‘The Old Man’ Season 1: Characters, Explained – A Mighty Cast Of Spies Past Their Prime


FX’s thriller drama series “The Old Man” presents a set of characters who all get strung together in a single thread due to events from thirty years ago, when they were American spies in their youthful prime. In more ways than one, the characters in this series sometimes take precedence over the plot, and its overall style of a slow, gradual build-up also neatly complements it. Although the characters in “The Old Man,” including the ones in the lead, do not have too many complexities, there are some facets that remain more subtly and indirectly put.

Spoilers Ahead

The Three Old Men: Characters of Dan Chase, Harold Harper, And Faraz Hamzad Explained

“The Old Man,” on the surface of it, is a story of three men who entrap themselves in their own thirty-year-old past: ex-CIA agents Dan Chase and Harold Harper, and an Afghan rebel leader, Faraz Hamzad, active during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

The lead protagonist is Dan Chase, a man hiding away from his past life and past associations with the fear of being tracked down someday. Dan is first introduced as a seemingly forgetful man, slowed down by old age both physically and mentally, but very quickly, he is established as a sharp and cunning individual intelligent enough to remain a fugitive till he wants to be. A scene in the very first episode shows Dan putting his phone inside the microwave, and it momentarily seems like a thoughtless mistake, owing to the man’s fears of developing Alzheimer’s and other mental conditions that his wife suffered and passed away from a few years back. However, all such suspicions are very quickly put away as it is understood that Dan is used to destroying burner phones to keep himself untraceable. When he finally has a high-level spy break into his house and kill him before any harm can be done, Dan knows that it is time to leave. From both his actions and his words, it is very clear that Dan Chase’s top priority is to protect his daughter Emily, and he is ready to go to the extent of not seeing her in ten or more years only to keep her safe from any harm. Although it is revealed by the end that Dan is not Emily’s biological father, the man really does try his best to look out for the girl he has raised as his own. This is exactly why he plants Emily directly into the FBI, with help from his guide, Morgan Bote, knowing that if Emily is in any trouble due to her past, she will know of it very quickly and will know how to protect herself. However, it cannot be ruled out that placing his daughter inside the FBI also serves a huge benefit to his own self, as Dan would also get information about any possible threats. It is in this manner that “The Old Man” adds complex shades to Dan Chase’s character, for it is not very clear where his real motivations for doing something lie. There can be no doubt about his will to protect Emily, but this shade becomes further evident during his whole time with Zoe McDonald, the woman he takes along with him in the roller-coaster ride of his life. When Dan first cooks for Zoe, it seems more likely that he is doing so only to be allowed to stay in her house with his two pet dogs. But this sense never goes away, perhaps, even after their disagreements are settled and when they agree to travel to protect Emily together. Whenever Dan uses his words to convince Zoe about things, there remain concerns as to whether he is actually meaning them or just saying them to get his plans worked out. The show also addresses this directly, as Dan tells Zoe of this constant practice of his to try and make people act the way he wants them to, something that one cannot stop doing after a couple of times.

Another aspect of Dan’s character, and a more interesting one, is that he very indirectly and subtly maintains an air of superiority about himself, especially with regards to Zoe. Dan always seems to question Zoe’s actions as his first reaction, and is sometimes proven wrong in this regard as well. Despite taking Zoe along with him to Africa, Dan still seems unconvinced by the woman and seems to think she is still a commoner. He is angry at her when she briefly goes away from the spot he had told her to stay put at Suleyman Pavlovich’s party, then quickly realizes that she did the correct thing as she had been approached by Faraz Hamzad’s lawyer. In the last episode as well, Zoe tells Dan of her suspicions about a possible rift between Hamzad and his lawyer, but Dan once again dismisses her thoughts. Although there is no correction that Dan receives in this regard, at least in “The Old Man” Season 1, the point of the matter is that Dan still refuses to consider Zoe as being capable of doing any spy work. While this might be something to hold against Dan Chase’s character, it can also be considered as a cautious approach to trusting anyone quickly. Either way, the biggest blow that Dan’s character receives is when he starts to suspect Belour might have played him. It seems that Dan had considered his relationship with Belour as that of trusted allies who helped each other out, and then that of close lovers who always shared everything between themselves. If it is to be considered that Dan had a belief of superiority with regards to his skills as a master manipulator, then this belief is completely shaken when he learns that Belour had fixed Pavlovich to be associated with her and not the other way around. At the end of “The Old Man” Season 1, it is clear that Dan Chase himself is looking for answers in this regard, but finding which would be immensely difficult as Belour is now dead.

The next character is FBI counterintelligence assistant director Harold Harper, who represents the police authority in the show. However, Harold’s intentions are often more driven by the personal than the authoritative, as the man clearly holds personal relations in the highest regard. When the FBI’s search for Dan Chase first begins, fueled by Faraz Hamzad’s diplomatic reach, Harper sees Dan as an old acquaintance with a bagful of secrets that would compromise his own position if they were ever revealed. He, therefore, gets in touch with the fugitive man personally and helps him escape the law for the time being. However, with Dan’s own actions and with CIA agent Raymond Waters’ growing suspicion of him, Harper soon changes his stance towards Dan Chase to that of being more dangerous. He appoints private assassin Julian Carson to kill Dan Chase and Zoe McDonald, who only happens to be in the same house as Dan, but he does not know that this would come to be his undoing. After Dan escapes from Carson’s attack, and Harper’s own secretive actions are revealed, the FBI officer realises that he has been outplayed by both Hamzad and his trusted protégé Angela Adams, who happens to be Dan Chase’s daughter in hiding. From here on, begins Harold Harper’s personal internal struggle to accept that the young woman he had always considered family would turn out to be working against him. However, instead of any vengeful retaliation, Harper quickly puts the value on the relationship he had built with the woman, and then sets out to look out for her safety as he genuinely considers Emily like a child, especially after the death of his own. It is around this relationship-centric characteristic that Harold Harper is framed in the show, as it was also possibly due to his personal friendship with Dan Chase that he had agreed to help him and Belour escape Afghanistan thirty years ago. While it might also be true that Harper could have had his own well-being or promotion in mind when he continued supporting Dan without the knowledge of his superiors, his character makes it seem that he did it mostly to help his friend and save the life of an innocent woman. There could have been many ways in which Harold Harper’s character could have been painted, but “The Old Man” chooses to give it a very human touch that makes viewers sympathize with him rather than turn against the man.

The next most important man happens to be the once-rebel leader Faraz Hamzad, who is the primary antagonist of the “The Old Man” Season 1, in basic terms. Hamzad had been leading Afghani rebel forces in the valley against Soviet invasion, and was therefore regularly provided help by US forces as part of Cold War strategies. It is through such help that Hamzad met Dan Chase, who gradually became a close aide,  due to the man’s constant support and exceptional shooting skills. Even when the CIA decided to not be directly  involved anymore, Dan remained in Hamzad’s camp, claiming that he wanted to be involved in killing Russians, and became an integral part of the rebel army. Dan would not just advise Hamzad on mission strategies; the man would himself partake in sniping and other operations against the Soviet forces. However, this relationship came to a bitter end when Hamzad learned that Dan was working in secret with his own wife, Belour, and then asked the American to leave his camp. Instead of going alone, the American took along his wife and his beloved daughter, and this forms the basis of Hamzad’s vengeful character. While he remains unseen in the present throughout “The Old Man” Season 1 (except for the last few minutes), Hamzad is the main driving force against Dan, but this also takes a slight turn at the end. When it is revealed that Emily is Hamzad’s daughter, it is perhaps difficult to not think of things from the antagonist’s perspective as well, in which he was essentially trying to track down his daughter and the man who took her away, albeit in a very convoluted way.

Along with Faraz Hamzad, though, the operatives who worked on his behalf, in some way or another, or at least presented themselves as opposed to Dan Chase, also became important. The two major characters in this regard are Morgan Bote and Raymond Waters. While Bote has been portrayed as an extremely powerful and influential ex-CIA boss with a lot of control in his hands, he mostly stays absent in the series and is seen only in a handful of scenes. On the other hand, Raymond Waters has been seen more often than that, but the young CIA agent working with the FBI in this particular case has not been well explored, in my opinion. He was first presented as an eagerly inquisitive character who was disliked by many because of this nature of his, and then quickly shifted to a stooge in Bote’s hands. While Morgan Bote himself might be more explored in “The Old Man” Season 2, there is no chance for that with Raymond, as he is killed in the last episode. Although both the characters have been kept mostly vague, Morgan Bote’s supreme power has been well established, as opposed to Raymond Waters, who asked pertinent questions and then started to do the bidding for Bote instead.

The Women Of The Show: Characters Of Belour Daadfar, Emily Chase, And Zoe Explained

Although ‘The Old Man’ mostly deals with its male characters on the surface, at least initially, the importance of the three central female characters soon comes out into the open. At the fore of this is definitely Belour Daadfar, or Abbey Chase, the enigmatic woman who at first seemed like the helpless wife of a rebel lord whom Dan saved, to then quickly be established as one of the brains of the whole rebel uprising. Belour’s character is undoubtedly the most interesting, at least for me personally, as some facets of her remain unknown still. The woman had studied abroad, as she had met Suleyman Pavlovich in Moscow, and had possibly feigned love to the man to keep him in hand. She had then met Faraz Hamzad at a university in Afghanistan (possibly) and had perhaps herself fallen in love with the man as much as Hamzad fell for her. Belour seems to have been driven by a personal interest in freeing her country from the Soviets, as she explained how her family’s plans to move to the US were all disrupted due to this new war. Her marriage with Hamzad, which was against the plans of the man’s father as revealed by his sister, seemed out of this personal interest. Her love for Hamzad seemed genuine, even though her character had been established as a very shrewd and cunning figure, and she was working with the Soviets to ensure that her husband would become the next leader. However, when Belour stumbled upon the mineral deposit and knew well enough that Hamzad would probably turn into an autocrat if he knew of it, the next phase of her life’s troubles began. Now she needed a helping hand to escape the country and her husband, who at the end demanded that she tell him the location of the deposit, and this she found in Dan Chase. Although it seemed like her and Dan’s relationship was perhaps more like a gradually developing affair, the insinuations at the end suggest that she had planned it all. As far as Belour has been shown in “The Old Man” Season 1, she seems to be an extremely intelligent woman who knew how to work with others in order for her to escape unwanted situations, and she had done just that.

Emily Chase, or Angela Adams, had started off only as a young FBI agent under the fatherly guidance of Harold Harper, but her alternate identity soon brought her into the middle of things as well. But Emily herself had very little say in the whole matter, it seems, as she was already planted in the FBI at a young age to ensure her own protection and also that of Dan. Emily herself, of course, had wanted to become an FBI agent, but she perhaps did not have much idea about how a life with a double identity would be. As Dan Chase asks her to completely bury Angela Adams and escape to become a fugitive like himself, Emily not only denies living her life like that but also rejects giving up on all the hard work that had gotten her to the FBI’s counterintelligence team. Along with that was also the personal relationship she had developed with Harold and his family, and just like the FBI boss, she too wanted to prioritize that over her absolute safety. On top of all of this, though, was Emily’s doubts in her own head about her parental heritage, as it became increasingly clear that she had questions about who her biological father really was. Based on the dreamy visions that Emily has towards the later episodes, it seems that her mother was quite harsh and strict with her when dealing with these questions of her, which made her feel shaky about herself all the more. Before she accompanies Harper to meet with Hamzad, Emily reveals to Dan that she is tired of all the pretensions she is having to live up with. She had actually known and lived life as Angela Adams, even though that was a made-up identity, and when Dan asks her to ditch that and turn herself into just Emily Chase, she outright denies it, as that identity was actually only given to her by her parents. The big revelation at the end further saddens the woman’s situation, as most of her life had only been lies, without much control of her own.

Zoe McDonald was helpless and anguished in her situation when Dan Chase walked into her life one day with his two pet dogs. When she was unwilling to rent out her apartment to a man with dogs, Dan cooked up breakfast for her, and the two bonded over this time. It was evident that Zoe was very lonely in life, with her husband still punishing her for her decision to end their marriage, and her son seemingly keeping in touch with his mother only for monetary concerns. After finding a partner in Dan initially, at least for a short while, Zoe is finally happy with life until Dan reveals everything to him, and she sees, with utter disbelief, a hired hitman roughing up her house and trying to kill the man she was hoping to be partners with. From there on, Zoe’s life goes for a toss, as she is dragged around from place to place and given a new identity to fit into. The first form of fight-back from the woman comes when she cleverly uses this new identity, that of Marcia Dixon, to force Dan into listening to her demands. When she asks the man to write off half his property and wealth in her name, only so that she can have some leverage over him, even the hardened spy is shocked. But in reality, Zoe is perhaps just the opposite of Dan, as she is quick to believe, and despite trying to fit right into her new role as the wife of a spy, Zoe is ultimately let down by Dan. Now that she wants to accompany him to save Emily, Dan turns her down and apologizes for having dragged her into all this. Let’s hope “The Old Man” Season 2 brings in more of Zoe, and the confidence that she showed while negotiating with Zachary remains intact and growing.

See More: ‘The Old Man’ Season 1: Ending, Explained: What Happens To Emily, Dan & Harper? What To Expect From Season 2?

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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