Public Service Announcement 10 of 2018: Blindspot

Mid-season break over, Blindspot returns to Sky Living tonight (Monday) at 10pm, with Kurt in the somewhat awkward position of having just confessed to his wife that he REDACTED her REDACTED. Um….

Since this is Weller we’re talking about, presumably there’s much more to it than that and Jane will (eventually) forgive him but, in the meantime, this may not bode too well for season 3’s initially super-fun vibe; with a little help from joy-in-human-form Rich Dotcom and a renewed delight in its own inherent craziness, the first few episodes of this run were some of the funniest and the best the show has ever produced and I really hope the writers don’t lose sight of that and drag us all down into Kurt’s big black hole of misery without throwing some Rich and Patterson hi-jinx into the mix to lighten the mood. I mean, just because Kurt is distraught, doesn’t mean we all have to be. And, since I’m on weekly review duty, I really don’t fancy another three months of estrangement of the show’s OTP – does this need to happen every year? – if we can avoid it, so if there’s any chance the big guy could be mistaken about what he thinks he’s done, let’s find out sooner rather than later, eh? PLEASE.

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The Post (2017)

It’s ironic but perhaps unsurprising, given history’s persistent tendency to repeat itself, that such an unapologetically old-fashioned period piece could be so piercingly relevant to the times we’re living in now. Steven Spielberg’s ode to journalists fighting to expose years of political wrong-doing in the face of a government willing to do anything to suppress it may be resolutely retro in both style – no CGI or special effects to distract here – and setting, but no amount of seventies suits or old-timey typewriters can obscure the immediate, overwhelming pertinence of its two principal themes: freedom of the press as the protection of freedom, and women stepping up and taking control after years of being told that they can’t.

That’s the preaching part of my review over for the night, though. Here’s the rest: The Post is an engagingly earnest, lovingly-made movie with something to say, and I loved it. The cast is magnificent – Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are the irresistible partnership at the centre of it, and they’re wonderful, but even the smallest roles have some of the best actors (Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, the list is endless) working today in them, and the performances, paired with clean, clear-headed direction turn what could have been a stodgy, preachy two-hour lecture into an incredibly entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable and ultimately uplifting fist-bump of a film. Sometimes, the old stories really are the good ones.

Public Service Announcement 8 of 2018: Collateral, Trauma

It’s John Simm vs John Simm tonight (Monday), as the BBC and ITV have somehow managed to ignore every other day of the year and schedule both of their big new dramas featuring the same man, on the same night at the same time. Um…well done?

At 9pm on BBC2, and first up for our purposes, is Collateral, a project so steeped in pedigree it should have its own category at Crufts. Written by Oscar nominee/ BAFTA winner and generally venerated playwright Sir David Hare, and starring Oscar nominee/ BAFTA winner and generally venerated actress Carey Mulligan, with a supporting cast including the aforementioned Mr Simm and the wonderful Nicola Walker, it couldn’t sound more prestigious if it tried. Mulligan plays a detective investigating the murder of a pizza delivery driver and, without wishing to wander into spoiler territory, this is a serious BBC drama in four parts, so it’s going to delve into some uncomfortable, upsetting issues. I can’t face any more weighty, worthy detective dramas at the moment though – if I need a reminder of the appalling things people can do to each other, I can just watch the news – so I’m going to give it a miss.

Also at 9pm, then, ITV1 has Trauma, an “event series” showing across three consecutive nights – as if anybody has time for that – written by Mike “Doctor Foster” Bartlett, and starring Simm as a grieving father who blames (rightly or wrongly, I’m guessing we’ll find out) trauma consultant Adrian Lester for the death of Simm’s teenage son while under Lester’s care. Whether it’ll be any good or not, and whether it’ll be a sad, sobering look at class, grief and the magnitude of the challenges facing the NHS, or a scenery-chewing soap opera, I have no idea and I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to find out, but let us know if you do.

Public Service Announcement 7 of 2018: Chicago Med

A bit of comfort tv to ease us back into the working week: Chicago Med, the scrub-themed part of the emergency services/ public order-related multi-headed Hydra that is the Chicago franchise (including Fire, PD and the short-lived Justice) is back on UK screens tonight at 9pm on Universal, picking up where season 3 left off just before Christmas.

This show is exactly what you think it is – attractive people striding around, furrowed of brow and strong of feeling, spouting jargon they don’t understand at issues masquerading as patients, there to teach everybody a lesson every week. It’s no ER, and years of watching medical shows trying to be ER means nearly everything about Med – issues, diagnoses, pain and angst – is completely predictable but, on the plus side, it’s significantly less self-important than Grey’s Anatomy, even if they both suffer from a tendency to treat certain, more irritating characters as if they’re preternatural medical talents and generally tremendous people, instead of the judgemental pains-in-the-ass they actually are. (I’m looking at you, Drs Reese, Manning and Halstead, and Nurse Yaya from America’s Next Top Model.) Happily, this is largely made up for on Med by Colin Donnell’s hot, kind Dr Rhodes, and the absolutely terrific trio of Oliver Platt as psychiatrist Dr Charles, Marlyne Barrett as charge nurse Maggie Lockwood and S Epatha Merkerson as chief administrator Sharon Goodwin, although given that Chicago Med (via sister show Chicago PD and its crossovers with Law and Order: SVU, bear with me here with the tv algebra) is canonically part of the same universe as the original Law and Order, this means that either Lt Van Buren switched career or she has an identical twin out there running a hospital.

Anyway. That kind of thinking is not what you need when watching this show. In fact, any kind of thinking other than “Oh!”, “Aw!”, “That poor lady/man/kid/family!” and “Dr Rhodes is lovely” is pretty much unnecessary. It’s easy, watchable Sunday night fluff and a low-maintenance, low-stress way to take your mind off going back to work tomorrow. (Which is when I’ll be back to tell you about Monday night’s duelling new shows Collateral and Trauma, both of which promise to be way, way at the other end of the ease and prestige spectrum from Chicago Med.)

Spiral (Engrenages) s6 eps 11 & 12

*SPOILERS*

“There is no more Tintin. FINIS.”

The end of saison six of Spiral brings with it a whole lot of other endings, deux of which involve the long-suffering, increasingly angry Tintin. It’s ironic that, on the same day his divorce is finalised, he leaves the post that probably cost him his marriage in the first place: finding out the real reason why Laure halted last week’s op is the final straw. “How does it feel to be as bent as the cops you’re arresting?'” he yells. “And don’t bother asking yourself what you’ve become with Gilou and when you crossed the line because you did that so long ago, you’ve lost sight of where it is.”

Well, oui. I’ve been saying that for ans. But it’s a powerful scene, well-played, and it makes me wonder again why Tintin’s anger is is so wholly focussed on Laure, while Gilou essentially gets a free pass, his “I just wanted to say we were a great team and I won’t forget that” farewell message eliciting more a grin than a grimace. Is it because she’s une femme? Or because she’s getting between Tintin and his homme?

Qui sait? Either way, Tintin est parti. And his partnership with Laure isn’t the only one ending in acrimony. The Cléry cops double-cross les Camaras, only to find themselves double-crossed right back as Gilou – somehow escaping retribution for blatant criminality yet again – negotiates a deal with Drissa that gives the Berthaud Bunch more than enough to take Jolers and Calvi down.

Everyone’s very excited when Calvi spills the beans, very agitated when Jolers doesn’t – stripping him naked for the humiliation of it is an appalling thing to do, no matter how awful he is, Laure – and even more so when they realise that, with Tintin gone, nobody’s done the paperwork. “You are not immune to procedure!” yells Beckriche. Well, oui again. Especially since there’s a new magistrate on the case and he’s having none of it.

Jolers’s liberté is only temporaire, however, and he knows it, choosing to end things on his own, deeply shocking terms instead. I screamed out loud.

But Jolers and Calvi are just deux of the engrenages in a much bigger machine. The disgraced (but no less arrogant for it) doctor who treated Justine is found at last, which leads Laure and Gilou to her baby, and to the reason why poor, decent Mercier was killed in the first place: Moldovan’s trafficking operation, dealing in girls, babies and utter misery.

Moldovan is caught, Maria is saved, and thanks to a few kind words from Capt Berthaud, it’s as happy an ending for la jeune fille as Spiral can manage, albeit she’s mourning her best friend and she seems to have nobody to look in on her except CID. Given the melancholy mood of the rest of the saison finale, however, and the number of characters left in somewhat precarious positions, Maria’s doing well.

Roban, for instance, is suspended from duty on health reasons, his beloved work taken away from him. His doctor handles him brilliantly, persuading him to have the operation, to seize the opportunity and “to live.” And for a moment, Roban smiles, and I’m hopeful. But the shot of him standing on the bridge alone is ominous. Does Monsieur le Juge know how to live as just Monsieur Roban? Does he want to?

And Joséphine’s situation looks even more dire. She and I having relaxed into thinking that perhaps she’d got away with it, we’re both stunned when she’s arrested for the attempted murder of Vern Junior, the sleazebag himself having woken up and taken great joie in reporting her to the police. Ordinarily, of course, I’d be on board with that – attempted murder is not okay, mes amis – but it’s Joséphine. And he’s a scumbucket.

The arrest, the scene where she has to face him in l’hôpital, the scene where the magistrate remands her…. all of it is harrowing and worrying to watch, and I can’t imagine how she’s going to cope with the months in jail that lie ahead even before any trial. Thank Dieu for Edelman, then, who’s not Pierre, alas, but who understands her and understands how to fight for her, which is exactly what Maître Karlsson is going to need. Maybe all is not lost after all.

The last shot of the saison belongs to Laure though, and it isn’t a hopeful one. Having spent douze episodes vibrating with fear at the idea of looking after her child, and doing everything short of taking out an ad in Le Monde to say she doesn’t want to, the prospect of Romy being discharged is too much. She’s too proud to let Bremont take her – I love Bremont, by the way – but whether it’s post-natal depression or post-traumatic stress from the circumstances surrounding her birth or just utter panic, she can’t do it either. So she runs, leaving Gilou standing in the car park with a giant panda and a stupid grin, and at least one viewer wondering how they can possibly leave it like that.

Saison sept has been commissioned, so at least we’ll get to find out whether Herville and Mme Mayor get together, Laure gets help, Justine gets convicted and Roban gets a life, but new saisons of Spiral take forever and I don’t want to wait two years to find out. Impatience is a good sign, though: after Pierre’s death in saison cinq, I started saison six with very bad grace but, apart from way too much time spent on “surveillance”, it won me over with what’s been a difficult run for the characters, but a thoroughly compelling, powerful one for the viewer. Adieu to Berthaud and co for now, yes, but à bientôt, j’espère.

Public Service Announcement 6 of 2018: Requiem, Altered Carbon, The X-Files

The chill isn’t just outside this week, with a bumper crop of genre shows of varying degrees of creepiness hitting UK tv screens.

First up is BBC1’s new supernatural drama Requiem about a woman (with a very strange haircut) who returns home to rural Wales after her mother’s suicide, only to find herself drawn into the long-unsolved mystery of a child’s disappearance. It’s supposed to be terrifying but, if you’re brave enough to check it out, the BBC has gone all Netflix-y about it and put all six episodes on the iPlayer at once. If you’re more an “episode a week” kind of person, though, you can catch it on Fridays at 9pm. (First episode was last night, currently available on catch-up.)

Netflix itself meanwhile offers up some potentially interesting, unnerving sci-fi in the form of Altered Carbon, a ten-part adaptation of the novel of the same name, set in a future where the minds of the dead are routinely uploaded into fresh bodies – or “sleeves” as they’re apparently known – so if you’re rich enough, you never really die at all. There’s a murder mystery and whatnot, but every article I’ve tried to read about the show has been so densely packed with information it’s given me a sore head so I think it’s probably easier to watch and find out for myself. The whole season is currently available for streaming so if I give it a go, I’ll report back.

And finally, an old favourite joins all these upstart newbies as The X-Files is back again for a second run of its, er, second run. I think we’re calling it Season 11. Last year’s “Event Series” wasn’t an unmitigated success – it was a joy to see Mulder and Scully back in action, but one genuinely terrific episode (“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” since you asked) out of six in a season that turned the already overcooked “mythology” aspect of the show into complete goobbledygook hardly made for a triumphant return. But the chemistry between the two leads is as electric as ever, and with Gillian Anderson maintaining that this season will be her last, it’s not like I’ll be able to resist tuning in. Advance word suggests that it’ll be worth it too, with critics saying the first episode is a disappointment but the rest are a return to form. If you want to see for yourself, the season kicks off at 9pm on Monday (5th) on channel 5.

Spiral (Engrenages) s6 eps 9 & 10

*SPOILERS*

That faint but unmistakable clucking you can hear is the sound of les poulets coming home to roost as, this semaine on Spiral, several people’s crimes start, if not completely catching up with them, getting uncomfortably close.

But before we get on to who’s in what difficulté,”Bakary est mort!” Which means Drissa’s army turning Cléry into a guerre zone, with baseball bats the principal weapon of choice. Episode neuf begins in unnerving fashion with Camara’s call to arms and, as the violence escalates, so do the tension and recriminations: the police commissioner insists on conciliation and everybody BACKING THE HELL OFF, the rueful but sanguine Herville has to go chapeau in main to the mayor to calm things, and the excitable Berthaud bunch are flatly forbidden from touching Drissa, who is too busy having meetings with Jolers and Calvi in his secret basement office – which seems to have mobile reception, impressive – to have the temps to get arrested anyway.

Laure’s frustration at not being able to arrest the whole sorry lot is palpable, but Beckriche handles her surprisingly well, switching the team’s focus to the missing Maria instead. With Maria in the wind, though, Capt Berthaud’s attention is diverted once again and she gets herself and Gilou into a terrifying mess; the scene with the rocking surveillance van, surrounded by rioters about to set it alight, is as disturbing as anything we’ve seen this saison. Thank Dieu, then, for Tintin, who lets his frustration (jealousy? Of Laure, I mean – this is about Tintin wanting Gilou for his best ami, non?) get the better of him for most of the semaine, but sets it aside for just long enough to become mon héros.

It’s not as if Laure and co will let a near-mort experience distract them from the main prix, though, so we’re back to tailing everyone again (zzzzzz….) in episode dix, with the search for Maria trundling along in tandem. Until that is, the aforementioned poulets start cropping up: with Gilou now on the ropes (without going anywhere near le club de boxe!), tous les choses suddenly get even more fraught, and I’m guessing Tintin is going to get even more en colère before the saison finis.

Gilou’s not the only one confronted with his misdeeds, however, as Joséphine Karlsson goes a bit fou over the Bodin case, and attacks Roban and Machard in a move which is not only spectacularly misguided, but also doomed to ignominious failure. Edelman tries to warn her, but she advises she’d “rather die than back down” which seems a tad over the top for moi, but vous do vous, Maître. Vous do vous.

I suppose we should be relieved that she doesn’t try to run them over with their voitures instead, and, in fairness, she probably comes as close as she can to a result not akin to utter ruin, but even Joséphine and the truth are no match for the combined forces of the judicial establishment, Deleuvre from Spin and Roban lying to the court. That last one does surprise me, but after six saisons of watching everyone in Spiral do some pretty mal choses, maybe it shouldn’t have.

Perhaps more surprising then is Madam Mayor whose past is probably the most pressing at the moment. Her Camara patrons’ confidence, demands and ability to unnerve all rise at an exponential rate throughout this semaine’s episodes, forcing her to fess up and turn to the unimpressed but increasingly awesome Herville for help. Remember when Herville used to be a jerk? I’m not entirely sure how he turned into one of my favourite characters, but it’s definitely happened.