‘Treadstone’ Will Again Attempt Jason Bourne Without Jason Bourne

Is TV where all good heroes go to disappear?
The Bourne Legacy

Is TV where all good heroes go to disappear?

What do you do when the fire dwindles on your franchise? When Joel Schumacher’s neon-saturated Batman & Robin zapped away all enthusiasm for The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers boxed up the cape and cowl for eight years, until Christopher Nolan thought to resurrect the hero in a grounded gangster universe. Sony Pictures gave us a mere 5 years respite between the atrocity of Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man, then we barely had three years between The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. These franchise wars have shown us that studios cannot afford to let their fires go out. They don’t care if you’re tired of a character or not. They’re going to force feed us on whatever knowable IP they still retain.

Universal Studios doesn’t have the big comic book badasses like Warner Brothers, Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Sony. Basically, all they own to compete against the spandex behemoths are The Fast and the Furious and Jurassic Park. Once upon a time, they ruled with the Jason Bourne trilogy (+2), but our enthusiasm sputtered on his last adventure. The thrill was gone.

So what? Two years later and Universal is eager to double down on the Jason Bourne universe… just don’t count on Jason Bourne to actually show up. According to Variety, the USA Network (which is part of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment) has ordered the spinoff pilot for Treadstone. The series would focus on the origins of the covert CIA division that trained Jason Bourne to be the one-man-army we once knew and loved. Heroes creator Tim Kring is on board as a writer and executive producer and will shepherd a group of new sleeper assassins into the world of wannabe James Bond.

How does that sound? Part of me is genuinely excited by the prospect. The USA Network has come a long way from Up All Night hosted by Gilbert Gottfried. Today they’re home to Mr. Robot and The Sinner, and I’m still suffering from the loss of both Psyche and Burn Notice. It’s not HBO, but it will do in a pinch.

Also, no Matt Damon. Universal tried that once before with Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy. It certainly underperformed compared to The Bourne Ultimatum, and the script probably should have focused more on Rachel Weisz’s biochemist than Renner’s Bourne-clone (she’s arguably the protagonist of the film anyway). However, Tony Gilroy unveiled a terrifying Treadstone organization. A television series focusing on the moral gray zones of patriotic protection could easily provide several seasons worth of scripted drama.

The killer assassins have a certain appeal, but lets dig into the sociopathic leadership of Conklin and Ward (played respectively by Chris Cooper and Brian Cox in The Bourne Identity). A Treadstone television series could mark the rise and fall of their ethical principals, digging into the hard choices that spawn a real pair of monsters. On the other side of the desk is our hero Pam Landy (played by Joan Allen in The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy). Recast her younger self with an Elle Fanning-type and we’ve got a naive do-gooder who will kill for her country without compromising her morals. That’s the dream anyway.

Our initial reaction may be to balk at a Jason Bourne-less adventure show. That was certainly our response when we heard of Gotham without Batman and Krypton without Superman. I get it. The brand is merely a blanket to wrap up the initial wave of fanboys. In the cases of both Gotham and Krypton, I eventually discovered a universe that doesn’t need the usual savior. It turns out that those worlds can support my attention, and often they are half the appeal of the the heroes themselves.

Treadstone is just cool spy stuff. Who doesn’t love that? It’s a skeleton for a clever creator to build a muscular body around. I’ll certainly watch the first few episodes.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)