Private Eyes s3 ep 11

Ahoy, me hearties. Angie in bed with Speedbumpy McSpeedbumperson was not a promising start to this episode and following up with some nonsense about Jules being a DJ genius didn’t make me any less well-disposed towards it but, mercifully, the Eyes rushed through all that reasonably quickly to get on to the mystery of the week. Not that the mystery of the week really grabbed my attention either: perhaps I was still annoyed at Speedbumpy McSpeedbumperson. Or unimpressed at the prospect of yet another sub-plot about how Jules wants something, Shade’s uneasy about it, Angie or Don talks him round, and Jules gets what she wants in the end.

Either way, even if it left me slightly cold, the main story was fine – mildly amusing, even – involving as it did a pirate-themed dinner cruise, drug smugglers and the answer to where Maz has been for the past few weeks. Welcome back Maz! Although the season finale’s next week so it’s not like we can enjoy him for very long. Still, his return is the second-best thing about the episode, the best being the handful of wistful, squee-able moments threaded through it to make sure we know all is not lost on the Shangie front: the regretful, resigned look in Shade’s eyes when he asked Angie about her relationship with Speedbumpy, the stricken look in hers when Shade announced that there was “nothing more dangerous than a workplace romance”, that type of thing. Sigh. There’s a very obvious “we got one kind of ship this week but not the one we really wanted” joke to be made here somewhere: it really is just as well that Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson are so good at this sort of quiet, hidden-but-not-really yearning, since it doesn’t look like we’re getting much else on the Shangie front for now. We’ll see what next week brings.

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Private Eyes s3 ep 10

*SPOILERS*

Dear Private Eyes,

Are you trolling me?

After last week’s near-miss on the make-out front, I’m very suspicious when this one kicks off with Shade being approached by gorgeous journalist Stefani who seems interested in a lot more than his fascinating career trajectory. Is this Mel mk 2? Are we doing yet another round of romantic speedbumps? But, wait! Turns out Angie, sorry, Angela, is visibly worked up and confused about their pashus interruptus, and Shade, sorry, Matthew, really, really wants to talk to her about it, although he also doesn’t mind talking to the journalist about his fascinating career trajectory in the meantime. You guys! This means….. they’re not just ignoring their feelings (and mine) like they usually do! Does the handholding of the past couple of weeks mean something’s changed? Are these people finally going to talk to each other?! IS THERE GOING TO BE SHANGIE AT LAST?

Well, the answers to those questions are apparently “sort of,” “sort of” and a resounding “no,” because I love these characters and I want them to be happy but they apparently do not feel the same way about me. I mean, things are going reasonably well at first – even Zoe, back in the same room with her boss at last, can tell there’s been a shift in the force – but it starts to go awry when Danica (FFS, Danica, Maz would never) somehow hires our heroes to solve the mystery of a handsome-ish (I would have been markedly more enthusiastic about his admittedly impressive looks if I didn’t want to punch him in the jimmy face) flirty amnesiac with a tattoo of Texas and an interest in more than Angie’s investigative skills.

This is man manna from heaven for Angie, who is desperate to prove to Shade and herself she doesn’t actually have feelings for her partner and, sensing that bickering with him throughout the episode is giving a different impression entirely, is delighted to have a handsome-ish man to help her out with that particular pretence. Hello Dr Ken, mk 2, and oh, yeah, desk, meet my forehead. Thump. But wait (again)! Our heroes are going undercover at a couples, er, sex retreat? (This episode’s a bit racier than usual.) Undercover as a couple! You know what that means – fakeout makeout that’s not so fakeout after all! Except – no, it doesn’t, not this week. This week it means talking about our feelings in not-very-coded language at all in a mad, brilliant scene where Matthew and Angela pretend to talk about buying a sex swing. (Told you it was racier than usual.)

This is all both tremendously SQUEE-worthy and absolutely hilarious, but obviously culminates in Shade going on a second sort-of-date with Stefani, and Angie going on a first very-much-date with Tex. But wait (a third time)! Shade – very gently, because he’s lovely – turns Stefani down and pretends to be baffled as to why. Of course, he’s fooling nobody, least of all Don, who goes some way to redeeming himself for Gumbogate last week with a wry “Yeah, real mystery you got there.” Heh. If only Angie were there to help our hero solve it, instead of taking Mr Speedbump home and ending this episode in the most infuriating, but predictably Angie-ish way possible. ARGH. This was a fantastic episode and maybe the best one of the season so far, but I’m RAGING.

Poldark s5 eps 7 & 8

*SERIES FINALE SPOILERS*

After a night spent unconscious at the bottom of a mine, Ross wakes up in surprisingly good shape and not only manages to find the exit pretty easily but also stumbles upon the French plot that Jacka and Tess are embroiled in. Well done, Capt Poldark. When I say “surprisingly good shape”, though, I may be overstating the damage done to Ross’s head, given that the majority of his decisions in both these episodes suggest a selective form of amnesia: everything he‘s supposed to have learned over the past five seasons about not being a total idiot to his wife has been knocked right out of him. “Needless to say, Demelza cannot know” is pretty much the theme of every stupid, reckless, crazy thing he does – I was so sick of his nonsense in the final episode, that I almost switched off ten minutes in and gave up forever.

I stuck it out though, so here we are. On the positive side, apart from laying the groundwork for the absolutely infuriating episode 8, episode 7 is all right. Ish. I mean, it’s Sam‘s turn to pick up the idiot ball in relation to Tess, although everybody else is almost as daft, actually letting the woman who tried to BURN IT DOWN back in the house. Geoffrey Charles and Cecily run off together but, instead of running off to the other side of the planet, they go exactly where you’d think and get caught, despite Poldark and co’s best-laid plans to get them out of the country. This results in a lengthy, brutal beating for Geoffrey Charles, and in Cecily leaving the country anyway, sailing away with Kitty Despard who, fascinating though she may be to Dr Dwight, has long since outstayed her welcome with everyone else. Poor Kitty. Just like her deceased husband, she is a character who was written to make a point or ten, but the one-dimensional writing gave her absolutely no personality beyond that, and the Despards derailed most of this final season as a result.

While Geoffrey Charles mopes (Kitty’s resounding “YES!” when he asks “If we’re not together, should you wish to live?” is hilarious), episode 7 ends with Ross warning Dr Dwight that things are about to get weird and Demelza’s going to get upset, and so they do and she does, with this lunatic launching “the greatest gamble I’ve ever undertaken.” A high bar indeed.

Episode 8 finds us five-and-a-half months into this great gamble, otherwise known as Poldark going deep undercover with Tess and the French, and making his long-suffering wife’s life a complete misery as a result. The damage he inflicts in the name of “protecting Demelza” is catastrophic, to the extent that even Dr Dwight – whose own attitude to marital fidelity has, as Caroline points out, been somewhat flexible in the past – has had enough but Ross is adamant. The charade continues, with Ross letting Demelza walk out, while he tries to reel in the French. It’s not entirely clear, however, why the need for secrecy from everyone but his wife evaporates a few minutes later: suddenly, Ross has recruited half the town to help him out, on the strict proviso that Demelza still cannot be told. “Has he learned nothing?” the poor woman asks. “No, he hasn’t!” shouts at least one outraged viewer. “Dump his ass!”

His ass suffers no more than a momentary hit to the ground, however, when Hanson tries to rob us all of our happy ending. As if. Everything works out fine despite that, of course, as Demelza instantly forgives him, unbelievably persuades Toussaint to fight a duel with him instead of just shooting him in the face, and saves his life, with an assist from George Warleggan of all people because, if Ross were dead, whom could he be angry with all the time? So the Poldark Posse stops the invasion, Ross redeems himself with the Crown, and hands-down the best scene of the season is when Aidan “New Poldark” Turner gets Robin “Old Poldark” Ellis to lock up the villains. “Your servant, sir.” “And yours, sir.” Awwww.

It’s a lovely moment, but not quite enough to make me look kindly on a finale undone by sub-par spy nonsense and Ross’s irredeemable behaviour throughout. “I should never have kept things from you,” he says to his astonishingly tolerant wife, as if this is some sort of revelation and not something he has had to learn every season since the show started. As I said years ago, he’s lucky he’s hot, because there’s no other explanation for Demelza putting up with these shenanigans again and again. And again.

Anyway, it all ends well enough. Morwenna gives birth to a little girl, which is nice. Caroline confides in Dr Dwight about her baby fears and they finally properly make up, which is nice too. Rosina, having now been messed about by two Carne brothers, nonetheless proposes to Sam, which is baffling. Geoffrey Charles is accepted back into army school, which I don’t care about in the slightest. George leaves Cornwall, which is good, but gets Ross to stay out of Valentine’s life forever, which isn’t. And Ross and Dr Dwight are off to spy on the French, which is a great lark for them but sucks for the wives who have to put up with their continued carry-on, this being the theme of the whole series. And that’s it. It’s been a disappointing season, but then the show has never really recaptured the heady joys of that first year, when its melodrama and Ross’s bull-headed derring-do were charming rather than utterly wearing. Credit to the gorgeous Cornish coast and the wholly committed cast, though, who were game throughout. Everyone will have their favourites but, for me, Eleanor Tomlinson’s Demelza was a revelation; Gabriella Wilde imbued Caroline with heart and humanity; Luke Norris’s Dr Dwight was wonderfully, unflinchingly kind and noble; and Ellise Chappell and Harry Richardson made a sweet and vulnerable Morwenna and Drake. And as for Aidan Turner, well, I’ve been a fan since Being Human but I’m delighted Poldark showed the rest of the world what a star he is. “I swear to you, my love, I shall return,” is a nice promise for him to go out on but you’ve done your shift, Aidan. Maybe let Poldark go and return as someone else instead soon, hey? I’m looking forward to it.

Private Eyes s3 ep 9

In theory, there are any number of things l could be talking about as far as this week’s Private Eyes goes. I mean, I could be noticing that Zoe’s appearances for the past few weeks have been scant, and in separate locations from her co-stars. Or for that matter, I could be speculating as to why we haven’t seen Maz in ages – Danica’s “he’s applying to join a secret taskforce” has to have been a meta joke about him being busy with Team Tat, no? (It made me laugh, anyway.) Or I could be saying something about the actual plot – quite a good one, as it happens, involving martial arts, snake venom and something called the “Iron Palm.” But who can focus on any of that THIS week, of all weeks? No, I’m not talking about the U.K. plunging into constitutional crisis, I’m saying Angie stayed at Shade’s! There was cooking! And coffee! And handholding (again)! And there was 100% about to be Shangie making out (I know you saw them leaning in), if stupid Don hadn’t come back home at just that stupid minute with his stupid gumbo. Don, FFS, man! THERE WAS ABOUT TO BE MAKING OUT! How could you DO this to us?! SQUEE!!!!!!!

Private Eyes s3 ep 8

Hello again to Seth Byrne’s Deputy Eddie Conroy this week. Took me a minute to place him beyond “Haven’s paranormal tv guy”, but then I realised he was also, more pertinently, the floundering new local cop in one of the best Eyes episodes of last season. Well. And here he is again, taking on a significantly bigger role as he seeks Shade and Angie’s help in investigating the murder of an elderly friend, and making it two for two in terms of “best episodes”, if we’re counting. Yes, the worldly-wise, kind and overwhelmingly decent Shade and the enthusiastic, naive and slightly mad Eddie make a charming double act and, working with a smartly-plotted mystery and just a little pathos, they help make “The Conroy Curse” a real delight. Surprisingly, though, they also endure a lot more danger than your standard Private Eyes ep: the boys are in real peril at various points. I mean, intellectually, their fate is never really in doubt, but that river business is scary, which – BONUS – means Angie getting very worried, her and Shade actually holding hands at one point (don’t you think I didn’t notice, Everett, I NOTICED, SQUEE!) and Eddie making Shade acknowledge how he feels about her, even if, as usual, ol’Shadow is too scared to do it to her face. Dude. I loved this episode to bits but Eddie’s right: “Can’t wait forever, you know what I mean?”

Poldark s5 ep 6

*SPOILERS*

The BBC seems to be as keen to get this last season of Poldark over with as I am, burning off the last two episodes ever in something it’s calling a “double bill” but really isn’t. 8pm on Sunday (25th) and 8.30pm on Monday (26th) is just two episodes on consecutive nights, at different times, apparently to make way for new Peaky Blinders. It’s not entirely clear why new Peaky Blinders couldn’t have waited a week or even a day so Poldark could actually have ended with a double bill on Sunday, instead of this nonsense. Whether I’m fed up with it or not, Poldark is a big deal of a show for the BBC, every single episode before now has been on in the big deal slot of 9pm on a Sunday and people expected a similarly big deal of a finale, but this arrangement feels less like the BBC screening the last ever episode of one of its flagship dramas and more like the BBC finding a spare minute here and there between more important things to put its washing out.

Sigh. Then again, what do timeslots really mean in these days of streaming and catch-up services? Currently, the BBC is faithfully showing Keeping Faith season 2 one episode at a time on prime time Tuesday nights, but I and a whole lot of other people have already watched (and thoroughly enjoyed, as it happens) it all on iPlayer instead. People did the same with Killing Eve, and will no doubt do the same with plenty more shows in the future. Although, unlike those shows, episodes of Poldark aren’t on iPlayer till they’ve had their traditional tv airing, it’s not like these last two episodes are going out at 3AM on a Wednesday and, regardless, once they have gone out we’ll all be able to watch them whatever time we want. So maybe it doesn’t matter. But it feels like it does.

Enough about the schedule, though, what about this week’s episode? It was fine. Better than last week’s tedium by some distance as well. The culmination of Ned’s story re-ran a lot of elements the show has relied on before – a frame job; a wildly unfair trial; Ross making a very long, very passionate, somewhat irrelevant speech in court; Dr Dwight trying an unpopular insanity defence; even a desperate but ultimately pointless prison break – but actually surprised (and slightly bewildered) me by not pulling out a last-minute happy ending. I didn’t know quite what to do with myself afterwards. I mean, Ned and I haven’t seen eye to eye at all, but he didn’t deserve that. Goodbye, Ned. And sorry.

Sorry too to Ross who not only lost his friend but also came close to losing his life. I don’t believe for a minute he’s going to die too, but that whack to the head really looked like it hurt, which made it the second upsetting/ theoretically potentially fatal surprise of the night. Bummer. Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Morwenna and Drake got all loved up. The rejuvenated Caroline lit the episode up even though she was only in it for a few minutes. And, unlike poor Ned, Cecily managed to avoid her own awful fate and stop her marriage to the unspeakable George, even if I might have a few quibbles about her choosing wet blanket Geoffrey Charles as her life partner. Don’t fret, Cecily! I know it’s all gone slightly wrong at the moment and your mad evil father has temporarily imprisoned you in your room, but I very much doubt the bad guys will get another big win – you and GC will be reunited soon enough. (There are only two episodes to go, after all.) And if that reunion could also involve something dreadful happening to George and to your dad, that would go some way to cheering me up, thank you. As would something equally dreadful happening to Jacka and Tess, and I don’t mean marrying Preacher Carne.

Designated Survivor s3 eps 3-10

*SPOILERS*

I’ve been meaning to write about this for weeks but, after the first flush of excitement, shoved it so far down my to-do list it fell right off. Which is a shame because, after a very rocky start, and against all odds, laws of physics and general principles of space and time, this short, abrupt and, as it turns out, final season of Designated Survivor turned out to be kinda great.

“Great” in this context doesn’t mean perfect by any means, though, the treatment of Agent Q being the most egregious flaw. The poor woman may have saved democracy and the world as we know it yet again, but wasn’t allowed to share a single scene or even a phone call with any of the main cast while doing it. It was as bizarre as it was blatant and made even more so when, immediately after her, er, “redaction” – violent, lonely and sad, much like her entire Cassandra-like existence on the show – the random new scientist guy brought in to hang out with her was flown straight to DC to hang out in the sitroom with PJB himself. Oh, Hannah. You deserved better, as did Maggie Q.

Not knowing how to marry up the action thriller and the political element is hardly a new problem for this show, mind you. What was new for season 3, though, was a sharper focus on issues of identity, equality and, er, internet. Perhaps to emphasise that we’re not on network any more, Toto, every episode title began with a hashtag and almost every political problem was somehow solved with new character Dontae’s viral videos. I’m not sure that blurring the lines by having real people talk about their real experiences in these vox pops added much, entertainment-wise, but it was eloquent of the makers’ search for authenticity, which didn’t seem to be anywhere on the show’s agenda for seasons one and two but was very much the focus of season three.

Of course, searching for authenticity didn’t always mean Designated Survivor found it. Its attempts at inclusion were commendable in concept but often clunky in execution. Introducing PJB’s trans sister-in-law could have been a worthwhile idea, for instance but, thanks to a lack of imagination and some astoundingly bad dialogue, the opportunity was squandered, leaving us with a “viscerally” irritating character and a completely one-dimensional one to boot. New internet whizz Dontae, meanwhile, a likeable enough screen presence by contrast, had to do a huge amount of heavy lifting as the story’s sole touch point for issues of blackness, poverty, sexuality, HIV status, voter apathy, and the digital generation. But, for poor execution, neither of them compared with Aaron’s girlfriend Isabel. The exploration of Aaron’s issues with heritage and identity was a decent idea and far better-handled than I thought it might be, but the use of Isabel as a life-size “Are you a good Latino?” Exam, constantly giving him a big red FAIL every time he opened his mouth (or didn’t) did everyone a disservice. As did the super-soapy cliffhanger at the end of the season, but I guess we don’t need to worry about that any more, huh?

Even if Isabel’s sole function was to constantly tell Aaron he wasn’t a good enough Latino, though, at least this season went a long way to making up for completely sidelining the very capable Adan Canto last year and gave Aaron depth, screen time, and the Vice-Presidency. Oh, and a night with Italia Ricci’s Emily which was long overdue and had me squeeing myself into orbit. I am ride-or-die Aamily/Emron you guys. Ride. Or. Die. And even if they ended the show apart and she may have helped taint the legacy of his vice-presidency forever, in the fanfic I am now writing in my head, they will find their way back to each other, dammit. They are too hot not to.

Never mind my fanfic, though, what of the rest of the characters? Thankfully, the writers stopped trying to give the resolutely unshippable Seth romantic storylines – unless that dance at the finale was supposed to be the start of something, in which case the one silver lining of re-cancellation is we don’t have to see the end. Instead, they gave him an odd story about being a sperm donor father which I can just about see as an extension of the season’s identity and heritage themes, but really felt more like them trying to find him something to do. Whatever. It wasn’t good but it wasn’t awful either which, at the very least, is a significant improvement on last year’s Semily debacle.

New Chief of Staff Mars, however, was annoying, patronising, weirdly pally with Isabel and blatantly jealous of Aaron, so he and I were never going to get on, but while his marriage troubles were utterly turgid (and bizarrely easily resolved by one short conversation with a random priest) at least the show used them to shine a light on the opioid crisis, even if Mars approached it more in the manner of Jack Bauer with threats and shouting than the White House Chief of Staff. Hurrah, then, for campaign manager Lorraine for injecting plenty of humour into proceedings while Mars and the rest of the administration were angsting about everywhere. Yes, Lorraine turned out to be a bit evil but in such a fun way; Julie White was clearly having a ball bringing her to life and delivering lines that were way better than anybody else’s. Sorry you’re going to federal prison, Lorraine!

And PJB himself? Well, for a show all about having someone new, decent and true in office, it ended on a surprisingly bleak, nihilistic note as integrity’s poster boy ultimately chose ambition and expediency over principle in an entirely believable, if tragic way. Also believable and tragic was the collision course this put him on with Emily who, having lost her mother in incredibly harrowing circumstances, found the added loss of her faith in her beloved PJB too much to bear. Emily chose to burn it all down and, just as I was wondering how she and the Kirkman administration were going to come back from that, word came out that they weren’t. The show had been cancelled again. A year ago, after a dreadful second season, I was more than ready to let Designated Survivor go, but now, after a third season which breathed new life into it, brought some genuinely compelling issues to the fore and made every episode if not always wholly successful at least something to look forward to, I’m going to miss it. It seems cruel to have got us all excited about the show again, only to drop it and us so quickly, but such is the TV business, I guess. Goodbye, Kiefer and co! At least this way, I’ll remember Designated Survivor a lot more fondly than I would have had it ended after season 2. It’s not closure, exactly, but I’ll take it.