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Steven Soderbergh Gets Lost In His Own Loop

The Pitch: Steven Soderbergh knows how to craft a compelling narrative — look no further than the cultural staple that is the Ocean’s franchise, or his Oscar-winning Traffic, for proof of that. Unfortunately, while Full Circle shares many surface-level traits with some of Soderbergh’s other, very good work, it lacks the tension or timing to make it as memorable as those aforementioned titles.

The story here is centered on Sam (Claire Danes) and her husband Derek (Timothy Olyphant, handsome as ever): Together, they manage the business for Claire’s celebrity chef father, Jeff (Dennis Quaid — with a ponytail), until the family becomes tangled with a criminal ring led by the enigmatic Mrs. Mahabir (CCH Pounder), who orders the kidnapping of Jeff’s grandson, Jared — and when the plan goes askew, it leaves Mrs. Mahabir’s nephew, Aked (the always reliable Jharrel Jerome), in a vulnerable position.

Characters and Curses: Jared’s kidnapping might be the impetus for the action here, but over its six-episode run, Full Circle spends more time with the immediate aftershocks — double-crossing, investigations, ties to the past, and secrets that are revealed in the process. Without getting into spoilers here, many of these characters are more involved than it seems at first, and some of the trouble lies in how long it takes the show to reveal that.

While Full Circle is aiming for an air of mystery, some of these events just feel confusing — the first episode introduces a lot of names and faces, and the restraint exercised to save some important reveals for further down the road just ends up leaving the viewer feel like they’re a bit too in the dark.

For example, Zazie Beetz plays Melody Harmony (yes, really), an obsessive, brash, and somewhat unhinged postal inspector who can’t get her supervisor (a gruff Jim Gaffigan) to officially assign her to investigate why so much recurring trouble can be traced back to the same Guyanese community, Mrs. Mahabir’s crew. If you’re confused as to why a mail cop would be so particularly involved in a case like this, you’re not the only one.

However, many elements of the show are individually good, including the performances: Danes and Olyphant are believably panicked parents when they receive a call about their son being tossed in the back of a van; the emotion Jerome is able to communicate in his voice ought to be studied by aspiring young actors; Quaid is deeply believable as a narcissistic television personality; kindhearted Natalia, played by Adia, tugs on the heartstrings.

Full Circle (Max)

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