Screechy ads or death by eyeball - a grim choice

Thrilling: Soho's new Hunted follows a spy seeking her unseen assassin.
Thrilling: Soho's new Hunted follows a spy seeking her unseen assassin.

Hard to know which is the more excruciating: the ever more hysterical "Final, last ever sale! HURRY!" ads or the death-by-eyeball- injection scene in Soho's new Hunted, Sunday and Monday.

Horrifying though the latter was in this new spy thriller, at least there was a degree of finality to it. The sale ads are with us in perpetuity, varying only in their extra loudness over the Christmas season, and their ever more desperate "10,000 years interest-FREEEEEE!" offers.

But Hunted, a poor person's Spooks, is no picnic for its heroine, Samantha (Melissa George). She's a highly accomplished mercenary operative who, in the first scene, arranges a kidnapping and stages her own death in several different languages. But in a turnaround which, in her business, should not be nearly as galling as she finds it to be, someone is now trying to kill her.

She miraculously survives a near-point-blank shooting in the abdomen and vows to discover the identity of the person who set her up for assassination and figure out why.

Flashback scenes suggest something from her deep, dark past might account for someone wanting her dead but, plainly, we are going to be teased for several more episodes about this. For now, she is Woman Alone, fleeing from an unseen enemy of opaque motive.

Reluctantly, her former mercenary espionage colleagues give her her old job back, as she can kill/maim/abduct/ rescue you soon as look at you while ordering tea in Swahili at the same time, and such operatives don't grow on trees. But, since her near-death experience, they can see her other agenda risks compromising her effectiveness. All her colleagues are under her suspicion, even her lovely English boyfriend (Adam Rayner from Mistresses who serves an admirable decorative function here).

It's a show that takes itself way too seriously given the outlandish nature of the setup. Samantha's first gig is posing as a sort of nanny to the grandson of a major criminal (Patrick Malahide doing a spot of slumming and scenery gnawing) while keeping him under surveillance. Enter a nasty foreigner who has just offed a prospective houseguest in the aforementioned grisly manner, and is posing as the houseguest.

It's a pacy show with crisp, if undemanding, acting. But no decision has been made about a second series - suggesting that, like the latest Harvey Norman sale ad, there's no guarantee it'll keep you coming back for more however determinedly it comes at you.

The Dominion Post