By John Keegan
Despite some of the casting changes that had been announced during the between-season hiatus, I somehow managed to overlook the clear implication that the series was moving towards a major overhaul. So it's understandable that I wound up backtracking more than once during the course of this episode, trying to wrap my brain around the shifts in the status quo. I imagine Annie Walker was in much the same situation.
Killing off Jai, right at the start, certainly made for a powerful mission statement. Was this a tacit acknowledgment that the writers had never been sure what to do with the character? Or was it simply a matter of taking the Annie/Auggie dynamic and streamlining it more? Auggie's new role as Jai's successor ought to give him a lot more to do, as befitting one of the best characters of the show, and Annie's in the right spot to start showing off that increased confidence they spent much of the second season building.
Before focusing on that, though, it's worth mentioning that the writers didn't simply shuffle the rest of the supporting cast into a deep, dark hole, never to be seen again. Joan and Arthur are still part of the show, and if anything, there is every indication that the writers will be exploring the effect of losing Annie and Auggie on their end. Assuming that this is not just a means of keeping them in play until some reset button is pressed in the future, it makes me hopeful that they will finally be given something interesting to do.
Annie's new position seems to be more loosely defined, giving her increased operational flexibility. On the one hand, it means the show can be more unpredictable, since Annie's decisions will drive the story more. But that also means that Annie's mistakes won't be so easy to overcome, since Auggie isn't right there at all times to lend support. Add to that a seeming embrace of a more serialized format, given that Annie's mission with Simon didn't end at the close of the episode, and things are getting a lot more intriguing.
The writers also seem to be addressing one of the nagging perception problems with the show. While Annie's sex appeal has been used to promote the show (and with Piper Perabo on board, it's impossible to ignore), it's rarely been used within the context of the show itself. It's almost as if they wanted to establish Annie as a solid agent before adding that layer into the mix. I doubt they will have her use her sex appeal to the extent of, say, Sydney Bristow on "Alias", but it's going to be a factor.
This is likely meant to complicate the Annie/Auggie relationship, because even as they grow closer, they are getting involved in different personal and professional entanglements. The connection between Auggie's discovery in Jai's department and Simon's tattoo points to future interweaving of plot threads, and probably a bit of emotional angst as well. Considering that Annie and Auggie have a ridiculous amount of chemistry, I can't help but think it will be a major element as matters progress.
Perhaps the most ingenious thing about this sea change for the series is that it gives new viewers (and existing viewers who fell behind) a perfect "jumping on" point. Just about everything you need to know is covered in the episode, with the exception of a few minor references here and there. At the same time, it's a fairly organic move, avoiding some of the jarring effects seen with other shows attempting a "mid-series reboot". It remains to be seen if this changes will persist, but as it stands right now, this is a very good start.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision.