Murder in the First s1 ep 7

After having lavished praise on this show over the past few weeks, I have to acknowledge that ‘Suck My Alibi’ didn’t quite do it for me: I felt as if I was waiting for something big to happen, and it never quite did. The death of Mark Strauss fizzled out a bit; on the plus side, though, I don’t think grammar is used nearly often enough as a means of solving crimes (it might be just about time for Unpopcult to pitch The Lexicographers once again), and it was a neat way of bringing the otherwise annoyingly irrelevant Ivana back into the story.

The show also continues to get points for the way in which it’s handling its courtroom scenes: Hildy’s evidence, neither unqualified triumph nor unmitigated disaster, was typical (and reminiscent of Murder One) of the measured way in which the forensic side of the drama has been handled, with irregularities – the DNA sample, for instance – raised and examined. The same could be said of Hannah’s testimony: yes, she claims she was raped; no, she didn’t report it, and has no physical evidence to substantiate it.

Out of court Tildy wasn’t even been mentioned this week, which is dramatically satisfying even if it means that shippers like me aren’t getting what we want. (Their workplace rapport continues to be beautifully written and played.) Solid and entertaining, then, but perhaps not quite up to the show’s usual standard.

The Blacklist s2 ep 9

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Anyway, The Blacklist’s return from mid-season hiatus was given the coveted post-Superbowl slot when broadcast in America. This generally means big ratings – which this episode certainly got – and a little something extra to hook the floating voters. So enter Janel Moloney – Donna effing Moss! – and David Strathairn, as high-ranking security operatives. (Maybe CIA, maybe not. I wasn’t entirely clear about this. Lots of talk about black ops anyway.) And Ron Perlman, as this and next week’s Blacklister, Luther Braxton, international mega-criminal, etc. Braxton is being held in an incredibly secret US prison, an offshore facility in the Bering Sea, for the most dangerous of international mega-criminals, and look who’s fetched up there as well? Red, of course, who has allowed himself to be captured by the FBI, persumably so that he can be in the Bering Supermax at the appropriate time.

Red knows that Braxton is planning a breakout, but no-one listens to him until it’s way too late and Braxton, together with a team of fellow detainees, has control of the facility. The FBI dispatches Team Red, which seems optimistic in the circumstances, and sure enough on landing everyone apart from Liz is kidnapped and trussed up in a room known as The Factory, where hardened international mega-criminals are taken to have their mega-criminal secrets squeezed out of them. It’s “a slaughterhouse for spies”. Yum.

Up to this point everything’s been charging along nicely, with director Joe Carnahan at the helm giving us plenty of shootings and torture porn, and Liz prowling around the prison reprising her Die Hard number. So far so good, then, particularly as it isn’t clear what Braxton actually wants, which adds a little spice. But then things start to drift a little: Braxton wants The Fulcrum, which I’ve never really been given a reason to care about as a McGuffin. It’s delightful to learn, though, that for logistical reasons the CIA (or whoever) has kept The Fulcrum – a file with information which could be used to blackmail powerful people – in the same facility as its most dangerous prisoners. Meantime Liz and Red futz about with pressure gauges and boilers in an attempt to blow something up, and Red revives one of the show’s more irritating tropes when he hedges around Liz’s questions rather than just answering them.

But there’s a strong finish. Red doesn’t want Braxton getting The Fulcrum, because all that’s been keeping Red alive is the belief of Strathairn’s crew that Red had it. So once it’s known that Red doesn’t have it, there’s really nothing to stop the CIA (or whoever) destroying the prison, and everyone -including Red, Liz, Ressler, and Samar – on it. Cooper’s against, of course, but a missile strike is ordered. Fortunately they don’t hit before the best scene of the episode, in which Red goes stalking through the exercise yard, shooting anyone who even thinks about getting in his way, on his way to a confrontation with Braxton, who also knows more about Liz, Red, and the fire, than Liz does. But before he too can avoid answering her perfectly reasonable questions… bang. Not perfect by any means, but I enjoyed it, and I thought it one of the stronger episodes of this season.

Hawaii Five-0 s5 ep 14

I’ve always had my doubts about Adam Noshimuri. Everyone seemed remarkably willing to accept that he’d turned his back on the Yakuza in order to clean up the family business. And what is the “family business”, anyway? As far as I can see it could be anything from toy manufacturing to people trafficking. (I freely accept that we might have been told and I’ve forgotten.) Turns out Kono has been wondering about Adam as well, and she tells him that she’s disinclined to marry him until he makes a clean break from the “business”, which after all was founded on generations of gangsta money. Now, quite rightly the Nosh fights back; after all, he doesn’t ask Kono to give up being a cop. And also, he might have pointed out, she knew what she was getting when, in order to find him when he didn’t want to be found, she embarked on her filmed-from-the-neck-up odyssey last season.

But I can’t brood about that too much: there’s a dude with a bullet wound trying to break into a prison. He’s J.C. Dekker, who had been freed from that very prison a few days before, so that he could work as a CI for our old friend Greg Grunberg, making a welcome return to H50, and to Unpopcult in general. And here’s where it all gets a bit Blacklisty: J.C. had been making a deal with “bold, smart, ruthless” master criminal Roman Zednick, who hardly anyone has ever seen. J.C. made contact with Roman but can’t identify him, because he’s suffering from inconvenient temporary amnesia. So can the Five-0 dig Roman out with almost nothing to go on? Without giving too much away, I suspected that all was not as it seemed, but I backed the wrong horse. Not bad, but – Bromance Watch – I really don’t care if Danny’s had to fly somewhere to give stupid evidence in a stupid appealed case. I want more bromance, stat.

Women in the Workplace Watch: a big week for Kono, who gets to kick ass and sort her personal life out.

“Oh, FFS!” Watch: Jerry in a velvet smoking jacket singing ‘Ain’t That A Kick In The Head’.

This episode was brought to you by: the Westin Moana Surfrider.

Scandal s4 ep 8

We start ‘The Last Supper’ with a pissing contest between Fitz and Jake in front of Olivia; not the first one, and by no means the last. Fitz now accepts that Rowan was responsible for the murder of Jerry, but opinion is divided on what to do about it. And, more importantly, on what Fitz and Jake should call each other. Jake rather snippily insists on being called by his full name and title, because “Jake” is for his friends, and POTUS isn’t his friend any more. It’s like being in nursery. Eventually Fitz – who, after all, remains the President – tires of this: “I will call you whatever I wanna call you!” he snaps.

The odd thing is that all three of them eventually agree that, in respect of dealing with Rowan, they “need to do this right”. Why, exactly? And since when have any of them been fans of doing things right? Anyway, the upshot is that poor old Jake has to remain in custody, for fear of alerting Rowan that they’re on to him. And meantime they plan to put Rowan on trial in secret using Olivia as bait; prosecuted by David Rosen, the man who blackmailed his way into his job; and with information from the B-613 files hidden in a lockup. (This is “standing in the sun”, apparently.) It all goes thrillingly and spectacularly wrong, because you don’t get to be Command for years without knowing how to watch your six.

There’s a sort-of Case of the Week as well, with Elizabeth North hiring OPA to find out who’s bugging her phone. The answer isn’t much of a surprise in itself, but it’s a part of another classic Scandal example of bringing disparate plot threads into a Big Conspiracy: Cyrus finds out that there’s even more to the Michael business than he thought; VPOTUS is targeted by a car bomb, after which Mellie jumps him; Quinn’s on Kobiak stakeout duties. It all comes together, even if Huck’s colossal mistake of bringing Javi on the Kobiak stakeout seems oddly and unforgivably stupid. A very good episode, although compared to last week’s fleet-footed effort it somehow felt a little more ponderous. And Abby wasn’t in it.

Mr Selfridge s3 ep 6

A mixed shopping bag of an episode this week, with some light-hearted store-based shenanigans twinkling along cheerily in amongst all sorts of calamity and strife.

New Deputy Store Manager S (Club) Junior and the Soul Patch of Silliness take up their new post – much to the entirely justified and mildly comical chagrin of both Mr Grove and myself – and promptly attempt to fill the Gregory Fitoussi-shaped gap with A.N.Other Frenchman. Step forward Monsieur Longchamps, who causes consternation then delight then more consternation by dint of a little thievery, a revolving tree thingy and a deeply ugly underwear-themed window display. Zut alors! Monsieur Leclair would never have been so indelicate, but subtle Monsieur Longchamps is not.

Nor is this episode, starting as it does with a mopey Violette and an equally mopey yet inexplicably shirtless Victor. Mr S giving thanks that Mrs S isn’t here to witness Violette’s shame is obviously a trifle hypocritical given that Miss S isn’t doing anything with the former help that Mr S isn’t doing with the current, but apparently “a gentleman won’t marry a woman who’s disgraced.” Or, as most women out there will have heard more times and in more contexts than they can count: “it’s different for boys.”


Putting the Selfridge sexual double standard to one side for the moment – because nobody wants to think about the words “Selfridge” and “sexual” together for any longer than necessary – I don’t give two dessous affriolants about Victor and Violette, shirtless or otherwise, but the show seems very keen to promote them as Oxford Street’s answer to Romeo and Juliet and simultaneously get the most out of the Colleano’s club set. So, while Mr S keeps Violette busy – but still lovelorn, mind – with a made-up job on the made-up building project he’s about to lose all his money and the store on (just how dense is this man?!), man of honour Victor makes a deal with a dodgy businessman, which is apparently much better than making a deal with a dodgy policeman. Or not. George Towler and I are unconvinced.

Colleano’s club worries aside, though, George is having something of a banner week. Since the club’s temporarily closed, he takes his Forrest-Gump-as-bodyguard act on the road, saving Mrs Edwards from attack (twice), from the pain of a trial and from any further damage to her marriage. The fact that these are all areas where Mr Edwards has failed miserably is not lost on his wife – is that a renewed interest in George I see, Kitty, or just a little extra rouge on your cheeks? – but Frank appears to be forgiven for now. For NOW.

No sooner is one trauma averted, however, than another one pops up in its place. Miss Mardle’s attempts to assist Mrs Grove were always going to end badly, but the light-hearted nature of most of the episode meant I wasn’t prepared for quite how badly. From dessous to death in a matter of minutes: Mon Dieu. Neither an entirely successful shift in tone, nor an entirely successful episode, then, and with the pick’n’mix of misery on offer at the moment – Billy’s sights set on baby Ernest, Loxley’s sights set on revenge and Mr S’s sights set on bankrupting himself – I’m not really looking forward to the rest of the season either.

Elementary s3 ep 10

‘Seed Money’ once again makes use of the possibilities opened up by the addition of Kitty to the main cast. In the A-plot, Sherlock and Watson investigate a case in which it looks as if a Brazilian cartel has ordered a hit on a brilliant genetic botanist, but the story takes us off in another direction. I could see that it was cleverly, almost elegantly structured, but for some reason I wasn’t fully engaged: there seemed to be a reliance on a couple of scenes in which rapid-fire exposition took the place of actual plot development. The B-plot, meantime, was apparently straightforward but deceptively moving: Kitty is asked to look into the disappearance of the daughter of a woman in her support group for survivors of sexual assault. It results in Kitty realising that she might be strong enough to provide emotional support to someone in need of it.

And the backstory is piling up. There are more changes in the Sherlock/Watson/Kitty relationships, with Sherlock telling Watson that he intends to promote Kitty from protegée to partner; and Watson revealing that she plans to wind up her private detective business and start working for an insurance company as an investigator. There’s some high-class acting from Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, reassuring each other that these changes are for the better, and that nothing will change, but behind the eyes you can see their apprehension. And the fuse on the unexploded bomb of Kitty’s trauma starts to fizz, as evidence emerges that the person who assaulted her is in town. Elementary continues to deliver.

The Good Wife s6 ep 5

Elsbeth’s back! image

On a treadmill, in her own world, and in a court room on the opposite side from Florrick Agos. Uh-oh.

The case of the week is about sexual discrimination; a female CEO’s been fired for – depending on who you listen to – her “strong management style” or being a “bitch on wheels”, and, as you’d expect from TGW, this means some deft points about sexism and attitudes to women in management roles. They’re overshadowed a little, however, by our, yes, amusing but also slightly uncomfortable detours into Elsbeth’s subconscious. She’s clearly struggling and while, thanks to Carrie Preston’s joyous performance, there’s a lot of fun to be had throughout with the clown and the composer and the cats, Alicia taking advantage of this woman’s mental health issues seems both cold and cruel, particularly in a week where she’s being held out as the soul of justice and integrity.

I think we all realised a long time ago that all’s fair in love and lawsuits as far as Alicia’s concerned, though; there’s very little she won’t do to get ahead. Except disinvite Finn from a press conference, apparently, which somewhat puzzling line in the sand gives us both the strangest storyline and the best scene of the week.

Finn – for reasons which I really hope will turn out to be nefarious, because the alternative would make him an idiot – has agreed to introduce and endorse Alicia at the launch of her run for State’s Attorney. I can’t quite get my head round how weird this is. Finn works for the current SA. Why put himself in such an untenable position? And Alicia has her husband, the GOVERNOR, to endorse and introduce her. What on earth does she need Finn for?

Never mind the set-up, however, let’s just enjoy the fall-out since Peter, of course, agrees with me, leading to the mother of all rows; Chris Noth and Julianna Margulies are on blistering form, ducking it out with dialogue as quick as it is brutal. And magnificent.

Those scenes are such dynamite that the reason for them ceases to matter, especially when they lead us to an ending which brings everything back round full circle to season 1 of episode 1, (how different it was back then!) while simultaneously turning the way in which the show started completely on its head.

Few shows can constantly re-invent themselves, but this one seems to do it with alacrity every season.

The good stuff doesn’t stop there, either. The Ransomware story is hilarious, especially Kalinda using Pussy Riot to defeat a Russian hacker when Kalinda usually uses….. I think you can finish that joke for yourselves. Unfortunately, however, Kalinda doesn’t stray too far from her usual sex-for-favours techniques for much of the episode – I was over it and this character several seasons ago, and a sizeable chunk of the episode is dragged down by it as a result, meaning it’s nowhere near as brilliant as eps 3 and 4. But Diane’s still glorious, David Lee talks about monkeys flying out of his butt and Eli feels like he’s in a Bruckheimer movie, so never mind Kalinda, I thoroughly enjoyed “Shiny Objects” anyway.