TV Review: “The Player” Takes The House

Synopsis (NBC): 

From the executive producers of “The Blacklist” comes the action-packed Las Vegas-set thriller “The Player.” The series co-stars Wesley Snipes as a pit boss and Charity Wakefield as the dealer for a high-stakes game where an organization of wealthy individuals gamble on the ability of former military operative turned security expert Philip Winchester (“Strike Back,” “Fringe”) to stop some of the biggest crimes imaginable from playing out. Can he take them down from the inside and get revenge for the death of his wife, or is it true what they say: The house always wins.

My thoughts: WHAT. A. SHOW.

This is a roller coaster of a show. It’s tightly written, it’s explosive, and it’s literally a joyride.

What really makes the show work, in my view, isn’t the character of The Player, Alex Kane (Philip Winchester). Alex is a great character, and Winchester plays him well, but the character could literally be anyone (which gets into what could happen down the road with new seasons). What really makes the show work are the characters of the the Pit Boss, Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes) and the Dealer, Cassandra King (Charity Wakefield). These two and the magic they have is terrific. I’m not the biggest fan of Doctor Who, but I know of the malleability of the Doctor and how he changes each time he incarnates. To me, Mr. Johnson and Cassandra are NBC’s version of The Doctor, a version of The Doctor I can get behind.

These two characters appear to be constants, which could easily take The Player from being a completely serialized show to an anthology show. Every season or two, the Pit Boss and the Dealer bring in a  new Player, and with every change, we get to see how each new Player brings out different aspects, good and bad, of the two constants. I’d love to see that. Right now, we see that Cassandra has a Mrs. Lovett-esque torch for Alex; she was (or was posing as) his ex-wife’s friend. Did she kill the wife? Does she and Mr. Johnson only pick Players they have personal ties to?

This calls into question whether Alex is really an expendable character. The beginning of the episode itself starts with the premise that The Player is expendable—Mr. Johnson is standing over a dead body, tsking at the man’s failure. How long will Alex be able to last? Eventually, the memory of his blessed ex-wife will run slap into Alex’s penchant for killing just to kill. How is Alex going to fight against himself while the Pit Boss keeps sending him on killing missions? When will things get to be too much for him? Currently, he’s plotting to kill the Pit Boss, but we also don’t know what happened to the dead guy in the beginning; if you try to leave, does the Pit Boss kill you? We’ve already seen how lethal he is when Alex tried to kill him. I don’t think Alex is any match for him.

Overall, I’m going to have this show on my watch list (there are really too many shows this season). I can’t wait to see the next episode. What about you? Write your opinions below!

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THE PLAYER — “Pilot” — Pictured: (l-r) Philip Winchester as Alex Kane, Wesley Snipes as Johnson — (Photo by: Gregory Peters/NBC)