NBC’s new primetime drama The Enemy Within introduces Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter as Erica Shepherd, the CIA Deputy Director of Operations. It’s evident from season one episode one’s first scene Erica isn’t squeaky clean and that she’s aware whatever behavior she’s engaged in is criminal.
The series begins with Erica surrendering peacefully after realizing she’s surrounded by FBI agents while walking a path in the National Mall. The charges: espionage and conspiracy against the United States of America.
A series of news clips and headlines explain four Americans died because she helped terrorists. She’s labeled the Benedict Arnold of this generation.
Flash-forward three years and a woman is executed in her car while driving to work in Philadelphia. At the same time, a businessman is chased down the streets in Washington, DC and is shot in the head at point blank range. In Manhattan, an office is blown up.
FBI Supervising Special Agent Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut) is picked up while out jogging and told of the three attacks in the three different cities. FBI Special Agent Daniel Zain (Raza Jaffrey) informs Will the dead include a US District Attorney, a Treasury Department officer, and three CIA operatives. There are six other deceased victims of the attacks.
The attacks were obviously synchronized.
Back at FBI headquarters, Agent Keaton briefs the agents on the possible mastermind, Mikhail Tal (Alex Feldman). He’s supposedly one of the greatest threats to America and his resume includes bombing a commercial flight. Keaton reveals that flight was a trial run for dozens of other bombings which did not take place thanks to intel collected by the CIA. Erica Shephard was used by Tal to find the four operatives responsible for stopping those planned terrorists attacks.
It’s revealed today’s victims were targeted because they were investigating Tal’s finances. Keaton knows Tal’s ready to cause death and destruction on American soil again, but Deputy Director of National Intelligence Elizabeth Cordova isn’t impressed that after three years this is all Keaton’s collected on the terrorist. She believes there’s someone who can help Keaton find Tal.
And just like that, Erica Shepherd – an expert code breaker – is suggested to be brought in to help track down Tal. Keaton’s not ready to go that route, and he takes her betrayal of the U.S. personally. One of the people killed with the info Shepherd provided Tal was Keaton’s fiancée. Will refuses to work with Erica, only reluctantly giving in once he’s threatened to be removed from the case.
Erica’s housed in a maximum security prison, kept in a glass cell away from other prisoners. (Picture Hannibal Lecter but in a sterile white environment.) Will doesn’t bother with pleasantries when he’s face-to-face with the traitor, cutting straight to the chase. The FBI and DOJ will grant her certain concessions if she agrees to help them find Tal. She’s never agreed before to assist the government in his capture, but Will assures her that if she doesn’t her life in a glass box will get even more uncomfortable.
If she agrees, she’ll get extra showers and up to an hour of extra music each week. She’ll also be transferred to a different facility in DC.
Erica smirks and calls Will a liar. She’s figured out Will’s not there because Tal’s planning an attack; he’s already committed one. Will admits that’s true and Erica suggests he look for someone on the inside. Will doubts that conclusion, unwilling to accept there’s another traitor within the FBI. Enraged, Will’s being forcibly removed from the cell when Erica agrees to the deal.
A GPS transponder is implanted in Erica, one that if she attempts to remove will cause her to bleed out. As she’s being operated on, she has a flashback to her young daughter eating breakfast before leaving for school.
FBI Cyber Division Special Agent Kate Ryan (Kelli Garner), FBI Special Agent Jason Bragg (Noah Mills), and FBI Special Agent Daniel Zain are struck silent in mid conversation at FBI headquarters when they see Erica Shepherd being escorted in in chains. Erica notices everything without moving more than her eye muscles, but Will Keaton is well aware of what Erica’s taking in. He informs her Agent Bragg was a Ranger, having noted Erica looked at Bragg’s watch.
Will is just as observant as the traitor.
Out of her earshot, Will tells his team that he’ll work with the devil if he has to to bring down Tal. Also, he confesses he had no choice.
Jason, Kate, and Daniel run down what they’ve been able to learn about the three crime scenes and possible killers. It’s not much 16 hours in, and Will’s frustrated with their progress. Erica speaks up and explains Tal knows how their investigation works and to beat him they have to pull on threads they never thought to before.
Erica believes Tal “rips” phones, which is basically making a second copy of someone’s cell phone. It’s nearly impossible to detect. However, an incoming call wouldn’t go through to the real phone so if they obtain the call records, they’ll be able to see the time and date of when it was ripped.
Will’s leery of accepting Erica’s hypothesis, but he’ll check the records anyway. If she’s wrong, she’s going back to her glass jail cell.
A short while later, Kate has found the time and date of one of the victim’s cell phones being ripped. Treasury Official Joseph Sebring’s phone was ripped on Tuesday the 13th, which means whoever did it had to have been within 10 feet of Sebring at 3:28pm that day.
Erica’s first suggestion in the hunt for Tal pays off. A female hacker did the job and she’s quickly taken down by the FBI after a short foot chase. During the interrogation, the hacker admits she was paid $4,000 to rip the phone. She only has the phone number of Victor Nemec (Pawel Szajada), the man who hired her to do the job. She claims she’s never heard of Mikhail Tal.
Erica watches the interrogation from the next room and determines the hacker’s lying. Will Keaton enters the interrogation room and demands to know who was with Nemec when she was hired to do the job. The hacker admits there was a woman with Nemec when she went to confront him after the bombing. The woman’s hands were bound and she looked messed up. She might have been in the explosion.
Will shows the hacker photos of different women and she recognizes Anna Cruz, a CIA financial analyst thought to have died in the NY explosion. Will instructs the agents to hunt down Victor Nemec and retrieve Anna Cruz. They don’t have much info on him, and his cell isn’t tracking him. However, they know he was sent a map to a children’s hospital in Paris. That stumps the team except for Erica who immediately understands it’s actually a location cutout.
A cutout was a Russian trick decades ago that was used to hide the real location. Most cities have similar landmarks, like roads, bridges, and parks. Nemec’s cutout shows an island and they figure out the map refers to Roosevelt Island, and specifically to an apartment building located there.
Erica’s locked up in a holding cell as the team heads out to pick up Nemec. Will calls her a traitor and a killer and doesn’t care that she’s capable of providing more useful information. Erica recites the names of the people who were killed because of her betrayal, including Will’s fiancée. He reveals his murdered fiancée used to tell him about this “brilliant” woman she worked with. She wanted to be Erica, but now she’s dead.
FBI agents arrive at the building on Roosevelt Island and search for Anna Cruz.
Back at the FBI headquarters, Erica uses a metal tray to break off one of her teeth. She’s immediately taken to a dentist who injects her with Novocain before ordering X-rays. Erica’s left alone in the room while X-rays are taken, and she grabs a tool and uses it to free herself from the handcuffs. She then smashes out the window and takes off running.
Dozens of agents work their way through various floors of the apartment complex, giving chase as an armed man flees an apartment. Bragg’s hit by gunfire in his bulletproof vest as he opens a door in the apartment while Will Keaton chases the fleeing terrorist. Both terrorists are killed without disclosing Anna Cruz’s whereabouts. However, they have proof she was recently held in the apartment as her cell phone was left behind.
Will receives further bad news when he’s informed Erica’s escaped. The FBI has no idea where she went, and the GPS tracker implanted in her body isn’t working because she’s wearing a lead apron from the dentist’s office.
Erica breaks into a store, steals clothes, and continues her escape through the streets. Will figures out that what Erica really wants is to see her daughter, and she’s probably headed to her child’s school.
Agent Keaton’s correct as Erica stands outside the school and watches as her daughter exits with her classmates. Her daughter half-smiles as she sees her mom, and Erica smiles/cries in response. Before she can approach her daughter, she’s placed back in custody by the police and FBI agents. Erica and her daughter mouth I love you to each other, faces racked with the pain of continued separation.
Meanwhile, Jason discovers the laptop at the apartment was used to search for Logan airport.
Not long after, Nemec’s spotted near pier 19 in Boston. Erica’s told Nemec’s location as she’s being locked up and quickly deduces Tal’s planning another attack in Boston. He wants to kill as many people as possible, and he’s leading them to this attack. She wants Keaton to be warned.
Keaton receives the warning and tells his team there are possibly IEDs planted at the pier. They spot Nemec in a silver car and give chase. Daniel’s car is taken out by an IED but he isn’t seriously injured. Will continues the chase and T-bones Nemec’s vehicle. He gets out and makes a run for it, but Will tackles him and delivers a beating.
Once he’s down, Will returns to Nemec’s car and retrieves Anna Cruz.
A while later, Anna’s at the hospital recuperating when Will pays her a visit. She asks Will to please find Tal because he killed her friends. She also asks if she can join his team and help with the hunt.
Next, Will visits Erica in her holding cell. He asks why she’s cooperating and why she warned him about the IEDs at the port, but she doesn’t immediately reply. He then asks why she betrayed her country which led to the deaths of four people.
A flashback reveals Erica’s daughter, Hannah, didn’t show up for school. Erica raced home from work and found a cellphone ringing on her porch. A video shows Hannah on a park bench as Tal demanded to know the names of the four CIA operatives who stopped the bombings. If she didn’t disclose their names, he would have killed Hannah. Erica panicked as she made her decision. Tal counted down from five and when he got to one Erica divulged the names.
She didn’t work with Tal or spy for him, but she did hand over the names to save her daughter. She never said anything up until this moment because she didn’t want Hannah to know the truth. If she explained what happened, then Hannah would go through life thinking she was responsible for the deaths of four people. Erica wouldn’t put that burden on her child. “People say they would die for their children, but the truth is that’s easy. Living for them is hard,” says Erica, crying. She wants to be close to her daughter and earn the right to be back in her life. But she also wants to catch Tal.
Erica realized during her three years locked up that Tal specifically came after her because of what she was about to discover. Erica figured out the number of trained operatives hiding in plain sight as teachers, engineers, etc. has skyrocketed in recent years. They’re all ticking time bombs and this escalation in the number of foreign spies on American soil isn’t random. Tal’s the ringleader. Erica believes Will Keaton can save our country by taking him down. However, she also believes Will can’t do it without her.
The first episode of The Enemy Within ends with a twist. Anna Cruz receives a call in her hospital room, and it turns out she’s one of those rogue operatives. “Your plan worked perfectly, Mikhail. I’m in,” says Cruz.
The Enemy Within Review:
NBC’s midseason drama created by Ken Woodruff (The Mentalist) is elevated from the cop drama norm by the lead performance of Jennifer Carpenter as an enemy within law enforcement, or as she’s referred to early in episode one, the modern day Benedict Arnold. The pilot does a terrific job of introducing Carpenter as a former CIA Deputy Director who betrayed her fellow agents, causing their deaths at the hands of a terrorist.
Carpenter plays hated convict Erica Shepherd with a steely glare and controlled emotional reactions that mask the inner strength of a protective mother who sacrificed her freedom and the lives of her co-workers to protect her child. Episode one explains her motivations but doesn’t ask the audience to forgive her actions.
Erica isn’t a one-layered character; she’s neither all good nor all evil, and the first episode hints at where Carpenter and the writers are going to take her as the first season moves forward. Erica displays the ability to be both sympathetic and heartbreaking in the first episode, and hopefully those aspects of the character will be explored in greater depth. Her ability to quickly access situations and piece together clues like a modern day Sherlock Holmes is impressive, but it can’t be the sole characteristic that guides Erica’s actions.
Morris Chestnut’s initially given less to sink his teeth into material-wise, but he conveys FBI Supervising Special Agent Will Keaton’s struggle to accept assistance from a woman he despises. We learn early on that one of the four names Erica revealed to the terrorist was that of Will’s fiancee, and his hatred toward Erica is justified. That setup could have resulted in stilted conversations and a lack of connection between not just the characters but between the actors. That’s avoided and Chestnut and Carpenter actually play well off one another in even the most intense scenes.
Episode one indicates the relationship between the two will be interesting and complex. The setup also assures viewers the investigations will be wide-ranging and with 100,000 foreign spies on U.S. soil, there are plenty of villains for Keaton’s FBI team to investigate and hunt down.
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The Enemy Within airs on NBC on Mondays at 10pm ET/PT.