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"Threat Matrix" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/02/2003

Ever since the Department of Homeland Security was created two years ago, there have been attempts on TV to show the drama of it.  CBS’s “The Agency” was one of the first attempts, but it was somewhat boring in my opinion (I know it was the CIA, but they dealt with the same thing.)  ABC’s “Threat Matrix” is the next attempt (NBC had a show set for this season called “Homeland Security,” but it was dropped), and it isn’t too bad.


The intro to the show sums up what it is about precisely.  “Every morning at 0800 hours, the President of the United States is given a report that outlines the most active international and domestic threats against the United States.  This document is called the Threat Matrix.  To combat these threats, the President, through the Department of Homeland Security, has created a highly specialized, elite task force whose mission is to keep our country safe from enemies determined to destroy our way of life.”  Special Agent John Kilmer (James Denton) leads this task force.  He is a 42-year-old former FBI agent who has White House authorization to call upon the technical skills, firepower, and the specialist agents of the FBI, CIA, and NSA, among others.  Kilmer’s only superior, other than the President himself, is Colonel Roger Atkins (Will Lyman), the operations liaison to the President.  Kilmer works with his ex-wife, Special Agent Frankie Ellroy-Kilmer (Kelly Rutherford.)  She is a 35-year-old, highly trained interrogation expert and profiler whose skills allow her to crack even the toughest enemies.  John and Frankie work with the rest of the team in the “Vault,” located at Fort Meade.  Mo (Anthony Azizi) is a 34-year-old Egyptian-American former CIA operative stationed in the Middle East.  Lia “Lark” Larkin (Melora Walters) is a 36-year-old former FBI forensics specialist.  Tim Serrano (Kurt Caceres) is a 28-year-old DEA agent from Miami.  Jelani (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) is a 24-year-old African-American computer genius formerly with the National Security Agency who intercepts phone, fax, and radio signals from around the world with his computer called Echelon and supports the team with the latest NSA technology.  Holly Brodeen (Shoshannah Stern) is a 23-year-old lip-reading deaf woman who is also a computer whiz and signs all of her speech to her teammates.


In the first episode, John’s team does a mock takeover of a missile site in Wyoming.  They feed bees through the vent and then pose as beekeepers to get in.  They steal a warhead, and return it to the Department of Energy, demonstrating how a terrorist could easily do the same thing.  A prisoner who is requesting asylum in the United States tells the government there is a shipping container in which a group of terrorists is hiding, and that it is on its way to the U.S.  Frankie is sent to Jarkarta to question a Swiss heroin dealer named Marc Radenmacher (Brad Greenquist) who sold the terrorist group his drug route, which is headed for San Francisco.  She does this by showing the Marc’s brother living in Arizona (he is in witness protection, but Marc thought he was dead.  She offers to reunite him with his brother and put him in witness protection.)  As she is transporting him to the plane that will take them back to America, they are ambushed, and Marc is shot dead.  This complicates things for the team, because they still don’t know specifics, including who the terrorists are meeting and what they plan to do.  They have to handle that problem while Frankie fends for herself back in Jakarta.  They find the boat with the terrorists, and they are teenagers.  They discover that they were a front for another terrorist group that headed for South Dakota.  Jelani intercepts a police CB radio call about a container exploding and John goes to South Dakota to check it out.  They find out that the terrorist had been stowed away in the container and got out (and blew it up to cover his tracks.)  He made a phone call to Chicago to a sleeper agent (assigned to wait for a cue to do his dastardly deed), and they interview a waitress (Dendrie Taylor) in Chicago that helps them find the agent, who plans on blowing up the Chicago Commodities Exchange.  He is a guy named Fayez Ahmed (Adam Donshik), who got plastic surgery and a job at the CCE (posing as an employee named Tommy) so he could easily get in and blow it up.  They find the guy and knock him out, but before they can disarm the bomb strapped to his body, they toss him in the bomb squad van and blow him up.  A menacing figure named Kombali (Marc Casabani) watches the news on TV that only the terrorist died.  Oh, and Frankie?  The CIA rescues her, but the terrorists kill them and hold Frankie for ransom.  The government trades the Jakarta teens for Frankie, but that is hush hush.


In the second episode, a homicide detective named Joe Miller (Paul Webster) becomes the victim of a terrorist car bomb.  The team fears that a similar event is going to take place at a Veteran’s Day parade that is planned for Washington, D.C.  Their investigation unearths the fact that a military demolitions specialist (Dustin Harris) has been selling C-4 to terrorists and that the terrorists have been using money supplied by a Utah drug dealer named Teddy Boyne (Wade Andrew Williams) and his messed up girlfriend Denise (Megan Follows) to make their purchases.  With the help of a DEA agent Maria Cruz (Dahlia Salem), a former partner of Tim’s back in Miami, they capture Teddy (though Maria is a user herself, and at one point later in the episode, she loses Teddy while snorting coke in the bathroom.)  Teddy is a Gulf War vet who is selling drugs out of desperation, and had no idea he was funding a Canadian al-Qaeda cell’s terrorist activities.  With Teddy’s help, the team finds the terrorists in time to stop them from bombing the parade (though Teddy blows himself up in a misguided attempt to kill the terrorists himself.)


The show is fast paced (almost too fast), and they always seem to get their terrorist.  I’m waiting for them to fail once, so it isn’t always Perry Mason-like.  So far the action has been exciting, and they seem to self evaluate themselves (in the second episode, they discover that some of the drug money that they seized came from the government.)  I don’t know if that is reality or preaching, but it is interesting.


The only thing that got on my nerves was the divorced couple banter between John and Frankie.  I realize that it was intended to be cute, but it came off as annoying.  Fortunately, they cut it out in the second episode.

I will watch “Threat Matrix” for as long as it lasts, which I don’t predict will be too long.  Why is that?  It is because the show is going head-to-head with CBS’s “Survivor: Pearl Islands,” NBC’s “Friends” and “Scrubs,” wrestling on UPN, and if it lasts that long, the new Eliza Dushku vehicle “Tru Calling” on FOX (another show I predict biting the dust because of its timeslot.)  If you want to see where this show went right where “The Agency” went wrong, you’d better hurry up!

Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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