(Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for episodes 1 and 2 of “Full Circle”.)
If you find yourself, throughout the first two episodes of Max’s “Full Circle,” excitedly pointing at the screen when you see the literal circle the show is named after, you’re not alone.
Ed Solomon and Steven Soderbergh’s limited series follows the interconnected lives surrounding a kidnapping in New York City, but those threads are still obscured during the first two episodes that premiered Thursday on Max. Here’s what we know: Savi Mahabir ( CCH Pounder) wants revenge for his brother’s death, and that vengeance will be wrought by kidnapping and possibly killing the son of a wealthy white family. Doing so will break the cycle (complete the circle) of his family’s good fortune and rid them of unwanted negative energy. All of that is set up in Episode 1, along with a dizzying number of character introductions. It’s a credit to Solomon for not underestimating his audience (the same subscribers gleefully diving into a new cast of “White Lotus” or tree of Targaryens), but also the biggest challenge in digesting the hour-long premiere.
But even with so many players, “Full Circle” thrives on a simple story. It’s all about and serving Savi’s mission, whether it’s Aked (Jharrel Jerome) trying to get his new recruits for the mission or Sam (Claire Danes) and Derek (Timothy Olyphant) openly lamenting the oblivion. of the son. Only Zazie Beetz as Harmony feels a little too far from the action, her story clearly a piece of the puzzle planted early to fit in with the rest later. Otherwise, the Mahabirs and their brands make perfect sense, and Solomon and Soderbergh cleverly create terror throughout episode 1.
In episode 2, the lack of details about Savi’s revenge and what exactly led her to Chef Jeff (Dennis Quaid) becomes more boring; with audiences now horrified by Nicky’s (Lucian Zanes) kidnapping and possible murder, it becomes more imperative to explain exactly what he got into while trying to steal phones and hoodies (fortunately, the wait isn’t long for “Full Circle,” ending on July 29).
Even with a loaded cast, the first two episodes have outstanding players who are among the hottest TV names of summer 2023: Jerome and Olyphant. The former exudes a fierce desire to prove himself even through his measured exterior, while the latter digs deep to portray a desperate father, even when the child in danger is no longer him. Where Danes’ Sam acts bizarrely under pressure (“I just want to make sure we’re doing the right thing” — ma’am?), Derek provides a moral compass and the closest thing to a cool head (tonally it’s nothing like “Santa Christmas Clarita Diet”, but Joel Hammond would be proud).
Ben Travers of IndieWire noted that “Full Circle” appears more generous in examining its white cables than its black ones. At first, they seem to be placed on opposite sides of a larger conflict that may have nothing to do with race. This is evident in the first few episodes (IndieWire’s review counts all six), where Savi’s team is the one carrying out violence and threats for as yet unknown reasons. There’s more to the story, but it’s hard to miss this discrepancy right off the bat.
In addition to sharing sensibilities with the creative team’s previous work, ‘Full Circle’ calls to mind other chilling limited series such as ‘The Night Of’ or ‘Mare of Easttown’. When Jared (Ethan Stoddard) arrives home safely, bringing the big twist from the premiere with him, there’s an instant change in the whole vibe of the show; this is no longer a family feud and an orderly circle, but a destructive mess that threatens to erupt in every direction.
Episode 1 Grade: B
Episode 2 Grade: B
Connect the dots:
- The kidnapping storyline appears to be focused not on Derek and Sam, but on Jeff. Quaid’s character is certainly not at the center of these two episodes, but Aked explicitly mentions Chef Jeff: he could be the key to this deep enmity.
- Also noted in the IndieWire review is that Harmony acts as a cop even though she isn’t. This shows across the board, especially with Episode 2’s highly predictable absentee partner storyline.
- What is the building depicted in the ad from the cold open?
- About the cold open: the immediately following scene, in which three individuals collect money after shooting someone (presumably Savi’s brother because he immediately cuts the funeral… but is it a mislead?) still needs to be explained or those characters seen again.
- Is the old man in the park really dead? Is Nicky dead? We may suppose…
- The fact that Jared is alive (and thus the circle is still broken) won’t sit still for long, and Savi will likely strike again, with even more ferocity.
- I feel sorry for Xavier (Sheyi Cole), Louis (Gerald Jones) and Natalie (Adia), who clearly would rather not get involved in any of this. Even Aked realizes now that he bit off more than he could chew serving Aunt M.
“Full Circle” released new episodes every Thursday on Max.