Berlin Station s1 ep 8

*SPOILERS*

Since I’ve decided to start shipping Richard Armitage’s Daniel and Michelle Forbes, of course they don’t share a single scene this week, but at least they do continue to share the prima taste in office wear that’s transfixed me all season. It’s wet and cold in Scotland, so Agent Cregg would probably have gone with trousers, but Michelle’s taupe top and dark skirt suit is just the thing for the grieving but defiant secret agent with a Secret Pain, especially one who’s (a)in a place where it’s not freezing and (b)in a semi-permanent fight with New Acting Chief Dr Dubenko. The Antoinette/ Charlie Hebdo reveal is significantly less tasteful though. We really don’t need another Secret Pain at this stage of the season – Daniel’s and Hector’s are more than enough to be going on with – but if Michelle Forbes has to be similarly burdened, rather than using such a specific, recent real-life tragedy, could the writers not have made something up?

Sigh. At least Daniel and his lovely navy coat/suit/tie combo, are having a much more successful week story-wise. Not only has Herr Miller worked out who Thomas Shaw is, but he’s found Hector’s bug, Julian’s secret identity and where Everybody’s Most Wanted Steven Frost is hiding. That’s your agent of the month, right there. I’m not sure the non-linear structure of the episode adds much – the interrogation still felt like it went on for half my life – but the street-grab is undeniably effective (I jumped and squealed) and although I don’t find Hector’s incessant navel-gazing anywhere near as fascinating as the show does, at least it’s nearly over. Obviously, Cousin Patricia and her inexplicable liebe for the man are going to get in the way first – she was never going to listen to you, Daniel, don’t blame yourself – and there’s still time for German Ally McBeal to do something obnoxious and derail everything, but there’s only a double bill left in the season so, one way or another, Hector’s right: Thomas Shaw is indeed dead. The only real question is who’s going down with him.

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Public Service Announcement 45 of 2018: Madam Secretary, The Clinton Affair

Some politics, imagined and real. The really-very-good Madam Secretary returns this week for its fifth season, although it’s worth remembering that, when it started in September 2014, Barack Obama was POTUS; Britain wasn’t preparing – well, it isn’t actually preparing, but you know what I mean – to leave the EU; and a show about decent, well-intentioned politicians in the White House trying to do their very best didn’t look like some kind of fantasy. But since real life has proved to be infinitely more deranged than anything the Mad Sec scriptwriters could come up with, it now looks even more old-fashioned than when it started: network TV for grown-ups, with a great cast, sound writing, and interesting plots. I keep saying that I should review it. Maybe this season (Thursday 13 December, 9pm, Sky Witness).

As for things that actually happened: like thousands of others, I’m a huge fan of Leon Neyfakh’s compelling podcast Slow Burn, which in its recently-completed second season unpicked the impeachment of Bill Clinton. What Slow Burn didn’t have, though, was Monica Lewinsky’s version of events. Well, A&E’s The Clinton Affair does, and on the evidence of the excellent first episode Ms Lewinsky is going to be front and centre, allowing her, one assumes, to reclaim the narrative. It’s a story which, as Slow Burn convincingly demonstrated, looks rather different post-#MeToo. The History Channel is showing it in the UK on Saturdays, with repeats on Tuesday nights, and it’s available on demand. 

The Good Doctor s2 ep 7

Plenty going on this week, in a busy and enjoyable episode. Patient of the Week #1, George, is having a stroke, brought on by anti-androgen medication which he’s self-administering. But why would he want to lower his testosterone levels? Well, it’s because he’s a paedophile, although one who has not – yet – assaulted any children, and wants to keep it that way. After being told he has to discontinue his medication, he leaves hospital and ups the ante by attempting to castrate himself. He’s unsuccessful, but the doctors decline to complete the job for him – there’s no medical reason to do so – until his testicles are beyond repair. So he has to suffer for a while until that state of affairs has been reached.

Patient #2 is Billy, who’s been brought in from juvenile custody after being beaten up because of a facial deformity caused by his father assaulting him. Shaun, Park, and Lim are on this one. Once again, the debate about what to do hinges on the definition of what is medically necessary: if he goes back to juvie the way he is he’ll get more of the same, but is that enough to justify risky and expensive surgery? Park, who thinks it is, tries to persuade Shaun over to his side by pointing to the similarities between his life and Billy’s: in particular, that both suffered at the hands of an abusive father. Park thinks this approach might work because Shaun has been practising empathy. (On taking away Glassman’s driving licence because of his memory lapses, “How do you feel about not having a drivers’ licence?” “Pissed”, replies Glassman.)

And the race to become the new head of surgery has entered the final furlong, with Melendez and Lim neck and neck, and Melendez by no means above a very dirty trick which Lim finds about. Which means that, furious, she enters the operating theatre at the very moment when Melendez is preparing to commence the severing of George’s nadgers. “Dr Lim!” he greets her. “Are you a castration fan?” “Right now I am”, she snaps back, fixing Melendez with a death stare. “There’s a long and dusty trail littered with people who have underestimated me.”

George’s castration can’t take place after all, and his story reaches an inevitable conclusion when he kills himself. Morgan openly wonders whether the world is a worse place for his passing. Shaun comes up with a suggestion for operating on Billy, and as Billy had been planning suicide as well manages to save a life. And Andrews ultimately decides to remain as head of surgery himself; I didn’t know that was even a possibility. Lim and Melendez retreat to a bar to lick their wounds; and possibly each other as well, judging by the body language. I might be wrong, but I would be HERE for that hookup if it happens.

Blindspot s4 ep 4

*SPOILERS*

Although Blindspot as a show is about as realistic as the possibility of me suddenly finding out I’m the secret heir to the throne of a small European monarchy (yes, this is the plot of both the romance novel I’m currently reading and The Princess Diaries), I suppose we need to be realistic in our expectations of it and accept that few, if any, episodes are ever going to measure up to last week’s Quantico Affair. So although a fair chunk of this week’s is set in Patterson’s lab, it’s not the same. Having said that, I do enjoy a mystery contagion / lockdown episode and this was a good, solid, eminently watchable one, made significantly better by my beloved PatDotCom, as usual. Rich even gets a bit of character development, bless him; not only is he very sweet to both poor doomed Laurel and heartsick Reade, but he even contracts a Secret Pain which, ordinarily, would make me a bit wary – the last thing Blindspot needs is more angst – but the wonderful Ennis Esmer brings the lightest, rightest touch to it, as ever, so if it means more screen time for him, bring it on.

Outside the lab meanwhile, Allie’s back and kind and supportive of Kurt in a refreshingly non-tv-ex-like kind of way (unless you’re watching 911 which also has a kind, supportive ex/ new love set-up l really like – if all this niceness and generosity is going to be the new normal for tv exes, l’m all for it). NotJane is running her own secret op, causing a stampede and fighting with Imaginary Roman (Fauxman?) because even death cannot stop that guy from being a complete pain in the everything. And Zapata has competition for Madeleine’s affections in the form of the singularly, startlingly charmless Claudia, who seems unlikely to hang about for long, but then effing Roman’s still here, so what do I know? Anyway, I’m losing patience with whatever the hell Zapata thinks she’s up to, and after this week’s ending, I would think Reade is too. We’ll see what next week brings.

Berlin Station s1 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

Things go from bad to worse to completely terrible for the Berlin Station team this week with lies, politics and the small matter of someone setting Steven Frost up to take the fall making the search for Clare even harder than it already is. And it’s already kind of impossible.

Poor Steven does his best to sort things out by the book, but that’s obviously not going to work, so everyone else is going for more unorthodox methods: Dr Dubenko goes to Golda, who has her price; German Ally McBeal tracks down the Iosova rendition team in a lap dancing club; and Hector and Daniel (Richard Armitage) launch their own Lethal Weapon-style (but without the jokes) rescue mission, with Michelle Forbes being quietly fantastic in the process.

It’s fast, tense and bleak, with plenty of “adult themes” and an unapologetically unhappy ending. In short, if you’re looking for a fun time, look elsewhere. This is grim stuff. Compelling, though. And on the plus side, Daniel is definitely onto you-know-who now, I am totally going to start shipping him and Michelle Forbes (Farmitage? Vaniel?), and, somewhat surprisingly, treason seems to have made Dr Dubenko a lot nicer round the office. Every cloud, etc.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend s4 ep 7

Rebecca’s new thing is honesty: her new online dating profile, for example, includes her prison mugshot and the admission that she has “been known to stalk my exes”. That doesn’t stop one of those exes, Josh, from moving into her apartment while she’s on the East Coast staying with Valencia and visiting her appalling mother Naomi, played once again with delectable loathsomeness by Tovah Feldshuh. (I should say that as a Gentile I’m excused, I think, from having to worry about just how accurate a portrayal of a Jewish mom it is.) 

Naomi is due to pick up an award from a charity with which she’s involved, and she’s promised everyone that her childhood friend Elayne Boosler will attend the ceremony. Unfortunately Boosler has no interest whatever in coming, which means that Naomi stands to lose a huge amount of face in front of her deadly rivals in the poisonously competitive world of Jewish charities (I’m excusing myself again), and really isn’t in the best frame of mind to find out that Rebecca is no longer a partner in a law firm, but instead is running a pretzel stand.

Back in West Covina, Josh is trying to come to terms with living on his own for the first time. This might be my favourite post-stalking Josh plot ever. And Nathaniel has discovered, following last week’s episode, that he actually quite likes being a nice guy for once: he starts small, by providing free doughnuts for the office; and then, more substantially, helps Paula out while she covers Rebecca’s pro bono prison work.

And in New York, amazingly, Valencia manages to leverage Elayne Boosler into turning up to the ceremony to present Naomi with her award. Boosler and Feldshuh sing a flat-out fantastic parody of a summer camp song about lifelong loyalty, ‘If You Ever Need A Favor In Fifty Years’, which includes the advice that if you’re having difficulty in persuading one of your camp friends to help you, “have your daughter’s Goyish friend remind her”. “Wow”, remarks Rebecca afterwards. “That song was… dead on to this situation”. Emboldened, she stands up to her mother, something I’d venture to suggest that, whether Jewish or goyim, we all need to do at some point (and, in due course, have done to us if we’re parents).

It’s a strong episode with a tasty epilogue: Rebecca, back home, invites Josh to move in with her, then reminisces about making out with him. And when she finds out about the new good-guy Nathaniel, she remembers making out with him. This might just be the return of her libido after a few weeks in the doldrums, of course, and I’d be fine with that; less so if it means a reversion to Rebecca-as-stalker.

The Good Doctor s2 ep 8

Some challenging morality problems this week. Todd and Dawn, a married couple, have been in a car crash; he’s not too badly injured, but she needs surgery. It’s successful, but Shaun and Claire subsequently need to tell Todd that they couldn’t save Dawn’s pregnancy; a pregnancy, of course, he didn’t know about. And couldn’t have caused, as he’d had a vasectomy ten years ago. Maybe, he wonders, the vasectomy could have failed? “It’s more likely she got pregnant from someone who is not you!”, Shaun replies helpfully. Dawn denies having an affair, although Todd’s sperm count is tested and found to be zero.

But then when Shaun is leaning across Dawn, she kisses him full on his startled lips, ostensibly to thank him for saving her life. “I helped save her life too. Where’s my kiss?” Dr Lim demands, before being reminded by Claire that, had the genders been reversed, everyone would be treating it much more seriously. Shaun, though, realises that Dawn’s behaviour is likely to have a physical cause and, sure enough, a tumour is found which would have had the effect of suppressing her inhibitions. (This is discovered when she’s asked to draw a clock face and can’t do it properly. I’ve seen this before. House, maybe?) The problem, though, is that while she was uninhibited she had four affairs. Four! Can Todd forgive four affairs?

In a sharp contrast to that one – decent people struggling with an unenviable situation – Case of the Week #2 features Finn, a tween boy whose idiot parents don’t believe in vaccination. “We did a lot of research!” bleats First Idiot Parent, whose medical qualifications and research expertise remain unrevealed throughout. “We reduce his exposure to infectious disease by putting him in a public school, where he’s surrounded by vaccinated kids!” The jaw-dropping selfishness and stupidity of this don’t go unremarked. Poor Finn, as well as having to cope with this weapons-grade fuckwittery at home, has two spinal cords, which sounds kinda cool except it isn’t: as he grows, it will lead to paralysis. Surgery is successful, but Finn’s mother – proving herself, at least, to be not quite as stupid as her husband, asks Park to vaccinate Finn. The problem this time is that Finn’s father didn’t know about that, and throws a major marriage-endangering sulk. Dear God.

And two substantive private-lives stories as well. Andrews is warned that Claire is soliciting interest from other hospitals, and that losing two residents from diverse backgrounds in less than a year wouldn’t look good for the show. Uh, I mean the hospital. Thus he engages on shuttle diplomacy between Melendez and Claire to get them to make up. Claire, adroitly, apologises to Melendez but makes it clear to him that she doesn’t mean it, allowing him to take her back into the team without losing face. And Glassman, as hinted last week, is indeed having significant memory lapses. OK. Can we now get Lisa Edelstein out from that office and into the field? She’s being wasted at the moment. Otherwise, an excellent episode.