Mary Kills People s1 ep 1

Canadian ER doctor Mary Harris (the excellent Caroline Dhavernas) does indeed kill people, although only those who volunteer for it. Along with her assistant Des (Richard Short) she provides a discreet assisted suicide service to the terminally ill, who are in turn referred to her by a nurse who discreetly makes patients aware of their end-of-life options. She is apparently motivated mostly by principle: she does charge people, but that, she explains, is so she knows her customers are serious. And, in order to reinforce that point, we see her at work in the ER going above and beyond to save the life of a young man who has been stabbed. At home, she has two daughters; a tetchy relationship with her ex-husband, who seems to be just a little bit of a jerk; and a stash of mercy-killing drugs under a floorboard in a hut in her garden.

She also has a new referral: Joel, terminally ill with a brain tumour. But her secret side hustle is under threat: her daughter and a friend find the drugs in her hut; the dealer who sells the drugs to Des clearly doesn’t think Des is buying them for personal use; the grieving widow of her last client has found a leaflet with (I think) her phone humber on it; and, perhaps worst of all, the cops are on to her. Rather like Dexter, another show in which noble cause homicide was at the centre, one imagines that watching her outpace her pursuers will be a significant theme. The way, mind you, in which she deals with her daughter’s understandable questions about why she has a supply of a euthanasia drug is COLD. And funny.

I was spoiled for the twist at the end, although had I not been I don’t think I would have seen it coming. Anyway, I absolutely loved this, although it won’t be for everyone. The subject matter – well, the morality seems relatively straightforward to me, but your mileage will vary. And the humour is very black – the opening scene is an assisted suicide which goes wrong, meaning that Mary needs to find a quick and dirty alternative to the pentobarbital-laced sparkling wine she normally uses. But this is a very good show indeed, and I’m not sure it’s that far short of being – potentially – a great one.


Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 20

A teenage girl, maybe 15 or so, buys a .38 handgun from a junkie. Also present at the sale is an old friend of Junior’s, who clearly feels uncomfortable – you’d think, wouldn’t you? – and tells the Five-0, who are immediately on alert for someone to be killed. And, sure enough, the next day one Michael Carrigan is found dead, having been shot with a .38.

As the Five-0 try to find the girl, then the motive, then solve the case, the present-day action is interspersed with flashbacks to other crimes: Steve’s father and Duke being shot in 1983; a holdup in a convenience store in 2010, the day before Danny started with the Five-0; and an incident in 2015 which finally persuaded Tani that she needed to disentangle herself from her criminal associates. The same gun, of course, was involved in all of these incidents – and quite a few others, it’s a “community gun”, a phrase which is new to me – and once the Five-0 finally have their hands on it they can start to solve quite a few cold cases.

It’s a smart, fast-moving episode. It would be easy to think that the Five-0 writers’ room can turn out episodes like this between slices of pizza, but I rather suspect that would understate the craft and industry involved.

Madam Secretary s5 ep 19

Although Elizabeth has not yet officially announced her Presidential run – a run which the show’s renewal for a sixth, ten-episode, season means we will see – she has started to assemble her campaign team. Unsurprisingly, her campaign team is more or less the same as her team in the State Department, plus Mike B and minus Nina, who in declining to work for her proposed new boss – a well-known groper – will eventually bring him down. Elizabeth is courted by Democrats and Republicans to seek their party’s nomination, although she decides to follow POTUS and run as an independent. And Luke Wheeler out of Nashville announces that he’s seeking the GOP nomination, running on a populist-nationalist platform.

There’s also a little State business to be handled. But, this week, only a little. China has broken an international embargo by selling a fighter jet to Myanmar, which is oppressing the Rohingya people. Elizabeth spars, more or less amiably, with her old foe Foreign Minister Ming, then tries to have the treatment of the Rohingya classified by the UN as genocide.

The main action, though, revolves around a newspaper story that Elizabeth and Conrad had an affair while working together at the CIA. Elizabeth denies it, and to start with Mike B thinks they should just ignore the story and make no comment. Since this advice is very evidently insane Elizabeth will, in due course, go on the record with her rebuttal. However, Henry wavers just a little – of course he believes Elizabeth, but would there be any, uh, evidence of this affair you definitely weren’t having? – and for a few delicious minutes I was prepared to consider the possibility that it  might have happened. However, Conrad also denies it, so I suppose that’s that. An entertaining episode, but it would have been even better if the final scene had been Elizabeth and Conrad in the Oval, with one of them saying to the other “Think we got away with it, then?”. That might have introduced an air of jeopardy to a show which is occasionally a little short on real tension.

Public Service Announcement 30 of 2019: Mary Kills People, The Bad Seed, Years And Years

If the schedules are anything to go by, at some point our hypothetical spinoff project, Unpopcommonwealth, might become a reality. We had Coroner at the start of the year; The Heart Guy has just finished; Cardinal is ongoing; and we’re expecting Private Eyes in June.

And here, tonight, are a couple more shows from the corners of what used to be the Empire. Mary Kills People, from Canada, is a black comedy about an ER doctor (Caroline Dhavernas, so good in Hannibal), who has a side hustle: assisting the suicide of the terminally ill. This first season aired back in 2017 in Canada, and attracted generally good reviews and a shit-ton of nominations at the Canadian Screen Awards. You know, I have a feeling that this might be worth a look (9pm, More 4).

New Zealand, meantime, offers us The Bad Seed, a five-part psychological thrillers based on books by Charlotte Grimshaw. Dean O’Gorman from The Almighty Johnsons is in the cast, as one of two brothers with a shared dark history. No idea whether it’s any good (9pm, Alibi).

And plucky little Britain fights back with Years And Years, a BBC/HBO/Canal+ co-production written by Russell T. Davies and starring actual Academy Award winner Emma Thompson. It’s a family drama which takes us into an increasingly dystopian future. Again, I have no idea whether it’s any good or not, but I expect that we’ll all be getting told tomorrow that it’s a work of genius (9pm, BBC One).

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 19

The Five-0 is called out to investigate the murder of a window cleaner, found with his harness cut at the foot of a building. His uniform, though, carries the name of a non-existent company, raising the question of whether he’s just pretending to be a window cleaner… which he is. Sometimes you just don’t connect with an hour of TV, even an episode of a show you like, and I’m afraid the tangled tale of the window cleaner/street artist/political activist left me a little cold. I did, though, like Jerry’s crime scene modelling drone, because I’m always here for a drone.

There’s also an undercooked B-plot, in which Lou and Adam pick up the case of a murder victim who was also robbed, post mortem, of his valuable vintage Aloha shirt. (Brought to you by Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts, Honolulu.) And… oh, I don’t know, something about Junior’s dead sister. Not feeling it, I’m afraid. Still – and I’m genuinely pleased about this, even if it might not look that way from this review – the show has been renewed for a tenth season, which is good news.

Public Service Announcement 29 of 2019: Cardinal, The Society, Lucifer

Intriguing Canadian police drama Cardinal is back for its third season this weekend. If the first two seasons are anything to go by it’ll be a taut and nasty thriller, conspicuously well acted by the leads, Billy Campbell as Cardinal and Karine Vanasse as Delorme. I am also shipping them, although given that Cardinal’s wife REDACTED herself – or did she? – at the end of season 2 I have already braced myself for this as a likely example of TV’s latest unwelcome trend, a STUPID DEAD WIFE who gets in the way of a PERFECTLY GOOD SHIP (Saturday, BBC 4, 9pm, double-bills).

Netflix’s latest pitch for the YA market, The Society, drops today. It’s exec produced by Christopher Keyser (Party of Five) and Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, a couple of Spider-Men, Limitless), who also directs the first two episodes. It’s about a group of teenagers who are transported to a facsimile of their hometown, sans adults, and if it’s even halfway decent – and perhaps not even that – it looks as if it might have “cult” written all over it.

And Netflix also has, as of now, the fourth season of Lucifer, which it picked up after Fox cancelled it. I’m still watching season 3 week-by-week, and I’m doing my best to keep myself from being spoiled, so I have no idea where s4 might go. However, from what I’ve seen so far of the third season the quality remains high, so once I’ve finished that I will be very much HERE for more #Deckerstar.

Madam Secretary s5 ep 18

The episode starts with Elizabeth rehearsing an important, yet dull, speech on climate change and related migration. And after a string of important, yet dull, episodes of Madam Secretary, I’m afraid my heart didn’t leap with joy. I know I should be a better person, but in all honesty I come to this show to be entertained, and the second half of the season has been a little too didactic for my tastes.

Unexpectedly, though, the episode takes off from there. Poland starts to make noises about pulling out of Elizabeth’s climate migration deal, and other central and eastern European you tries threaten to follow suit. In an attempt to shore up her position she asks an old acquaintance, Lena, a Polish academic, to make a speech in support. However, Lena is then the subject of an assassination attempt, which appears to be a black-ops job ordered by Polish intelligence. The President wants sanctions on Poland, but the Foreign Relations Committee – chaired, of course, by future Presidential candidate Senator Luke Wheeler out of Nashville – says no.

Meantime Elizabeth is insistent that Lena – a Polish national, but an American resident – should be extracted from Poland. There are all sorts of problems with this; it’s one thing to rattle sabres with an enemy, but Poland is a fellow-member of NATO. In the face of Russell’s objections, POTUS gives the go-ahead. The extraction is successful, and the diplomatic shit hits the fan. And just to complicate things at home Alison, Elizabeth’s daughter, is dating Lucas, Morejon’s son. Henry and Morejon have a sit-down at which they agree that family is off-limits, and Henry tries to persuade Morejon to back away from Senator Luke Wheeler’s populism. Which he does; and, I say again, I can now totally see Morejon as Elizabeth’s running mate. 

Amazingly, Elizabeth pulls it all together, which prompts Russell to tell her that she’s ready for the Oval. So she tenders her resignation to Dalton in order that she can officially run. 

I was bored by the first five minutes of this episode, and thrilled by the rest. Even the C-plot – in which UN Ambassador Harriman gives Elizabeth’s assistant Nina a pep-talk about how working-class grafters like them always succeed, because they can’t afford to fail – looks unassuming to start with, but is solid gold.