NBC’s new drama, Allegiance, is an espionage thriller that will have you doubting every character and waiting for the next twist. Based on the Israeli series, The Gordin Cell, this show seems predictable at first glance but quickly turns into a maze of secrets and lies.

Allegiance Pilot Review

The story follows the quick-to-please and slightly eccentric CIA analyst Alex O’Connor played by Gavin Stenhouse. O’Connor is in his rookie year as an analyst when he is called to work on his first field case by the CIA Station Chief in New York, Sam Luttrel (Kenneth Choi). His mission: to unravel the secret Russian plot to destroy America. However, at the same time, O’Connor’s parents, Katya (Hope Davis) and Mark O’Connor (Scott Cohen) are visited by an unwelcome “friend” from their past, Victor Dobrynin (Morgan Spector), who is tasked by the reinvented KGB, known as the SVR, to reactivate them and recruit their son in the process.

As the genius but quirky Alex, Stenhouse creates a likable and fully realized character. His more notable moments are when he is playing a “smarty pants,” showing that he is able to carry an entire scene while still keeping the audience captivated by his intelligence. Stenhouse also plays to Alex’s quirks well, having him squeeze a stress ball as a form of relaxation and comfort for his character. He slowly becomes more assertive as the central character of the show and comes into his own by the end of the episode.

The show derives a lot of its strength from an unfamiliar plot twist: Alex’s older sister, Natalie (Margarita Levieva) is an ex-Russian spy who unwillingly joined the organization at a young age and is in fact Dobrynin’s lover. She struggles between her emotional compulsions and familial duties. Not to mention, she also holds resentment toward her mother who she blames for forcing her to be a spy – her maternal grandfather was a General in the KGB. Levieva has great skill in delivering her lines with bitterness while still having an emotional connection to her feelings. She had minimal scenes in the pilot, but is definitely one of the dominant females in the series, and will hopefully play a major role in the future survival of the family.

Davis and Cohen are believable as a retired spy couple – a more mature versions of Mr. and Mrs. Smith – showing experience in crucial moments. Davis’ Katya O’Connor is a Russian-speaking powerhouse, whose command of the family business is matched only by her talent to act as the iconic American “stay at home” mother, with a spotless home and food ready on the table. Cohen plays the “knight in shining armor”, with charm and good looks. He is the yang to Davis’ yin and they are an unbreakable team.

Allegiance is similar to the already-successful FX series, The Americans, but instead of parents as spies, the children are the focus – the future of covert operations. This show will keep you wondering who is next to become a double-agent and whose side will they truly fight for in the end.

Allegiance airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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