According to its official logline, History's new military drama Six is inspired by the real missions of Navy SEAL Team Six, America's most elite soldiers, and follows the attempt to rescue a former SEAL captured by Boko Haram two years after a questionable decision made in the field during a mission to capture a Taliban leader caused a rift with his brothers in arms.
Unofficially, however, the series is about four extremely good-looking men with amazing facial hair battling it out for the chance to be named America's Next Top Beard Model.
The scruff decorating the faces of stars Walton Goggins — who plays captured SEAL Richard "Rip" Taggart and who replaced Joe Manganiello in the original cast when the Magic Mike actor fell ill — and Barry Sloane, Kyle Schmid and Juan Pablo Raba as the men coming to his rescue, is equally as impressive as the strength and skill of the soldiers they're portraying. It can be distracting at times, calling into question whether or not "dazzling grooming" is something someone can list under special skills on their resumé.
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But ultimately it doesn't matter which version of the show you're watching because with Goggins at the center — a casting change the creators said altered who Taggart was in significant ways — it's always worthwhile.
Created by Academy Award nominee William Broyles and military special operations veteran David Broyles, the show's eight-episode first season (Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 10/9c) balances multiple storylines in present day with flashbacks that slowly reveal not only the deep friendship that once existed between the four men at the center of the show, but also what led to the moment in Afghanistan that caused an irreparable rift between them. As Taggart attempts to escape and free the young women captured alongside him — with the young women also saving him in a way that's only a little groan-worthy when you think about it too hard — his former troop members mount a rescue mission while juggling myriad issues of their own at home.
The drama presented within Six isn't particularly novel, and the action sequences likely won't blow away those viewers who've become accustomed to the hourlong action movies Cinemax's soon-to-be-rebooted Strike Back delivered every week. But with Goggins' performance as yet another man struggling on a path of redemption he may or may not deserve anchoring a story that calls into question the heroism of the men we've been taught to revere, it also doesn't necessarily need to be particularly revelatory.
Among the storylines tackled throughout the show's first season are the downward spiral and potential redemption of a former hero, the struggle to conceive after the loss of a child, the money troubles that arise when a soldier's salary can't pay his child's tuition, a wife returning to work to provide for the family, the reappearance of a neglected teen daughter and joining a team that's already bonded for life in the middle of a dangerous mission.
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But if there is a true weakness to Six, it's the rather superfluous underlying thread involving the Taliban leader the team had been chasing when things started to fall apart. He is, of course, still at large in present day, and he is, of course, being aided by someone surprising. His storyline is probably the least interesting of all the show's arcs during the first half of the season because not only is it the least developed by that point, but the dangers posed by the men of the show's fictional version of the real life Boko Haram in Taggart's storyline feel more immediate and less abstract.
Still, if you're looking for a military drama with an intriguing lead or simply a fan of good-looking bearded men, you really can't go wrong with Six.
Six premieres Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 10/9c on History.