The Good Fight s1 ep 4

This week on The Good Fight, Diane and Lucca went to bat for a client trying to recover her long-lost eggs; Mike Kresteva returned to wind everyone right up; and perpetual victim Maia was the subject of a particularly nasty, virulent strain of social media harrassment. All of which added up to a terrific episode, and a wildly entertaining one at that.

As far as the case of the week goes, I don’t know whether they were entirely correct on the law throughout and the shady director of the fertility practice got off way too easily, but overall, the story was intriguingly complicated, sensitively-handled, and leavened with a great deal of humour, as the best ones are; the judge – “Oh God, I HATE this.” Hee! – was a grumpy delight; and the gradual but unmistakable thawing of Barbara’s relationship with Diane genuinely heartening to see.

The Mike Kresteva side of things was slightly trickier to pull off, since he can be very funny, but also very annoying, and a couple of years ago I would have been saying “there’s no way someone in politics can lie so often and so brazenly, and keep getting away with it.” Real life over the past year has taught us I was wildly wrong about that, though, and the writers did keep the Kresteva story just the right side of infuriating, this week, at any rate – his scene in Diane’s office was great fun, even if the Grand Jury business seemed a tad unlikely (for now). Still, it tied in beautifully with Maia’s story and one of the main themes of the week (and of 21st century life) – the abuse of the Internet and social media to create fake news and destroy people with it. Maia’s ex-boyfriend is obviously a reptile, and what he did unconscionable, but it’s notable that, yet again, Maia was entirely dependent on the rest of the cast to fix her problem for her – a problem that she didn’t even know she had, in fact, till, yes, somebody else explained it to her. But no matter. It was an absolute joy seeing Marissa, Jay and Ayesha help her give the ex what was coming to him, and as for the awesome Adrian channelling Will Gardner and stepping in during the confrontation by the lifts – well. I love love love this show now, and that single scene was the highlight of my week.

Blindspot s2 ep 16

*SPOILERS*

Time for Blindspot’s pacy, action-packed, completely ludicrous post-hiatus return and we’re hitting the ground running. Or kicking and shooting, if you’re REDACTED, who fights her way out of jeopardy far more easily than I expected, while the morose Jane joints the rest of Team Tat at Kurt’s impromptu works night in.

New BFF Tasha wants to know all the deets about her and “Oliver Kind” (not his real name, obv), but sadface Jane confesses that there are no longer any deets to know: “Oliver Kind” has gone off in high dudgeon over Jane doing a background check on him, and made a big flouncy show of how outraged he is over it, in order to avoid actually answering any questions about his pre-“Oliver Kind” persona at all. Well-played, “Oliver Kind,” well-played. Or at least, better-played than Jane, who neither recognises a classic diversion technique for what it is, nor learns any life lessons from it; rather than keeping her nose out of other people’s business from thereon in, she follows up one “massive invasion of privacy” with another by having a good old snoop around Kurt’s house instead. Badly-played, Jane, badly-played.

But not that badly, I guess, since Kurt is much more kindly (sorry) disposed towards Jane’s more inquisitive tendencies than “Oliver Kind” – instead of a big row, they start a deep and meaningful about the forthcoming cross-country baby, only to be interrupted by Kalinda because Kalinda’s entire function on this show is to GET IN THE EFFING WAY. And to say things like “That’s my inside source phone!” which is the funniest line I’ve heard on any show all week, even if it isn’t meant to be.

While Patterson works on decrypting the “inside source” pen drive, then, and Reade and Zapata drag out his coke habit tedium some more, Kurt, Kalinda and Jane go on the world’s most obvious surveillance mission. Guys, I don’t have much practical experience in this area, I know, but three people dressed in black, sitting on separate park benches, who all suddenly get up at the same time, with the same facial expressions, and converge on the same floor of a nearby hospital – yeah, I’m pretty sure you’ve been made by everyone on the planet, never mind the “inside source.” But no matter; Jane gets to have a load of fun diving down a laundry chute(!) and kicking the “inside source’s” ass, so we’re all good.

And when I say “all good,” I mean even for the “inside source,” since, despite being a felon and a terrorist about a zillion times over, he gets an even cushier deal than Roman’s new one – this week, Tearful McFurious acquires some comfy new furniture in his Tat HQ home from home,as opposed to, y’know, a transfer to super-max – and, after a brief, bloody and largely pointless exchange of info, gets to ride off into the sunset (well, the elevator) with not much more than a shrug. Dudes. He sat RIGHT THERE and said he knew all of Shepherd’s safe houses and routes and whatnot. And none of you thought to ASK HIM TO WRITE THEM DOWN BEFORE HE LEFT? FFS.

Not that things get any less amateur from thereon in. Because Patterson is the only person in the building who has a clue this week, she works out who the mole(ar) is and a plan which should have gone great guns, were it not for everyone on the team standing watching gormlessly while Sandstorm went, er, great guns themselves. “What the hell just happened?” asks Reade, which is a question I don’t want to answer in any detail since what the hell just happened is so ridiculous and hilarious it has to be seen to believed, but I’d love to see how Team Tat explain it in their FBI Performance Appraisal Reviews. Back to Quantico, the lot of you. Except Patterson, who really can’t prevent what happens to her and has, frankly, been through enough.

As has poor Jane, I suppose. No sooner has the mission gone south, and Shephard temporarily run out of ways to keep tabs on Team Tat, than, well, what do you know? “Oliver Kind” is over his outrage and reaching back out both to and for Jane, who should know by now that her making out with any guy at all will always lead to some form of apocalypse. Snog Kurt, get kidnapped and tortured by Tom Carter. Get busy with Oscar, have your life and friendships completely destroyed. And smooch it up with “Oliver Kind?” Oh, girlfriend. Good luck next week, you’re going to need it.

Designated Survivor s1 ep 16

On Designated Survivor this week, A Tale of Two Shows on Two Floors.

Overground/ upstairs, the PJB administration tries to push a gun control bill nobody really believes in through the Senate – they’ll “fix it in the House,” apparently, which seems risky to me, but then again I’m just recapping not legislating the future of a nation. The writers and the cast do their best with this Very Important Subject: Aaron gets to reach out to Emily (SQUEE!) and offer Kimble’s help; Kimble gets to reach out to PJB and confound him yet again (easily done); and the First Lady gets to almost screw everything up, as per usual, with the supposed “move” to Camp David now nothing but an ephemeral, beautiful, idea consigned to the dustbin of time, along with Betamax and my youth.

While perfectly watchable and reasonably entertaining, none of this save-the-bill, save-the-world stuff is very surprising. PJB is earnest, Moss has a whale of a time chewing the scenery (and chewing up anyone not playing ball), Seth is Seth and therefore awesome, and the final vote is fun, albeit the “shock! twist!” is about as “shocking!” and “twisty!”as a ruler. The problem with spending such a big part of any episode on a serious politicking story like this one, however, is that it reminds us of what the show isn’t capable of doing, as opposed to what it is; I’ve said in the past that I really don’t mind PJB not being The West Wing and I don’t like comparing the two, because PJB’s not meant to be a serious prestige political drama, it’s a high-concept thriller set against a political background, which is a very different thing. An episode like this one suggests, though, that the writers have forgotten that, and think this gleefully crazy show (I mean that as a compliment) can compete in the serious political drama arena, which it not only, patently, can’t, but makes that sort of unfavourable TWW comparison both inevitable and damning, whether I love both shows or not.

Since PJB is usually more successful when it’s being daft and thrilling than when it’s trying to be serious, then, it’s unfortunate that this weeks Conspiracy Plot side of things is more exposition than exciting. While upstairs focuses on gun control, below stairs is in charge of missile control – Agent Q (now apparently allergic to sunlight?) sticks to the lower levels, firstly using her basement office at the White House (When did she get this? What happened to QHQ?) to show Agent Mike all the exciting “Hey, we can blow stuff up!” graphics that she and Jason found on Janice from Stalker’s computer, before heading off on another road trip to Conspiracy Corp’s underground missile silo in North Dakota. Despite “the one man you can trust” Reed Diamond being back from his holidays, Q still chooses to take the not-entirely-stable Jason Atwood along instead, but he holds it together long enough for both of them to find enough bombs to blow up three Capitols, which I probably should’ve been a lot more aghast about than I was. I mean, I know it’s bad and all, but it’s difficult to get worked up about a dusty warehouse full of giant, oddly-shaped Lego. To be honest, I was much more excited by Aaron’s husky post-vote call to Emily (SQUEE AGAIN!), than anything Agents Q and Atwood were getting up to. The episode was fine, sure, and I enjoyed it, but PJB has been much sillier in the past and much better for it.

The Good Fight s1 ep 3

Okay, it’s taken a couple of episodes but I’m now fully on board with The Good Fight.

This week’s compassionate, intelligent and still witty episode combined a complex, tragic case involving a doctor operating on patients in Syria via Skype, a joyously funny sub-plot with Adrian and Barbara having to out REDACTED as a Trump voter, and Marissa teaming up with both the wary office investigator and the wearing Maia (sorry, Jed) to remind us once again how much better she is at everyone else’s jobs than they are. Hurrah!

In terms of minor quibbles, I’m struggling to care about the ongoing “Who’s the real brains behind the Ponzi scheme?” story arc – as far as I’m concerned, every one of the suspects can pretty much go and raffle themselves – but I can live with it in return for all the other excellent stuff the show is serving up, especially if it involves Adrian who, I say again, is the BEST. I thought this episode was great.

Les Hommes de l’ombre s3 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

We begin in deeply unsettling fashion with a convoy of official vehicles racing through a Parisian tunnel. Maybe it’s not meant to evoke the memories it does, maybe it is; either way, and since I knew going in that season three of Spin (like season one) was going to start with a significant public death, it’s a disturbing moment, but it turns out that even Spin isn’t crass enough to go there. Instead, the Marjories make it through the tunnel unharmed, and it’s Simon Kapita and the Minister for Parliamentary Reform(?) Clemence Parodi – a woman whom I initially thought might be Gabi from last season – who are at the epicentre of the tragedy, namely a radio station where a gunman shoots up the studio live on air, killing a high-profile Far Right candidate. At least I think he was a high-profile Far Right candidate – the combination of Spin’s usual terrible subtitling with my lack of knowledge of the French political system makes it something of a struggle to try and get a grip of who belongs to which party. I wouldn’t put any euros on me being right about any of them.

Alors. Simon and Clemence are understandably traumatised by the whole business, but the emotional impact of “We could have died!” and “All that blood!” is somewhat diluted by the segue straight into “Let’s crash right into each other and have sex tout de suite!” I laughed out loud, which I’m guessing is not the effect anyone was going for and which also means, in terms of sex with Simon at stressful moments, Clemence is pretty much Gabi from last season after all.

It’s back to business the matin after, though, as Clemence shifts back into work mode, unceremoniously swapping Simon for an immediate, wholesale change of the entire French voting system, because trying to alter the course of the nation’s destiny forever really could not wait till episode 2. *rolls yeux*

Malheureusment for Clemence and her big plan, however, since Simon spends most of the episode having woozy spells and hiding out in Ludo’s old office (now Simon’s new office?) in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid his appalling ex-wife, he’s not really up to doing too much politicking on her behalf. And nobody else thinks it’s a magnifique idea to be handing power to the far droit anyway, so the PM pulls a fast one, the bill tanks and poor Clemence is left wondering if it’s too late to go back to bed.

As Simon drinks and broods, and Clemence considers a new career, then, Madame Marjorie, er, walks repeatedly around the Palais in a series of dubious-looking pairs of slacks. Every few minutes, there she is – round a corner, up a staircase, along a corridor – wandering aimlessly into shot, looking either dazed or ready for a fight with Monsieur Le Prés, who is visibly wondering why this pair didn’t just split up at the end of season 2. Je ne sais pas pourquois, either, Alain, but it’s jamais too late.

Alors, again. Since she’s not getting any sort of satisfaction (or any sort of birthday present) from Le Prés, Mme Marjorie eventually gets bored with her route and changes things up by walking all the way to the UAE and involving herself in a stupendously daft rescue attempt, either because she’s looking for a more active role in foreign policy or because she’s an imbecile. *rolls yeux encore*

Thank goodness then for mon amour Ludo, who’s having a much more successful (if brief) time than the rest of these nitwits. With artfully unshaven visage and his own right-wing (je pense?) candidate Anne-Marie, the handsomest man on tv is poised to take full advantage of Morlaix’s death, not to mention full advantage of the fact that he looks like Gregory Fitoussi and she looks so like fellow Spiral alum Audrey Fleurot that for a moment I was confused about which French drama I was actually watching. If they’re not sleeping together yet, it can’t be long, non?

Not that Ludo and his cinq heures shadow get any more than a few minutes to woo us; a sneer from old frenemy Deleuvre, a few seconds plotting with Anne-Marie and he’s done for the week, which is disappointing but not unexpected given how under-used he was last season. And given time has to be found for two new shows-within-the-show, namely “Elisabeth Marjorie: International Rescue” and, most exciting of all, top new detective drama “Palissy de Justice.” You thought he was just the Minister for the Interior? Oh, non. While the intelligence agencies scratch their derrières, the French answer to Columbo cracks the assassination case wide open, working out the whos, the whys and the wherefores, and organising elegantly-choreographed SWAT raids all over the French countryside. Dude is so bien at fighting crime, he should get a gig on Spiral himself. And his entire storyline would have fit better there too, instead of taking up temps on a show which is supposed to be saying something important about French politics at a time when the entire planet’s future is in the balance, as opposed to doing a French version of Le Bill.

Sigh. As usual with Spin, this episode was rarely more than all right, and frequently much less than that. The political intrigue continues to lose so much in translation that I’m confused or bemused far too often; the Marjories’ relationship continues to take up an amount of screen time inversely proportionate to the interest anyone except the writers can possibly have in it (Mon Dieu, just GET. A. DIVORCE); and the insufferable Appolline continues to get way more to do than the indispensable Ludo, whose job description is actually in the name of the show. Something not right there, n’est-ce pas?

Public Service Announcement 13 of 2017: Doctor Who

It’s the holiday weekend and I have chocolate to eat, so just a very quick reminder that BBC stalwart Doctor Who returns to UK screens this evening (7:20 PM on BBC1) with a lot going on: not only do we have Pearl Mackie’s debut as new companion Bill, but it’s also Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi’s final season as showrunner and eponymous hero, respectively. All three of them will have to get through the run without me, however as, much as I enjoyed the Christmas special, the show in general lost its spark for me some time ago. If you’re still watching, I’d be interested to hear what you think – comments are welcome as always.

Public Service Announcement 12 of 2017: Blindspot, Spin (Les Hommes de l’ombre)

Silly season has come a little early this year with two of Unpopcult’s favourite pieces of nonsense making their way back to UK screens this week.

Tonight (Thursday), 9pm on Sky Living, sees the return of season 2 of the gleefully bonkers Blindspot, which left off last time with REDACTED in terrible danger, the writers still trying to make fetch Roman happen, and everybody’s personal lives all over the shop. Will REDACTED survive? Who is the mole inside Sandstorm? Who is the mole inside Team Tat? And when will Jane and Weller bloody get over themselves and get back together? Declining US ratings mean this run might be the last chance to find out, but no matter: unpopcult will be watching and reviewing anyway. And hoping Rich Dotcom makes another appearance, because we flat-out love that guy.

In other “guys we love” (albeit in an entirely different way) news, meanwhile, my beloved Gregory Fitoussi is back in my tv life for the third and likely final season of Spin (Les Hommes de l’Ombre) – starting tomorrow on More 4 at 9pm. A political soap which is either a lot less clever than it thinks it is, completely hobbled by its ham-fisted subtitling, or more than likely both, the only two things keeping me watching are Gregory’s magnifique “villain” Ludo and how much fun we have talking about the show on unpopcult. I’m hoping the writers learned from the deeply disappointing season 2 that what we need is more Ludo not less, and that the awful Simon is really not all that, but we shall see – reviews every week as usual. À bientôt, j’espère.