FOX pulls off no easy stunt with “Lone Star,” a
drama set to the backdrop of Texas grifters and big oil, in making a endearing underdog out of a selfish con-man with a double life — and a gorgeous, adoring woman in each of them.
And both our and their affection is bound to star James Wolk, who
takes what would be a relatively engaging series and turns it into something
much more exciting with the charm he injects into every scene — regardless of which
persona he’s playing.
Robert Allen — or Bob, depending on the scene — is a second
generation criminal who we meet in the middle of two big jobs: one, getting the
citizens of a dusty, rural town to invest in an oil field that he doesn’t
even own and another, infiltrating a major corporation in Houston through his relationship
with the ruling family. And in both cons, he has a woman. There’s the doe-eyed, small-town girlfriend, Lindsay (Eloise Mumford), and the savvier but equally blinded Cat (Adrianne Palicki), who just so happens to be the daughter of the
company’s patriarch and C.E.O., Clint Thatcher (Jon Voight).
He’s closing in on scores in both cons, but there’s a problem. Bob just doesn’t’ have the heart for the life
of crime anymore, and he wants to go straight. Twice. (He’s equally in love with both Lindsay and Cat.)
These are not the makings of a conventional protagonist, and
that’s one of the reasons why “Lone Star” distinguishes itself from other offerings hitting network television this fall. The antiheroes (the Tony Sopranos, Bill Henricksons and Don Drapers) are generally
reserved for cable — and even then, they aren’t exactly lovable.
But there’s barely any question of how “Lone
Star” wants viewers to perceive Bob. You might not agree with his juggling two
women, but you can’t exactly fault him for it either. However he wound up in
the situation is moot. Both women are equally appealing, and if faced with a decision, you’d be pretty hard up too.
Still, Bob’s appetite for more is infuriating. Within the first five minutes of the pilot, you can see that he’s up to his neck in you-know-what. By the end, it’s already above his eyeballs and still rising — and it’s all his own
doing. Watching the train wreck of bad decisions unravel constantly has you wondering why he doesn’t just cut and run.
Slightly less appealing is the soapy drama within the family company, which gives Robert a pretty choice promotion in the first act. His brothers-in-law Trammell (Mark Deklin) and Drew (Bryce Johnson) come across as caricatures in the first episode, with the the former cartoonishly suspicious and scheming against Robert and the latter his dopey pawn. Robert is the son Clint never had, but setting up
the competition for fatherly approval as the primary conflict of the series seems like a waste.
There’s also the matter of Bob’s real father, John (David Keith). He aids in his son’s cons, egging him on to get the job done and move on. Aging and somewhat menacing, he’s clearly now reliant on his son’s skills to make his own dishonest living. But what doesn’t make sense is why Bob’s so eager to please a father he doesn’t agree with or even seem to trust. Their relationship is the series’ foggiest matter.
“Lone Star” could be compared to many series, but none would entirely do it justice — and for that, it’s sort of beyond comparison. Watching Bob subtly maneuver between one life and the other is a trick we’ve never seen on television. And it’s easy to see how he pulls it off. Wolk’s charisma and, let’s be honest, near-superhuman good looks ease any doubts you may have in his story. Or his series.