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Tense drama will hook audience

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2For most people, the answers to these questions are direct and emphatic. And that's why they create a strong foundation for the appropriately titled new NBC drama Crisis.

Crisis, which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC, is a limited-run series that follows what happens after a busload of high-school students is taken hostage while en route to a field trip. What makes the scenario intriguing, rather than merely appalling, is that the school in question is a private academy in Washington, D.C., and the parents of the kidnapped teens include some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world, up to and including the president of the United States.

Crisis gets the kidnapping out of the way early, showing the interception of the bus and the capture of the kids as a meticulously planned and (mostly) efficiently executed affair. The only hitch occurs when one slow-footed student falls a few steps behind and a wounded Secret Service agent manages to whisk him off into the woods and away from the kidnappers. This single misstep will loom large later in the first hour.

The rest of the high-schoolers are loaded into the back of a truck and driven to a large house in a mysterious location. After apparently having been sedated in some way, they awaken to find that those whose security-conscious parents had GPS-trackable chips implanted in their offspring have had those devices surgically removed.

Once the kidnappers' complex plan begins to unfold that Crisis really starts to gain momentum.

FBI agent Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor) is assigned to lead the investigation, and learns that one of the kidnapped students is the daughter of her sister, multibillionaire software industrialist Meg Fitch (Gillian Anderson).

Fitch is far from the only rich and entitled parent; all of the affected families are led by adults who expect the world to do their bidding, which makes it difficult for Dunn and her FBI colleagues to get anyone to follow instructions and/or answer questions that might help get the investigation moving.

Over in the captors' mysterious mansion, meanwhile, tensions quickly rise. Along with the kidnapped teens, the hostage group also includes one teacher and one parent, nerdy divorced dad Francis Gibson (Dermot Mulroney), whose daughter Beth Ann (Stevie Lynn Jones) was embarrassed by his presence on the bus and wants nothing to do with him now.

The immediate conclusion drawn by the captive students is that the kidnappers' main target is Kyle Devore (Adam Scott Miller), the president's son. But it soon becomes apparent that there's a much bigger game being played here, and that most of the parents -- politicians, diplomats, military officials and big-business power brokers -- will, in turn, be drawn into the scheme.

The way they answer makes Crisis a quickly addictive thriller. The first two episodes are smartly paced and filled with interesting characters and complex, clever storylines. Like any high-stakes drama, this one demands a generous amount of suspended disbelief.

But if the rest of its limited-run season can keep from unravelling while maintaining the level of suspense created in the first two instalments, viewers might be willing to do whatever it takes to see this Crisis through to the end. Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2014 G3

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