drove me to sit with my nose just about pressed to the screen so I wouldn't miss a moment. Kidnapped had me hooked.
Not only was this series practically made for DVD, it's really the only way to watch it. The show is a solid forty-two minutes of material with each episode representing one day. There are no coming attractions, a 20 second title card instead of opening credits, and no recap. That's right, no "previously on Kidnapped"—which means that if you don't pay attention, you're screwed. As a regularly scheduled TV series, this handling was certain death for the show. Miss one episode you might as well give up! But on DVD, it's perfect.
The show has a lot in common with 24. Though the stakes (and thus, the body count) isn't quite as high, there's still plenty of blood-spurting, cold-blooded killings in Kidnapped to keep any Jack Bauer fan happy. And if plot complications are your thing, then you'll wet yourself with joy over this one. Kidnapped has more twists and turns than San Francisco's Lombard Street and they keep coming right up to the very end.
What amazes me is how they were going to stretch this thing out to twenty-two episodes. Did they toss a half dozen side stories or did they simply compact twenty-two scripts into thirteen and that's why the series is so jam packed? Whatever the reason, now that I know the who and the why, I want to go back and watch it all again just so I can follow all the clever clues that were laid out for me to see (and I missed).
What makes the show work is the team work of the two leads, King and Knapp. Despite them coming from different sides of the table (King working within the FBI rules, and Knapp working with no rules), the two men form a perfect partnership reminiscent of the Lethal Weapon movies. Delroy Lindo's King is almost a carbon copy of Danny Glover's Murtaugh. Sisto's Knapp isn't quite as volatile as Gibson's Riggs. Though they both have a loose cannon style, Knapp has a darker, more sinister edge. Knapp has a back-story that deals with life in a cult, but other than a brief mention of this, that plotline is never explored. I suspect this is one of the threads that was cut when they sliced the episode count. It's an area I would have liked to see explored more.
I enjoy that they let these two play nice together instead of going for the stereotypical "hard-nosed agent butts heads with freewheeling freelancer." Both of these guys are pros, and seeing them puzzle through the evidence with two different styles makes for great TV.
Actually, everybody in this show is smart, down to the kidnapped Leo Cain. One of my biggest pet peeves is when scriptwriters write themselves into a corner and use stupidity to get themselves out. (There's a serial killer on the loose! Stay in your homes! Hmm, I think I'll take out the garbage before I lock myself inside for the night…la de da, you deserve to die.) There's none of that on Kidnapped.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Having said all of that, I must rebut by saying Kidnapped may be too complicated, in a "Jack Bauer saves the world again" way. Many parts of the conspiracy are a bit too neat, and there were many moments where I questioned the feasibility. I like a smart villain, but this guy is just a little too perfect.
Also, because the show was cut from twenty-two to thirteen episodes, there are many plot points that are never revisited. They don't affect the conclusion or the enjoyment of the main plot, but be prepared to have things left unsaid.
Lastly, one of my DVD pet peeves—spoilers in the featurette! Usually, I don't watch the featurettes until I've seen the whole DVD but in this case I made an exception because the thing was placed on the second disc and not the last. I was thrilled at first. "Ransom Notes" is a really cool piece that shows you the significance of all of the character names. I was digging on it big time until I saw something I didn't want to see—the reveal. Yep, the featurette shows you who is behind the kidnapping and it's as plain as day. I jumped for the stop button but it was too late. The ending was spoiled for me and in a show like this, where literally all thirteen episodes lead up to that moment, it was a stupid move.
DVD producers, hear me. Either stop putting spoilers in your featurettes or plaster a huge spoiler warning at the beginning. It's a dumb, dumb, move.
To quote Latimer King:
"I find missing people for a living. Getting shot at is just a bonus."
This court finds Kidnapped: The Complete Series to be guilty of multiple homicides, grand theft auto, destruction of public property, bribery, assault with a deadly weapon, child endangerment, blackmail, impersonating an officer, and making terrorist threats. These guys are going away for a long time.
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