Code Black ep 4

A busy but well-plotted week on CodeBlack as the show begins to find its groove; too late to save it from cancellation, I would have thought, but nice for those of us determined to stick it out till the end.

Leanne Rorish is the least annoying she’s been so far – the fact that her snappy soundbite count is also the lowest it’s been is not a coincidence – although the trite factor in the detox/ grief ritual sub-plot she’s involved in is still too high for anyone who’s ever watched tv before. I mean, the idea is fine, ish, but it’s too cliched to be moving and it’s also a bit weird – a grieving alcoholic comes to your hospital once a year for 10 years on the trot, thinking it’s his dead daughter’s wedding day each time and nobody ever thinks a psych consult might be an option?

Maybe the psych folk are all too busy, although it’s not entirely clear what they’re busy with. As far as I can remember, Mario Savetti aka Cocky Resident is the only person I’ve ever seen call for a psych consult at all on this show. For an OD patient he then manages to lose, mind you, so it doesn’t really count. I wonder if the guy ever got the psych consult after all…

Not that anyone actually cares about Dr Savetti. He’s managed the magnificent feat of annoying every single person who works with him, and his little sad face when the other Residents head off together for Resident Fun Time without him makes clear he knows it too. It’s going to take a personality transplant and a lot of grovelling to fix that, which I suppose the writers could organise for him, but time is short, guys – why not just transfer him to Chicago Med or something, and give us more of some other folk instead?

And when I say “some other folk”, I obviously mean Raza Jaffrey’s Neal Handsome Hudson and Bonnie Somerville’s Christa Lorenson, aka Mature Sensible Resident. Malaya (Ambitious but Talented Resident) is all right and Angus (Dithering Resident) is, er, there too, but there’s nothing remotely interesting about either of them, and Dr Guthrie’s son, Other Dr Guthrie, is both boring and an asshat, so forget him as well. The tremendously likeable Christa and Neal, however, could carry the show on their own.

Who am I kidding? The tremendously likeable Christa and Neal are carrying the show on their own.  This week, bless them, they’re working together to save a mother and baby who are not only burn and illness victims but also kidnap victims. So it’s not a good week for mother and baby. Or, actually, it’s a brilliant week for mother and baby since they luck out with the two nicest, most sensible doctors in the hospital.

Of course, the frail wee baby is so frail and wee that Christa has a completely understandable wobble about her own lost littl’un, but Neal is really lovely about it, and while they’re bonding and sharing, I’m squeeing and shipping and mum and baby are being saved nonetheless, because, like I said: the two nicest, most sensible doctors in the hospital. Awwwww. I love them. And I quite liked this ep.

Public Service Announcement 57 of 2015: Blindspot

There aren’t really many hits on US network TV these days, but new drama Blindspot comes close: it started in September, by mid-October it had a back-nine order, and by mid-November it had already been renewed for a second season. It has a deliciously high concept: a woman with amnesia is found concealed in a bag in Times Square; she’s naked but covered with tattoos, and one of the tattoos leads to Kurt Weller, an FBI agent. It turns out that each of the tattoos contains a clue to an unsolved crime. I’m a little worried about how much mileage there is in this: won’t they run out of tattoos at some point, or does Jane Doe have a lot of skin?

But that’s a minor issue. Cases of the Week, an overarching conspiracy, high production values (I assume) and a lead couple who might hook up. Dudes: this show could have been written for me and me alone. Sullivan Stapleton (Strike Back) is the Fed and Jaimie Alexander (Thor) is the woman, although shipping possibilities might be restricted if the stories that they don’t get on IRL are true. Can’t see it leading to weekly reviews, but then I thought that about The Blacklist (tonight, Sky Living, 9pm).

The BBC’s new drama Capital starts tonight as well: it’s based on a novel by John Lanchester, a writer I like a lot; adapted by safe-pair-of-TV-hands Peter Bowker; it has an excellent cast, including Toby Jones; and it’s about residents of an upmarket London suburb getting threatening letters. I’m sure it’ll be good. But does it have a naked woman stuffed into a bag and a Fed who wants to tap that? No. No it doesn’t (tonight, BBC 1, 9pm).

The Blacklist s3 ep 5

Cold open – Liz is dead. But we know she isn’t, of course, even while we might wonder, y’know, would it really be so bad for the show if she were…? Anyway. Back twelve hours, and there’s a super-assassin called Wendigo – not this week’s Blacklister, mind you – after Liz. He’s not in it for the money, explains Red; he’s driven by a sense of vigilante justice. Except… well, he is in it for the money: there’s a Darknet bounty on Liz’s head. It’s been funded online by the haters, no longer just content with hating; they’re going to crowdfund a killing. To get Liz’s name off the website she and Red are going to have to find Arioch Cain, who put her on there in the first place. And he is this week’s Blacklister.

But they’re interrupted by Mr Vargas, who is all, come and see Dembe. As we know, it’s a trap; I was amazed that Red fell for it, but perhaps he has other things on his mind. Anyway, he and Liz are seized by Solomon. “What is the deal with you two anyway? It’s what everybody wants to know!” he metas. Fortunately Dembe has enough juice in the tank to come in, gun in each hand, just before Liz gets torture-porned. Then Red stages Liz’s death to draw Arioch Cain out: successfully, as it happens, even if this storyline went out with a bit of a whimper.

Meantime Tom is off in a plot world of his own, befriending last week’s rich kid Asher Sutton and his girlfriend. Girlfriend is up to something, I’d say, but that has to keep for a week or two, because some bad Russians – them again – are extorting money from Asher because he wouldn’t take a dive at rich kid fight club, or something. Tom under-reacts heroically by killing the Russian thug point man, presumably on the basis that he wants to draw some flies. Asher looks horrified, as does Girlfriend, who I think might be feigning. It’s entertaining enough, I suppose, and as ever The Blacklist is better with Tom.

Less promising is Ressler’s storyline, which seems to suggest that The Cabal is going to be around to delight us for a while yet: he testifies before a Presidential commission, but the upshot is that David Strathairn’s character, on whom I’ve never quite been able to get a handle, but who now seems to be the director of the CIA and named Kotsiopulous, persuades them that The Cabal doesn’t exist and that Ressler should be sharing all his lovely Red/Keen intel. Which is a problem, of course, because the Task Force has been doing everything it can to “hunt” the runaways while still giving Red pretty much everything he wants. With Red gratuitously killing characters both recurring and one-off the body-count is refreshingly high, helping to make this a diverting episode, if not a great one.

Homeland s5 ep 7

After last week’s excellent episode, this was a little disappointing. Carrie is looking through the documents Saul smuggled to Otto Düring, trying to work out – as we all are – why something in them would make the Russians want to kill her. She finds a reference to herself under an old code name – Oriole – and gets in touch with an old contact in Baghdad, who tells her that he saw Ahmed Nazari, a presumed-dead Iraqi lawyer and CIA asset, walking about very much alive. With a swift assist from Numan Ahmed is traced to Amsterdam, although that gives office nemesis Laura the opportunity to aim more snark at Carrie.

Meantime Saul is being unsuccessfully interrogated by Dar Adal – doesn’t he have people to do that for him? – who then lets Allison have a go, because she’s such a fantastic spy that she’s completely fooled everyone. Once they’re alone Saul admits to Allison that he was taking the documents out for Carrie, because – guess what, Allison? – Carrie’s still alive. Whereupon Allison has a meltdown. Way to cover up your feelings, Allison.

Quinn – who, it will be recalled, last week killed the king to become the king – still has his merry band of jihadis in his thrall. He suggests they might be better calling off their Berlin attack and going to Syria, and they (a) totally agree and (b) offer him cash money to take them there. He relays all of this to Dar, who encourages him to go, as it will get him close to a CIA target. And Düring continues to give Carrie anything she wants, then tells Jonas that she’s unbalanced – fair comment, you’d have to say – and that her contract with the Foundation won’t be renewed. Is he appropriately discussing staffing matters with a senior and trusted colleague, or is he trying to put Jonas off Carrie so he can tap that?

It’s all a little ponderous. Things improve, though, later in the episode. Carrie goes to Amsterdam – always a pleasure to see it as far as I’m concerned – and hits up an old Iraqi buddy, now driving a taxi, who takes her to Ahmad’s house. She searches it and finds a laptop, but before she can take a good look at it she’s interrupted by two heavies sent by the Russians, also trying to get something out of Ahmad’s house. Meantime Ahmad himself, walking his doggie in Flevopark, is picked up by Team Russia; and Carrie’s taxi-driver friend has his throat cut. Ew. Carrie – who we might soon be able to take off the list of people who haven’t worked out what Allison is up to – phones Allison and they agree to meet.

Saul and Dar exchange some final pleasantries. Dar: “She finally brought you down, like I always said she would”; Saul: “Fuck off” – all for show? And Saul is being escorted to the airport when he’s snatched by a gang of masked gunmen. He’s incredibly un-surprised, though, which makes sense when he’s taken to his old buddy Etai, the Israeli ambassador. So, given that Saul swiftly alludes to the fact that he’s defecting, it was presumably a pre-agreed Mossad extraction.

Except I don’t buy it, not really, which is at the heart of my problem with this season. My persistent belief that someone’s at the long con is because none of it quite hangs together. Is Allison the spyingest spy in the history of spying, or the person who has a panic attack on hearing that Carrie is still alive? Is no-one troubled by the glaring conflict of interest which has Allison simultaneously investigating and shagging Saul? Are Dar and Saul – allies for thirty years – actually falling out, and is Saul prepared to invalidate his entire career and defect to Israel, all for Carrie’s sake? And can they really not see through Allison? Is Otto just driven by the thought of Düring the do with Carrie, or is he pulling strings that we haven’t seen yet? Why is Quinn trapped in the absurd jihadi plot? And, above all, what’s so important about the information Ahmad has? After all this, it had better be pretty darned good.

The Leftovers s2 ep 7

image“It’s gonna be a hard day, buddy.”

Understatement of the year, that one, as Kevin wakes up to find Nora’s left him and taken the baby with her, Jill’s furious that he screwed up their second chance at a family (not entirely fair, Jill), Ghost Patti’s still haunting him, and he’s handcuffed to the bed, with no keys in sight.

Things proceed from bad to mad as he embarks on a sort of odyssey round town to try and remove the cuff, contact Nora and fix things, with Patti taunting and tormenting him throughout. Except, interestingly, when he meets with the two people who offer him a way to get rid of her. Psychiatrist Laurie gently suggests this is a real-world problem with a real-world solution: a psychotic break requiring medication and treatment. Michael’s grandfather Virgil, meanwhile, offers an infinitely more mystical diagnosis, with a far more radical way out, leaving a gleeful Patti to offer a knowing wink to the trope-savvy audience: “…. the solution to all your problems (is) a magical black man on the edge of town? That’s borderline racist is what it is.”

In fairness to the show, though, “A Most Powerful Adversary” is based on something much more complicated than that, playing as it does on the Leftovers’ usual themes of faith, reason, guilt and pain, with gut-wrenching consequences. Because no tv death stays secret on the Internet, I was spoiled for REDACTED, but it was still a brilliantly acted, beautiful yet shocking piece of television with a horrible sense of inevitability hanging over the whole episode and indeed most of REDACTED’s story since season 1 episode 1.  On one view, it’s surprising that he hasn’t done something this drastic before now – after all, how much punishment can one person take? (Unless they’re Matt Jamison obviously – that dude’s pain threshold seems infinite.) Whether it sticks is another matter, of course. The braver, narratively more risky thing would be to keep REDACTED dead, I suppose, but there are plenty of ways within the rules of the show’s universe that he can be resurrected, either literally or figuratively, and it would work just fine. Let’s see which option they pick.

Doctor Who s35 ep 10

For reasons best known to itself, the BBC decided to rob tonight’s Doctor Who of much of its potential power by announcing beforehand that it was going to be the end of Clara’s time with the Doctor. Yes, we already knew Jenna Coleman was leaving, but, much like the other death I was spoiled for this week, knowing exactly when it was happening undermined the story somewhat, although, unlike the other big tv death I was spoiled for this week, the story wasn’t too great to begin with: old friend Rigsy is framed for murder by old irritant Ashildr – I despise Ashildr – who is now calling herself “Mayor Me” (just die already) and running an alien refugee camp like a totalitarian state.

It’s all a ruse to trap and punish the Doctor because this whining, wretched ingrate of an immortal still can’t see that the fault is with her not with him, so, as soon as the Girl Who Grumbled appears, everything goes to pot because she annoys me so much I can’t see straight. Which is a shame because “Face the Raven” really could have packed some punch, if I hadn’t been seething my way through it.

On the positive side, though, Jovian Wade’s Rigsy is very sweet and likeable, Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi are their usual excellent selves and there’s some pertinent commentary about not insulting the memory of lost loved ones with mindless revenge – particularly poignant in a week when social and every other kind of media has been awash with vile, vicious bigotry, blaming the most vulnerable for the very horrors they’re fleeing from.

I never liked Clara as the “Impossible Girl” when she was more puzzle than actual person, but, over the last couple of seasons, she became a proper companion and well-developed character in her own right, and I grew to like her very much, so I’m genuinely sorry to see her go. What it will do to a series that’s already struggling, I don’t know. I wish it could have been bloody Ashildr instead.

Justified s5 eps 8 & 9

Having already started to show this season of Justified nearly two years late, Spike has now cottoned onto Five’s other favourite trick and suddenly begun screening it in double bills. Hm. Presumably the idea is to batter through the rest of the season before Christmas but you know how we feel about double bills round here so FFS WOULD EVERYBODY STOP WITH THEM.

Sigh. Anyway, whatever the justification or lack thereof for burning off episodes like there’s no 2016, it turns out these two eps go pretty well as a thematic pair thanks to the common thread of Raylan (on a vacation that turns into a busman’s holiday because you can take Raylan out of Harlan but you can’t take Harlan out of Raylan) spending time with younger and older versions of himself.

Ep 8 has Wendy Crowe cajoling our reluctant hero – with hollow promises of info on her brothers – into rescuing young Kendall from the clutches of his deadbeat dad and the big man chasing his deadbeat dad round the country. It’s not a storyline I would have chosen and I think the truth about Kendall’s parentage is a bit cliched, but on the whole I actually really enjoyed that sub-plot; Timothy Olyphant’s weary exasperation is a joy to behold and Raylan recognising his own troubled youth in Kendall gives the hitherto uninspiring youngest Crowe some welcome depth.

Ep 9 meanwhile has Raylan heading down to Memphis on the hunt for Hot Rod Dunham and teaming up with maverick DEA agent Miller (a guest turn from Eric Roberts) who is basically himself in 15 years time.

Through both eps, the Boyd Crowder/ Crowe family/ drug smuggling business trundles on – that part of ep 8 is exciting, that part of ep 9 confusing since I didn’t entirely understand all the double-crossing going on. And meanwhile, back in Kentucky State Pen, the Prisoner Cell Block Ava saga began to really bore me, which is unfortunate, because, as I’ve said before, it’s taking up a lot of screen time which could be far more entertainingly utilised. By putting Rachel and Tim in them, for instance.

A mixed bag for this first double bill, then, but overall, ep 8 is great, and ep 9 has plenty of great moments, the best of which being the scene where Raylan and Miller interrupt Boyd, the Crowes, Wynn Duffy and Hot Rod’s ex-henchmen mid-standoff. “I would call this a United Nations of assholes,” says Miller. “Well, that’s funny,” says Boyd, “because we were just discussing ratifying some shit.” HEE.