Standing out among the heap of small screen revivals and adaptations presently underway is the newly announced Haywire reboot: a serialization of Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 action thriller about a black ops agent betrayed by her team. While remakes of MacGyver and The A-Team and a formal reinvention of Lethal Weapon all play into America’s thriving fascination with ’80s and ’90s mainstream pop culture, the mounting of a new life for Haywire caters less to “general interest” (the movie did gross shy of $19 million domestically from a $23 million budget) and more, so it seems, to what may be a genuinely rich creative opportunity. And what’s more, an opportunity to female-centric genre series on weekly TV.
Former professional mixed martial artist Gina Carano became a star thanks to Haywire, a product of director Soderbergh’s enchantment with genre and tonal innovation. In the film, we watched Carano’s character, government assassin Mallory Kane, fend off attempts on her life as made by an ensemble of former colleagues — Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, and Antonio Banderas among them — who have branded her for expiration, seeking the aid of her faithful father (Bill Paxton) and a befuddled civilian with a car (Michael Anganaro) throughout. While the story of Mallory’s betrayal and plight for liberation is self-contained, her character and context are ripe for the picking of regular material.
In the company of projects like MacGyver and The A-Team, the announcement of a Haywire series evokes the connotation of a dying breed of action-oriented television program. Today, fewer and fewer TV shows operate the way the original MacGyver and A-Team did, stirring up a new, independent adventure for each installment; genre television has abandoned in its claim to the proverbial restart button in favor of season- and series-long arcs. The results are more often than not positive: a strengthening of writing, story sophistication, and character development. However, we’ve surely seen the strategy misused, with many a program paying virtual idolatry to the weekly cliffhanger.
Nevertheless, application of the week-to-week form could yield an interesting variation of the Haywire story. A television show with the same brazen, hyperbolic appeal audiences traditionally enjoyed when couriered by Richard Dean Anderson and Mr. T, but this time undertaken by Carano (or, just as likely, whoever is cast to fill her shoes). Clearly, CBS (presenting the new MacGyver) and 20th Century Fox (backing the new A-Team) feel that audiences long for this type of easy, thrill-ride watching.
If they're right, Haywire should fit the bill: Mallory Kane combats a new government assailant every week as the viewer struggles to figure out (in Law & Order form) who's with her and who's against her. The only friends we know Kane to have are her dad back home and her trusty but reluctant sidekick, Scott-with-a-car.
Genre television seems to have a better track record these days than its big screen counterpart when it comes to female characters. We see action, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, and melodrama headlined by the likes of Hayley Atwell, Kerry Washington, Claire Danes, Tatiana Maslany, Lena Headey, Viola Davis, Jessica Lange, Vera Farmiga, Taraji P. Henson, Keri Russell, and more. An adaptation of Haywire seems like logical company to the lot, packing the political intrigue and high stakes interpersonal drama we seem to love in our genre series, female-led or otherwise.
Images: Relativity Media