The Old Man (Season 1) Episodes 1 & 2 Recap, Review & Ending Explained: It seems to be a trademark for creators Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine to use roman numerals to denote episode numbering, like on their previous show Black Sails. Similar to Black Sails, Steinberg and Levine are back again with genre programming to scratch a very specific itch for viewers. Teaming up with Jon Watts for directing and hiring veteran Jeff Bridges in his first television role, The Old Man very much feels like Jeff Bridges dabbling into an action-heavy role similar to Liam Neeson’s turn in Taken or Keanu Reeves’ comeback turn in John Wick.
We are introduced to our protagonist, Dan Chase (Jeff Bridges), the titular world-weary “old man” who is prone to frequent trips to the loo due to his geriatric state. During these trips, we see him having visions of his wife, Abby (Hiam Abbas), sitting hunched on the bathroom floor, which is dripping wet due to the faucet running unencumbered. These visions feel like flashbacks to the time when his wife was suffering from Huntington’s Disease, to which she eventually succumbed.
His two companions are two dogs, affectionately named Dave and Carol. He has a daughter named Emily who lives off-town in an unknown location. We mostly hear Dan’s interactions with Emily over the phone, after which we see Dan microwaving the phone and destroying it. The inherent paranoia rears its head in Dan when he is returning from his regular checkup at the doctor’s office and sees a shop owner he doesn’t recognize. We see him returning home, rummaging through his bin and tying a couple of cans with a rope, hanging them by his door.
Sleeping with a gun and a torch by his nightstand, he woke up at the sound of the cans rustling. As his dogs run downstairs, he moves slowly, his gun at the ready, and finds the same man from the shop lying on the floor, held hostage by the dogs’ teeth. Unable to discern the identity of the man by asking him, Dan shoots him and then rearranges the body and the gun to make the tussle look like an equal fight for the police. Skillfully dodging the police’s questioning, Dan immediately drives away from the town, calling Emily and informing her about the situation.
We are introduced to Assistant Director of the FBI, Harold Harper (John Lithgow), playing lego structures with his grandson. He is unable to keep his emotions in check when he learns that his grandson is still waiting for his parents to come back, and we see him breaking down in the bathroom. It is easy to discern that Harold’s son is dead, which would be confirmed later. His wife brings in the phone and Harper learns from Agent Raymond Waters that Waters’ had been instructed to contact him by Bob Blasky of the DCS.
One of Harold’s old cases concerning an agent who went MIA in 1987, seems to have resurfaced if the recent activity is to be believed. Waters had been instructed to learn whether the asset was still alive and, if so, to retrieve him. Harper tries in vain to reassure her that the file has been resolved. Lithgow’s performance shows that his relationship with the “asset” Dan is dependent on secrets that neither he nor Dan would want to reopen. But it seems the chickens have come home to roost.
Dan stops at a nearby cafe, to get his bearings after feeling satisfied that he has put enough distance between himself and the town. He calls a man, asking about a house, which seems to be another property Dan owns under the name Dixon. Instructing the caretaker to bring in groceries and clean the rooms up, Dan puts the phone down. He sees a woman sitting alone at a corner table, and is hit with a flashback, where we see a younger Dan discussing with Abby the idea of creating new identities and going underground together as a married couple. Through their conversation, we can infer that either Abby was a fellow agent, or she knew intimate details about Dan’s job.
We are yanked back to the present when Dan gets another phone call on his burner phone. As he picks up, we learn that it is Harold, who had known where he was since the beginning. He alerts Dan to the transponder attached to the rear wheelbase of his car, and informs him that he has three minutes before the cavalry arrives to take him. Dan leaves the cafe and calls back. Through their conversation, we learn that Harold and Dan had been close in the past, colleagues in a dangerous profession, with Harold being their handler. Dan had been keeping tabs on Harold’s life as he offered condolences on the loss of his son. Harold, in return, informs him that he had been instructed to return to the field to aid the FBI in capturing Dan because Faraz Hamzad wants to capture Dan to settle an old grudge. He informs Dan that the FBI specialists following Dan are extremely armed and dangerous, and Dan’s only logical way out would be to lose his tail and disappear off the grid entirely. Consequently, that means losing contact with his daughter forever.
Flustered and angry, Dan calls Emily and informs her, who sounds baffled. From her conversation with her father, we learn that she has an inkling of what her father was, but not the entirety. But that is enough for her to resolutely state that Dan can’t do this. He must stand back and remind them who he was.
Dan loses the tail, throwing the transponder off the side of a service road. As the agents find the transponder, Dan drives his SUV and bashes their car from the side, killing one of their agents. The other agent and Dan have a rough tussle which ends with Dan being exhausted and captured by the agent. As the agent captures Dan and drives away from the crash site, we see Dan’s dogs following the car. The agent calls Waters, telling him that the target was neutralized, but before he could offer details, Dan, who is handcuffed and sitting in the backseat, kicks the agent in the head and steers the car down the side of the road, toppling it. The agent and Dan, both wounded, tried to get out of the car, but before the agent could leverage himself off of this situation, the dogs arrived and handled him. The episode ends with the car drenched in smoke, and Dan calling Harold and warning him that should any more men be sent after him, they would be sent back in body bags, but if men were sent after his daughter, they would be hacked to pieces.
The episode opens with a young version of Harold Harper standing in front of a jeep in the middle of the desert. We see a young masked rider on horseback approaching the jeep, who is revealed to be a young Dan Chase or Johnny. Harold informs Johnny that he was unable to procure the guns he had asked for, as he is fighting an unsanctioned war, which Harold thinks is a bad idea. Johnny agrees with Harold on the validity of the idea but also informs him that he believes the man he is supporting. He truly believes that the man is trying to help his people. We can infer that Chase or Johnny is talking about a sect of Afghan revolutionaries, about whom Harold remains unconvinced as the US intelligence’s information about the group doesn’t track. However, he agrees to bring the guns with a caveat—if anyone finds out what Chase is doing, the government won’t hesitate to send someone after him. This sequence smoothly transitions to the present, where we see the older Harold at the crash site of the car, looking at the dead bodies. Waters is still unsure about Chase’s motivations for sticking around, and about Harold’s bias in the case. Meanwhile, Chase abandons his wrecked car in an abandoned garage, gathers his belongings in a bag, and drives away in a new car to another house, preferably unrelated to Dan Chase.
Having entered the house after finding the key below the doormat, Dan is paid a visit by his neighbour Zoe (Amy Brenneman), to whom he introduces himself as Peter Caldwell. Zoe is suspicious upon looking at “Peter’s” banged-up face, but upon seeing the presence of two dogs, in complete violation of her advertisement, which had expressly stated “no pets”, she asks him to leave.
Meanwhile, Harold deplanes and drives up to the stately mansion of his friend Morgan Bote, to learn why Faraz Hamzad has decided to resurface after so many years. We infer that Bote had been a mentor to both Harold and Dan Chase, who had been very critical of both Chase and Harold’s actions in the past regarding Hamzad. And now Hamzad has connections in the state department, which he is using as leverage to capture Dan for revenge. He gives Harold a phone number, a contingency which Harold couldn’t believe Bote would instruct him to use, but Bote in no uncertain terms states that more than camaraderie, it’s Harold’s legacy that’s on the line here, and at the risk of being in shambles if he didn’t straighten this situation out.
“Peter’s” car had broken down, and as he was waiting for the tow truck to arrive, he cooked Zoe a meal, to start on the right foot. Initially hesitant and unwilling to change her mind, she comes round to him as she listens to his ruminations regarding his story of the old man who had taught him how to cook. As the tow truck finally arrives, Zoe agrees to let “Peter” stay, on the condition that he pays her two months’ rent in advance and he cooks for two days per week. Having successfully negotiated with Zoe, Dan finally returns to his place, where he finally lies down on the bed to nurse his bruised and broken ribs.
Harold returns to his office and, after interrupting a birthday party, instructs his agents to meet him at his temporary office. There, his protege Angela (Alia Shawkat) asks him point-blank what he is doing back at the office after having suffered the loss of his son and daughter-in-law. Harold instructs her to stop worrying about him and then recruits her and another agent to locate the whereabouts of Chase’s daughter, a piece of information we learn Harold had no clue about until Dan slipped up during their conversation.
Meanwhile, days later, Zoe asks Dan out to dinner, which he accepts so as not to make her suspicious, as told to his daughter. During the date, Dan and Zoe connect with the number of medicines they carry in their pockets, which, while a weird opening salvo, is still a sweet and mature one, which transitions into Dan revealing to Zoe how his wife had passed away due to Huntington’s, after six years of suffering from severe dementia. In return, Zoe informs Dan about her divorce, which had occurred around the same time, after her husband had left for a younger woman. While initially, it seemed like a typical story of cheating, Zoe re-contextualizes it to be a story of her being unable to find happiness in the life she had chosen, and her husband choosing to find happiness on his terms. It’s an interesting, if self-flagellating take, which automatically makes Zoe much more interesting than a traditional love interest.
At the FBI, Agent Waters tries to trip Angela into revealing Harold’s motivations. He reveals that Faraz Hamzad was a formidable warlord in Afghanistan, who made himself even more formidable due to the presence of his right-hand man, an assassin responsible for killing dozens of Russian targets. The Afghans had a nickname for him—”Baba-Khorkhore”, or “The Beast who ate everything”, and Waters believes in the rumours that this man might have been Dan Chase. When Angela asks what this has to do with her mentor, Waters informs her that Harold was station-chief there, overseeing CIA support in the area, and Waters strongly believes that Harold had backed Chase up. While the information was illuminating for Angela, she reveals that his noticeable attempt to turn her against Harold was laughable. Waters, undeterred, informs her that at Langley, they taught him that the person easiest to turn was the one who strongly believed that they couldn’t be turned. It would only be a matter of time.
Zoe drives them home after the date while Peter looks out of the window at the night sky. Zoe’s son calls, asking her whether the money for his tuition had been paid. They come upon a police roadblock in front of their house, whereby Peter tries to hide his face while Zoe answers the questions asked by the cops. As they step out of the vehicle and Peter sees Zoe fumble at answering, Peter removes the knife hidden behind his leg, slits the throat of one of the cops and shoots the other. As he tries to convince Zoe to come with him to the car, who is standing drenched in blood and shock, Peter shoots her in the head.
Wrenching himself out of his stupor, Peter agrees to the cops’ informing him to drive, telling him that they detected alcohol in his wife’s breath. Back at the house, Peter denies Zoe’s invitation to come inside, citing that it is complicated and might over-complicate her situation as well. She disagrees and holds Peter’s hand and guides him back to the house.
That night, Dan dreams of Abby again, where Abbey taunts him that he is afraid to move on and find another partner, afraid of what would happen when she learns of the truth. She then asks whether he would tell the truth or she would, and ostensibly walks up to Zoe’s side of the bed to wake her. Dan wakes up from this dream, decides it was a mistake, and starts packing his bags, deciding to get away from this place. Hearing a bottle break, he walks up to Zoe’s place and sees her flustered and emotional. She informs Dan that her son hadn’t been allowed to sit for the exam because his tuition fees hadn’t been paid. When Emily went to check her account, she found her account had been overdrawn by 41 dollars, causing her cheque to bounce. She reveals that this is a ploy by her husband to get out of his alimony payments. Dan offers to pay, but she turns him down. Undeterred, Dan starts cleaning the broken glass off the floor and then starts cooking a meal. Zoe walks up to him and rests her head on his shoulder.
The Old Man (Season 1) Episodes 1 & 2 Ending Explained
Harold’s bias on the case leads him to make a decision
At the FBI office, Harold walks up to Angela’s cubicle and advises her to get a life, informing her that he had already married twice at her age. Angela wryly smiles and informs Harold that she has located Emily Chase, but she had committed suicide in 2003. It had been kept quiet. Seeing Harold flustered and determinedly working through traffic stop reports and other raw footage, Angela informs Harold that Agent Waters had told her about Faraz Hamzad, and asks whether the rumors Waters believes are true. Harold tells Angela that she is seeing the end of a very long story that no one has any answers for.
In a parking lot in the middle of the night, Harper calls the man recommended to him by Morgan Bote. There he instructs that man to find Chase at Zoe’s house with a warning that Chase is dangerous and would do anything to protect himself. The man, only revealed by closed captions as Julian, seems to be a hired private investigator or an assassin who is efficient enough to talk back at the Assistant Director of the FBI without even a shake in his voice. But given how much shaken Harold was with disbelief that Bote would even offer this contingency, skews the possibility towards the latter. We see Harold looking at a photo of Chase seated beside Zoe when she had been cornered by the cops due to the roadblock.
The Old Man (Season 1) Episodes 1 & 2 Review
Working with a limited budget and minimal use of CGI feels like the most comfortable avenue for Jon Watts here, as a director. The pilot episode of The Old Man is one of the stronger and grittier beginnings of a television show, which doesn’t disguise the ageing of Jeff Bridges and his physical prowess. As a result, the stakes never feel low during the action sequences. However, the strongest moments are the interactions between Lithgow and Bridges, who, while they don’t share the screen physically, really bring a sense of gravitas to their roles. Amy Brenneman as Zoe also feels like a compelling addition to the narrative. The action sequences needed a bit more dynamic editing to pump up the pace. However, the show itself starts quite strong, with the narrative slowing down just a tad bit in the second episode, but not to a complete stop. Onward to the next installment.