I guess we get different things from the show. Its lack of conventional storytelling and characterization is what appeals to me. The characters are cyphers - it's not who they are, it's the roles they're playing in this week's con. The plot is all. The suspense comes, not from the characters being in jeopardy, but in seeing how it's going to come together - how that daft gadget Barney demonstrated in the teaser is going to come into play - how the villain is sucked into the con. Like watching a jigsaw puzzle being put together. Obviously I wouldn't want all shows to be like this. This is the exception.
But the problem is that there is
no real suspense, beyond those fakeout act-break cliffhangers. Even if the characters' only goal in the story is to complete the plan, there should be some jeopardy to the success of that plan. A story is about characters pursuing a goal, but it's not dramatic unless there are obstacles to that goal, unless there's a risk of failure. It doesn't have to be a risk to their lives or their emotions, but the conflict in a story comes from the prospect that the heroes won't achieve their defining goal. In most M:I episodes, there's never any real risk of that. The team is so completely in control of everything that happens that it's all just going through the motions and the outcome is never in doubt. Indeed, sometimes I feel sorry for the bad guys because they're so totally outmatched and trapped into failure from the moment the caper starts.
There are a lot of movies like Topkapi
or The Sting
or Ocean's Eleven
where the focus of the story is on the execution of a meticulous scam or heist. But in such movies, there's always something that goes wrong with the plan, a reversal of fortune that disrupts the plan and forces the heroes to improvise and snatch a last-minute victory from the jaws of defeat. That creates suspense and makes their success more dramatic and satisfying. Early first-season M:I episodes did the same, with the plan usually going awry and forcing an adaptation. In the pilot, the plan went awry when their safecracker's fingers were crushed. In episode 2, Rollin wasn't even brought in until their original plan failed and the guest agent ended up in prison, requiring them to launch an entirely new plan to rescue him. And so on. Season 5 also routinely had the plans go wrong and require improvisation, as did most of the big 2- and 3-parters they did. And that's a large part of why I found them more interesting than the run-of-the-mill formula episodes where the plans went off without a hitch.