There has not been a TV show in quite some time hat has so effectively illustrated the tensions and issues involved in America’s battle against its radical external enemies as “SEAL Team.” This new CBS “blood-and-sand” military drama, which launched to initial critical acclaim in September 2017, follows the adventures of an elite Bravo team of Navy SEALs. These brave soldiers are deployed to far-flung points of the globe to do battle with terrorists, extremists and a variety of other evildoers in the world. It’s a first-rate TV show, driven forward in part by the phenomenal acting of a cast led by David Boreanaz.
“SEAL Team” captures the drama and tensions of an elite fighting unit
The major dynamic of “SEAL Team,” of course, is the drama that happens between the members of an elite SEAL team. There is the team leader, Jason Hayes (played by David Boreanaz), as well as four other individuals who play key roles in the 13-episode CBS series: Ray Perry (played by Neil Brown Jr.), Sonny Quinn (played by A.J. Buckley) and Clay Spenser (played by Max Theriot).
How all of these team members interact is really part of the magic and spectacle of this TV show. For example, the closest friend of Jason Hayes is Ray Perry. He is the person that Hayes can count on in true moments of peril, and it is a very singular friendship indeed. And then there is the fascinating story of Clay Spenser, a second-generation Navy SEAL who is currently still adjusting to the life and rigor of being a SEAL. We sense that he is made of strong stuff indeed, but compared to others on his team, he is still very much a SEAL in training. In the very episode of the show, he ends up shooting a terrorist despite strict orders to bring him in alive, setting up enormous tension with his team members.
And there is more that feeds this dramatic tension of this SEAL team. For example, one of the early plotlines of the show (including Episode 1 “Tip of the Spear”) involves how each team member is dealing with the recent loss of a team member. As the series progresses, we start to see the broad outlines of how much these brave men have risked, all in the hopes of protecting their nation and making their families proud.
“SEAL Team” sends us on dramatic missions around the world
If you enjoy the “Jason Bourne” movies, in which protagonists are sent around the world to a head-spinning number of exotic locations, you’ll enjoy the narrative of CBS’s “SEAL Team.” There have only been 13 episodes of this riveting new TV show, but it seems like with every new episode, we are sent somewhere truly dangerous and destabilized around the globe. For example, in Episode 2, the team is sent on a mission to destroy chemical weapons. In Episode 3, the team is sent to the South China Sea to rescue a team of researchers. In Episode 5, they are sent to the South Sudan to help evacuate an embassy. Other missions take them to Afghanistan, Yemen and other flash points around the world.
In every one of these cases, the SEAL Team is sent on some of the most dangerous missions possible – and that just ratchets up the dramatic tension of this TV show. In one case, they are sent on a race against time to prevent the implementation of a “dirty bomb” plot. In others, they must capture dangerous war criminals or outwit their rivals from other superpower states. In Episode 9, for example, this SEAL team must match wits with the Russians and the Chinese.
“SEAL Team” features compelling characters, not just stereotypical clichés
Where “SEAL Team” really excels is in its depiction of the inner demons, hard choices, and mental anguish faced by each of the team members. For example, David Boreanaz’s character must grapple with the loss of a close friend in combat. The loss has left him mentally weakened, and he is forced to undergo mandatory therapy as part of his recovery. Not only that, but the anguish of losing one of his “brothers” has resulted in his estrangement from both his wife and children. Add in the fact that a new romantic interest (Mandy Ellis, played by Jessica Paré) lingers on the sidelines of this military drama, and it’s clear to see Jason Hayes is going to have plenty to consider when he is not out there fighting the terrorists.
Much the same can be said for all of the other characters, and perhaps none more so than Max Theriot’s character, Clay Spenser. He, too, must wrestle with inner demons and anguish, not the least of which is the need to measure up to past generations and a heroic father figure. If you are looking for cardboard cutouts and character clichés, it’s time to look somewhere else: “SEAL Team” really delivers when it comes to character development and the type of narrative arc that leaves audiences coming back for more.
The true potential of “SEAL Team” has yet to be fully explored
As Season 1 of “SEAL Team” comes to a close, it becomes easier to see how much true potential this CBS TV series has. That potential can be summed up in just a few words: it reminds us of the human element involved in this nation’s battle against terror. This comes through in a number of different ways, and not just when the team members are interacting directly with the ISIS terrorists in far-flung destinations around the world.
For example, there is the tendency to view terrorists as “The Other” – people at the fringe of humanity, with very little in the way of redeeming qualities. But as “SEAL Team” shows us, there is a lot to unpack here. Take Episode 8 – it involves a SEAL mission to extract a U.S. soldier who was captured after deserting. This reminds us that the war against terror comes with its set of internal contradictions: it is possible to support the war, but differ markedly on the tactics. Other episodes hint at the issues raised by the U.S. prison at Gitmo, created to imprison ISIS radicals.
So what’s the big takeaway here? Perhaps the notion that “SEAL Team” has much work yet to be done. The future for CBS’s “SEAL Team” is very bright indeed. It’s easy to see CBS extending this series for another 13 episodes, and TV audiences will once more look forward to the extraordinary adventures of these brave men as they undertake some of the most dangerous and risky mission possible, all in the name of protecting our homeland from unimaginable evil.