Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX
Three episodes in, The Old Man is getting closer to hitting its sweet spot: The audience has been clued into most of the big questions surrounding Dan Chase’s past, and the story itself is more enthralling now that Zoe McDonald is officially enmeshed in her new tenant’s life.
If you’ve been paying close attention so far, then tonight’s two big disclosures shouldn’t have been terribly mind-blowing. Though I must admit, the Emily reveal was impressive.
The beginning of the third episode also introduces the audience to the next layer of conflict between Dan Chase and Harold Harper. As you may recall from episode two, Harper secretly enlisted an unidentified character to murder Chase. This character, we learn, is Julian Carson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), who, when he’s not hiring himself out as a contracted killer, is a caregiver for his back-pain-riddled grandmother.
In a weird way, Harper employing Carson to take out Chase wound up saving both our ex-CIA antihero and Zoe from a SWAT team invasion, so yay? But we’ll get to that. All we need to know at the outset is, thanks to that roadside checkpoint pullover, the FBI knows Chase’s Pennsylvania location. Oh, and maybe Agent Raymond Waters isn’t the bad guy after all: Yes, he spends the episode acting like a douche, but I wonder if it’s a red herring. Waters is so over-the-top it’s hard to take him seriously. Plus, it seems like The Old Man is telling us not to take the guy at face value, with Waters saying to Harold Harper, “You still think I’m the one you need to worry about?” I don’t know — this is a traditional spy thriller, so rule 101 is not to trust anyone.
Our first flashback is an introduction to Young Faraz Hamzad (Pej Vahdat) and his tentative alliance with Young Dan Chase, who keeps promising an arsenal of Americans. Up until now, we’ve been led to believe that Chase’s motivation for joining up with the Afghans was purely from an idealistic standpoint: He’s burnt out after “fighting Russians for two generations” and wants to defeat the enemy once and for all, American diplomacy be damned. Hamzad is open to letting this hotshot join his fight — if his wife approves.
Which leads us to the first major reveal of the episode: Hamzad’s wife, Belour, is the same woman we’ve come to know as Young Abbey Chase. Although Harper spells it out in the episode’s final act, it doesn’t take a genius to deduce why Belour Hamzad and Johnny CIA went underground 30 years ago and emerged as Dan and Abbey Chase.
In the present day, Zoe is finishing her scrambled eggs, and Chase, who really needs to keep moving, feeds her a bullshit story about needing to leave for Montana. Zoe, not reading the room, dismisses Chase’s urgency, at least until she gets back from the bank (remember, she still needs to sort out her son’s tuition problems). So when Chase somberly announces he’ll be gone after she runs her errand — because she casually told the police officers last night that he was her husband — Zoe goes into survival mode. Realizing she’s been harboring a fugitive, Zoe descends into self-loathing over her gullibility. But it’s interrupted by a phone call from Emily. Dutiful daughter that she is, Emily calls to remind her father that he needs to get his ass out of Pennsylvania ASAP. She also offers to talk Zoe down, explaining that she’s probably the only person who can empathize with having her whole world shattered by Dan Chase in a matter of minutes.
Emily, still just a telephone voice, calmly explains to Zoe how after 18 years of normalcy (“soccer, braces, summer camp”), her father told her the truth about their family. As Emily describes the parts of the story that we already know, the camera stays on Amy Brenneman, who stoically listens to Emily’s you-can-trust-Dan-Chase-he’s-one-of-the-good-guys pitch.
Then we cut to an empty parking lot. The camera pans in on a car’s side mirror to provide us with the series’ key reveal: Emily Chase is FBI Agent Angela Adams. As in, the surrogate daughter of Harold Harper, the man who sent a trained killer to take out her dad. We’ve already seen that Angela/Emily maintains an equal devotion to Chase and Harper, so the question is, how long will she be able to play both sides before having to betray one of her dads?
Not surprisingly, a single phone call from a stranger doesn’t persuade a shaken Zoe to blow up her life for a renegade CIA agent. With multiple people after Chase, however, she’s not about to have much of a choice. She orders Chase out of her house before she returns from the bank, but she’s barely seated in her car before she hears something — and the dogs, locked in the backseat of Chase’s vehicle, bark loudly in response. She slowly walks toward the house, where, in her once-peaceful kitchen, there’s now a bullet hole in the window, a gun on the floor, and Chase fighting off yet another intruder. This time, it’s Julian Carson. Chase puts up a valiant fight, but it doesn’t take long for Carson to knock him out. Fortunately, Zoe has the good sense to release Dave and Carol from their SUV confinement and into her kitchen. An awesome human vs. rottweilers brawl ensues in time for Chase to regain consciousness and shoot Carson. Now that Chase knows he’s both the target of the U.S. government and a special ops killer, he insists Zoe come with him because we’ve come to the (predictable) part of the story where he doesn’t know who is trustworthy anymore.
At FBI headquarters, Angela, Harper, and Waters anxiously wait for the SWAT team to descend on Zoe’s house, watching the operation via drone surveillance. They see a car leave the driveway, and Angela is clearly worried because due to “tree cover,” no one can see Chase emerging from the car about a block away with a machine gun and pointing it at the drone circling overhead.
But first, we flashback, because there was a time when Young Chase boasted of his ability to shoot Soviets from 1,000 yards away, and if that skill has atrophied, then Zoe and Old Chase don’t stand a chance. We needn’t have worried: Old Chase takes out the drone in one shot, killing the surveillance feed to FBI headquarters and allowing him to escape (we assume) with Zoe.
Upon noticing that neither Harper nor Agent Adams seems particularly fazed at the cut surveillance feed, Agent Waters throws a conference room hissy fit, accusing Harper of helping Chase escape again. Harper smoothly changes the subject by inquiring why an “unqualified busybody” is leading this operation before proposing his theory: Faraz Hamzad wanted an irksome CIA agent like Waters to help him answer his decades-long questions about Dan Chase.
Waters doesn’t deny this theory, demanding that Harper start talking. At first, Harper states the facts that we’ve already confirmed via flashback: Thirty years ago, Dan Chase stole Faraz Hamzad’s wife with Harper’s help. Harper then goes the racist old white man route, painting Abbey as an opportunist who saw her second husband as “the chance at a better life and easier access to a Walmart.” The camera remains on Angela as she’s forced to listen to her boss spew ignorant rhetoric about her mother. Eventually, Angela breaks down, screaming at Harper and Waters to STFU before composing herself and redirecting the case with her own expert knowledge about Dan Chase — and Abbey Chase. Angela explains that Chase is a firm believer in his causes and that any woman who would follow him around the world must have a complicated backstory. She believes Harper is right: The only way to solve this case is to ask Faraz Hamzad directly what he wants from Chase. I’m guessing her idea is to feed intelligence from Hamzad to her father while outwardly appearing to work toward his capture.
Harper and Waters agree to Angela’s plan, but a unified front they are not. Harper knows his attempt to kill Chase was a failure — although Carson isn’t dead, just injured. And while Waters promises Angela he’ll arrange the meeting with Hamzad, he is the last person this double agent needs creepily whispering threats down her neck.
Another flashback shows Young Dan learning that Young Abbey’s cynicism toward the U.S. stems from when a coup prevented her from moving to Ohio with her professor parents as a child. After fantasizing about the perfect American life, the ensuing war convinced her that Americans are either useless or monstrous. So when Young Dan points out the planes flying in the distance are carrying the promised sniper rifles — Young Abbey looks at him anew. Okay, he’s not a useless American. But what about the other kind? Young Dan assures her he’s not a monster, but the jury’s still out on that claim.
Because back in the present, a despondent Chase stands in front of Zoe’s car trunk before opening it. In a long shot, he backs away from the car as we fade to black.
And it is very, very likely that Zoe is in that trunk.
• I’m curious about Angela’s connection to Harper’s deceased son. Does anyone have theories?
• Angela describing Waters as someone who annoys the hell out of people by asking “why?” over and over makes me think of this classic exchange between Pee-Wee Herman and Natasha Lyonne.