Madam Secretary s5 ep 16

The most powerful storm in recorded history is heading for the Marshall Islands, an American protectorate. Then it swerves away, and instead hits Nauru. Its president and every single member of its parliament are killed. So who is Nauru’s, uh, designated survivor? Well, it’s David Akua, a 23-year-old consular assistant, who is currently living and studying in Washington, D.C. Elizabeth breaks the news to him.

Nauru’s bigger problem, though, is that it’s typhoon season, because of climate change the storms are worse than ever before, and there’s another cataclysmic one on the way. In short: the island needs to be evacuated. Of everyone.  The entire population. Whither the Nauruans, then? Resettling an entire people isn’t easy, but fortunately there’s a Johnny Depp-esque sleb, Bryce Manley, who owns an island and owes the IRS a fortune. He’s prevailed upon to hand over Bryce Manley Island: yes, that’s its name.

Meantime, as Elizabeth feels out her POTUS run, Mike B prevails upon her and Henry to make nice with some right-wing religious nutcases. They don’t do a good enough job, and Mike flounces out, although it turns out that his dog is terminally ill. Like I care. It should be noted that this storyline yields an intriguing performance from Lilli Kay, an actor who is new to me, as the daughter of the head nutcase. I think we’ll see more from her. Otherwise, this episode’s heart was so much in the right place that I feel bad about having found it a little boring. On the bright side, though, Mad Sec removed a whole country from the face of the Earth. That’s something.

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Public Service Announcement 28 of 2019: Timeless, Blindspot

We thought Timeless was dead when the final episode of the second season was broadcast with no word on renewal. But for some reason – and I assume money’s at the root of it somewhere – NBC relented just a little, and ordered a two-part finale to allow the writers to wrap things up properly, and give viewers a bit of closure. After this, we’re definitely done. (Probably.) These episodes were shown in America a few months ago, and although I am entirely unspoiled, I assume that #Lyatt is endgame. Otherwise, why bother? (Tonight and next Tuesday, E4, 10pm.)

And perennial Unpopcult favourite Blindspot returned last night from a midseason hiatus. However, its American ratings aren’t great at the moment, so this might be its final run. I assume that #Patdotcom isn’t endgame, but it should be (Mondays, Sky Witness, 10pm).

Game of Thrones s8 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

“Heartwarming”, “sweet” and “joyful” are not the kind of words which I would generally use to describe an entire episode of GOT, but has there ever been an ep of this show that had quite so much niceness in it before? Last week’s season premiere had plenty of adorable moments, but “A Knight for the Seven Kingdoms” was another level of loveliness, all wrapped up beautifully for the fans as a final present before the the end of the world (and the possible end of many of these characters) begins next week.

There’s still some frostiness, of course, with Daenerys ready to execute Jaime on the spot, or just as soon as she can give another one of her tiresome speeches, and Sansa not overly keen on him continuing to breathe either, even if this does seem like something of a double standard. After all, Ser Jorah, former slave trader, Baratheon spy and generally top-tier creep, is right there basking in the approval of her Grace, with the well-wishes of Cousin Lyanna and the sword of House Tarly at his disposal. And Sansa welcomes her own prodigal pet in the form of Theon “Walking Dirge” Greyjoy, sacker of Winterfell and murderer of small children, with such tearful, heartfelt happiness that I start to worry that there might be a Stark/Greyjoy romance in their future (please NO). At which point, the Night King coming begins to seem like it might not be an entirely bad thing.

Dany’s griping and Sansa’s misgivings aside, though, we’re not about to lose Jaime yet – maybe next week, but not yet – no matter what he’s done, so Brienne – my heart! – speaks up; Bran just about keeps quiet (“The things we do for love” is a fantastic touch); Sansa lets him stay and Jon is too emo about his accidental incest/secret royal ancestry to care one way or the other. So Her Grace is overruled, and not particularly happy about it but then, unlike almost everyone else, she’s not happy about much this week, what with her boyfriend/nephew and his sister/cousin both now standing in her way to the Throne.

That aside, however, after a poignant Jaime/Bran detente in the Godswood, we’re largely free to weep quietly and smile till our faces hurt at scene after scene of sweetness, tempered with just enough acidity and humour to make it all taste even better.

Where to start? Ser Davos at his soup kitchen and the wonderful, brave little girl who reminds him (and us) of wonderful, brave little Shireen? Gilly’s perfect solution for her? Arya, the Hound and Beric? Arya deciding that life needn’t just be about death, after all, and making Gendry and thousands of fan fiction writers combust with delight as a result? Missandei and Grey Worm? (I don’t care about them, but if I did, I’d be both charmed and very worried for their chances of survival after all that smiling and retirement planning.) Jon, Edd, Sam and Ghost – Ghost! Dude! It’s been years, where have you been?! -on the ramparts? Tyrion settling in for the Story of Bran?

Listen, all of that is delightful, but the best, the absolute best of it all, revolves around Ser Brienne of Tarth, Knight for the Seven Kingdoms and it is glorious. Every moment, every look between her and Jaime – mostly while pointedly not catching each other’s eyes – is a little twist in the heart, till the long, lovely scene by the fire with them, Tormund, Tyrion, Ser Davos and Pod which is so beautiful I don’t really know what to do with myself beyond smile, laugh and cry in quick succession. My God. If I wasn’t already crying at “I charge you to be brave”, I was wailing by the time she smiled and everyone toasted the latest knight of the realm.

Sob.

Of course, from hereon in, any GOT-related crying I do is likely to be a lot less happy, especially since all the characters repeatedly saying everyone will be “safe in the crypt” clearly means the crypt is going to be a bloodbath, and by the end of the episode the Night Army is standing there ready to make it so. For now, though, what a gift and a balm this episode was to us all.

The Good Fight s3 ep 4

After two weeks of the wretched Roland Blum ruining everything, I was beginning to worry about The Good Fight. Lucky then that this week’s ep is the Blum-free “One Where Lucca Becomes a Meme” which not only gives us a break from his gurning, but reminds us, or me at least, of why we fell in love with TGF in the first place. What a fantastic piece of tv this is.

An unhappy collision between Lucca’s sense of humour and a busybody in the park leads to internet infamy, which would have been more than compelling on its own, but turns out just to be the appetiser. The main course is the unflinching, powerful look at the firm’s internal racial politics which it leads to, with Jay at the epicentre (a terrific performance by Nyambi Nyambi) and Maia and Marissa caught in the aftershocks. (Although Maia’s lucky she wasn’t REDACTED long before now, if you ask me, and she more than deserved it. We’ll just see if it sticks.)

The story is brilliantly written – clear-eyed, insightful and brave – and beautifully acted, and it’s not even all since, by way of dessert, we also get an incisive and almost as tremendous look at What Diane’s Resistance Group Did Next, (inspired by this and the history leading up to it) with questions about the ends, the means, and at what point you become as bad as the people you’re fighting writ large throughout. Superb.

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 16

We start with the death-throes of a murdered mermaid, bleeding out through her facial orifices, as the water turns red around her. Maybe time to send the kids to bed? Not an actual mermaid, though: an adult woman dressed as one at Oahu’s “premier mermaid experience”. Dear God, this is a thing. And apparently a thing which can set you back up to ten large for a tail. Danny wonders aloud whether that’s money which would-be mermaids should be spending on therapy instead. Tani, on the other hand – well, it’s on her bucket list.

Anyway, the deceased mermaid was Gwendoline Baker, a woman in her thirties who worked for a health and beauty company which goes in for “multi-level marketing”, i.e. pyramid selling. And, as she was nearly at the top of the pyramid, it follows that there are hundreds of people below her, all with thousands of dollars’ worth of unsold crap and a motive. But they’re not the only ones: there’s a husband she was about to divorce, and the CEO of the organisation is pretty sketchy as well.

Meantime, in what starts off as an irrelevant B-plot, Adam has finally made a friend who isn’t in the Yakuza: Hal (Bob Hiffermann) a homeless and deaf man, who became detached from his family when his drinking problem became too much. Adam makes it his business to reconnect Hal with his family; Hal is resistant, but Adam – remembering how much his friends helped him when he hit rock bottom – persists. The message seems to be that families come in all shapes and sizes.

The murder is solved. Hal makes his way home. Adam toasts his friends. And Junior fulfils Tani’s fantasy – or, at any rate, one of them – by signing her up for mermaid camp and buying her a tail. Are we going to see them couple up before the end of the season, I wonder? Hardly a demanding episode, but I liked it a lot.

The Good Fight s3 ep 3

Another week with two thirds of a great episode and one third of an awful one. Storyline of the week belongs to Liz, Adrian and Lucca, with Jay on supporting duties, as Reddick asking for a divorce leads to a hilariously mortifying discussion with Boseman as her alleged paramour and Lucca as her attorney who would rather be literally anywhere else on the planet than in that moment, followed by an equally awkward court hearing. All that is terrific.

The little sub-plot with Marissa and wannabe Judge Julius is entertaining enough as well, although it’s early days for it yet. Diane, however, is out on her own again, fighting for democracy, which is all very well, and somebody absolutely has to do it, but remember when she had clients? And billable hours? I miss Diane’s lawyering! Still, her new group (including a woman who doesn’t speak but looks and dresses so much like Alicia Florrick it has to be intentional, and is particularly intriguing given this) has a decent, amusing first outing and it gives us the “Russian Troll Farm” song, which is fantastic, and the return of the NSA guys which is worrying – I am terrified for Jay and his precarious immigration status – but still welcome, because any time spent with those guys and the #Resistance is time not spent with Roland Bloody Blum. He is still the worst, and the only scenes of his which are remotely bearable this week are, strikingly, when he’s with Diane because she’s almost completely ignoring him. There’s a lesson in there about neutralising self-aggrandising blowhards and liars by not giving them the attention they seek, if any media outlets in the US, UK or indeed anywhere else care to learn it, but I suspect they won’t.

Madam Secretary s5 ep 15

Sometimes it must really get to Madam Secretary, having to deal with crises which arise because people are just so effing stupid. She and the team are going to Afghanistan in order to shore up a previous deal (from season 4) under which the regime got billions of dollars in aid, brought the Taliban into government, and kept women out of office. And in return America got… not blown up, I guess? Not the perfect deal, Mad Sec concedes, but we are where we are.

Which is why Matt is on a plane to Kabul, sitting next to Farhana, a 17-year-old Afghan girl, who is heading home after heart surgery. Matt and Farhana chat a bit, but the whole thing is being filmed by Stupid Person #1, an American teen, who on landing edits the footage and uploads it to the internet, with a commentary implying that something romantic was going on.

This leads to Farhana turning up at the gate of the American embassy, fleeing for her life, because Stupid People #2, #3, and #4, her male relatives, are chasing her: unless Farhana is given sanctuary, she’s going to be the victim of an honour killing. Matt lets her in, but now we have a Mad Sec-level problem. For as long as Farhana is being kept within the compound, the deal is in jeopardy: the Afghan media is reporting that she’s being imprisoned. But if she’s kicked out, she’ll be killed. Becker, the Secretary of Defense (who I should probably mention more often, because he’s now in the show every week) tells Elizabeth that American lives are being jeopardised by her and her adherence to principle, a concept which he detectably has little truck with. Is there a solution…? There is, but to be honest it isn’t a great one, and Matt is incandescent with rage.

Back home, meantime, Elizabeth’s brother Will is having problems in his marriage. I thought this was going to annoy me, but it was actually quite well done. And the news that Elizabeth and Henry were, at one point, in counselling surprised Will almost as much as it surprised me. This, unexpectedly, made up for an A-plot which never quite took off.