The Blacklist s3 ep 18

Spoilers.

Picking up where we left off: Mr Solomon is chasing Liz, who with Red’s assistance is doing her best to hide, starting with – I think? – a retirement home. She’s injured after a car accident, putting her unborn child at risk, so is taken to hospital, but then has to leave in a rush with Team Solomon a minute behind. Fortunately Red has turned a nightclub into an ER – I know – and still has Nik on the payroll. So Nik, with the help of some disco lights, is able to treat Liz and deliver her baby daughter Agnes. But then something goes wrong, so it’s back into the ambulance, where Liz – gasp! – dies.

There isn’t a huge amount of plot this week, but it’s well done. James Spader, in particular, has a great week: my view has always been that his acting in The Blacklist, although deliberately big and bold, also contains more subtlety than many people would allow. In this episode Red has to confront the logical conclusion of his interference in Liz’s life, and it’s truly haunting.

Liz’s death, though, immediately raises a couple of issues. The first is whether it’s an altogether wise move on the part of the show: whatever you think of Liz the character, or Megan Boone the actor for that matter, her relationships with Red and Tom have underpinned the show since the start. On top of that, since there are plans for a Blacklist spinoff with Tom and Mr. Solomon – and this week, as ever, Edi Gathegi provides a feline, compelling screen presence – The Blacklist would be losing quite a lot of key personnel in a fairly short period of time.

But that, of course, presumes that Liz is actually dead. And here I’m going to say unequivocally, and at the risk of looking foolish, that I don’t think she is. Assuming I’m right about that, I should say that I’m not delighted with the increasing use of the “dead character comes back to life” trope. It’s worth remembering that when Dallas did it with Bobby Ewing, 30 or so years ago, it exposed itself to ridicule from which it never really recovered. These days, though, it seems that everyone on TV has access to the slows-your-pulse-until-it’s-undetectable drug. In this case, the mechanics aren’t really the point: Mr Kaplan, Nik, or Tom could have done it. (Possibly also Red, but that would be a hell of a fakeout.) But since we know Boone to be heavy with child, and presumably wanting some maternity leave, it seems entirely plausible to me that the writers would want to make her onscreen hiatus into An Event. Whether they should have chosen this particular Event – again assuming that I’ve called this right – is, of course, another matter.

Scandal s5 ep 18

So Olivia Pope, the head of a Washington, D.C., crisis management company and former mistress of the President, is hiding out at her father’s house, having recently beaten a former Vice-President – who organised her kidn***ing – to death with a metal chair. Every now and again on Unpopcult we have these moments when we realise that we’ve just written a sentence which makes absolutely no sense, and as usual I’m just going to go along with it. But when you add the fact that her ex-boyfriend/FWB – the head of the NSA – is also staying there, and that her father is the head of a black ops organisation… well, it’s suddenly become clear to me that Scandal is an upmarket telenovela rather than a political drama. Particularly given that Rowan is quite explicit about regarding Jake as his son, which adds an uncomfortably incestuous vibe to an already unpleasant situation.

Anyway. Olivia’s PTSD is apparently keeping her at Rowan’s house, but she’s faking; she wants to find out what Rowan and Jake are up to. The plan, it transpires, is that Jake, having made a politically astute marriage, will catapult himself onto Senator Edison Davis’s ticket as the candidate for Vice-President. No, says Olivia; you want to be with me, so jilt Vanessa at the altar in front of the world’s media, and let’s do this. Jake is so unhinged that he actually gives this demented suggestion houseroom, although Rowan – who of course knows what’s going on – tells Olivia that if Jake doesn’t marry Vanessa he, Rowan, will slit Jake’s throat. So the forced marriage of the adult man who is a future Vice-Presidential candidate goes ahead.

The “action” is interspersed with flashbacks from Jake’s past: he went, it seems, from being an abused child to being an abused adult. Under the tutelage of Rowan, Jake was turned from a troubled Navy officer into a B-613 killing machine, by being broken down and reconstructed. In fairness much of this material is deliberately and genuinely harrowing, and Scott Foley handles it well. The problem is that I really don’t care about Jake, Rowan, or B-613 any more. Presumably Shonda Rhimes is gambling that I’m an outlier among the Scandal audience, although the falling viewing figures in the US would suggest that I’m not.

The only endgame which gives the show, and the characters – all of them – any chance of a happy ending, it seems to me, is the death of Command, something which the collection of psychopaths, sociopaths, and just ordinary murderers in Scandal seems oddly reluctant to facilitate. Meantime, this featherbrained plot is given screentime at the expense of developed characters that I for one would rather spend time with. Where’s Abby? Susan? David? Cyrus? For God’s sake, sort this out.

The Good Wife s7 eps 13 & 14

Two TGW reviews together this week, because real life has been getting in the way of my blogging something rotten.

First up, “Judged” has Alicia declaring war on Judge Schakowsky for keeping her first Bond Court client locked up for 8 months (and counting) for no reason other than badness. I’m struggling to ignore the implausibility of everyone – defence, prosecution, other judge presiding over the lawsuit, EVERYONE – else but Saint Alicia and her buddies going along with the continuing and quite spectacular denial of the basic rights of some completely innocuous, random accused, to continue to punish a lawyer who didn’t even know it was happening, myself. But if you can get past all that, Alicia, Cary and Lucca teaming up against Schakowsky gives us some fun, if frustrating court scenes, which are significantly more engaging than the odd “censorship vs campus newspaper” B-plot Diane finds herself involved in. [Full disclosure though, both the campus newspaper story and aspects of the following week’s Marissa plot really, really annoyed me for pushing a particular political agenda diametrically opposite to mine, but that’s just me.]

As Alicia goes for broke in court though, at home she’s still struggling with her overwhelming grief. The scene where she makes Eli recite what Will said in the voicemail is utterly devastating, as is her confiding in a sympathetic, compassionate Lucca – all powerful, moving and beautifully-judged. Less convincing is her cheerfully snogging the unspeakably smug Jason – I detest that character and his constant overwhelming delight with himself – and suddenly forgiving Eli like “hey, I’m over it, yay!” but I guess this is TGW moving on and picking up the pace, now the series end is in sight.

Talk of “less convincing” things brings me to ep 14, “Monday,” meanwhile, where Alicia takes Lucca with her to join Lockhart Whatever They’re Called This Week, only to find that it seems to have been taken over by pod people. Everybody’s characterisation, except perhaps Lucca’s and perma-grin Jason’s, is just off; in what seems to be a running theme this season, the show is determined to convince us that Cary and Diane are not only racist but actually STUPID and this week’s frankly goes too far with this whole “I must introduce you to Monica” business. I’m not overly happy with the systematic destruction of Alicia and Diane’s relationship and Lucca needs to dial it down several notches as well with the attitude to the PARTNERS – you’re the new girl, at least assess the terrain before you go stomping all over it, girlfriend – but I can see that making sense story-wise. The Monica/Lucca thing, though? Six previous seasons tell me this is NOT Cary and Diane at all, and I wish the show would remember that too. Like it remembers that Neil Gross and Chumhum stories are usually good value (as was this week’s), that Mr Dudewitz is highly entertaining (as he was this week), and that there is always, ALWAYS, someone trying to bring Peter down. There was, in fairness, a whole lot to enjoy about this ep, but I was a little too irritated by the rest of it to fully appreciate it.

Limitless s1 ep 12

In ‘The Assassination of Eddie Morra’ the Senator isn’t actually assassinated, quite, but only because he’s NZT’d to the brim and is able to take just enough evasive action to ensure that he’s winged rather than killed, with half an eye on his forthcoming Presidential run. Morra’s consigliere Sands then turns up at the FBI, purportedly providing assistance in hunting the shooter.

But when Sands has got Brian on his own, he tells him quite a different story. Morra and Sands already know who the perp is; it’s a disaffected former Morra employee called Piper Baird, who’s on the run having stabbed her boyfriend to death. Sands will take care of her, thanks, so Brian’s job is to ensure that the FBI doesn’t solve the crime, with the additional incentive that were Piper apprehended she’d be able to join the dots between Morra, NZT, and Brian, thus guaranteeing no more anti-side-effects shots. This is trickier than it sounds, mind you: the almost-impossible shot Piper pulled off to hit Morra suggests to Rebecca that the shooter is on NZT as well.

What Brian isn’t anticipating, though, is that Piper will find him first. Nor that she will turn up at his parents’ house claiming to be his new girlfriend. (Nor, frankly, that she’ll be rather attractive, although the undercurrents of mutual attraction remain – mostly – unexplored.) Which means, from the point of view of Sands and Morra, that Brian is ideally placed to kill Piper himself. Brian demurs, of course. “Why”, demands Morra, “are you trying so hard to hold onto the person you were before NZT?” This issue – whether Brian is indeed the same person – is something we’ve grappled with more than once this season already, and as recently as last week.

And so Brian, given that he can’t risk Piper being captured, pushes her under a train and kills her. SPOILER ALERT: no he doesn’t, because he isn’t – yet? – a stone-cold killer, and since I wasn’t fooled for a second I’m a little surprised that Sands was. It’s another immensely clever and satisfying episode, although perhaps not quite as good as last week’s.

Game of Thrones s6 ep 2

*Spoilers. HUGE ones.*

It’s not the most auspicious of starts: after a season on the subs bench, Bran is back on the main cast list, which means we’re in flashback (although I suppose it’s not technically a flashback, if you weren’t actually there at the time) territory again and on the point of finding out some Stark history, which – whisper it – isn’t actually that interesting, as yet.

So, Young Lyanna was a show-off, Young Ned was a late bloomer, and Young Hodor used to be called Wylis (Whatchu talkin’bout?). Righto. If we could skip past all this childhood stuff and head straight to the bit where we find out Jon Snow’s parentage, that would be lovely, but, since it’s Bran, getting anything of use or interest may take a while. As the visibly fed up Meera – summarising most of Bran’s scenes for the past few years – says, “I sit in there and I watch him have his visions and nothing ever happens.” Yeah, girl, we know. We’ve been sitting watching too.

Thankfully, however, this is just the slightly boring calm before everything jumps into high gear everywhere else and the episode goes from nought to amazing.

In Meereen, Tyrion cracks a few eunuch jokes, has a few drinks, and decides it’s time for him to release the dragons, instead of getting Missandei – a woman who they know, like and have never harmed – to do it. I’m unsure if this is excessively noble or just excessively stupid of him, but either way, these scenes are fantastic, with the dragons looking believably terrifying and would-be dragon-whisperer Peter Dinklage looking believably terrified; no easy feat for either, given the amount of green screen that had to have been involved.

In Kings Landing, meanwhile, Li’l King Tommen sends a crew of extremely nervous – and who can blame them? – guards to confine Cersei to the Red Keep, and keep her away from Myrcella’s funeral. Somewhat surprisingly, the Queen Mother complies; any other day, she would have had their heads mounted on the castle walls but, luckily for them, she’s still rattled by the whole religious imprisonment, walk of shame, murder of two of her kids business, and her big zombie bodyguard pal is too busy bashing someone else’s head in to intervene.

After a man-to-man chat with Jaime – once again proving himself the sensitive, sensible parent; maybe I underestimated him last week – however, Teeny Tommen heads off to make up with his mum, while his dad/uncle has a beautifully tense stand-off with Jonathan Pryce’s deceptively shrewd High Sparrow. Bloodshed may have been avoided for now – Jaime, in no rush to lose any more limbs, can be pretty shrewd himself when it comes to tactical retreat – but it won’t be for long, will it?

Especially since it’s not as if anyone else is exercising the same restraint. At Winterfell, Roose Bolton’s growing dissatisfaction with his psychopathic son taking things too far all the time is becoming too pronounced for Ramsay’s liking, so when – in what has to be a contender for worst timing ever – Roose’s other son picks that exact moment to be born, Papa is condemned to a relatively quick death and poor Mama and baby to a completely appalling one (my God, this show is cruel). “Please, Ramsay, he’s your brother,” begs the unfortunate Lady Walda. “I prefer being an only child,” says Ramsay, which, yes, would be hilarious if only he weren’t committing two horrifically vicious murders at the time.

This being GOT, Ramsay isn’t the only one killing off his nearest and not-exactly-dearest, though. The week’s other fratricide is on the Iron Islands, where the exceptionally grumpy Balon (not that any of the Iron Born are exactly cheerful) is pushed off the world’s most rickety rope bridge – you couldn’t pay me to walk on that thing in balmy sunshine, let alone on a dark, rainy night – by his brother, because, I don’t know, he just can’t wait to be king? We shall see. Whether we care to or not.

But never mind all that. Once again, the Wall is where the magic’s happening, both literally and figuratively. “It is time, Ser Davos!” announces Alliser Thorne, keen to get on with the business of killing Team Snow. “I’ve never been much of a fighter,” says Ser Davos, apologetically, picking up his sword with an air of resignation, but happily he doesn’t need to be, since – in what has to be a contender for best timing ever, sorry Baby Bolton – Edd’s milkshake suddenly brings all the Wildlings to the yard, and their army’s better than Ser Alliser’s. Because it has a GIANT in it.

With Team Thorne too busy wetting their undergarments to fight, then, Team Snow is back on top, with only one problem; their Lord Commander is still somewhat indisposed. Ser Davos is on it like a Name Day bonnet though, coaxing the weary Melisandre to try her hand at a little resurrection. “Not the hair!” I whisper frantically at the tv, “please not the hair,” as the Red Woman whips out her magic scissors, but, thankfully, there are plenty of those glorious Snow curls left to bounce up when the inevitable happens: Jon Snow is ALIVE, you guys. OMG, hip hip hooray and what a tremendous ending to a terrific episode – I thought “Homeward Bound” was great.

Person of Interest s4 ep 18; s4 ep 19

‘Skip’, the first episode of this double-bill, would be an absolute all-time classic Person of Interest had the show not set the bar not so high. In consequence, it’s merely outstanding. The Number is Frankie Wells (Katheryn Winnick), a bail bondsman (I know, but “bondsperson” doesn’t sound right) trying to bring in Ray Pratt, ostensibly someone who’s skipped bail, but who in fact Frankie has a personal interest in. Ray, in turn, is being protected by Harper Rose, who we first met last week, and who is already a reliably entertaining and intriguing member of the PoI rotating support cast. (And who seems, did she but know it, to be getting messages directly from The Machine.)

Frankie is great, incidentally: sparky, fun, and good with her fists. It’s no surprise that there’s a fair amount of chemistry between her and Reese, which she at least acknowledges. Reese’s attentions are elsewhere, though; Iris, his therapist, has suddenly decided that she can no longer have Reese as a client, for reasons she’s initially unwilling to disclose, but which we can guess.

Finch, meantime, is excited because his lady friend Elizabeth Bridges is in town; partly because she’s an unwitting part of his plan to instal spy software on the Samaritan system, and partly because he likes her. But immediately after they meet for coffee she becomes a Number too. Finch, by degrees, works out that the threat to Elizabeth’s life comes from a source which is very close to home, who takes the view that Finch’s plan will inevitably expose him to mortal danger, and who has therefore concluded that Elizabeth has to be killed to stop the plan and protect Finch. It gives the episode an additional twist of emotion which elevates it into an exceptional one.

By contrast I thought that the next episode, ‘Search and Destroy’, fell just a little short, despite on paper having everything going for it, including Aasif Mandvi as the Number, Sulaiman Khan, the CEO of a software company who suddenly discovers that his whole life is being hacked, up to the point where someone – or something – is framing him for embezzling funds from his company. Khan is savvy enough to realise that the hack is too sophisticated to be the work of a human, and correctly concludes that an AI is behind it. No-one believes him, of course, until he falls into the hands of Finch and Reese, who deduce that Samaritan is involved.

Meantime Zoe floats in and out, gently grilling Reese on whether he really thinks that he’s the right guy to be getting into a relationship, which in all likelihood he isn’t; I’m expecting Iris to be a Number at some point. And Root has been instructed by The Machine to retrieve a briefcase which contains what looks like a Fabergé egg, although we don’t yet know why. It’s very good – very good indeed – but for my money not quite as good as ‘Skip’.

Blindspot s1 ep 17

Welcome to this week’s instalment of Patterson and Pushy (Deceased), as a plucky young FBI analyst and her not-so-dearly departed partner solve a fiendishly tricky little mystery, with a bit of help from…. yeah, no one.

It’s only in the final furlong, when the time comes to rescue Patterson from the ACTUAL SERIAL KILLER that her idiot boyfriend – continuing to be even more objectionable dead than he was alive – has practically gifted her to, that the rest of Team Tat manage to take a short break from fretting over their complicated love lives to go find their techie friend.

Up to then, this is one week where our intrepid band of field agents’ usual work/life balance has somewhat tipped the other way. Weller is having fun times (Weller! Having fun times!) with the Marshal, both x-rated and family-friendly, although an uncharitable person might point out it’s not long since Jane was the one sitting down to dinner with him en famille. Jane, meanwhile, is busy sharing takeout and bouts of athletic sex with Tree Tat Man while he continues trying to force her to cosy up to another man. (Pushy and Tree Tat Man should get together and write one of those horrific pick-up artist books: 101 Ways to Manipulate Your Women or some such.) And despite his best efforts to dump/ protect Sarah, Reade is still being threatened by some fool with a vocoder and a smartphone.

Team Tat’s preoccupation with their significant/ not-so-significant others therefore means cracking the Tat of the Week is left to Patterson and her ghost boyfriend/ manifestation of her sub-conscious, following a trail of clues left by this asshat, including a 100 year old automaton that he has re-programmed to STAB out the shape of a star system, because nothing says romance like an olde-worlde robot with a weapon.

Inexplicably, the otherwise terrifically bright, wonderful Patterson still can’t see the utter lack of respect this cut-price wannabe Svengali has/ had for her, her job and her personal safety – I say again, the trail leads to an ACTUAL SERIAL KILLER who will ACTUALLY SERIALLY KILL HER, you MORON – and finds him irresistible rather than unspeakable, meaning that, for perhaps the first time, the name “Blindspot” actually seems a propos.

Still, all is not lost. Ashley Johnson is such an engaging screen presence she makes the ep infinitely more entertaining than it should have been, and at least this “mission” gives Patterson a chance to finally work through her pain, even if breaking and entering and fighting off frostbite are all somewhat unconventional methods of grief counselling. And, in fairness to Pushy, he does have one shining moment of not-appallingness right at the end when he a) leaves forever (PLEASE GOD) and b) reminds Patterson that there’s someone else he’s/ she’s/ we’ve always liked: “that Borden guy.” SQUEEEEEEE!