February 26, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Enemy Within”



NBC’s spy thriller THE ENEMY WITHIN is a variation of The Blacklist, itself a variation of The Silence Of The Lambs, all telling stories about ingenious master villains recruited by the FBI to help track down other fiendish criminals.  But series creator Ken Woodruff’s script (his previous credits include the short-lived Reverie and a stint on Gotham) undercuts itself before the pilot is over, reassuring us that former CIA operative Erica Shepherd (Jennifer Carpenter) didn’t mean to collaborate with a Russian super-spy at all when she divulged the names of other American agents, she was compelled to turn traitor only to save the life of her teen daughter.  That immediately lowers the stakes, since Erica is no real threat to anyone.

There are other problems.  Unlike Lambs and even Blacklist, Enemy Within lacks any sense of humor, including the dark kind.  Woodruff’s dialogue tends to the ham-handed, with Erica’s FBI handler Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut) given to overturning chairs and lines like “Not everyone is capable of selling their souls like you are!” and his supervisor instructing him “I’m not asking you to like it, Will.  I’m asking you to do your job.”  (Will has been given the backstory that Erica’s act of treason killed his fiance, because This Time It’s Personal.)  The other members of Will’s unit are so generic (electronics whiz, interrogator) that they don’t seem worth naming.

Carpenter, best known as Dexter‘s sister, brings some much-needed intensity to Erica, and pilot director Mark Pellington makes the action sequences look as big as possible, in scenes that hopscotch the Northeast.  But as the final scenes of the pilot lay out the plan for the series, with Erica providing exposition to the effect that the Russian Big Bad has a network of thousands of deep cover agents all over the US, all of which presumably she, Will and the team will have to uncover, the only feeling generated is weariness.  The real enemy within here may be on the writing staff.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."