Attention, Cloud Nine shoppers, this store will be closing in fifteen episodes. Yes, the sixth and final season of Superstore, NBC’s warm-hearted but defiantly clear-eyed and quietly subversive sitcom set in a “big box” store in St Louis, hits UK screens tomorrow (Monday, ITV2 at 7.30pm). (The first five seasons are also available on Netflix UK if you want to catch up first.)
The show finished its run in the US just at the end of March, and I have to confess to staying up late that night to find out from Twitter how it ended, because it was going to be the deciding factor as to whether I would watch this last season or not. Not because I’m not inordinately fond of Superstore, but actually because I am; if that makes any sort of sense. I needed to know how things were going to work out for REDACTED, because I wasn’t going to put myself through the heartache of watching if they…didn’t work out right. But that’s enough talking in riddles. No spoilers, but I’m going to watch. ITV2 is of course burning it off at speed by showing it EVERY night, because why stop that nonsense six seasons in, but at least it’s only one episode a night instead of #stupiddoublebills. *Raises pricing gun in the air in celebration*
An SUV is stolen from a gas station while its driver, Gina, is out of the vehicle. This is bad news in itself, but the really big problem is that Gina’s dog, Atticus, was in the vehicle at the time. My immediate reaction, of course, was that I didn’t care. He’s “not just a dog”, explains an emotional Gina to Magnum and Higgins. Oh yes he is, I thought. That’s exactly what he is. A dog. Except… well. Gina is a friend of Shammy’s, having met him at a support group for veterans, and Atticus was provided through a no doubt estimable charity called K9s for Warriors. He is, in short, Gina’s support dog, and she does a reasonably good job of persuading me that I was being somewhat mean-minded.
OK, then. Whither Atticus? I suppose. Well, the SUV was, weirdly enough, stolen by a high school teacher of hitherto impeccable character. What gives, exactly? It turns out that the teacher is himself a victim, and was on the run from Jumak, a Korean gang. At which point Magnum and Higgins turn to their old friend Jin for some inside info. TC, meantime, is being sued by someone who claims that he got whiplash in his helicopter on one of those occasions when TC ignores his passengers and diverts to assist Magnum with something or other. The gang all think it’s a scam. Once again, Jin helps out. Which means that Jin – creepy Jin – is integral to both of this week’s plots, providing an invaluable contribution towards the investigations, and not hitting on anyone while doing it.
The search for the teacher becomes urgent when it’s discovered that he’s being used as an unwilling organ donor, and when poor old Atticus is found with a bullet wound. Amazingly, by the end of this episode I’m feeling slightly benevolent towards a dog, and towards Jin. I’m not sure which is the more unlikely. But it’s a fast-moving, fun episode, and I watched it within minutes of the announcement that Magnum has been renewed for a fourth season, which I’m pleased about.
A famous jazz club goes up in flames. The owner, a jazz icon in his own right, disappears. And Shade and Angie (wearing a gorgeous jumpsuit that both Shade and I are very impressed with) are called in by Becca, who just happened to be doing a documentary on said icon at the time, to investigate. Hm.
Signs are not initially too hopeful for this being an episode I’m going to like since a) I’m not really a fan of jazz, b) I’m even less of a fan of gimmicks in Eyes eps, and c) having a big part of the plot hinge on a main cast member singing jazz (or indeed anything) is definitely something of a gimmick, of the type which often makes me cringe when used in other shows. However, all my fears turn out to be unfounded: the jazz is quite, quite lovely; Cindy Sampson’s singing is nice and not over-used; and the story of love, regrets, and second chances is surprisingly melancholy and moving, in a good, if unusually downbeat for Private Eyes kind of way. Even Carson is entirely sensible throughout. And there are a couple of EXTREMELY shipper-tastic moments which made me SQUEE. So, excellent work, all round – I really liked this one.
This week’s Blacklister is Dr Laken Perillos (Laverne Cox), Neville Townsend’s sophisticated in-house torturer, deployed by Townsend to dig out information about the whereabouts of the Sikorsky Archive. Now, The Blacklist is very much not a stranger to a bit of torture porn; and the cold open, with its heretic’s fork, is warning enough that the viewer will need to brace herself.
To start with Dembe is abducted by a Townsend hit squad, and tortured a bit. (This is not necessarily a wise move on the part of the writers, as we love Dembe.) Townsend then accepts Red’s offer to trade himself for Dembe, with Red finding out just a little too late that Dembe had managed to escape. It does mean, though, that we can confirm that Red’s legendary sangfroid in the face of lethal danger is still intact. “This is almost a bucket list moment for me”, he drawls on being strapped to Perillos’s table, which is positioned in front of half-a-dozen mismatched TV screens, in order that Townsend can interact with whoever he’s turned Perillos loose on.
The whereabouts of the Sikorsky Archive will not be revealed. Liz will not appear, again, although she may be working in league with Townsend. There are one or two exchanges about racism in medicine – specifically, pernicious estimates by white doctors of the capacity of Black people to tolerate pain – which lead onto an interesting little conversation between Red and Dembe at the end, which suggests that there continues to be a troubling imbalance in their relationship. But, really, this episode doesn’t add up to very much at all, and it’s another misfire in a season which now has a preponderance of them.
Introducing four new characters into a procedural in one go is quite a challenge: you need to find a way to distinguish them, and interest the viewer in their work/life struggles, pretty quickly. This episode makes a reasonably good job of it. So Shaun is joined by Olivia (unsure of herself, Marcus’s niece) and Jordan (doesn’t like authority, per Morgan, although since the authority is coming from Shaun one can see her point; and anyway it’s a potentially #problematic thing to say about a young Black woman) to treat Kenzie, a woman who is pregnant with twins, one of which her own body is trying to kill. Shaun’s solution is to induce labour, get the strong twin out, then immediately halt labour and leave the weak twin in utero. It’s demented, and the odds are against him, but it works. Largely due to Jordan, who successfully empathises with Kenzie.
Meantime Claire is joined by Asher (intense, likes to look for patterns, estranged from most of his family) and Enrique (freewheeling, dad wanted him to be a realtor) to treat Billy, who has an ingrown hair on his face. Well, actually it’s cancer. Billy remains irrepressible despite any number of potentially fatal consequences.
And Morgan, no longer a surgeon, has reacted by going full-on workplace sociopath. I mean, are we not at the stage where even a reasonably-tolerant HR department would be reining her in? Anyway, she offers newly-divorced Park the opportunity to move in with her. Park, presumably sensing that if he accepts he’ll need to sleep with one eye open, declines the invitation, but then changes his mind and turns up on Morgan’s doorstep. Not shipping that car-crash. But overall a strong episode.
Excuse me while I try to gasp out loud, laugh uproariously and pick my jaw up off the floor, all at the same time. What. An. Episode.
The main case of the week has the firm finding out that the new hot ticket in town is a play satirising one of their clients. Dude is furious but Adrian is initially inclined to roll his eyes and advise him to ignore it, since “satire disappears if you don’t give it oxygen”. Adrian changes his mind sharpish though, when it turns out the play is written by a disgruntled ex-associate and the client isn’t the only one being satirised…..
The play itself looks terrible and wildly over the top, but in an immediately recognisable way to anyone who has ever been to an “edgy” production of something “challenging” at their local hipster theatre. (Or to anyone who’s seen Broadway sensation Slave Play, apparently.) The play’s characters are also terrible and wildly over the top, but in an immediately recognisable, utterly gleeful way to anyone who has either worked at Reddick Boseman Lockhart or seen an episode of The Good Fight. Which makes the whole thing, and especially the various scenes where Adrian, Liz and Caleb, Diane and Kurt, Julius, and even David Lee all see it, both mortifying and outrageously funny. The chaotic consequences for all are even more mortifying, and often just as funny; I can’t think of another show on tv right now that could produce an episode like this, tackling so many extremely heavy, controversial, unapologetically adult subjects (race, sex, class, power, freedom of speech, they’re all in there) with such a light, sure, intelligent touch while still being a complete, unadulterated joy to watch. I just do not have the superlatives to do it justice. I mean, the main plot was a work of genius, but everything else was wonderful too. Even Caleb (aka “Mr Memory”), whom I’d not had not had much truck with before, suddenly became very interesting. And as for the Memo 618 stuff, well, nobody was more surprised than me that it was unexpectedly superb as well, with a welcome return from Fisher “Kovac, not Kovacs. One Kovac” Stevens, a new nemesis in the form of Raúl “Barba from SVU” Esparza (the character Roland Blum wishes he could be), and, er, a toucan. And that’s without even mentioning Kurt’s creepy visitor; Polo Neck Man’s visit to the office (sans Polo Neck); Liz’s singing/ shipping doppelgänger; or Diane’s Dominatrix Wardrobe. Wow. What an episode. What a show. WOW.
Magnum and Higgins are hired, coincidentally, by Willow out of Private Eyes, here named Elena. She has quite the story to tell: two days ago she was at the palatial house of Jax, a man she’d been dating, when two masked gunmen broke in and murdered him. Elena hid to avoid being found and then escaped. But she hasn’t told the police about the killing, because she’s married and doesn’t want her husband to know what she’d been up to. Jax had said something about a cleaning company coming the next day, so she’d assumed they would find him, but there had been nothing on the news about the case, so now she was wondering if he was still there.
Well, Higgins looks mightily unimpressed with Elena’s behaviour. Magnum, realising that the last thing you want as a PI is a reputation for judginess, agrees to take the case. But when they get to the house there’s no trace of Jax. Then while Magnum and Higgins are prowling round the house a man walks in. Who, they ask, are you? I’m Jax, he replies. And who the hell are you? The man Elena thought was Jax was, in fact, called Eddie, and was a serial seducer and blackmailer of married women. Meantime Magnum and Higgins are protecting their client’s privacy and haven’t gone to HPD, which makes for a tricky conversation or two when Eddie’s body washes up on the beach, Katsumoto catches the case, and he finds out that his favourite PI duo are already up to their necks in it.
It is, in fairness, a pretty good premise, and the show makes excellent use of it, with an episode which is as twisty and nonsensical as one could hope for. The identity of the person behind the shooting is pretty clear from the moment they appear onscreen, but that didn’t dent my enjoyment of the episode. There’s a B-plot in which Rick’s old buddy Icepick, in the final stages of his terminal illness, is taken from prison to hospital, which is slight but handled with a reasonable amount of dignity.
I think maybe these special Private Eyes episodes built around some prominent real-life element – celebs, sportspeople, whatever – just don’t really work for me. This one’s set at TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), which I’m quite excited about initially. That starts to wear off almost immediately though, when the ep kicks off with Willow being Willow at a premiere or something. Things do look like they’re about to get significantly more interesting when Willow and Shade are kidnapped – reminding me of this terrific ep – but then promptly get significantly less so again when it turns out it’s not a kidnapper, it’s just new client/action star Ben Riggs. Dude has apparently forgotten how to do non-action star stuff like picking up a phone and calling to make an appointment, instead of carjacking folk he wants to talk to.
No matter. Ben is hiring Everett Shade Investigations to find his very important watch. This means that, in addition to Shade and Angie, he gets the bonus special offer of Zoe posing as his assistant (which she’s obviously tremendous at) and Willow being much less useful. Although, she does manage to get Angie (sorry, “Angelina”) into a very impressive princess dress so that’s something. That reminds me, actually, that both Shade and Angie look consistently amazing this week. I mean, sure, they look great all the time but, in this ep in particular – maybe it’s it’s the TIFF glamour rubbing off on them – their every outfit, be it suit, slacks or ball gown, is just gorgeous. In the words of the entertainment reporter lady at Ben’s premiere, they really do “make a beautiful couple.” (SQUEE!)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we get to the premiere, we have to find Ben’s very important watch. At least, that’s what Ben keeps saying, but the writers clearly don’t give two ticks about it. They’re much more interested in a) the secret behind Ben’s very important watch and b) Willow and Shade trying to pitch Willow’s movie. One of these is, in fairness, the writers making a decent real-life point about the entertainment industry, the other is I think maybe some sort of in-joke about Jason Priestley’s producer skills; either way, the focus on them means the watch mystery itself is so perfunctory it’s barely there and the dialogue isn’t much better, which is particularly disappointing in a season which, for the most part, has had very strong, clever plotting allied with the show’s usual charm. For all it looked so glamorous and gorgeous then, I found “A Star is Torn” pretty lacklustre. I did like Angie being an action movie aficionado, and all the quotes from old movies, though. We will indeed always have Toronto, kid.
The masks are off: Freddie Highmore breaks the fourth wall at the start of the episode to explain that from now on the show will be portraying a future in which we no longer need to take steps to protect ourselves and others from Covid-19. Fingers crossed for that.
Meantime, this is an excellent episode. Apart from Shaun and Lea’s latest relationship drama, which I’m not going to say anything more about. Except that Lea is the hospital’s new head of IT. Did I miss something in the first couple of episodes? Or, indeed, the hospital’s need to recruit someone with a slightly more stable employment history?
Let’s move on. Shaun, Park, and Claire are given the task of supervising – and evaluating – six applicants for four positions as new surgical residents. The hopefuls shadow the regulars through two Cases of the Week. In the first, a firefighter has a tumour on his heart which can’t be removed by normal surgical means. Morgan and Claire butt heads throughout his treatment, with Claire having to remind Morgan more than once that she’s not a surgical resident any more, so shut up. Lim, in fact, ends up removing Morgan – who is now back to being thoroughly obnoxious – from the operating theatre entirely. The eventual save involves the patient having his heart removed and operated on while it sits, pulsating happily, outside the body – ew – then transplanted back in.
In the other Case a 17-year-old with tuberous breast deformity is having an operation to correct it. As it’s essentially cosmetic surgery – which isn’t for a second to downplay its importance to the patient – and as it follows a spirited debate on its merits between one of the applicants and Andrews, we know that something will go wrong. Something goes wrong.
And all the while the residents are running the rule over their wannabes. Lim makes it known to them that one of the applicants, preppy and over-confident white guy Dr Will Hooper, is in her view the outstanding candidate. Claire spots Lim’s trap just in time. One of the other applicants withdraws, perturbed by the doctors’ willingness to discuss their personal lives in public, which makes me think that a residency in a medical procedural drama might not be for him. Which leaves four: welcome to Drs Guerin, Allen, Wolke, and Jackson.
I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I found this episode very difficult to follow. So let’s pare it back to its basics: while Red and the Task Force are trying to find Liz, she has hired a sort-of doppelgänger from this week’s Blacklisters, the Cyranoids: operatives who can, essentially, communicate on behalf of someone who is, herself, at a remote location. (I first saw this sort of thing done in an episode of The Prisoner which was made when Patrick McGoohan was unavailable. I assume Megan Boone is in the same position.)
So when faux-Liz hands herself into the Task Force, it only takes several seconds of Task Force brainpower to realise that it’s not Liz herself, but that she’s watching and talking through her doppelgänger. Oh, and strangling Chemical Mary, who’s also in Task Force custody. Then escaping. Then being caught by Red and Dembe, who threaten to shoot her if she doesn’t reveal Real Liz’s whereabouts, something Real Liz seems remarkably relaxed about.
In fact, if there’s a theme emerging from this week’s episode, it’s how desperate the Task Force is to minimize Liz’s behaviour. In Ressler’s case, it’s straightforward enough; it’s because he wants to hit that again. Or, as Panabaker acerbically describes it to him, “You thought it was a fine idea to dip your wick into the fugitive end of the swimming pool”. Cooper, meantime, handwaves it because she’s trying to track down a traitor, our old friend N-13. Aram’s not having it, mind you. Also of interest: Red is engaged on a 30-year project, he says. And we get to meet Townsend, of the eponymous Directive. But it’s not much of a return on a hour which gave me a headache.