On a bus, another man gets overtaken by whatever that force is and gets in a fight with someone, resulting in him getting pounded into a coma. In a public square, a businesswoman stabs a young mother and his grabbed by the crowd.
Also happening in Madrid is a US youth skating team is arriving for a competition. Taking a separate car from the rest of the team is Jenny Franklin (Margarita Levieva) and her daughter Becca (Lydia Fleming). Becca, as most teens are, is pretty embarrassed by her mother and her overprotectiveness, and her only friend on the team is Maddie Davis (Lola Mae Loughran).
When Jenny leaves Becca to go get her daughter a tampon from a store near the hotel, she’s gassed and wakes up in a room with a CIA agent she later learns is named Chauncey Lu (Cillian O’Sullivan). He claims that Jenny used to be a woman named Anya, a Russian spy called “The Whisperer”, who was responsible for a number of kills around Europe before dropping out shortly after the state intelligence infrastructure collapsed in the ’90s. She denies it at first, but when her life is threatened, her long dormant fighting skills come out.
She’s knocked out and returned to the hotel, where Becca just thinks that she got lost. Chauncey is there as Jenny evaluates her bruises. He takes her to his base across the hall and introduces her to Chris Clark (Charles Brice), his technical specialist. Her first mission is to get an eye scan of someone who has access to a military hospital. There, a gunrunner who’s associated with the three people who randomly attacked people is located. Jenny thinks she’s too old to be a honey trap, but Chauncey thinks otherwise. She has no choice; if she doesn’t comply, he sends her to prison on espionage charges.
She manages to do all that, but when she gets into the hospital, she’s chased by a group of thugs. But she’s got an ability that Chauncey knew about but perhaps Chris didn’t.
It’s rare when Netflix debuts a true clunker of a series, one laden with poor dialogue, badly-shot action and a situation that seems less than believable. In From The Cold is one of the worst Netflix original series we’ve seen in some time because showrunner Adam Glass seems to think that he’s painting with a tiny brush when instead he’s making really broad strokes.
Along with everything else that makes this series tough to watch, the plot is also really confusing. Not only does Chauncey not say how the CIA tracked Jenny down, but the skills she used as the Whisperer weren’t exactly laid out very clearly. Then, of course, there is the twist at the end of the episode where Jenny shape-shifts into a big, burly guy. Is it that ability what the CIA saw in the three people who randomly attacked other people earlier that day?
Oh, then there’s also the flashbacks to Anya (Stasya Miloslavskaya) in 1994 Moscow. The idea, perhaps, is to show Anya’s skills in action and perhaps show how she got whatever powers she has. But all we’re seeing is her falling in love with a mark named Svetlana (Alyona Khmelnitskaya), much to the anger of the robe-clad minder that wants The Whisperer to do what she does best.
Finally, all of this is filtered through the perspective of Becca, who thinks Jenny is a boring, overprotective skating mom. But Becca also has issues with the team, and pretty much everyone there except for Maddie wishes she wasn’t there. The two of them ditch the group one night and go for a skating practice (shot so poorly that you can tell that the actual skaters are bewigged stunt doubles), but heck if we can remember what the two of them talked about.
So there’s a lot going on, but things get abandoned during the long scenes where Jenny is in action. Will this story every be cohesive or even make sense? We doubt it.