A flash of handcuffs, a bleeding girl, a swath of neatly chopped hair, unattached to any head. The ABC drama The Nine knows how to set a disturbing scene. It tackles a worn-out premise — bank robbery, hostages — from a new, moody angle, and transforms what could be stale genre TV into an intriguing mystery. We know, for instance, that the nine hostages bonded during their 52-hour ordeal to an almost disturbing degree. What was done? When the bank manager (Chi McBride) is asked what happened to his shell-shocked teenage daughter (Dana Davis), he answers ominously, ”I wasn’t with her the whole time.”
The Nine feels like Inside Man meets The Usual Suspects meets Murder on the Orient Express — no one is above suspicion at this point. The cast is packed with actors who’ve been doing great work in TV roles so similar to their Nine characters, those old parts seem almost like auditions in retrospect: Tim Daly plays a smart-aleck gambler cop who’s a version of his mouthy detective on ABC’s Eyes (too quickly canceled and still mourned!). Kim Raver is a tough-vulnerable assistant DA, very similar to her Audrey Raines on Fox’s 24. And Scott Wolf, who was a surgeon with a secret on The WB’s Everwood, plays?well, you get the picture.
The biggest worry with The Nine is that its mystery will start to crumble after a dozen episodes or so. But for now, it’s one smooth, creepy, cool operation.