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The Old Man Review: Jeff Bridges Thriller Has No Trouble Keeping Up With Younger Dramas

The FX spy series has the energy of a show half its age

Kyle Fowle
Jeff Bridges, The Old Man

Jeff Bridges, The Old Man

Prashant Gupta/FX

There's a moment about halfway through the series premiere of The Old Man where Harold Harper (John Lithgow) is sitting with his grandson, building a castle out of blocks. We don't know anything about Harper yet, but he lives in quite the estate and comes across as thoughtful and articulate. "Space is the breath of art," he says, quoting Frank Lloyd Wright in an attempt to convey some lesson to his grandson. While the grandson might be too young to understand, The Old Man itself could be said to embody the philosophy of that quote. As the series unfolds, it leaves a lot of space for the characters, action, and impactful moments to breathe, creating a slow burn that's often very effective.

The premiere episode, airing June 16 on FX and streaming the next day on Hulu, is one of the more immediately compelling debuts of 2022. Jeff Bridges plays Dan Chase, an ex-CIA operative with a mysterious past who, after years in hiding, finds himself confronting whatever mess he made in his previous life. Assassins start to come for him in the middle of the night. He finds trackers hidden under his car. He picks up and moves, again and again, only to find that his old foes (perhaps once friends?) are pretty good at tracking him down. The premiere is beautifully paced, only giving out plot and character details in small doses, allowing the viewer to feel unsettled about what's happening and uncertain about which characters to trust.


The Old Man


  • Stellar lead performances
  • Action scenes that respect clarity and vision
  • Throwback vibe to the great paranoid thrillers of the '70s


  • Flashback scenes stall the action
  • Characters too often explain exactly what's happening

The tense feeling that permeates the premiere is something the show largely manages to hold on to as the lengthy episodes (three of the four episodes sent to critics clock in at over an hour) roll on. The Old Man does a good job at spreading out its various twists and turns, ratcheting up the tension when needed. What really makes the show work, though, is the way it executes its non-action scenes. Sure, the thriller stuff is the best part of the show, as Bridges tries to evade his captors in violent sequences shot with a precision, clarity, and style that's rare in TV these days. But the show is also incredibly poignant in its quieter moments, musing on ideas of identity, morality, and aging.

Specifically, The Old Man is compelling as a story about the stories we tell ourselves, and how easy it is to see ourselves as the heroes while others might not share that view. There's an uneasy feeling throughout the first few episodes because the show never quite spells out if Dan or Harold or anyone else involved here is a "bad" guy or a "good" guy. Rather, everyone lives in this murky in-between, and that makes for compelling character drama. Dan is forced to confront the consequences of his actions not only with the grown daughter he's trying to keep safe, but also the people he happens upon while on the run, like an Airbnb host named Zoe (Amy Brenneman) whom he becomes intimate with, drawing her into a journey she never imagined for herself.

The show can't totally keep the momentum of the premiere going. Flashbacks, which comprise about a quarter of each episode, are perhaps necessary for our understanding of the characters, as they tell us about Dan's mission in Afghanistan and what he did to get the CIA and an Afghan warlord named Faraz Hamzad working to find him again. But they too often slow down the action and feel much more sluggish than the lived-in world of the current timeline, where Bridges, Brenneman, and Lithgow bring a real gravitas to the political drama. Still, The Old Man is thrilling more often than not, and it's anchored by tremendous lead performances that make it a worthwhile watch for anyone who needs a true adult political thriller in their life.

Premieres: Thursday, June 16 at 10/9c on FX, streaming the next day on Hulu
Who's in it: Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, Amy Brenneman, Alia Shawkat
Who's behind it: Creators Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine (Black Sails)
For fans of: The Americans, Homeland, The Parallax View
How many episodes we watched: 4 of 7