The most frustrating characteristic of “VII” isn’t the ton of unanswered questions left in its wake — I’d expect nothing less of a season finale. No, it’s the fact that The Old Man ended its debut season the same way it started: with an exhausting, excessive amount of exposition that was more tedious than tense. By the time we finally got to the episode’s big, season-long reveal, it was at best validating, at worst anticlimactic.
Sure, we were treated to some adrenaline-charged scenes involving Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow acting out James Bond–ian fantasies in the middle of the Moroccan desert (scratch that: in Santa Clarita, California). But as I’ve said before in these recaps, the female characters have the juicier backstories, and I hope that, come season two, the narrative will place Angela Adams front and center. I’m also dying for more flashbacks of Abbey Chase before she met Dan and her years of parenting Angela, which we now know were fraught with anguish.
So The Old Man’s major disclosure was, as expected, that Angela/Emily is, in fact, Faraz Hamzad’s biological daughter (birth name: Parwana Hamzad), and that her existence set off the events of the series: Faraz went after Dan because he just wanted a relationship with his child.
After much hemming and hawing on Dan’s part, what we learn in the season finale is Angela was already a toddler living in the Hamzad compound when Young Dan landed on the scene. After Young Faraz learned of his wife’s numerous betrayals (deliberately hiding the location of a mine filled with untold wealth, freeing Suleyman Pavlovich), Young Abbey and Young Dan had no choice but to flee in the night with Young Parwana because death undoubtedly awaited them if they stayed. The reason why Dan Chase and Harold Harper were dragged back into this family mess 30 years later — and why Harold holds his own grudges against Dan — is because Young Dan was supposed to kill Young Faraz in his sleep. But Young Dan couldn’t bear to commit such a monstrous act in front of Hamzad’s daughter.
Young Dan’s so-called moment of humanity forced him into not only a life on the run but a life of lies, with Angela being the recipient of little more than intergenerational trauma. That and she’s spent the past two episodes as a twice-over abduction victim. After being taken in last week’s episode by Raymond Waters and Julian Carson under Morgan Bote’s orders, Angela remains unconscious for most of the season finale. While Harold attempts to negotiate her release (Dan must get on a plane, ostensibly headed for Afghanistan, for this to happen), she’s held in an underground bunker somewhere in Morocco. We do get some insights into Angela’s psyche through her nightmares, though. They include wondering what kind of a person her biological father was — we see Young Angela trying in vain to fill out a “Getting to Know You” worksheet — and how Abbey wasn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy mom. But while Angela is out cold, her captors sense they’ve been surrounded and attempt to move. As it turns out, Raymond and Julian’s suspicions are correct, and Angela is kidnapped for a second time by Hamzad’s own people. Raymond is killed with a single gunshot to the head (good riddance: never liked his character). Julian, on the other hand, after impressively dispatching (almost all) of Hamzad’s battalion, is still MIA at the episode’s conclusion.
The episode ends with Angela arriving at the Hamzad compound and an elderly Faraz (now played by Navid Negahban) waiting to greet her. Alia Shawkat does a fantastic job here conveying a multitude of emotions without saying a word — and without betraying her intentions, whatever they may be. For that reason alone, I’m interested to see where the second season takes us because, now that Angela has returned to her homeland, it’s possible she’ll want to embrace the life she was robbed of. Or perhaps she will stay on the mission and kill Hamzad once and for all. It’s impossible to say at this point. What I do like about Angela’s story is it’s not so cut and dry: Even if Dan hadn’t shown up to entangle himself in her family, Abbey was already playing her own dangerous ”international woman of mystery” game by recruiting Soviet officers and withholding valuable economic resources. I feel as though, no matter what, Angela was destined for a life of intergenerational trauma. If there were no Dan, she probably would’ve grown up with bedtime stories about how her mother was killed for treason.
While I’m grateful The Old Man is shifting its focus to Angela, who, as I said at the outset, is a far more compelling character than Dan or Harold, the other compelling character got one helluva raw deal in this episode. I mean, Justice for Zoe, amirite? Amy Brenneman gets a single scene in “VII,” and Zoe is pretty much cast aside in it so the big boys can go rescue Angela. From a narrative standpoint, I get it: Zoe would be the third wheel during Dan and Harold’s anger-bonding drive through the desert. Considering this is the first time we’ve seen Bridges and Lithgow interacting on a visceral level all season (the pilot-episode phone calls don’t count), you can’t blame the creative decision to take Zoe out of the equation. Still, we’re left with a whole lot of “Now what?” energy once Brenneman’s character disappears. The way Dan leaves it with her — because, again, he’s not expecting to survive this mission to rescue Angela — Zoe is just expected to return to her old life. We already know she loves being a jet-setting spy, hates her former existence, and has a thing for Dan (and he definitely has a thing for her; the face doesn’t lie), so returning to Yawntown, Pennsylvania? Yeah, that’s a hard no. Even though I’m sure we’ll get our answers next season, I still think The Old Man did Zoe dirty in this episode with such a clumsy wrap-up of her story line.
One thing’s for sure: We are in for one seriously awkward family reunion next season, especially once Dan and Harold, now full-on international fugitives on the run from Moroccan secret police, show up at the Hamzad compound. The episode’s last shot is of the two old men at an airfield, walking toward a plane. While it’s not made clear where exactly they’re heading, I’m assuming they’re bound for Afghanistan.
That’s, Like, My Opinion, Man
• The Old Man deprives us of any Dave and Carol updates since that heartbreaking pet-hotel drop-off in episode five, which is more egregious than the show’s lumbering expository dialogue. We need our Rottweiler fix!
• I’m relieved that Julian (supposedly) survives the first season, because his character wasn’t as fleshed out as I would’ve liked. He deserves better.