Deutschland 83 s1 ep 6

Martin is in hospital in East Berlin for his mother’s kidney transplant, and he doesn’t want to go back to Bonn; he’s appalled by what he’s let himself become, and he wants to stay with Annett and be a father to their unborn child. But Schweppenstette – significantly, after being briefed by Annett – manages to persuade Martin to return to the West, on the basis that there’s a first strike coming and East Germany needs to know about it. And as the episode makes clear, yet again, this was a time of increasing geopolitical tension: as well as the deployment of Pershing II missiles, which to many in the East was the preface to the first strike they expected and feared, the temperature is turned up by the Soviet Union shooting down a Korean Air passenger jet.

Although this incident gives the episode its context, the main event of the week features Alex Edel. West German intelligence has started to work out that there’s something going on with young Herr Edel, and even his father finally works out that he’s not hiding in his room with a virus. (Although the AIDS hint dropped last week will be picked up in another storyline, and one which might yet lead back to Alex.) Having been cleverly wound up by Tischbier, over the last few episodes, to a pitch of revolutionary frenzy, Alex decides that direct action is appropriate. Last week, we saw him offering his services at the East German embassy, although in doing so – as Lenora and Schweppenstette immediately realise – he becomes useless as an asset, because the West knows who’s going in and out of that embassy.

Maybe Alex realises it too, because his next step is even more desperate: he storms into a high-class brothel and takes Major-General Jackson hostage at gunpoint. He then forces Jackson to read aloud a statement denouncing the West’s military ambitions, which Alex videotapes. This is a high-stakes moment for the show; Alex is kind of an idiot, and occasionally the plot stumbles towards farce. (Although I did like the sex worker wondering whether it was all just a role-play scenario.) But the writers get away with it, just about: the East is listening to the whole thing on a live feed, the West scrambles to deal with it, Martin turns up to get Alex out. And there are consequences, in particular the death of an established character; presumably, also, Alex and Martin will now have questions to answer. As far as Martin goes, in fact, I’m starting to wonder at point General Edel will notice that things have being going wrong ever since “Moritz Stamm” turned up.

But as Deutschland 83 goes on, it’s becoming clear that although Martin is the main character, Walter Schweppenstette’s at the centre of everything: his final act this week is to ensure that the briefing on the decoded NATO report is rewritten to maintain the position that NATO is planning a first strike, even though the information he has makes it clear that isn’t in contemplation. His reasons for doing so weren’t entirely clear to me, although it may be that he’s just another of the people, on both the left and the right, who have found that keeping people in a state of fear is profitable, whether personally or politically. Anyway, this is another excellent episode; as the end of the season approaches, Deutschland 83 is hitting top form.

The X-Files s10 ep 1

imageYou GUYS.

I really hadn’t intended to write about this beyond yesterday’s PSA but I’m genuinely too excited not to.

Ok, so the dialogue was embarrassingly bad and the story was the kind of deeply silly conspiracy hokum usually written in capital letters and exclamation marks in very dark corners of the Internet, but I genuinely don’t care. All I needed was Mulder and Scully together again and that’s what I got.

The easy, joyful chemistry between them in that scene where they met up again for the first time in so long had me bouncing with delight – gleeful and squeeful in equal measure – and even a script stuck halfway between knowing parody and ridiculous pretension couldn’t change that. I’d have liked this first ep to be better but I really don’t mind that it wasn’t. The X-Files is back and I am ecstatic.

Public Service Announcement 6 of 2016: The X-Files

imageAs we’ve said before, the huge increase in programming/viewing options over the past few years tends to mean significantly fewer viewers for each individual show. I mean, none of us can watch everything. Broadcasters continue, therefore, to look to past glories to try and reel people back in, with reboots, re-imaginings and just plain old sequels to long-finished (and sometimes not-so-long-finished) shows all over the place.

The latest batch of these includes a new mini-series of seminal sci-fi scariness The X-Files, which freaked me out in the best possible way for years before Mulder left and it all went a bit haywire. A couple of movies (one good, one not) and several years later, however, and with Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson all reporting for duty once again, it’s BACK.

The new six-episode run hit US screens just a couple of weeks ago and reaches UK screens tomorrow (Monday) at 9pm on Five. Reviews suggest the first episode is something of a disappointment while the rest are considerably better, but I don’t suppose reviews really matter. It’s Mulder and Scully, for goodness’ sake. MULDER AND SCULLY. I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing, but I’ll be watching. The truth is… well, you know.

Spin (Les Hommes de l’ombre) s1 ep 6

*Spoilers*

It’s election time, but Team Visage is feeling a lot less “ensemble” than they need to be: Simon’s minions, led by his (jealous? Ugh) daughter blame him for Valentine’s suicide attempt last week, having taken deux and deux out of the fact he had an affair with her and fired her, and made cinq.

Valentine’s hitherto very well-hidden closeness to anyone but the men she’s worked for – “You fire a girl we loved and you have nothing to say?” spits Daughter Dearest, who’s never even spoken to her on screen, as far as I can remember – isn’t the only surprise, either. “The truth is, one night Valentine poured her heart out to me,” says Anne. “Really?” the entire audience wonders, “Did we miss an episode?” before getting distracted by her taking a leaf out of the Kapita playbook and stroking his face instead of vice versa.

It seems to be contagious.

Simon tries to be all saintly about things – visiting Valentine repeatedly in hospital where she returns to the world the same way she tried to leave it, crying – but can’t put up with anyone thinking the soleil doesn’t shine out of his derrière for very long so he calls a team meeting to tell them their friend’s leaking secrets to her lover. Dun dun….. de rien. Bizarrely, news of their bestie’s betrayal elicits nothing more than blank expressions from anyone (except Daughter, who is delighted), she’s back in the fold by the end of the ep and everyone’s “ensemble” again.

If I gave a flying vol-au-vent about Valentine, I might have been interested in all this, but the only point of her existence has always been to give Ludo and Simon another reason to fight so I’m not. Even while lying silently in a hospital room, though, she can still make that happen: her two exes bump into each other at the hospital, argue and Simon threatens Team Deleuvre into keeping schtum about the bug, because, although the PM and Ludo making a deal with Marjorie is “disgusting!”, recording and using it for blackmail is apparently not that bad.

And neither are “dirty politics.” While everyone enjoys themselves moralising about how awful Ludo and the PM’s sneaky politicking is, Simon suggests – without a trace of irony – that they use the recording to turn Guenelon, Anne and Palissy are all for it, and lo! Guenelon and the letter proving the “state falsehood” are in Visage hands, to be used for what? To help launch a proper investigation into the cover-up? To tell the world what really happened and ease some of the racial tension Deleuvre has helped stoke up? To exonerate Apolline and honour Jamie’s memory?

Pfft. It’s to get the increasingly pathetic, defeated Deleuvre up out of bed and smack him around till he endorses Anne whether he wants to or not. “Why do you hate me so much?” wonders Deleuvre, plaintively. “I know how low people will stoop,” declares the righteous Simon, as he blackmails the PM for the second time in the same episode. “I hate you because you’re capable of lying to an entire nation.” Which you’re about to collude in by burying the letter for political gain instead of advising the lied-to nation of its contents, Simon. But don’t let a little hypocrisy distract you from your moralising, will you now?

The least-convincing endorsement in history – Deleuvre, looking like he’s being held at gunpoint, telling people to vote Visage as she stands next to him, grimacing – astonishes and enrages Ludo, sitting alone in his massive office with its many chairs on mini putting greens. In what seems an odd directorial choice, though, this final defeat causes him to go full panto and stare directly and pointedly into the camera, which is both incongruous and makes me want to laugh, although I don’t think that’s the desired effect.

It’s not the only unintentionally funny moment amongst all the high drama. Other highlights include the resolutely licence-less Simon actually driving (!) his new car and parking it in the most incompetent fashion I have ever seen, directly in front of a police car. FFS, Simon. And in the midst of outlining some completely incomprehensible utterly dull plan to hire Deleuvre as a lobbyist/lawyer for his non-existent clients, Ludo announcing that “Any MP can become a lawyer in three weeks. You just have to take an oath.” Vraiment?

Comedy moments aside, the episode and the season ends with the serious business of everyone waiting nervously, about to find out who the next President will be. Everyone except the audience, that is. If I’d watched this when it was first shown in France and had to wait ages for season 2, I would have been somewhat annoyed at the cliffhanger. I’m watching it years later on More 4, however, and not only are they launching straight into season 2 next week, but I stumbled onto a spoiler about who wins the election weeks ago.

Not that I care all that much either way. Season 1 has been a real let-down; instead of the smart, sharp, exciting show I expected, Spin has turned out to be old-fashioned, unsubtle and stuffed with stereotypes and anvils. As we’ve said before, the female characters are incredibly disappointingly-drawn, with Valentine a particular nadir. As far as the male characters are concerned, Simon, the hero, seems to have principles but this just means he gets to have his choux bun and eat it: he’s forever complaining about how terrible other people’s tactics are, before sorrowfully pulling out some trick or other himself. If he’d just come down off his high cheval and own up to enjoying all the scheming, I’d probably enjoy him a lot more too. Ludo, the villain, is more interesting and less annoying, because he’s unapologetically, unabashedly amoral and ruthless instead of pretending to be otherwise, and (let’s be honest) because he’s hot, but if he wasn’t played by Gregory Fitoussi, I might well have given up by episode 4. The writing is mediocre, the subtitling makes it even worse and by then I’d just have been watching for the suits. Having said that, I’ve come this far, so I’ll stick around and see what season 2 brings. For now, at least.

Hawaii Five-0 s6 ep 6

It’s the Halloween episode which, no matter what the show is, rarely fills me with anticipatory joy. Anyway. A silly cold open leads to the discovery of a serial killer’s dumping ground, where the dismembered remains of three murdered women are found. When Max is able to get them back to the morgue he treats the body parts as a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle, and discovers that there are, in fact, four dead women, although each is missing a piece. This reminds Max of the Trashman case, and so Steve and Danny are a bit nicer to him than usual. Not too much, though: Max, while working in the morgue, is dressed as a character from Les Liaisons Dangereuses, because it’s Halloween, and – hey! – the serial killing of women also has its funny side.

The team deduces that there’s a connection between the victims: they were all snatched after landing at Honolulu International Airport, suggesting that the perp is someone who works there. He will, in due course, turn out to be someone who is trying to revive the memory of a failed relationship, by reconstructing the girl who got away. Physically reconstruct her, I mean. With the stolen body parts. Bride of Frankenstein style.

Meantime Jerry, dressed as Dracula, goes to donate blood. Hee. He’s quite properly treated with withering disdain by the nurse. While he’s there, though, an armed robbery takes place. What would you steal from a blood donation centre? Oh yes. Blood. There’s a baddie who needs emergency surgery, which I suspect happens more in American crime procedurals than in real life. And in the C-plot Grace tells her mother that she’s having a sleepover at a friend’s house, but goes to a house party instead. Danny goes to get her back. Hugging, learning. Not a bad episode, exactly, but considerably more gruesome than a normal Five-0 outing, and I’m not sure that they got the tone quite right.

“Oh, FFS!” Watch: the Halloween episode, so lots to choose from, but let’s go with “We’re chasing Dr Frankenstein”.

This episode was brought to you by: um, Bing? Oh go on then. The Shriners Hospital for Children, Honolulu.

 

Code Black ep 11

*Spoilers*

This week on Code Black, three quarters of the cast head out in their high-vis vests to the scene of a multi-vehicle accident and it’s just as well they do since it doesn’t seem like there are any other emergency services planning to help out at all.

Back at the hospital, Gina and Jesse are both good fun and there’s an unnecessarily grim Carla sub-plot tacked on, but the field stuff is the main event, making this a very entertaining, if very silly episode lacking somewhat in the verisimilitude department.

So many cars and trucks scattered so far apart and so randomly, it looks more like a scene from a post-apocalyptic dystopia drama than a medical one; no police or firemen at all so it’s doctors who are pulling folk out of burning cars and freeing people from cement death traps; and all these Angels staff seemingly wandering about with no clear system of search or rescue, just saving / black tagging folk if they happen to come upon their cars while walking by…. while the saves are exciting and the losses sad, it’s hard to take much of it seriously when you keep thinking things like “Why is Mario the one who has to get the axe? Where are the professional firefighters with the bloody rescue equipment?”

For all that, the awesome Christa (Bonnie Somerville) has an absolutely gripping, terrific storyline which more than makes up for it: while wandering around looking for folk to save (*rolls eyes*), she finds an injured family, falls down a verge towards them, dislocates her shoulder and then has to work with their equally awesome daughter Lily to do all sorts of excellent field-type saves (including the classic pen-tracheotomy, trope fans) and hope for rescue. Since Neal Handsome Hudson (Raza Jaffrey) has noticed she’s missing and is all worried, I’m hoping for a big soppy, huggy rescue next week – and perhaps an early internship for Lily because she’s ace – but I fear he’s going to get distracted by having to save the wretched Mario and Heather from the dude with the gun first. And then the wretched Mario and Heather will get together and my ship will STILL be the only one getting nowhere on this show. Sigh.

The Good Wife s7 ep 1

imageAll the online speculation and discussion about KalindaGate, what is happening behind the scenes of The Good Wife and why Alicia is so isolated from most of the rest of the cast has been inevitable, given what has happened over the past few seasons, but a part of me really wishes I could go back and just not know anything about it.

I’ve been a huge fan and a big defender of the show and I’ve tried not to let thinking about it get in the way of my enjoyment of it, if you know what I mean but, whatever the truth behind it all is, TGW’s reputation has taken a massive hit, as have the producers’ and Julianna Margulies’. And in turn, I feel like, for those of us who have kept up to date with the prevailing chatter, the entire experience of watching the show has changed, and not for the better.

Two or three seasons ago, I would have been very enthusiastic about “Bond.” I would have said that I wasn’t too keen on the idea of Alicia setting up on her own, I could have done without Canning, and I missed Alicia’s relationships with Cary and Diane, but also that the episode won me over anyway by being very funny (Judge Jane Curtin! Grace the receptionist! The Roomba analysis!) and smart as usual, and bringing the majestic Margo Martindale on board. All that is still true but, two or three seasons ago, I wouldn’t have been wondering why Alicia no longer has any relationships with Cary or Diane, and why she’s starting up on her own and whether it’s to do with story or something behind-the-scenes, and I wouldn’t have felt vaguely uneasy and a little suspicious throughout.

Now, however, whatever the truth of the matter is, all my fretting about the baking process is having an effect on how the cake itself tastes; although I did enjoy this ep a lot, I wasn’t entirely able to relax, suspend disbelief and just accept the story for story’s sake, without questioning everybody’s motives throughout, however unjustified that might or might not be. Which is a real shame and definitely not the way I want to spend the last season of one of my all-time favourite shows.