Dark Humor in Amazon’s Excellent “Patriot”

John Tavner (Michael Dorman) is many things. He’s a folk singer, a husband, a pipe engineer, a spy, a son, a brother, but above all, a patriot. He’s bright, strong, talented, but his life is full of vicissitudes. One unfortunate occurrence seems to follow him after another, trying his abilities, his intelligence, and, I imagine, his sanity.

He is tasked by Tom Tavner (Terry O’Quinn), his father, to discretely join a private U.S. company (his supervisor is played by Kurtwood Smith, who starred as Red in That 70’s Show) and accompany them on a trip to the quiet, small European country Luxembourg and make a money exchange to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Of course, as you can imagine, not all things go to plan. What was supposed to be a quick mission instead turns into a more permanent posting. The question we have is, because this is all for Country, how much is John willing to take?

This mission sets the show in motion and prevents others from walking away from the almost Kafkaesque absurdities, but it fades into the background as you begin to think and care more about the characters and their daily lives and mental states. Indeed, we are left with meaningful interactions and character growth in a wonderful dark, funny show. Indeed, there is no good or bad guy on the show, only good and bad actions. There are many patriots involved, some on different, opposing sides, serving their country in their own way.

You can watch the pilot for free below:

Patriot is a beautiful show, both in content and in picture. It can be cathartic and side splitting. It is grim and sweet. It is a show that is robbed of the attention and fanfare it deserves because it was dropped all at once without much fanfare by Amazon, rather than serially on a cable TV show.

The acting, the dialogue, the cinematography, the setting (Prague is used to shoot for Luxembourg), the occasional folk music — it’s a show that’s made with clear intention and skill, and expertly so.

One of my favorite recurring bits is when John, in a state of dread, is sitting in a space trying to sort out his options, or come to terms with his fate, and one bad news after another slowly approaches him meticulously delivering him more tasks, more ultimatums, and more reasons to dread. But John is a Patriot. He will do his duty, even if it kills what’s left of him.

I strongly recommend Patriot to anyone who enjoys dark comedies, or even well crafted, character driven shows. If you aren’t familiar with that genre, know that the show is slow and grim, but through its absurdities it offers winks and nods that, as a viewer, you can only smile at.

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