The two-hour opening of CBS’ new summertime action-adventure is tropey, dopey, and deathly familiar.
This Blood & Treasure recap for the first two episodes, titled “The Curse of Cleopatra” Part 1 and 2, contains spoilers.
Watching the two-hour premiere of Blood & Treasure, CBS’s new summertime action-adventure romp, I very quickly lost track of how many characters, ideas, and tropes had been brazenly pilfered from other, better, more well-known fixtures of the genre. Here’s a bit from Indiana Jones, there’s a nod to National Treasure, this is all very The Da Vinci Code, and so on and so forth, with liberal sprinklings of influence from other media, such as the novels of Clive Cussler and the easy-on-the-eye quick-witted bombast of the Uncharted video games. If you were to make a drinking game out of the whole affair you’d be dead by the time the two-part “The Curse of Cleopatra” had reached its halfway point.
And Blood & Treasure just feels imitative; already tedious and well-worn in its first two hours, despite a preponderance of beautiful actors and upscale locales. There’s no pizzaz to any of this, no real character or flair; the whole construction is just artlessly cobbled together from its various influences and left to stand as-is, a teetering Jenga tower of borrowed bits and pieces. There’s potential for the show to become more than the sum of its parts, and I’d be happy if it did, as I’m as much a fan of dopey summer entertainment as anyone else. But so far for all its grave digging it isn’t making any new discoveries.
Anyway, here’s the setup: In a prologue, a sealed vault containing the tombs of Antony and Cleopatra is discovered in a pyramid by archeologist Dr. Anna Castillo (Alicia Coppola), who is promptly kidnapped by smarmy terrorist villain Karim Farouk (Oded Fehr). But needless to say, Dr. Castillo had a protege, Danny McNamara (Matt Barr), an absurdly handsome ex-Fed and expert in history and art and antiquities and also maybe a lawyer, although all of his credentials are kind of unclear. Either way, he’s chummy with a deeply suspicious billionaire (John Larroquette) who hires him to find his former mentor because he’s really good at tracking down ancient trinkets and unearthing long-forgotten secrets, but to do that he’ll need the black market know-how of his extremely sexy and morally flexible old flame and Egyptian relic hunter Lexi Vaziri (Sofia Pernas). Phew.
There’s a baked-in old-school appeal to all this, obviously, with sexual chemistry to spare and a globetrotting action-heavy aesthetic that even brings up old maps to signify a switch in location. There’s some knowing silliness in how certain things work, with ancient secrets being laughably easy to discover and technology doing virtually anything the writers require it to in any given moment. And whatever else might be said about Blood & Treasure, you certainly can’t fault it for pace. In that case, what’s the problem?
I suppose it depends on what you really want from summer programming. The executives at CBS and the show’s creators Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia evidently believe it’s this, but is it, really? There’s probably some truth that this kind of show will forever be appealing, but I — perhaps naively — have a bit more faith in the viewing public than to assume they’ll be completely satisfied by having lots of things they recognize presented to them again, only less charismatically. But then again I could be wrong, which is a possibility we should consider.
Either war, Blood & Treasure didn’t get off to the best of starts with “The Curse of Cleopatra”, but there’s every chance the thing could blossom into an amusing distraction once it settles into its own groove and decides to give its major characters actual characters. There’s enough competent and decently-scaled action that the show is never boring, at least, and there’s a fair helping of globetrotting intrigue that might even coalesce into a proper overarching narrative given enough time. So far, though, Blood & Treasure is far from the priceless jewel I’m sure its creators were expecting — fittingly enough, it might even be cursed.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.