The COVID-19 pandemic has been a big problem for the entertainment world. One of the shows affected was the FX miniseries The Old Man, starring Jeff Bridges, coinciding with his own illness during that period. The Old Man finally came out on FX on Hulu this month, a year after it was supposed to.
Dan Chase (Jeff Bridges) is an old CIA Agent living off the grid until he is drawn back into a world of spies, terrorism, and assassins he had forgotten long ago. While on the run, he rents a room from an innocent bystander Zoe (Amy Brennaman), a woman with a troubled past of her own. Chase gets her involved in his cat and mouse game with an old FBI agent friend tasked with finding him and bringing him in Harold Harper (John Lithgow). Caught in the middle is Chase’s daughter Angela/Emily (Alia Shawkat).
The Old Man is based on the novel by Thomas Perry, an acclaimed author of over twenty-nine novels. He is known for delivering thrilling stories and engaging characters that would be remembered long after reading the books. The same goes for this story, a miniseries on FX on Hulu. The Bridges character’s story is split into two separate arcs: One where he was a younger agent (Bill Heck) in Afghanistan fighting alongside terrorists against the Russians, and the other following the older Chase trying to save his daughter and fix things he put into motion years before.
Spy stories come in all forms, but they need two things to be successful: exciting characters and an engaging story that keeps the viewer interested throughout the book, film, or television show. The Old Man has both in spades. The characters are fascinating, and the story has layers peeled open like an onion. The various levels of this story are fascinating. The split story helps get to the crux of this story. This man has a lot of explaining to do to a lot of people, and if the answers he has aren’t good enough, people could die. That’s what he’s trying to prevent.
The one thing about this show I have a complaint about is its length. The writers adapted this story pretty well, but a more compact version would have been better. The seven episodes were a little too long for my liking. Even though the show flows pretty well, it lags in places such as moments of characters driving in cars or flying on planes. These types of scenes make for a dragging show. If the series were six episodes, it might have been a little tighter and flowed a little better — no lag in the story. And less exposition would have worked better.
Some of the things I do like about the show are the performances from Bridges, Brennaman, and Lithgow. It’s clear to see why these three are considered real pros in their field. They eat this dialogue up like it were their own and do a great job in this show. The other thing I like about the show is the layered story which could have gotten confusing but isn’t. It’s right out of the Spy 101 book, playing multiple sides against each other. It still doesn’t get bogged down.
Three names that were integral in making this series are Robert Levine, Jonathan Steinberg, the creators, and Jon Watts, who directed two episodes of the show. These three men infused it with their knowledge and expertise, and that’s why it came out as well as it did. The novel was always there for backup, but the show needed some intrigue, deception, and character building. Setting up the world, which was set in the ’80s and the present day, was also important. It all worked very well.
The Old Man is a show with layers and layers and levels of storytelling that are drawn with a precision of a scalpel. Each piece of this story was designed to perfection. The acting by the three leads — Bridges, Lithgow, and Brennaman — alongside a few others was terrific. Everybody played a little part in this fantastic entertaining show. This show has all the features that a show such as this needs. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media