Full Circle Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
In the last few years, the limited series method of storytelling has flooded — and subsequently, saturated — the television landscape. While it seems to be getting slightly out of control, it also makes perfect sense. Creators can snatch up top-tier actors for a project that doesn’t warrant as much time commitment as a continuing series would, while also allowing actors more time than a movie would to discover and explore their characters. Everybody wins! Problems may arise when a story feels stuffed inside the limited series format (like when a show is canceled and tries to pass itself off as a one-season wonder all along) or when the opposite happens where a bite-sized story becomes a surprise massive hit, prompting all involved to milk the story, characters, and world of the show for all it’s worth. There’s almost a weird, unwritten rule for creators of these abbreviated series that they have to have another season’s worth of ideas in their back pocket, “just in case.”
As a result, the initial intrigue of a limited series has become a bit distorted and the medium is having an identity crisis. Remember when they were few and far between, and we shamelessly referred to them as the unofficially retired term “miniseries?” This makes the new Max series Full Circle a rarity in more ways than one. Not only does the story feel like it was meticulously sculpted to fit into the limited series mold (and never strays from it) but it handles revelations, secrets, and character arcs with a balance that feels particularly uncommon in this style of storytelling.
The first episode effectively fills us in on the three seemingly-separate storylines that efficiently come together more and more in each of the six episodes. Directed by acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh and written by Ed Solomon, the crime drama takes the familiar idea of having a kidnapping as the inciting incident and turns it on its head rather quickly. In one corner we have Derek (Timothy Olyphant) and Sam (Claire Danes), a well-to-do married couple living in Manhattan who oversee the empire of Sam’s father, famously known throughout the world as Chef Jeff (Dennis Quaid). Sam and Derek have a tight leash on their quiet and painfully-shy son Jared (Ethan Stoddard) who yearns for a simpler life more grounded in reality. Rather than reveling in his privileged world, he’s suffocated, which manifests itself in peculiar ways, like his habit of frequently misplacing things.
The series is anchored by what at first appears to be an unrelated storyline orchestrated by Mrs. Mahabir (played by the Emmy-nominated CCH Pounder). This enigmatic woman’s presence exudes immense power that the actress wields subtly and purposely, never treading into melodramatic territory. She’s mourning the loss of her brother-in-law Quincy, though not in the traditional sense. He was murdered during a business deal gone wrong with Edward Chung, who’s now at the top of her enemy list. Not only did she lose a loved one, but his death opened the “circle” protecting their family, which, as her relative Woulghby (Franklin Ojeda Smith) who she meets with in Guayana describes it, unleashes a “curse” on them. She’s determined to right the wrongs that have plagued the past and reverse fate by closing the open circle. (And this is where things start to weave together.)
For reasons the audience slowly begins to understand over the course of the series, Sam and Derek’s son Jared is Mrs. Mahabir’s target. In the first episode, her all-talk nephew Aked (Jharrel Jerome) is antsy to avenge Quincy’s death and is put in charge of Jared’s kidnapping. He manhandles recruits Louis (Gerald Jones) and Xavier (Sheyi Cole) who come to the US from Guayana and are expected to not question any of Mahabir’s orders. At the same time, Jared’s phone is stolen (though his parents think it’s another thing he’s carelessly lost) and he forms an online relationship with Nicky (Lucian Zanes), a similarly-lonely boy who stole his phone. The two decide to meet in person on the same night of Aked’s stakeout, and, in its simplest terms, the kidnapping does not go as planned. There are several details and additional characters that are the reasons why this kidnapping was brutally botched, but, let’s not swim too close to the spoiler side of the pond.
Danes, Olyphant, and Quaid’s dynamic performances make you care about what could easily have been detestable characters. The trio embodies the panic and paralysis that comes from feeling helpless in such dire situations without ever going over the top. All of their reactions feel very raw and grounded, making the unimaginable circumstances they are plunged into feel all the more possible. It doesn’t feel like you are watching someone “act,” which ironically is when you know you have a strong performance on your hands. Jones, Cole, Jerome, and Adia (who plays Louis’ sister) have more prominent storylines than the former group and impressively hold their own alongside (and even overshadow) their veteran costars.
All of that being said, two performers rise to the top: Zazie Beetz and Jim Gaffigan. Probably the most unlikely pairing you could imagine, right? Beetz plays Harmony Melody (yes, that is her name), an inspector who’s this close to being fired by her boss, Manny Broward (Gaffigan). There is a myriad of reasons why she is unfit for her position (a psych evaluation being the most glaring) and Manny is ready to offload this walking headache. Fortunately, he does not, but he also doesn’t exactly endorse Harmony’s actions, either. She’s itching to dig up some dirt on a long-buried Guayana case (see how this all connects?) but Manny understandably wants her on a case that’s more straightforward and relevant.
An employee hating their boss is well-trod terrain, but Beetz and Gaffigan breathe new life into the well-worn trope. Beetz is a powerhouse in a role that lets her be unapologetically angry, intense, sarcastic, and determined. She’s deeply flawed and wears it proudly like a badge, never hesitating to do what she wants by any means necessary (legality isn’t something she concerns herself with). Harmony’s a walking time bomb, equipped with a biting personality we don’t often ascribe to investigators.
Meanwhile, Gaffigan proves (once again) that he’s a very capable dramatic actor by not falling prey to playing a bland authority figure archetype. He’s got an edge and shows who’s boss (literally) but also humanizes a means-business character with little glimpses of his comedic side that people are probably far more familiar with. Beetz and Gaffigan’s scenes together are some of the best in the series and leave you wanting more. Her all-in performance and the backstory teases we get for her character scream spin-off potential.
Soderbergh has a shockingly diverse filmography, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons why he is so skilled at his craft. Following Sex, Lies, and Videotape which put him on the map in 1989, he’s directed Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven, The Knick, Behind the Candelabra, and Magic Mike, to give you an idea of his range. Full Circle writer and creator Ed Solomon, whose writing credits include Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Men in Black, Now You See Me, and the Godforsaken Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993, is no different. Full Circle’s cohesive and gripping storytelling mirrors that of the 2021 film No Sudden Move, another Soderbergh-Solomon crime drama collaboration.
The series avoids traps that many mysteries trying to be clever often fall into, and that’s when a slew of revelations in the third act neatly answer every question the audience has been accumulating from the start. The worst is when these twists come out of nowhere, feeling more like shock value than contributing to the integrity of the story. Full Circle’s revelations and character turns are as suspenseful and surprising as a thriller should be without insulting the audience with information they couldn’t possibly see coming. Similarly, its finale does not tie everything up in a bow, but rather, leaves you slightly haunted by the handful of lingering questions that remain long after the credits roll. Soderbergh has a very unpolished way of shooting that enhances the organic feel of the show. That, coupled with Zack Ryan’s eerie score that creeps up on the audience in the best of ways, injects a layer of tension when you least expect it. While not necessarily everything feels as complete as you’d expect from a series titled Full Circle, one thing becomes crystal clear by the end: Steven Soderbergh and Ed Solomon absolutely belong in the world of crime dramas.