Odyssey (American Odyssey) ep 10

Ugh. An episode featuring a number of nasty moments starts with perhaps the most revolting: Harrison the Moron and Not-Ruby-not-a-Reporter in bed, naked, mid lip-lock.

You GUYS. A girl can only take so much.

Thankfully, we’re saved by the ringtone; a hysterical phone call from a distraught Bob claiming Not Ruby killed his mother puts a pin in the, er, “passion” and spares the audience further unnecessary distress. Of course, Harrison doesn’t believe it (I ‘m not sure I do, either, in fairness – why would she kill her second biggest fan?) but has just enough brain cells to leave Not Ruby at home while he simultaneously tries to calm poor Bob down, contact Khulus and not get beaten up by Osela heavies. Speaking of whom: I’m no expert, but if you were a “private security” force for hire, and your services included hush-hush assaults and murders, would you really want to brand yourself with an easily identifiable, Google-able team tattoo? Could you not make do with a secret handshake?

No matter. While Harrison fails on all counts (as usual), Not Ruby tries to bamboozle her boss into thinking she’s “not a killer.” Her boss isn’t fooled for a second, though, since he remembers watching episode 3 when she killed Harrison’s dad. So, Not Rubes is told she’s to kill Harrison pronto or someone else will. Once they’ve told him who killed his dad and broken up Harruby forever.

At which point, my eyes roll out of my head and down the back of the sofa in protest because come on, you guys, Harrison and Not Ruby have the chemistry of dry Weetabix and Abdul Abbas turning out to be Santa Claus would be more believable than the idea that they’re in grand, doomed love.

Not that the Harrison/Not Ruby sub-plot has a monopoly on unbelievable when it comes to this show, though, since, elsewhere in New York, walking whine Peter inexplicably manages to persuade poor Imam Khulus (who has both Harrison *and* Peter stalking him at the same time, my God) that he (Peter) is “the only one who can help Yusuf.”

Mr Qasim, however, isn’t quite so easily persuaded by our man with no plan’s promise to “do everything in my power to protect”him. Nor is the audience, given that both Danny Gentry and Traitor Joe can speak to the fact that Peter has no power. Or they could if one wasn’t dead and the other one wasn’t offscreen awaiting trial for treason.

After a quick riverside meeting, the artist formerly known as the Jack of Spades works it out for himself anyway and, rather than relying on Peter’s imaginary power, decides to do something completely, insanely stupid instead – stupidity clearly being contagious on this show – and assassinate a U.S. Senator because, obviously, the way to prove to the world you’re not a terrorist is to murder an elected official in broad daylight in front of an entire security detail who just stand there being useless.

FFS.

Which leaves us with whatever’s going on in the Mali part of the plot: a lot of flip-flopping, that’s what. Odelle doesn’t want to kill Evil Frank. Then she does. Aslam does want to kill Evil Frank. Then he doesn’t. And Luc isn’t on Odelle’s side. Then he is. Then he isn’t. Then he recruits an army of dehumanised child soldiers to take her to their Death Hut because… oh, who knows?

There’s usually some fun to be had in the Mali plot but it’s just nasty this week, the apex (or nadir I suppose) of its unpleasantness being what I think is the show’s attempt at brutal realism (but really, why start now, Odyssey?): a truly horrible sequence where the child soldiers psychologically torture and kill a defenceless old man. In fairness, it’s a powerful, harrowing collection of scenes, but it’s also out of place and depressing in a show so silly.

Still, this week’s episode does manage to surprise me with a couple of major character deaths I didn’t see coming. And Luc telling Odelle it’s not her fault and letting her go is a nice, almost shippable moment – squee! I do think his child soldier/Death Hut plan has to be about protecting her rather than betraying her, but we shall see what next week brings.

The Americans s3 ep 1

The third season of this terrific show opens with the sort of tense, brilliantly executed set-piece we’ve seen it do before: in a bar, Elizabeth meets a contact who provides her with classified information but then regrets it, and brings the FBI onto the scene. Elizabeth walks off and changes her appearance so as not to be picked up, but is approached by Gaad and a colleague. She just about manages to kick their asses and escape, but it’s a close-run thing. Meantime Philip is still running Annalise, although she’s fallen in love with Yousaf, the ISI asset she’s supposed to be using as a source. I think by now we’ve seen enough TV and film spycraft to know that emotions shouldn’t get in the way, and so it proves. And in his downtime he’s going to EST with Stan, and keeping Martha happy with an assist from the Kama Sutra. I’m pretty sure that at the outset of the show we were given the impression that Martha was coy, perhaps a little mousey, but girlfriend knows what she likes and is making sure she gets it from Philip.

The bombshell which was dropped at the end of the last season – that the USSR wants to recruit Elizabeth and Philip’s daughter Paige as a next-gen spy – is still live. Philip is dead against, but when he and Elizabeth visit their old mentor (I think) Gabriel, Elizabeth is far more equivocal about it: she’s always been more ideologically driven than her husband, so is she just saying what she thinks the Centre wants to hear, or is she actually prepared to drag Paige into the life? We also find out that Nina has purportedly been convicted of treason back in the Soviet Union, but as Annet Mahendru is still – thank the Lord – in the credits, and as Nina’s always come across as the ultimate survivor, I suspect we’ll see her before long.

In truth, there isn’t a huge amount of action this week, and there’s quite a lot of setup – is Philip going to use his leverage over Yousaf? What’s the significance of the woman who’s on her way to Washington, and is newly-single Stan going to sleep with her? Presumably Gabriel’s going to be significant? – but that doesn’t matter, because The Americans knows what it’s doing, and what it’s doing is being one of the very best dramas on TV.

Jane the Virgin s1 ep 18

With a couple of shows finishing, we’re moving Jane the Virgin up to weekly reviews for the rest of its season 1 run. This episode is primarily about the differences between the suitors of the younger Villanueva women. (We’ll put Father Edward aside for now, although if that revelation forces Alba to be less moralistic then all to the good.) Rogelio is visited by one of this week’s two manifestations of the mom-who-turns-up, who hates Xio because she thinks that Rogelio didn’t know about her pregnancy. Rogelio both adores and is terrified of his mother, so is torn between her and Xio, although promises to tell his mother the truth “on her deathbed”. Meantime Jane is worried that Rafael isn’t able to commit to being either a father or a partner, and wonders what the future will hold.

And perhaps not surprisingly it’s Rogelio, who underneath the bluster has a heart of gold, who steps up: he tells his mother that he knew about Xio’s baby, then chases her away when she continues to savage Xio. Rafael, on the other hand, is less than supportive when it looks as if Jane might have sabotaged his chances of getting the hotel’s liquor licence back, then spends more and more time on his BlackBerry. It all culminates in him splitting up with Jane, who is grief-stricken. Well, I’m not: I’ve been hashtag Team Michael, to quote Rogelio from a couple of weeks ago, for ages now, and I wish him well with that stalky ex of his.

Rafael’s mom is the other turner-upper of the week, and I’m guessing that the throwaway line about how Raf has a half-brother won’t go to waste, nor would I be amazed – this being Jane the Virgin – were it to be someone we’ve already seen. And Petra has been kidnapped by Aaron, now more or less confirmed to be Roman.

As ever, in an episode which perhaps doesn’t spark quite as well as this show normally does, Rogelio has all the best lines: “Who cares if your eggs are too old!” he bellows enthusiastically to Xio when the topic of parenthood comes up. “We’ll buy fresh ones! Combine my DNA with anyone and the child will be extraordinary!” Not to mention the perm/abortion one. And Jaime Camil’s gift for physical comedy is as acute as his gift for the verbal kind: his walk away from the camera on being told by his mother to straighten up is a wonderful little moment.

Nashville s3 ep 15

It’s the 10th anniversary of Rayna’s induction into the Grand Ole Opry, which means a special Rayna-themed concert. Rayna decides that The Girls are going to come onstage with her, which for some reason doesn’t induce the Opry to disinvite her. Even Luke and Cody turn up, although in the case of the latter that’s because he still has designs on Older Girl. But all anyone really wants to know is whether Deacon’s gonna be there.

Meantime, across town, SAG have been offered the chance to open for Rascal Flatts at an arena show. I’m not particularly surprised: as I suggested last week, I’m amazed that a Scarlett/Avery/Gunnar supergroup hasn’t been treated as a hot musical property. But they need a new name, and Avery’s frazzled because Juliette’s not sleeping, which means he isn’t either, and can’t help. Huge house, dude. Spare room. Hayden Panettiere, on maternity leave, doesn’t feature this week, although she’s been so good that you can actually sense Juliette’s presence even when she’s not actually there. (Gunnar and Avery have a fight about the naming thing which is, oddly, just as charming as their bro-hug a couple of weeks ago. Say what you like about Nashville, but the actors have onscreen chemistry up the wazoo.)

Scarlett’s distracted too: she goes on a date with Dr Moderately-Handsome and ruins it by going on about cancer all night, because, as she later points out to Deacon, she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about it. But Dr M-H gives her a second chance, gives the group a name (The Triple-Exes), and then gives Scarlett a snog backstage at the Rascal Flatts gig, right in front of Gunnar, who’s even more upset by this development than I am. Come ON, folks. Gunnlett is endgame, so let’s just get there now, thx. Another great song here, incidentally.

Luke, in his role as head of Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records – and since even typing that has induced internal bleeding I won’t be doing it again – arranges for Will to write songs with Kevin Bicks. Bucky approves – “If there’s a knock on Will, it’s that he needs to dig a little deeper”; heh – but Will doesn’t, because Kevin is gay and out, and he doesn’t want to be seen with “some swishy gay dude”. Will-In-The-Closet has outstayed his welcome. As has Mayor Teddy, who has now found out that his escort is under surveillance. And as has Jeff, this week trying to steer the career of Layla – was Aubrey Peeples channelling Zooey Deschanel this week, or did I imagine it? – although his manoeuvre around Bucky actually seems to work in launching Layla’s second career. And Sadie moved one week closer to the point where she’s going to shoot her abusive ex, I assume.

Back at the Opry, of course Deacon turns up. It’s Rayna. They sing a duet which as good as tells the world that they’re in love, always have been and always will be, which actually makes me feel a bit sorry for Luke. (Although it does give Colt a lovely moment when he consoles his father.) Then Deacon disappears, so Rayna goes to confront him, and Deacon finally drops the C-bomb. “I’m sick!”, he tells Rayna, who of course is all, yes, I know. No, not that kind of sick, he explains; another one. Glad we’ve finally got there. An excellent episode.

UnREAL s1 ep 7

“This is on us. This is our fault.”

After last week’s tragedy, there’s more than enough guilt and self-loathing to go around the Everlasting set – albeit Rachel shoulders most of it – but there’s a conspicuous amount of self-justification to accompany it.

The despicable Shia confesses to switching Mary’s meds, but then spends the rest of the episode insisting everyone but her is to blame for the consequences. Quinn’s happy to cover up a dreadful crime in the name of saving the show and the jobs of the people who work on it. And Jeremy uses Rachel’s grief as an excuse to scratch his Rachel itch, offering sex as comfort and getting pissy when she treats it as such.

Another bleak, brutal episode of this unflinching look at tv’s underbelly, then, with its flawed, complicated, mostly female characters (eat your hearts out Draper, White et al) doing very bad things while trying to convince themselves they’re for very good reasons.

And yet, for all the lines they cross, I can’t help but like Rachel and Quinn. Adam spitting out “Just face it, you’re a monster!” is entirely understandable but so is his heartfelt “I’m sorry” when he comforts Rachel at the end of the ep (actually comforts her, Jeremy, see what that looks like? Also, SQUEE! ) – he can see the aching vulnerability and sadness in her, just as the audience can.

Conversely, while Quinn isn’t so much vulnerable as almost invincible, it’s impossible not to warm to her indefatigable strength and sass. She is fantastic. As is UnREAL itself. I’m running out of ways to say it, but it’s one of the most surprising, challenging, best shows on TV and I love it.

Glee s6 ep 12; s6 ep 13

In the first episode of this series-concluding double-bill we’re taken back to 2009 and to the events of the pilot episode, filmed from the points of view of some of the main characters. (Which means that, for example, we get to see Will’s appalling pregnancy-faking first wife again.) The best of these vignettes was probably Kurt’s, as we recall the despair he was in before the glee club gave him a purpose; and, quite possibly, saved his life. As ever Mike O’Malley, as Kurt’s father, is terrific, and the awkward way in which he claps Kurt on the back reminded me of his anguished admission, after Finn’s death, that he hadn’t hugged him enough while he was alive.

Revisiting the pilot – and what a pilot it was – in this way is a clever device, although it has to work around the vacuum where Finn used to be. The writers manage this pretty well, in particular by making a key plot point out of a conversation which perforce would have taken place behind his back: whether to allow him back into the glee club. But then, all of a sudden, there Cory Monteith is, leading the New Directions in the now-iconic performance of ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ from the pilot, the one which convinced Will to stay at McKinlay. My God, they all look so young.

‘2009’ is a very good episode and a salutary reminder, as we near the end, that the glee club was originally for friendless outsiders, no matter how talented – Rachel, for example. In which context it’s also worth acknowledging that Lea Michele is excellent as the Rachel of six years ago. There’s been a discernible Michele backlash in the past few years, which I suspect to have been driven, at least in part, by people thinking that in real life she embodies some of the more diva-esque aspects of Rachel’s personality. I have no idea whether that’s true or not, and nor do they. What is true, though, is that Glee never got luckier than when it cast the enormously talented Michele in a key role.

And so to ‘Dreams Come True’, the series finale. In truth it isn’t a great episode, but it doesn’t need to be: it’s all about closure, very probably for the actors as much as the audience. In fact, while watching the episode’s first musical performance – Matthew Morrison’s acoustic ‘Teach Your Children’ in the choir room – I jotted down a note that the cast’s tears looked unfeigned; later, I discovered that was the very last scene to be filmed.

Anyway, New Directions win Nationals – of course they do – and, in consequence, McKinlay High is turned into a performing arts school with Will as principal. Yeah, whatever. As well as present-day farewells we get a series of flash-forwards, in which we see that everyone gets their happy ending: Artie as director, Kurt and Blaine as actors, Sue as Jeb Bush’s vice president, and so on. I’m fine with this – it’s Glee, I want happy endings, and so should you.

The first moment which really got me, though, was Rachel’s speech after winning a Tony award (heavily pregnant as the surrogate mother of Klaine’s child), in which after thanking everyone she made a special point of expressing her gratitude to Will above all. I may have had something in my eye at that point, and it was still there when the McKinlay auditorium was renamed after Finn, and everyone who’s ever been in the show – and I mean literally everyone – joined in with the final song. Which was OneRepublic’s ‘I Lived’ – not my favourite, but not a bad way to end. (Actually, the best performance in this episode was Kurt and Blaine’s adorable ‘Daydream Believer’.)

With which we’re finally done with Glee, perhaps a season or two after its natural ending point. Whatever else can be said about it, the show made the performing arts cool again. More importantly, it should be fondly remembered for its significant contribution towards equality for LGBT people, which I still think others have underplayed. This week Blaine and Kurt, a young married couple, kissed; and it was entirely unremarkable, as it should be. It certainly wasn’t when Glee started, and I don’t think they’d have got away with their visit to the Harvey Milk Elementary School Career Day then either.

Worthy though the PSAs were, ultimately Glee has to be evaluated on its merits as a TV show. It was never quite as good, as I’ve said before, after its remarkable opening 13 episodes, and the death of Cory Monteith finally robbed the show of its innocence. Mind you, there were plenty of excellent episodes after that, even if I was, by the end, just about the only person watching.

Chef (2014)

Jon Favreau writes, directs and takes the title role in this utterly beguiling film about talented chef Carl, whose stagnant professional and personal lives are turned upside down when he lashes out after a bad review.

Forced to start afresh with his own food truck business, Carl spends a long summer touring the U.S., making and selling the food he wants to instead of the food he’s expected to, re-discovering his passion for life and re-connecting with his young son. Which I know sounds terribly dull and worthy, but it’s really not; Chef is a genuinely lovely, funny film about family, friendship, food and fun that I absolutely adored.

If I have one quibble, it’s that Favreau’s Iron Man 2 buddy Robert Downey Junior turning up as Carl’s ex-wife’s first ex-husband is a little jarring – the character he plays is too OTT and annoying to really fit in with the rest of the film or even add anything to the story – but he’s only in it for a few minutes so it really doesn’t matter. The rest of the film is wonderful.