Tuesday, October 31, 2023

SEAL Team: Trust, But Verify Pt. 1 & 2

Considering how hard it is for SEAL Team Bravo to smuggle a defector out of North Korea, just imagine how difficult it must be for Pastor Kim Seungeun, the real-life protagonist of Beyond Utopia. Granted, the SEALs stand out more in the DPRK. They are also trying to rescue a scientist who is integral to the regime’s advanced weapons research. Initially, only the first four episodes of SEAL Team’ s fifth season were supposed to air on CBS (including this two-part season premiere), before the franchise transferred to Paramount+, but then the strikes happened. Now, the entire fifth season is part of their new Fall schedule. It is refreshing to see actual bad guys cast as TV bad guys, including the North Koreans in “Trust, but Verify,” which returns to free TV this Thursday.

The team has their own stuff to deal with at the start of the season. Chief Warrant Officer Ray Perry has been away, getting treatment for his PTSD, which only Master Chief Jason Hayes knows, at least so far. Hayes is still trying to shrug off the lingering effects of a serious head injury that might be more severe than he wants to admit. Special Operator Clay Spenser is finally planning his long-deferred honeymoon, while Special Operator Sonny Quinn is spending time with his newborn. Unfortunately, they must put everything on hold for a “training mission” with the South Koreans.

Of course, it turns out the “training” is just a cover. Instead, they will infiltrate North Korea and exfiltrate Dr. Jin, a high-ranking scientist, whiose wife already defected. Their contact is Kwan Jon-wi, a rescuer, who is much closer to Pastor Kim than the dodgy broker-traffickers he is forced to work with.

Although the two-parter does not reflect the full extent of the DPRK’s extreme dystopian oppression, it still acknowledges the prison-like conditions and constant paranoia of life in the North. Most of the action comes in part 2, which is nicely executed, especially by network TV standards. Keong Sim also has a memorable guest-appearance as the somewhat traumatized Jin.

The regular cast, led by David Boreanaz (as Hayes) all have solid action cred and Neil Brown Jr. probably shines the most in this two-parter as Perry, particularly when advocating for Kwan, when things get harry.

The Kim Dynasty is about as evil as it gets, especially now that they are Putin’s primary arms supplier for his illegal invasion of Ukraine, so it is quite fitting to see them presented as the villains they are, instead of some cartoonishly nasty businessman or a fictionalized and sanitized never-neverland regime. It turns out the actors’ and writers’ strikes were not so bad after all. Recommended for over-the-air viewing, “Trust, but Verify” returns to air this Thursday (11/2) on CBS.