Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 25

Season finale time, and it’s a cleverly-constructed episode which draws together quite a few of the show’s ongoing plots. H50 isn’t always the best at multi-episode arcs, but I think it gets it just about right here. 

Anyway, star attraction is still psycho-nerd Aaron Wright, now at large and with NSA cyber-weapons for sale. Junior’s father has gone missing after his daughter’s killer was released on parole, following Joons’s intervention at the hearing last week. Adam is sleeping over – platonically, everyone, platonically – at the house of old friend Tamiko, who was left at the altar a few weeks ago by her undercover FBI agent boyfriend. And the wife of Omar Hassan, the man responsible for the death of Joe White, wants to visit Steve, with her young son, in order to sort out their differences and apologise. This doesn’t raise any red flags. Not a one.

It all shakes out pretty well, and – given that H50 is generally all about the action – with a few possible romances as well. Wright, finally cornered, engineers a false alert of a missile attack – not the first time that’s happened on Oahu – in order to sow confusion, but is eventually captured. His parting shot is a boast that he’ll probably be freed again because the CIA needs his skills. I wouldn’t put that past the writers. Adam visits Tamiko, having told her that he’s ready to “move on”.  Whether he “moves on” Tamiko we don’t yet know, because the door closes on the viewers, leaving ex-Yakuza Adam in the company of his possible new love interest, the daughter of a Yakuza oyabun. Way to leave that old life behind, Adam. Junior, disowned by his father and a little bit emotional, drops in on Tami. The door closes on that one as well. Even Danny seems to be getting closer to Rachel again, which Steve seems to be a bit sniffy about. Wonder why? 

And in the final scene, at Five-0 HQ, the Widow Hassan pulls out a gun and shoots… someone. Not Danny. Maybe Steve. Possibly her son. But probably Jerry. I’m slightly concerned that, as far as I can tell, there’s no word on whether Jorge Garcia is returning for season 10. Because at the moment this show, I’d say, is working very well. It now seems odd that it was on the bubble a few seasons ago: with ratings holding up nicely, and the new cast members all properly integrated, H50 now feels kind of indestructible; assuming, that is, Alex O’Loughlin stays interested, and it doesn’t get too expensive to make.

 

 

 

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Public Service Announcement 41 of 2019: Beecham House

ITV’s latest attempt to appeal to fans of The Crown/ Downton (Crownton?) is Beecham House, a six-part (for now) period drama set in Delhi at the tail end of the 18th century and following the fortunes of rich retired English soldier John Beecham, his family, friends and neighbours. I’m somewhat ambivalent about it: it looks cheesy, and sounds like the kind of thing that’s lovingly-made and lavishly-mounted but tends to have big blindspots when it comes to race, class and imperialism. There’s a decent chance Beecham House might turn out to be significantly more nuanced and more inclusive than that, though: the brilliant Gurindher Chadha, is the co-creator, writer and director, and she made “Bend it Like Beckham” and “Bride and Prejudice”, both of which are wonderful. So she might just make Beecham House work. And the cast includes unpopcult favourite Gregory Fitoussi, which almost – almost – tempts me to give it a go, but not quite. Not yet, anyway. If word of mouth turns out to be positive, I could maybe be persuaded. Let me know if you try it – first episode’s tomorrow (Sunday) night at 9pm on ITV1.

Designated Survivor s3 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

Now that it’s a Netflix show, as opposed to “a show that’s on Netflix”, Designated Survivor would like you to know things are different. Former workaholic/not-a-traitor (I mean, as if) Emily is now unemployed, moping about in Florida and apparently making a cameo appearance in the unofficial sequel to The Birds (The Birds 2: Revenge of the Humans? No?). So the new Chief of Staff is Dr Greene from ER, with added Secret Pain and prickliness. “Political Director” Lyor has vanished, as if he was never there in the first place. New campaign manager Lorraine is an alcoholic with a secret gigolo habit. (Or should that be “Secret Gigolo Habit”? Whatever. I don’t suppose it’ll be “Secret” for very long.) Aaron is still National Security Advisor but with added new girlfriend whose chief function is to neg him for being a “bad Latino”. (I very much doubt this show can handle this type of storyline well, but we’ll see.) Seth is also thinking about matters of heritage and identity, albeit his attempt to track down his birth parents comes to a somewhat abrupt end – he doesn’t seem too bothered. Agent Q has wisely rid herself of the teenage hanger-on she acquired at the end of last season, the better to concentrate on being fired by the FBI – now run by people who, unlike poor Reed Diamond, don’t appreciate her “can do” attitude to rule-breaking – and being hired by the CIA to carry on being in a different show from the rest of the main cast (except possibly the Birds, given Q’s “bioterror” mandate and its likely connection to the final scene). And everyone is swearing! Swearing, swearing, swearing – even Little P, who would like her dad to STOP calling her Little P because maybe she reads this blog, I don’t know, but either way she’s realised “Little P” is embarrassing and she can’t answer to that and swear at the same time, unless she suddenly releases a rap album.

What of President Jack Bauer, though? Well, uh…. Designated Survivor doesn’t want you to think it’s that different, so PJB is really just the same. People keep pretending he’s “unmoored” because Emily’s not around, and his delight at her return does make me wonder for the first time if Jed might actually get the PJBemily affair he’s been hoping for since episode 1 of season 1. Whether that happens or not, though, the truth is PJB still has the same basic storyline he always has: he loses his cool and does whatever he feels like because he’s a “Man of the People” who doesn’t like politics; the big bogeyman tag-team of mainstream press and politicians criticise him for it; and the “real” people love him because he’s so “real”. Hm. You know exactly which world leaders and wannabes have been using this playbook in real life over the past few years, and their politics are markedly different from PJB’s, but the idea is, of course, that PJB is using them for good. Which would be fine and all, if he could get enough big bad politicians, or even any good ones (bye Darby!), to work with him. Oops.

By the end of the episode, though, things are apparently looking up for the Bauer Administration and its re-election prospects. The band are back together, new Communications Director Seth having correctly pointed out to Emily that the writers are “creating new jobs around here” all the time (I don’t know if it was meant to be quite so meta or even a joke at all, but I laughed) so there’s no barrier to her getting back on the Bauer bus. New, uh, “Hashtag Director”(ok, I made that up, but that’s what the dude does) Dontae revitalises PJB’s election campaign with the, er, power of the hashtag. And the show thinks it’s come up with a new take on Let Bartlet be Bartlet, but it just makes the old one look even better. This try-hard but lacklustre opening episode suggests that the change to Netflix hasn’t changed what was fundamentally wrong with the show last season. It’s still trying to be The West Wing, and it’s still no good at it.

Public Service Announcement 40 of 2019: Catch-22

Cards-on-the-table time: Catch-22 is, beyond any doubt, my favourite book ever ever ever, so I’m a little protective of it. And, of course, it’s famously unfilmable. Actually, that isn’t quite true: it’s brimming with brilliant set-pieces and unforgettable characters, to the point where you start to wonder if Joseph Heller left anything for any other author to do. (There are about a dozen different versions of the anecdote in which Heller is challenged for never again having written anything as good as Catch-22. “Has anyone?” he is said to have replied.) But in imposing any sort of structure on the source material, you run the risk of removing, or diluting, the apparently senseless chaos which is an essential part of the novel.

Anyway. By most accounts exec producer/director George Clooney, along with director Ellen Huras and Clooney’s longtime creative partner Grant Heslov, have given it a pretty good go in this six-part Hulu adaptation. It does seem to me, mind you, that Channel 4 has missed a trick by broadcasting the first episode this evening (9pm) rather than on Saturday – Catch-22 June, anyone? 

The Blacklist s6 ep 2

Picking up where we left off last week, more or less: it turns out that the Corsican, Bastien Moreau, was having cosmetic surgery in order to resemble a courier for the Turkish consulate in New York City. Moreau kills the courier in order to replace him and thus take a bomb, concealed in a diplomatic pouch, into the United Nations building. Red, meantime, recruits the bombmaker himself – a camp, alcoholic Mitteleuropean named Max Rudiger, who we’ve seen before – to render the device harmless.

So far, so procedural. Even in its sixth season, though, this show knows how to keep you off balance. The defusing of the bomb – the traditional climax to any episode of any show with a bomb in it – is sorted out before the episode is halfway done. The soundtrack to this is particularly thrilling: Wire’s angular ‘I Am The Fly’ and Soul Coughing’s ‘Super Bon Bon’. (“Move a-side and let the man go through!”) Moreau gets away. “We lost him”, explains Ressler. No, dude. You lost him. Red and Dembe, meantime, are free to roam around a deserted UN building, culminating in Red taking the podium in the General Assembly hall and delivering a weird speech about Cary Grant’s love for LSD.

And we’re still not done. Red – who has, after all, evaded capture for decades –  is arrested by a NYPD beat cop, of all people, while doing nothing more suspicious than buying pretzels from a food truck. The FBI refuses to acknowledge its deal with Red, leaving Cooper furious. The politically ambitious DA, Ms Holt, isn’t of a mood to drop charges either. Red knows he was betrayed by someone, and asks Keen to find out who it was. Keen already knows who it was. It’s a quite outstanding episode.

Blindspot s4 ep 21

*SPOILERS*

A surprisingly dull episode this, given that we have a plot to shut down the entire US power grid, a prisoner transport vs rocket launcher disaster, Madeline (who has somehow managed to get a full cut and blowdry in prison) doing her usual, Dominic doing his usual, a CIA/FBI jurisdictional turf war (so, their usual) and Reade, Weitz and Weller in some sort of bro-mantic triangle of jealousy and intrigue. Actually, I’ve made that last bit sound significantly more interesting than it is, and the rest is very much nothing new, so maybe it’s not all that surprising the episode is so dull after all. Patterson and Rich are not given anywhere near enough to do, Reade and Zapata continue to dance round each other, and even Weitz at his Weitziest can’t liven things up all that much. Keaton coming back does provide a bit of a spark – especially when Zapata scoffs at the idea of shaking his hand and throws herself into his arms instead, SQUEE!!!! – but he gets shuffled off to Malta (!) very quickly to try and stop anyone other than me noticing his chemistry with Tasha is off the charts while Reade’s is at a very low peep, and I’m so bored with Dominic the supervillain I struggled to care about any of the rest of it. Except the last scene, which is great, but not much consolation for 40ish minutes of decidedly tepid TV. And talking of tepid: ENOUGH with Weller wah-wah-wah-ing on about Bethany, FFS. It’s Blindspot not Babyspot. ARGH.

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 24

Tani’s at home, minding her own business – all right, offering moral support via the phone to Junior, for reasons to which we’ll come back – when all of a sudden there’s a man pointing a gun at her. And the man is our old friend Aaron Wright, last seen killing H50’s go-to hacker friend Toast and disappearing into the wind. This time, though, Aaron wants the Five-0’s help: in return for immunity, he’s been working for the NSA in a covert black ops site on Oahu, from which he’s been waging cyber warfare on America’s enemies. Unfortunately some baddies came in that morning and killed four of his colleagues; he and the branch chief (Senator Morejon from Madam Secretary) are the only survivors, and the chief might well be up to no good himself. So can they protect him, please?

Well. The Five-0 is, of course, enormously sanctimonious about this… this criminal helping the forces of law and order. (Double killer and “former” Yakuza member Adam is actually in the room, but that doesn’t stop anyone, of course. Yes, I realise I’m the only person who cares.) But Aaron’s story all checks out, so what are you going to do? Jerry punches him for killing his friend, but the rest of the Five-0 decides that pragmatism is in order, and work with him. It turns out that a gang of Euro-assassins is behind the hit, and that it has to do with blackmail and killer anaesthesia machines rather than national security. With Aaron still a target, Steve decides to use Junior and Tani as bait for the shooters (“Like gazelles at a watering-hole…”, muses Tani poetically) while Jerry and Aaron team up to bring down Big Anaesthesia. This story, however, isn’t over.

Meantime, and against my expectations, both of the subplots land. Lou’s outstandingly annoying brother Percy, who really shouldn’t have escaped with his life from his first appearance, is whining because someone seems to have stolen his kouign-amann recipe. Is this really a matter for the Five-0? Well, Lou intervenes, and much to everyone’s surprise – including mine – the trail leads to an act of industrial espionage carried out by a generously-built Hawaiian gentleman already familiar to the viewers. It seemed to me at least that Lou and Percy were very ready to accept his explanation, perhaps unreasonably so. 

And Tani accompanies Junior to the parole hearing of the man who knocked down and killed his sister. H50’s approach to issues of crime and punishment is generally somewhat Old Testamentary, so I really wasn’t prepared for Junior deciding that, rather than demanding that the parole application be refused, a bit of forgiveness might be in order. Outstanding.