From there, “Monarch” launches into a time-jumping, globe-trotting adventure. I’ll say this about the show: it never sits still. The timeline is constantly shifting, from the 2010s, to the 1950s, and beyond. In the ’50s storyline, we meet Keiko (Mari Yamamoto) and Bill (Anders Holm), scientists studying monsters and founding Monarch in the process. Bill is the younger version of John Goodman’s character from “Kong: Skull Island,” just to keep things connected.
Also along for the ride in the ’50s: Lee Shaw, a military man acting as an escort for the scientists. In a brilliant bit of casting, the younger Shaw in the ’50s is played by Wyatt Russell, while the older Shaw in the 2010s is played by Wyatt’s father Kurt Russell. Of course, “Monarch” is so obsessed with its mystery box stuff that there’s more to Russell’s character than meets the eye. When someone points out that the older Shaw should be pushing 90 by now, the character grins and replies, “What can I say? Good genes.”
Kurt Russell is perhaps the best thing about the entire show. The actor is so breezy, so charming, that he lights up the screen whenever he appears. His son does well too, but it’s the older Russell who holds our attention. There’s a moment where he bursts out laughing after nearly dying in a plane crash that has more life and energy than almost any other big action set piece the show throws at us. You just can’t fake that kind of charisma. This may be a streaming TV series, but Russell is an old-school movie star, and that lends “Monarch” some much-needed juice.