In the first season of "Chosen" (2:01 a.m. Thursday, crackle.com; 3 stars out of 4), a Los Angeles lawyer and his family couldn't avoid a deadly game of kill-or-be-killed, finally succumbing to the twisted desires of the mysterious puppet master who was pulling their strings.
The second season continues the story of Ian Mitchell (Milo Ventimiglia), his ex-wife Laura (Nicky Whelan), and their daughter, who are all on the run after Laura received an order she did not wish to carry out in the Season 1 cliffhanger. I won't spoil that for newcomers, just in case you want to catch up before the free online streaming service presents six new 20-minute episodes, which Ventimiglia also produced with Ryan Lewis and director Ben Ketai. (The series already has been given a third season.)
Chad Michael Murray joins the cast this season, playing struggling bartender Jacob Orr, whom we first see at a party thrown by his wealthy pal Max Banyan (Brandon Routh) where he meets a nurse, Avery Sharp (Sarah Roemer), before leaving the party.
The premiere pulls you in as soon as Jacob hops in his car and finds a wooden box containing a gun, a photo of a stranger and a clock that counts down the time he has to kill the person in the photo. It's the same box that both the Mitchells, and others, received in the first season.
After being shot at by another player and witnessing that guy get attacked by yet another amateur assassin, Jacob slowly comes to realize that the game isn't a joke created by Max. Or is Max the man behind the game? The joy of watching this thriller is that viewers, like the characters, are never quite sure who is in charge of the game and how they are managing to control every aspect of the playing field—from phone calls to surveillance videos to law enforcement officials.
One could worry that "Chosen" (or "CH:OS:EN" as the official title reads) would just repeat its basic plot with new players, but the new season adds layers as the Mitchells struggle with knowing that their daughter was allowed to watch video of them terminating a player. This gives Ventimiglia and Whelan the chance to show more than just action-hero chops.
The show is well-acted all around, with newcomer Murray wearing the hangdog look of a down-and-out former golden boy who comes to life only when his brother's life is threatened by the game's conspirators. Instead of simply doing as he's told, at least in the early episodes, Jacob tries to figure out how to get out of the game and to stop it.
Jacob, the Mitchells and the other unwilling players face a moral dilemma at the center of the series: How do they protect their own without becoming killers?
Last season, Crackle sent all six episodes for review and I devoured them quickly. This time around I only got to check out two episodes, and I'm counting down to Thursday when I can watch the rest.
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