Stalker s1 ep 19

With Ray the Lunatic (temporarily, surely?) out of the way, normal service resumes this week on Stalker: a woman parks her car, and walks alone to her house, in the dark.

Uh-Oh…

As usual, this does not end well for the woman – in fact, it ends even less well than usual since, rather than some stalky-type incident that involves her getting away and then being grilled by Janice about her sex life, the woman, one Francine Johnson, is straight-up murdered.

Poor Francine Johnson. It turns out, of course, that she had previously sought the help of TAU with a stalker – is it just me, or does TAU have exceptionally high rates of customer retention? If you go there complaining about one stalker, you’re doomed to return with at least two… – so a very sensible Detective from Homicide brings the case to Vicky Gregg to cast an eye over in case there’s a connection. The hitherto infallible Vicky Gregg, however, is suddenly too busy fretting about her Secret Pain to pay much attention; poor Francine’s file is metaphorically (and literally, I would guess) shoved in a drawer, while Vicky introduces us to her definitely stalky/ quite possibly murderous ex-husband instead and asks Beth to look into whether he may actually have killed his lover five years ago and framed someone else for it.

Obviously, Vicky Gregg having access to the files from an investigation where her ex-husband was a suspect and she was the alibi witness raises certain questions of propriety. And Vicky Gregg visiting Beth on her “I just survived stalking, kidnap and attempted murder and I’m now having an identity crisis” hiatus (let’s just call it “special leave”) to give her work to do has certain, not entirely positive, HR implications. But this is Stalker so nobody cares. It gives Beth an excuse to pop back into the office and engage with Jack in the most uncomfortable “flirting” scene I have ever seen in my life, and it gives Janice a chance to nosy around in a co-worker’s rather than a victim’s business for a change (“Was that your ex-husband that stopped by yesterday?”) so everyone’s, er, “happy.”

Except, of course, the stalkee of the week Pam, who only misses out on taking the trophy for unluckiest person in the world by dint of sharing an episode with Francine Johnson.

Poor Pam is being stalked by two different men at the same time, as well as being attacked by another one (whom nobody realises is OBVIOUSLY responsible for Francine’s murder as well till Janice gets the file out of the drawer at the end of the ep) and Pam is, understandably, NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT.

Inevitably, Pam’s ex is one of her stalkers, so Pam’s entirely reasonable question for the determinedly unhelpful Janice is “Can’t you just ARREST his ass?” No good answer is forthcoming, but the investigation does take the notoriously open-minded Jack and Janice to a Love and Sex Addiction Support Group where the murderer (Hello Henry from Ringer!) pretty much has “IT’S ME, YOU GUYS!” sprayed in glitter across his luxuriant hair, but they’re too busy with jansplanations about Love and Sex Addiction to notice.

“It’s about the rush that comes with sex and love. The effects of dopamine on the brain are similar to cocaine,” Dr Janice says. “You know way too much about this,” Jack points out. “Quite,” I agree. Was the Janice-is-a-recovering-love-and-sex-addict arc originally pencilled in for season 2, then? Fortunate, perhaps, that we will never know.

This entire “Pam’s ex” storyline is worth it however for the hilarious moment when, having discovered Pam’s ex hasn’t been taking his anti-psychotic medication, Janice muses, with an entirely straight face, “Pam said he wasn’t right in the head, but she never mentioned mental illness.” Uh….

After a bit of messing around and some more Pam-terrorising, both Pam’s stalkers are apprehended, but her would-be murderer lives to attack women another week, albeit with a few new Pam-administered cuts and bruises – Team Pam FTW! Now my favourite character in this ridiculous show by some distance, I really hope she makes it through next week. Unlike the Beth/Jack relationship which I’m struggling to muster up more than a shrug about. Normally, I’m all about the shipping, but this week’s mechanical, perfunctory kiss – the culmination of a courtship notable for its creepiness rather than its chemistry – failed to ignite any enthusiasm on my part or any passion on theirs. The answer to the unspoken “Will this do?” in the air? No. No, it won’t.

Elementary s3 ep 22

A New Jersey judge is found murdered on a subway platform. The obvious suspect is escaped prisoner Nikki Moreno, who the judge sentenced to four years for drug dealing, and whose prints are found on the murder weapon; then a guard from the prison turns up dead as well. I must admit that when REDACTED appeared, I thought it was going to be one of those procedural episodes, in which the best-known guest actor turns out to be the perp. But the solution turned out to be a little more imaginative than that, so well done; and extra points for including both some pointed criticism of the concept of private prisons, and a pert reference or two to Orange Is The New Black.

And the subplots are good too: there’s a fun throwaway about whether Sherlock has managed to buy the Stanley Cup on the darknet, and a more penetrating one about Bell’s nascent relationship with a fellow detective who turns out to be hiding something, leading Sherlock to fret about whether his own preference for emotional isolation is affecting those around him as well. Excellent.

The Good Wife s6 ep 17

imageHuh.

Fresh from her election victory, a triumphant Alicia returns to Florrick Agos Lockhart and a guard of honour from her delighted (but not entirely supportive) colleagues, including Julius – Julius! Hurrah! – who explains his lengthy absence and sudden return with a simple “We’re closing the New York office!” Um…. that’s awesome, Julius, great to have you back, but did the New York office not belong to Lockhart Gardner/LG? When did Florrick Agos Lockhart open one? Has Florrick etc taken over all of LG’s staff and premises now?

This is the first sign that there’s something a little wonky about the storytelling in this episode – almost as if it were spliced together from parts written before Alicia and Cary broke away, back when everybody worked for Lockhart Gardner the first time – and the same weird disconnect affects the case of the week storyline. In a very TGW-type story, the firm represents a film-maker suing a file-sharing network for copyright infringement, his film having been uploaded to the network and shared all over the place. There are various “OMG – shenanigans!” before the Friends of File-Sharing take their cue from the Sony Hackers and start publishing the last four months of the firm’s emails, prompting everyone to lose their damn minds.

The emails themselves range from believably offensive (Julius and David Lee) via slightly unlikely (Cary being a jerk about Diane’s sex life during the period she was defending him against drugs charges) right the way through to “come on, now, there is no way that character wrote that” (Diane being so callous about Cary’s when he was on trial? No way.) but even if you accept that everyone did write them – and people do write things in email they would never want the world to read; see the aforementioned Hack, Sony for proof – the shouting and bickering that goes on is funny, but somebody spitting on Diane’s window without getting fired is ridiculous. It’s a law firm not St Trinian’s, FFS.

That’s not the only thing about the storyline which does not compute, either. After the first batch, the hackers threaten to publish two year’s worth of the firm’s emails if the case isn’t dropped. This sends Alicia into a panic: her two years apparently include some very racy stuff and publication would be a disaster for her public image. This part of the episode entertained me no end – I laughed and gasped as much as anyone – but, in my search for screencaps of what Will’s emails actually said (I’m not proud of myself) I came upon this post from the Fug Girls and the attendant comments and my God they’re right. (And not just about the logistics either – no WAY Will Gardner wrote that.) Florrick Agos Lockhart hasn’t been going for two years, has it? How are these people’s emails back from when they worked at LG in play? Is everyone using some generic @Iamalawyer.com address that they carry with them from firm to firm? And Will (who never worked for FAL) and Alicia’s affair ended more than two years ago – so how and why would he be sending her intimate emails? Especially when she was his sworn enemy at the time for leaving LG?

Eh?

Like the weird Julius moment at the beginning, it’s symptomatic of the way the whole episode fudges the timeline and the firm’s split, treating FAL as if it’s just LG Mk II, which it does now seem to be in terms of offices and personnel (if everyone’s back, what was the point of the split again?) but can’t be in terms of old emails, surely?

*scratches head*

Maybe it’ll make more sense later in the season. Although Alicia’s block-headed stupidity when dealing with Castro, Redmayne and Bishop suggests otherwise. Eli’s outbursts this week were hilarious, but really, how can Alicia still be naive enough to need this sort of basic reminder? I read somewhere that showrunners the Kings said The Good Wife’s overarching story is “The Education of Alicia Florrick” but this year’s election arc seems less about her learning and more about her forgetting everything and everyone she already knew. I enjoyed “Undisclosed Recipients” a lot, in fairness, but it doesn’t stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny and this show is, or at least used to be, capable of a lot more than that.

Person of Interest s3 ep 8

38 numbers. Now we’re talking. Finch quickly deduces that they’re all HR, suggesting that they’re about to kill or be killed. “Things”, Finch observes, “are about to get chaotic”. What he and Reese don’t yet know is that Carter is stirring the pot: HR is trying to increase its take from a Russian drug gang; the Russians are unwilling to pay; and Carter sees the opportunity to start a war.

Her motivation – avenging the death of Cal – is clear enough, although the lengths she’s prepared to go to, and the risks she’s willing to take, are huge. Nor is it entirely clear why she’s so determined to go it alone; OK, she doesn’t want to expose Fusco to risk, but Reese and Finch live for that kind of thing. On the other hand, her plan’s a good one, and she makes an exceptional job of executing it, showing just how far she’s come since she was the able-but-green cop running around after Reese in season 1. And he, in turn, is clearly concerned but impressed: “Is that my grenade launcher?”

Carter manages to play HR and the Russians off against each other, with unfortunate consequences for both groups, but her real target is someone else. The episode ends, then, with REDACTED under arrest, but HR and its helpers around every corner; in addition, even to clean cops, Reese officially remains a wanted criminal. So Carter and Reese need to get REDACTED across a hostile city and into FBI custody. “The Man In The Suit”, vows Simmons, “dies tonight”.

It’s a thrilling end to a remarkable episode, apparently the first of a three-part arc. So what does Channel 5 do? It pulls the show off the air to make room for Big Brother, promising that Person of Interest will return “later in the year”. Bearing in mind that we’re already a year-and-a-half behind US transmission, this amounts to little more than undisguised contempt for the viewer. In America the show has now been renewed for a fifth (thirteen episode, and therefore quite possibly final) season. Meantime, I’m not optimistic that we in the UK will even get to see the fourth; not on Channel 5, anyway.

The Blacklist s2 ep 20

A nicely creepy cold open: a grave is robbed and a corpse retrieved by someone who promises that she’s going to be “so pretty”. Ew. The perp is this week’s Blacklister, Quon Zhang – at least I think it is, I don’t recall a formal introduction – a smuggler who’s been working for the Cabal, hence Red’s interest. Team Red thinks Quon might be using dead bodies to transport explosives, so when they track down the stolen corpse, by now in a casket, they need to check it out. To start with they use a coffin-opening robot – which is cool – and when that fails to find anything, Marshall Flinkman from Alias, making a welcome return to The Blacklist, is sent in to examine the corpse. But he doesn’t find anything either.

And this isn’t the only nod to Alias this week. Liz (with Tom’s doe-eyed and devoted help, obvs) is trying to find out about the woman in the picture she retrieved from Red’s flat last week. Red eventually concedes that it’s Liz’s mother, but refuses to tell her anything else about the night of the fire. And not in the usual Red manner either; this time he seems to mean it. He does, though, let slip that Liz’s mother was a KGB agent, just like Sydney Bristow’s.

Meantime, the Red/Cabal thing is going on, with – as expected – an assist from Ersatz Gene Hackman from last week. I did, however, notice that when Samar was about to interrogate one or other of The Cabal’s endless supply of elderly white guys, she opened up a chef’s knife roll full of torture implements. Are these now standard issue for torturers? Can anyone remember the last time someone was about to get the pliers/blowtorch treatment from someone who didn’t carry their kit in one of these?

Anyway, it turns out that Quon isn’t smuggling explosives into China using corpses, but he’s up to something else, which is simultaneously more unpleasant and less interesting. In fact, he’s really only there to set up the next episode’s Blacklister, Karakurt. And Red’s battle with The Cabal, which I still can’t quite get my head round, will persist throughout the episode, ending with another “ew” moment. The thing is, I don’t care all that much about The Cabal, as I’ve said before. Which means that this was something of a disappointment.

Mad Men s7 ep 14

Don’s still on the road in ‘Person to Person’, the series finale, and as my enthusiasm for road-trip episodes of TV isn’t unlimited, my patience was wearing a little thin with this plot arc. However, he’s starting to feel the tug of home, and he has phone conversations with the three most significant females in his life.

images-25Firstly with daughter Sally, who tells him about Betty’s illness. His subsequent phone call to Betty is a thing of beauty throughout; their clipped exchange of “Birdy”, “I know”, was the sort of pared-down and hard-earned writing that works when you’ve had seasons to get to know characters. And then a call to Peggy, whose furious “Where the hell are you?” is borne out of year of putting up with Don and his ways. It’s significant that she’s in charge throughout their conversation; whatever their relationship in the past, it’s now her who’s the adult, telling him that he can come back to McCann Erickson and work on the Coca-Cola account, while he runs through his failings: “I messed everything up… I’m not the man you think I am… I broke all my vows, scandalised my child, took another man’s name and made nothing of it”. There’s a hint that he might be contemplating suicide, but it doesn’t come to anything, and might even have been fan service, as there’s always been a sizeable body of opinion which saw that as the show’s likely conclusion.

images-26These phone calls, though, are made while Don is at a coastal retreat with Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece, who is, I think, the only person alive who knows him as Dick. (And for a second I thought that my suggestion in last week’s review was going to be Don’s endgame, sort of: Don “dies”, Dick survives.) I’m afraid that I found this kind of irritating: I can see that it illustrates the late ‘60s/early ‘70s counterculture, but putting a hippy commune on top of a road trip meant that I was never entirely on board with Don’s storyline in this episode.

Everything else, though, is terrific. Roger regretfully sacks Meredith, Don’s secretary, because it looks as if Don isn’t coming back. (And not for translating Roger’s speech into pig Latin.) “There are a lot of better places than here”, she reassures Roger, who has a great week: he tells Joan, who suspects that Roger’s playing with the secretaries again, that in fact he met his new lover through Megan Draper. “She’s old enough to be her mother… actually, she is her mother.”

2015-05-18-mad-men1And I wondered whether we’d seen the last of Joan a couple of episodes ago. I’m glad I was wrong, because Christina Hendricks was on drop-dead sensational form this week. She tries coke – the other kind – in Malibu with Richard, and although he foresees a life of leisure for the two of them she doesn’t want to be that person for the rest of her life; she’s got things to do, having been thwarted or demeaned throughout her career.

hqdefaultSo when Ken Cosgrove asks her to help out with making a short film for Dow, she sees the possibilities immediately, and asks Peggy to write a script for it, then come in as partner on a production company. “We won’t”, promises Joan, “answer to anyone”. And the path is smoothed when Roger, unprompted, promises to put their son in his will. Peggy ultimately decides to stay at McCann – I was actually quite surprised that the offer was made at all, given how spiky their relationship has always been – and Richard decides that if Joan’s starting a business then he’s just not going to be getting enough attention. This is, of course, staggeringly selfish, but it’s probably worth bearing in mind that Richard knows exactly how much work is involved in building a business from scratch. Anyway, he walks out.

images-22Peggy then recounts her adventures to Stan, who tells her that he’s in love with her. Peggy talks through her feelings, and somewhat to her surprise comes to the realisation that she feels the same way. They kiss, and it’s borne as much out of affection as lust; it’s an unexpectedly lovely moment, which once again works because we know these people.

Which takes us nearly to the end of Mad Men. We get closure of sorts on just about everyone. Pete manages a graceful farewell to Peggy, then heads off for his new job with Learjet, finally getting the professional and personal adoration he’s always felt entitled to. Joan starts her production company. Roger and Marie, on honeymoon, bicker amiably. Betty’s still defiantly smoking. Peggy’s at the typewriter, with Stan in her life.

images-23And Don’s still on retreat and meditating, then we cut to the classic 1971 “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” advertisement for Coca-Cola. I’ve seen more than one interpretation of this, but as far as I’m concerned there’s really only one possibility: Don heads back to work – as he always does – and creates the ad (which was, in real life, also done by McCann Erickson). Any other interpretation is, as far as I’m concerned, stretching for something which isn’t there. I suppose one could argue about why it happened – did his encounter with the other unloved middle-aged man provide an emotional awakening, or did the atmosphere at Hippy Central fire his creative synapses? It doesn’t matter much. It’s a happy ending for Don, for everyone else, and for us; even if this episode wasn’t wholly successful, Matthew Weiner unequivocally stuck the landing as far as I’m concerned.

Which is good, because Mad Men – particularly in its first four seasons, but generally throughout – was a show which made a substantial contribution to the way in which TV is now regarded. It wasn’t just great TV, although it was great; it wasn’t just one of the best series ever – although it was that too. What Mad Men did, though, was confirm beyond doubt that TV can be regarded as an art form, and a sui generis one at that; not just an inferior long-form version of cinema, or a novel with moving pictures. For that alone, those of us who unashamedly love TV will forever be in Matthew Weiner’s debt.

Scandal s4 ep 19

Rowan’s at Olivia’s apartment; he monologues for a while, but in essence he gives Olivia 48 hours to call off the pursuit of B-613, then on his way out steps over the drugged body of Russell, Olivia’s FWB. Rosen decides to go on with the investigation, though, and having discovered a reference to Remington in a footnote somewhere in the B-613 papers, manages to tease out of Jake that it involved the shooting down of a commercial airline by a pilot called Fitzgerald Grant. At which point Olivia realises that Rowan was right: if she brings B-613 down, it’ll bring the President down with it. It seems to be a price she’s willing to pay, perhaps because it’ll bring the jam-making forward by a year or two.

Rowan goes to war, inevitably, and the first victim is Jake, repeatedly stabbed by our old friend Russell. It’s still entirely possible that Jake’s alive, of course, because if Shonda wanted him unequivocally dead Russell could have turned up with a gun or ten; in the context of Scandal, a stabbing is really nothing more than an overly-elaborate death plan involving sharks with fricking laser beams attached to their heads. Either way, with any luck this plot arc will finally bring B-613 to an end, as it has delighted us for long enough, I’d say.

In which case, how is Scandal looking outside of B-613? Well, the other two plots are inspired by ‘The Lawn Chair’. In the first Marcus, the young activist from that episode, is now running for Mayor, complicating his life by having an affair with the wife of his opponent. However, while enjoying a pleasant afternoon with Mrs Mayor she’s murdered, while he hides in another room watching. Marcus is framed for the murder, although – (not much of a) spoiler alert – it was the Mayor himself who was behind it.

Thus Marcus is given a choice between justice (dob the Mayor in, and agree to give evidence about his relationship with the deceased and what he saw when she was killed) or career (don’t tell the police what he knows, Mayor withdraws from race, victim’s disappearance goes unsolved, Mayor Marcus). He ultimately chooses justice, and gets a pep-talk from Olivia which suggests she’s already measuring him for an OPA white hat. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marcus again. That apart I kind of felt that we’d done this before, although there’s an excellent scene in which Olivia manages to persuade a roomful of cops that 2+2=0.

Someone who knows that 2+2=4, though, is Vice President Susan Ross, who refuses to vote for the Brandon Bill – aimed at greater police accountability, and named after the victim in ‘The Lawn Chair’ – until she’s read the thing. This is unhelpful, and she manages to resist Cyrus and Mellie’s attempts to coerce her into just voting for it already; also demonstrating, in the passing, that she’s worked out exactly what Mellie’s future plans are, and that she knows why she was appointed as VP. It ends bizarrely, though, when she manages to persuade Fitz that the Bill isn’t good enough, and the two of them start to work on a better Bill. I’m imagining that POTUS and VPOTUS have, you know, people who can do that for them. Not, then, a wholly successful episode.