‘Zero Hour,’ a romp of high adventure
We have Nazis, a mystery clock, a diamond with a map on it
February 8, 2013
Although the Third Reich didn’t last as long as planned, Nazis had a pretty good run in fiction. For most of the half-century after the end of the World War II, if there was a big conspiracy in a novel or a film, it was usually run by Germans with good posture. By the time the Indiana Jones movies came out, it was hard to take the menace seriously.
People who are nostalgic for those simpler times will find comfort in ABC’s new drama series “Zero Hour.” But its Nazi villains aren’t the only familiar element in the show, which has echoes of Indiana Jones, “The Da Vinci Code,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Boys From Brazil,” “National Treasure” and those thrillers in which Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson chases after the bad guys who have kidnapped a member of his family.
Unlike most recent dramas with conspiracy-theory premises, this show is earnest but not serious. Though it’s unlikely to earn a cult following, it’s also unlikely to string followers along endlessly with no payoff. Offering lots of action with a modicum of suspense and a tablespoonful of silliness, “Zero Hour” could be a guilty pleasure for people who think that high-concept shows like “Lost” and “Fringe” are too much work.
The premiere episode, which airs next Thursday, Feb. 14, at 8 p.m., opens in prewar Germany, where a team of priests and clockmakers are working against an unspecified deadline. Two of the priests sneak into a hospital, where they see a child with strange pale eyes who, they say, was “born of no womb.”
Soldiers pursue the priests back to their cathedral, where they say that they must relocate a certain buried something that has been kept secret for generations. “If it falls into Nazi hands,” one of them says, “it will mean the end of mankind as we know it.”
After the credits, we’re in modern-day Brooklyn, where Hank Galliston (Anthony Edwards) and his wife, Laila (Jacinda Barrett), are browsing in a riverside flea market, where Laila purchases an antique clock. After Hank returns to his job as the editor of Modern Skeptic magazine, Laila is kidnapped.
A sexy FBI agent, Rebecca Riley (Carmen Ejogo), tells Hank that Laila’s kidnapper is a notorious mercenary named White Vincent (Michael Nyqvist). It turns out that he actually wants the clock, which Laila fortunately left at the couple’s apartment. When Hank and his colleagues Arron (Scott Michael Foster) and Rachel (Addison Timlin) examine the clock, they find a diamond on which a tiny map has been engraved.
Trying to find Vincent and Laila, Hank and Rebecca, who distrust each other, head to the Canadian arctic to a location on the map that is labeled “New Bartholomew.” Meanwhile, Arron and Rachel go to Germany to find the man who built Laila’s clock.
Thanks to a lot of expository dialogue, we learn that the Catholic Church and the Rosicrucians are working together to prevent the end of the world. Vincent’s motivations are unclear, but at one point he tells Hank, “If you knew the real truth, you’d lose your mind, as I’ve lost mine.”
All this hooey is presented in a straightforward manner, without the needless mystification favored by writers and directors who think that viewers will mistake obscurity for profundity.
As played by Edwards, Hank is a likable everyman, with the accent on the “every” rather than the “man.” Arron and Rachel seem to have been cast to give the show a little youthful appeal, like those teen sidekicks in the old Saturday-morning superhero cartoons.
Those viewers who keep watching will likely do so because they’re rooting for Hank rather than because they’re dying to find out what the secret MacGuffin is. The premiere episode suggests that it won’t be something earthshaking that will make us reconsider our preconceptions about the nature of fate and time.
Although the title “Zero Hour” refers to a potential apocalypse, it may also describe the show itself: 60 minutes of empty entertainment calories. For many viewers, that’s just fine.
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