The Blacklist s5 ep 7

It’s an arresting opening: a family’s seaside picnic is interrupted when dozens of dead and half-dead bodies start watching up on the beach. They’re the victims of this week’s Blacklisters, a human smuggling operation run by Irish father and son Arthur and Colin Kilgannon (‘The Kilgannon Corporation’, according to the episode title, although I don’t recall anyone using that term.)

Red is particularly sore about this because, as he admits to Liz, before his empire crumbled he used to have a nice little business in this area himself, getting people away from whatever they were fleeing from, offering a decent service at a fair price, insofar as these terms have meaning in this particular discipline. The Kilgannons muscled in, with an inferior product, and he’d like to elbow them out and take the business back. Unusually, Cooper’s onto this from the outset, rather than doing what he normally does, and realising by the end of an episode that he’s risked his job once again to facilitate Red’s business interests. So he’s prepared to commit FBI resources to finding the people responsible for the dead bodies, but not to actually putting Red in charge of an international people-smuggling business which will exploit people a bit less.

Deal, says Red, and Dembe goes undercover as a would-be migrant, with a tracking device in his tooth. Inevitably the FBI will lose contact with him, because that’s what happens with tracking devices; and there’ll be a race against time to find and save him,  because that’s what happens with undercover operatives. Actually, though, it’s all pretty good, and (insofar as Mr First World here can judge) the episode does a reasonably good job of humanising those who are so desperate that they resort to paying people to smuggle them across borders.

Meantime, though, Tom has managed to find himself a whole lot of trouble, while not finding himself the missing McGuffin O’Bones, which – as it happens – we don’t seem to have seen for a while now. He and Lena, still being followed by Bucky out of Nashville, have managed to track Pete to a motel. Pete is adamant that he didn’t kill Dr Nik, but just as he and Tom are hashing this out they’re snatched by a gang, then interrogated by a dude wearing courageous spectacles who wants to find Red. Pete and Lena are unable to help, and are dealt with appropriately. I assumed that Specs Dude was working for Bucky, but I was wrong; and Bucky, meantime, is actually in Red’s employ, which I didn’t know either. Highly enjoyable, but also portentous: something bad is coming.


Public Service Announcement 9 of 2018: Homeland

The argument against season 7 of Homeland (and seasons 2-6 as well), generally from people who don’t watch it any more, runs as follows: it should have finished after one season with the death of Brody, which would have left it standing as a unique, brilliant, and imaginative one-off drama. It’s never been as good since. It’s all about the money now.

And the argument in favour: well, it’s difficult to quibble with much of that. But we are where we are; successful TV shows are always all about the money, and they generally don’t stop while they’re still making bank; we should instead discuss whether it’s any good, rather than worrying about whether it should exist at all.

On balance I’m in the latter camp. Homeland, it’s true, has never quite hit the heights of its first season, and is unlikely to ever again. Evaluated on its own terms, though, for what it is, rather than what it isn’t: it’s not bad at all. Inconsistent for sure; but capable of being an intelligent and well-made drama, which in recent seasons has shown a welcome willingness to grapple with hot-button topics – for example, terrorism in Europe in season 5, and an alt-right fake news factory in season 6. On the other hand, the treatment of Quinn last time around was frankly bizarre: why bring him back from almost certain death just to make him suffer, then kill him anyway? (And getting rid of Astrid as well was a grievous error, assuming that the actor didn’t want out.)

This time round, at least to start with, Carrie will be dealing with the consequences of the events of the last season, in which President Keane somewhat brutally cleaned house and restricted civil liberties. Although given that she’d barely survived a right-wing coup attempt led by Dar Adal, one can see why she might have wanted to tighten her grip a little. Looking forward to this. Weekly reviews as ever (tonight, Channel 4, 9pm).


Hawaii Five-0 s8 ep 6

Two out-of-towners in a hire car are stopped for no reason by a police officer, who then shoots them both dead. As the victims weren’t African American, though, it’s immediately clear that the incident needs further investigation. In fact – spoiler alert, although it isn’t much of a mystery – the shooter isn’t a real cop, but someone with that multiple personality thing. I suppose that TV’s handling of this has become a little better over the years, but not much; and it still feels to me to be much more common in procedurals than in real life, to the point where I felt that I’d really seen it all before. Dr Alicia, still on H50’s bench, is brought on and provides an assist.

Meantime, Steve’s friends stage an intervention to try and reduce his stress levels. This, explains Danny, is because Steve’s radiation poisoning renders him more likely to get cancer, so he needs to make some changes to mitigate the risk. Those offering guidance include Jerry and Kamekona – am I being ungenerous in saying that these burly gentlemen are likely to have little useful to say about how to lead a healthy lifestyle? (Also there is Trump-supporting idiot Dog the Bounty Hunter, who can still go and eff himself.) Anyway, as part of the intervention Steve is obliged to have a stress evaluator to follow him around for a day. Turns out Steve’s job is stressful. Unfortunately, apart from one top-tier cargument (“Twice a week, and three at the most, and that’s if it’s someone’s birthday or something”) this storyline is too slight to justify the considerable amount of screen time devoted to it.

Directed, incidentally, by Tony Almeida.

Hooyah Watch: Hooyah!

Lethal Weapon s2 ep 5

A generously-built man, Howard Trotter, dies at a racetrack. Although we know that he was murdered, there isn’t much evidence of that – it looks like natural causes – until Howard’s friend persuades Murtaugh and Riggs to investigate further. The good news is that Howard’s friend is ethically-challenged attorney Leo Getz (Thomas Lennon), making a triumphant return to the show, this time bringing a giant mancrush on Murtaugh along for the ride. Every scene featuring Leo is, of course, an absolute delight.

But the darker side of Lethal Weapon is never too far away. In an apparently comedic plot development Riggs’s trailer is towed away, effectively leaving him homeless. This leads, though, to Riggs recalling further unhappy childhood events involving his father, and in turn to one scene when he, quite unexpectedly, uses a baseball bat to brutalise a suspect. Although Riggs now seems to have got over his dead wife, it looks as if season 2 is going to involve him confronting the memory of his father. It’s a great episode.

The Blacklist s5 ep 6

We’re taken back to 1989, specifically the day the Berlin Wall came down, and a hitman taking out a target. Jumping to the present day, Red tells Liz that a man called Mitchell Dunning has been marked out for assassination by this week’s Blacklisters, The Travel Agency, a loose alliance of killers-for-hire who have been dormant for 12 years. Dunning is killed before Ressler and Liz can protect him, and an investigation reveals a connection between the two victims. And something more; specifically, some clever monkeying around with timelines. The clue was there in the first scene; I spotted it, but didn’t appreciate its significance.

Meantime, Red and Tom come face-to-face to discuss the Suitcase O’Bones. I always enjoy their scenes together, as James Spader and Ryan Eggold are arguably the show’s best actors. Red warns Tom off. Tom ignores him. And Lena, Pete’s girlfriend, who was helping Tom last week, is threatened by Bucky out of Nashville, who tells her to stay away from Tom. But she doesn’t, which presumably means she’s dead next week. Liz and Tom get married. I thought they… already were? And Agent Cooper, with Red’s help, runs around trying to sort out the drug-related problems of Isaiah, the son of some friends of his. It has no connection whatever to the rest of the episode, or indeed the show, and is presumably there to give Cooper something to do, and to allow the show to make the point that, as Cooper tells Isaiah, “It’s the gospel truth that if you’re black in this country, and you say the wrong word, you can be killed.” A point always worth making, in fairness, but an uninspiring episode otherwise.

Hawaii Five-0 s8 ep 5

The Halloween episode, and there’s a lot going on. Fortunately, apart from the occasional costume (I can only echo Tani’s “What the hell…?” on seeing Jerry, dressed like an idiot) it’s action all the way. Steve is escorting our old friend Dr Alicia Brown (Claire Forlani) to court, where she’s standing trial for the murder of Madison Gray. She’s pleading self-defence… except, as she confesses to Steve, it was essentially an extra-judicial execution. Steve is perturbed by her apparent feelings of guilt: in what parallel world can’t he and his friends just run around shooting people who deserve it? And she has a daughter at home. What if you’re imprisoned, Dr Alicia? “Then”, she tells Steve, “I need to ask you to take care of her”. Huh? With Junior and that dog already under Steve’s wing, things are going to get pretty crowded chez Le Kahuna Grand.

Meantime, in the sort of utterly ridiculous Case of the Week which keeps me coming back to this show, there’s a killer on Oahu who seems to be re-enacting old Hawaiian folk tales. First to go is a pig importer whose death, as Tani informs an increasingly incredulous Danny, is an homage to a legend in which a fire goddess enters into a romantic relationship with, then splits from, a half-man half-pig demi-god. Danny can see why that might have happened: “He’s tracking hoof-mud all through the kitchen and the living room like an animal…” he sniffs. But when the killer follows up with a second death – this time the folk tale is something about trolls, I was about as interested as Danny – and then the kidnapping of a young girl, again apparently based on folklore, it’s clear that he grudgingly needs to take Tani more seriously.

But with no leads, what’s the Five-0 to do? Well, Steve has a word with the judge at Alicia’s trial, and no more than a few seconds later proceedings are halted in order that she can help find the killer. In the middle of her trial for murder. Alicia, at least, has the good grace to look baffled by this turn of events; but there’s no time for her to wonder about the state of the justice system in Hawaii, because she’s needed in the field.

And while all that’s going on, Grover has been summoned to Death Row in Florida State Prison, because Sebastian Wake, a multiple killer-for-hire who’s being executed in a matter of hours, wants to talk to him about something. Specifically, he wants to talk – in that even, ironic tone of voice which film and TV serial killers are obliged to possess – about Clay Maxwell. He, of course, is Grover’s former partner and bestie, who Grover firmly believes killed his wife, got away with it, then sent people after Grover to kill him as well. Well, now Grover’s listening. So, Wake says, if you can just get me a stay of execution I can tell you all about it…? Grover tries, but unsurprisingly the authorities aren’t having it, and Wake goes to his (unnecessarily gruesome, I’d say) death in the electric chair. But there’s a little post-death surprise for Grover anyway.

Back on Oahu, the abducted girl is found alive, but her kidnapper – who has a tragic backstory of her own – escapes, presumably to reappear later in the season. And Alicia gets offered a soft plea deal: probation with a condition she helps the Five-0. Which, together with the deal Adam Noshimuri got, suggests that Hawaii might be the best place in the whole USA to commit murder and get away with it. The final scene – suggesting that poor old Alicia and her daughter are about to be targeted yet again by yet another psycho-on-the-loose – was perhaps a bit much. Otherwise, though, this was excellent entertainment.

Lethal Weapon s2 ep 4

In an explicit homage to the legend of hijacker D.B. Cooper, an urbane criminal going by the name of Dan Cooper (Adrian Pasdar) robs the passengers of a private jet at gunpoint, then dons a parachute and jumps to safety. Although while doing so he’s tackled by one of the passengers, a man from whom he took a briefcase, and who ends up dead. Riggs thinks the whole thing is “awesome”.

It turns out that the steward on board the plane was Cooper’s daughter, which immediately suggests an inside job. And fatherhood is very much the theme this week. Murtaugh is having problems with teen daughter Riana, although most of the problems stem from his desperate desire to know everything about her life. Maybe it’s supposed to be endearing, given that it’s Murtaugh and Lethal Weapon, but it’s actually a little creepy. Dude. Back the eff off. Riggs is clearing out his trailer and gets rid of a rifle given to him by his father while his mother was dying. By the end of the episode it becomes clear that the rifle is bound up with another example of Riggs’s Secret Pain. And Santos is kvetching at Avery because he doesn’t command sufficient respect from his detectives, in a storyline for which I do not greatly care. The rest of the episode is great, though.