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'American Odyssey' review: Special ops premiere on NBC

Anna Friel portrays Odelle Ballard in a scene

Anna Friel portrays Odelle Ballard in a scene from the new 12-episode drama "American Odyssey," premiering April 5 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC. Photo Credit: AP / Keith Bernstein

BOTTOM LINE

Overpacked story in the opener, but "American Odyssey" is still very ambitious and very different.

THE SERIES "American Odyssey"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The special ops unit led by Sgt. Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) kills a leading terrorist in Mali. Meanwhile, on her computer, she discovers something strange: A $30 million wire transfer . . . from an American multinational corporation. Before she can tell the world, her unit is attacked -- by Americans -- but she escapes. Meanwhile, stateside, corporate litigator Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli) is getting ready to raise some capital for this mysterious multinational. But a group of Occupy Wall Streeters, led by activist Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson) will impact that plan because all of them are about to be pulled into Sgt. Ballard's wild odyssey.

MY SAY Think of "American Odyssey" as a series of spinning plates, each with the some epic cultural, political, global or social theme -- Benghazi, Terrorism, Corporate malfeasance, the global economy, cyber-sleuths, espionage, conspiracy, the military industrial complex . . . And then some more plates, these ones with names of some cool movies on them names on them, like "Traffic" or "Three Days of the Condor" or "Syriana." These are mostly there just as homage or guide posts to orient viewers. (This is not, repeat, not an adaptation of Homer's "The Odyssey.")

You will note, this is a lot of spinning plates, but you may also -- as I did -- still marvel that not one comes crashing down in Sunday's sharply directed opener. (Veteran producer and actor, Peter Horton, who is one of "Odyssey's" showrunners, does the honors here.) Even more to marvel at, there's actually a story connecting them all -- perhaps ultimately a good one that has something to say about the big, complicated world we live in as we now know it.

But first, you'll have to navigate past those plates. There are, in fact, too many plates. At worse, they induce vertigo, or prevent close inspection for logical consistency (and there is some). But at its best, they promise something unique, even smart.

And here's a good sign: Next week slows down.

GRADE B+

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