Milo Ventimiglia Leaves ‘This Is Us’ Behind

Not since the Library of Alexandria went up in flames has there been a greater media tragedy than when This Is Us’ Jack Pearson died by way of a rogue crockpot. Milo Ventimiglia’s beloved character—a deified dad, an almost symbolic totem of fatherhood—burnt to a crisp, mustache and all. The hearts of a million moms across the nation were left compromised, only to be irreparably broken when the show ended last year. Luckily they won’t stay that way for long.

Ventimiglia is already returning to network television, jumping across channels (and genres) in The Company You Keep, ABC’s sexy new criminal drama, which premieres Sunday and also streams on Hulu. Fans of Ventimiglia’s naturalism as the head of a household will be glad to know that he’s back playing another part of a family unit, albeit a much less wholesome one. And thank goodness—it’s about time we let this rugged man go a little wild!

In the series, Ventimiglia stars as Charlie Nicoletti, who has become the brains behind his family’s four-person crime syndicate. The Nicolettis own a Seattle bar, a front for their primary cash flow, which they use to launder money that they steal from rich, corrupt marks who have more dough and power than they know what to do with. To them, the family business is a Robin Hood operation, a way to level the playing field between the one-percent and the rest of us.

They’re especially good at it, too. Charlie’s mother, Fran (Polly Draper), and father, Leo (William Fitchner), taught him and his sister, Birdie (Sarah Wayne Callies), all the tricks of the trade. Charlie’s the smooth operator and planner; Birdie handles all of the necessary tech innovations they need; and Fran and Leo are masters of disguise and quick manipulation.

But their confidence eventually turns into a bit of sloppiness. When a job goes wrong and leaves the family out $10 million, the Nicolettis get a target on their back from the mark they tried to swindle, an Irish drug kingpin. Little do the Nicolettis know that the CIA is already hot on the drug empire’s tail, leaving them doubly screwed. Things really aren’t helped when Charlie unknowingly becomes romantically tangled with Emma (Catherine Haena Kim), the CIA operative leading the hunt.

The Company You Keep digs up a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-adjacent plotline that we’ve seen before, putting a working-class spin on sensuous duplicity. In only the two episodes that were provided for press, the show crafts a solid foundation that’s built equally on the believable family dynamic of its central cast and the thrilling tension of a multifaceted crime chase. This is what happens when you remove the rodents from the cat and mouse game: all felines, no filler.

The most unbelievable part of The Company You Keep might just be that Milo Ventimiglia can look like that and still be unlucky in love. Charlie just cannot find a nice, trustworthy fellow criminal to bring home to mom and dad! On the other hand, Emma’s analytical nature is far too sharp to trust a dating pool of cheaters and heartbreakers. Charlie and Emma’s mutual occupational hazard leads them to a chance meeting at a hotel bar, destitute and thirsty—in more ways than one. A few hours and far too many drinks later, the pair end up in Charlie’s hotel suite for their first of 36 straight hours of star-crossed pleasure.

Despite their booze-soaked meet cute, neither of them accidentally reveals to each other what they really do for a living. So sets up the series’ primary tension, which slowly strings the pair along a path to mutually assured destruction. But Charlie and Emma can at least have some fun before their house of cards blows over!

Ventimiglia and Kim have lovely chemistry, casual without feeling plodding. But it’ll be interesting to see whether The Company You Keep can manage to keep the pair pushing and pulling against each other without the whole routine becoming rote. Luckily, the crime-a-week linear concept of the show will be enough to sustain viewers in the meantime regardless. These mini heists are awfully fun to watch as they play out, and the show’s writers do a fantastic job of layering the Nicolettis robberies with smart twists and gripping energy.

It’s a bit early to tell whether the show can support itself on this conceit alone. But with a family of blue-collar criminals operating at a Mission Impossible level, there are more than a few pleasantly winding paths to traverse down. Ventimiglia is certainly the biggest selling point here, though. It has been a joy to see him use his robust looks and innate charms for decades on our television screens, and The Company You Keep is no different. Ventimiglia is simply innately watchable—mustache or no mustache.

Still, I’ll be waiting for the writers to answer one last question that lingered in my mind. How are the Nicolettis not being hunted down by, well, everyone? It can’t be that difficult for rich marks to use their connections to find a family hiding in plain sight. I’m supposed to believe that the Irish fentanyl ring is the first of the people plundered who want revenge?

I don’t know about all of that, but maybe I’m thinking too hard. For a network television dramedy, The Company You Keep does a fantastic job of breaking through the noise for an absorbing start to its midseason debut. I’m willing to suspend disbelief a little bit longer to see just where this thrilling chase goes.

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