Is it possible to focus on just completing an assignment when there’s more at stake than you originally thought? Can you turn away or will have you step in and break your own rules in the process? That’s part of the premise behind the new season of TNT’s “Transporter: The Series,” which had one man struggling with those questions every time he designed to accept a contract.
“Transporter: The Series” followed Frank Martin (Chris Vance) who was considered one of the best transporters for always being on time and managing to save the day whenever things got to be too dangerous, which was often in his line of work. He had a past career in the military and had his fair share of secrets, but he often kept them pretty close to the vest in order to separate himself from his clients. Frank often picked up packages in the form of objects and people if the assignment called for it. He often preferred to take the jobs that many other transporters would often avoid, because they were too risky for everyone involved. Frank’s most recent assignment entailed him taking a traumatized young man to testify in court as a witness to the man accused of murdering his father who was a high profile judge. Unfortunately, it seemed that Frank’s location was leaked to a group of trained killers that often followed them wherever they went. One of the men was equally motivated to stop Frank from completing the assignment because his brother was the man that the kid was supposed to testify against. In order to survive the trip, Frank had to rely on Caterina Boldieu (Violante Placido) who helped Frank handle the logistics of every assignment and assessed the risks before having him accept anything. Caterina replaced Carla (Andrea Osvart) who left after one assignment left her too much in harms way. Frank’s new replacement had a history with him when he was once hired by her father to rescue her from a group that kidnapped her as a bargaining chip. Caterina and Frank managed to stay in touch, which allowed them to work together even when Frank’s motives frustrated Caterina. She was no longer sitting idle as bad buy seemed poised to go after her, because she learned a few tricks along the way to be able to take down some bad guys. For a while, Frank also relied on Dieter Hausmann (Charly Hubner) to fix whatever problems he had with his car and to also keep a few in storage for when the time was right. Unfortunately, that all changed when Frank’s last assignment left Dieter as a casualty of a dangerous villain. Will Frank be able to find a replacement or will he have to soldier without someone to replace Dieter’s car skills?
In terms of questions, the show doesn’t really have too many and they often get resolved by the end of each episode in a rather neat fashion. Each episode tended to play a little bit like a mini-movie where each one focused on a particular assignment of Frank’s that was usually completed by the end. Most viewers might complain that this series is just a poor imitation of the Jason Statham films, but the series did manage to have its own unique charm that focused on Frank’s adventures in and out of his car. The first season managed to find a unique balance of action (car chases), comedy (the fight scenes and Vance’s one liners) and drama (the assignments themselves). What made the first season work for the most part was Vance’s rapport with Hubner’s Dieter, which provided the season with a hint of a buddy comedy type of tone as the two very different men managed to find a way to come together through their love of fast cars. Some of the show’s funniest scenes often had Vance’s Frank grousing over Hubner’s Dieter and his obsessive love over one red car that he wouldn’t let Frank drive for the longest time. Sadly, Hubner’s exit from the show towards the end of season two’s first episode was a lot harder to swallow than Osvart’s Carla at the end of season one. Osvart’s Carla wasn’t as much of an integral part of the show as Hubner’s Dieter. Carla wasn’t usually part of the action. Most of her scenes had her sitting behind a desk helping Frank out when it was necessary, while Hubner’s character often played a part in Frank’s work in every episode. It’s a shame that Hubner’s Dieter was no longer part of the show, but the character got a much better send-off than Carla did. That character left during the interim between the first and second season. Hopefully, the new season’s lost of most of the supporting cast doesn’t serve as a detriment to the rest of the season. It’s too early to tell how Placido’s Caterina will serve in Frank’s often high octane world, but she showed promise in her first solo fight scene against two bad buys as she managed to take them down with anything she had on hand. Only time will tell as the season goes on.
As for breakout performances, Vance and Hubner led the pack as their characters were the driving force of most of the action in the season two premiere. Vance’s version of Frank might be different than Statham’s movie version, but he managed to embody Frank’s sarcasm and ability to beat bad guys into submission with often whatever he could get his hands on. He could make viewers laugh and cringe at the same time when he managed to take on multiple villains at once. Since this show was an action series, Vance didn’t often get a chance to display Frank’s personal life too much. The first season allowed Frank to have a series of hook-ups of various female passengers and one undercover cop that often ended at each episode’s conclusion. It’s early to say if Placido’s Caterina and Vance’s Frank will have the opportunity to hook up, but they have demonstrated a nice comfortable rapport nonetheless that could go either if the show decides to make a choice. Vance’s strongest scene as Frank came towards the end of the season premiere when he was mourning Dieter’s death and coming to terms with it. He made the choice to honor his late friend’s final wish by teaching someone how to drive, even though he wouldn’t have likely done it otherwise. Hubner’s Dieter, on the other hand, had the challenging task of playing the supporting figure to Vance’s main character. He made what could’ve been a generic sidekick role someone who provided the occasional bout of comic relief and someone who could help out whenever necessary. Hubner did have a nice rapport with Vance’s Frank as he managed to be both a friend and a source of impulse control, especially when it came to expensive cars. It’s disappointing that the character was written out in such a way, but he at least managed to go in a blaze of glory so to speak.
“Transporter: The Series” premiered on November 29th and airs Saturdays at 10:00 PM on TNT.
Verdict: Vance’s charming performance makes some of the sillier actions more believable in an amusing sort of way, while the bad guys need to be more than cartoonish figures.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)