Scandal s7 ep 1

A quick reminder of where we are – President Mellie; VPOTUS Beene; Olivia as chief of staff; OPA is now QPA (Quinn, Perkins and Associates) – and we’re off, with Olivia in killer heels strutting the corridors of the White House soundtracked by Public Enemy’s incendiary ‘Fight The Power’. Even more amazingly, the rest of this multi-stranded, thrilling episode isn’t a let-down after that.

At the start of the episode, the priority for the Mellie/Olivia White House is getting enough votes to ensure the passage of Vargas’s bill to provide free college education. Cyrus is trying to persuade a senator that it’s for the good of the country, while Olivia is using the darker arts to blackmail into compliance a good ol’ boy Senator who calls her “missy”.

While that’s brewing, though, the cash-strapped QPA is consulted by a woman whose academic father, Professor Stewart, has gone missing in a made-up Middle Eastern country. Who could do such a thing to a well-meaning educator? Well, the Prof is, of course, one of the CIA’s leading assets in the region, and Jake – installed, more or less, as Olivia’s current FWB – advises that he’ll just have to be found and killed, as by now he’ll be in the hands of someone who’ll make him give up sensitive information about US activity. Olivia is disinclined to accept that advice, and insists that he has to be rescued instead. Jake is disappointed, reminding her (and us) that Olivia is also Command, which means taking hard and unpleasant decisions.

Meantime Cyrus is on manoeuvres: fed up with the duties of his office he’s tempted by a Senator into thinking that he should be sabotaging the education bill in order to revisit the topic as President in three or four years. After a pep-talk from Mellie, though, he’s back to being ride-or-die for the new President Grant. Except that the Senator who was trying to turn him was actually working for Olivia; and Cyrus, being Cyrus, will have known that. My hunch is that we won’t ever get to see President Beene, but who knows?

While that’s going on, Professor Stewart is still awaiting his fate. Jake steers around Olivia and goes straight to Mellie, persuading her that the Prof needs to be taken out. Olivia, of course, doesn’t take at all kindly to being cut out, so not only ensures that her plan will succeed, but puts Jake in his professional and personal place while she’s at it. Nevertheless, the sheer excitement of being all Presidential means that Mellie forgets herself and tells Olivia that she, Mellie, is the President, and that Olivia will have to toe the line. Nuh-uh, says Olivia; don’t ever lose sight of the fact that I’m the boss, and that if you want to ensure the success of the first ever female Presidency you’d better keep that in mind.

Of the show’s other villains: Papa Pope turns up, but just about keeps himself in check. There’s a new right-wing talk show host, Curtis Pryce (Jay Hernandez, Dante in Nashville s1), who Olivia doesn’t much like, but she beds him anyway. And we don’t see Fitz in person; we’re no more than reminded of his existence by a quote attributed to him, so presumably he’s in Vermont, either brooding or involved in at least of one of the ongoing plots. Even without Tony Goldwyn, though, I thought this was the best episode of Scandal for a long time, Years, probably.

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Public Service Announcement 49 of 2017: Scandal

Well, here’s a thing. I was starting to think about my preview for the seventh and final season of Scandal, and I decided to go back and look at my review of the final episode of season 6. Except… I didn’t publish it, and I have no idea why. None at all. Anyway, as we’ve said before, on Unpopcult we’re nothing if not completists, and while publishing a months-old review might look as if I’m taking that to a preposterous conclusion, I wrote the damn thing and I also believe in using every last bit of the pig. So it’s under this PSA.

And it reminds me that, ridiculous as much of the Peus/Ruland arc was – why not just kill them, for God’s sake? – there were definitely things in the sixth season which also entertained me. So I’m looking forward to Scandal’s final chapter, I’m hoping that Olitz in Vermont will be endgame, and I’ll be reviewing every week (tonight, 10pm, Sky Living).

Also starting tonight: season 4 of Peaky Blinders (9pm, BBC Two).

Scandal s6 ep 16

Mellie’s inaguration, and Maya is in the wind, having dug out her tracker implant thingy. Has there ever been, in TV history, a subcutaneous tracker which remained on its host? Which means that it’s time to panic: how to protect Mellie? Except Maya isn’t after Mellie at all; she’s trying to shoot someone else on the inauguration podium, the person who’s behind this season’s plot, the person who – clang! – suggested that her and Mellie’s children shouldn’t be up there. And thus Luna Vargas is unmasked as the Big Bad, as I predicted. I don’t claim any particular prescience: really, anyone who has been with Scandal since the start knows that there’s always a twist or three to come. It makes absolutely no sense, of course – none at all – but let’s not dwell.

Maya can’t get a shot off anyway, because Rowan gets to her first. So Mellie and Luna are inaugurated, a situation which can’t be allowed to stand. Olivia and Jake give it some thought, and decide that the best solution is… to kill Luna. And, again, I’m driven to wonder why we sat through several episodes of the Peus and Ruland Show, as Scandal’s assorted collection of homicidal maniacs scurried about in fear. Why not just kill someone, dudes? So that’s what Olivia – who boasts of previous when it comes to killing VPOTUSs – does: she gives Luna a couple of pills which offer a quick death, or she can get the Jake version. Except… did Olivia’s final conversation with Cyrus, now VP himself, leave room for a lingering doubt about whether Luna is actually dead? I wonder. Not with any great intensity, but I wonder.

Meantime at OPA – remember them? – Quinn is pregnant and toying with running away, but instead decides to stay; she and Abby are going to run the company, which has promise. And as Fitz has left the Oval for the final time as President, but not before Olivia has rushed across the White House lawn in order to vigorously make out with him in full view of the world’s media. Because… yeah, that’s what you’d do if you’re the former and current mistress of the outgoing President, and about to become Chief of Staff to his ex-wife as she takes over. Although Olivia can afford not to care: she’s ensured that B-613 has some funding, and she’s going to run it herself, as well as being Chief of Staff, making Olivia Pope the most powerful person in the White House and, by extension, the world.

Which brings this slightly odd season to a close. Assuming that one’s expectations of Scandal have, since season 2, been thoroughly recalibrated, and accepting that the quality levels are going to vary from episode to episode, on balance I was entertained more than annoyed by this season, which might be as much as I can expect these days. There seems little doubt that the “election” of President Trump – and even typing that is enough to induce internal bleeding – affected the show’s trajectory, as did Kerry Washington’s pregnancy. Anyway, one season to go. I’m expecting a spectacular bodycount.

The Good Doctor s1 ep 3

There’s a deserving patient in San Jose waiting for a liver; there’s a liver in San Francisco looking for a home; and there’s a time limit on introducing the latter to the former. Not for the first time, this episode of The Good Doctor revolves around a very well-worn medical drama plot device, and when Shaun and Dr Browne are helicoptered to San Fran to pick the organ up, it’s no surprise that they can’t fly back, thus putting Oliver The Liver in mortal danger (I was expecting mechanical failure; I got fog).

So with the clock ticking, and the liver in a cooler, it’s time for a hepatic road trip. But here’s where things start to get interesting. Chuck, the identified recipient, is waiting at St. Bonaventure with his family, but a test reveals that he’s had some alcohol in the past six months, in defiance of hospital policy for would-be liver transplantees. This is a problem, as Chuck probably only has three months to live without a transplant. Although Chuck’s daughter, who gave him a glass of champagne at her graduation and who is, therefore, somewhat in the frame, seems determined to at least try to share the blame around. “If you let him die, I will have killed my father”, she snaps at poor Dr Melendez – well, yes, lady, should have thought of that – who has go to one of those panels where you argue for a patient to get precedence. All this while – perhaps a little on-the-nosely, but nonetheless a point worth making – a rich patient, a potential hospital donor, is getting the full service for mouth cancer, despite ostentatiously jamming a cigar in his oligarchic maw.

And meantime, on the road, there are all sorts of liverish problems which require to be addressed: the cooler is heating (answer: a Slushy); the liver has a clot (answer: field surgery with a straw); Browne can’t communicate with Shaun… not so easy, although it turns out he doesn’t like direct questions or police cars with blue flashing lights. So will they get the liver to Chuck in time, and will Chuck still be there to welcome it into his stomach cavity? The answer to the former wasn’t unexpected, but I didn’t see the denouement coming at all. And even the flashbacks hit home this week. I thought this was the best episode so far, and by quite some distance at that.

Public Service Announcement 48 of 2017: Howards End; Grey’s Anatomy; The Sinner

In yet another example of just how big a deal TV is these days, the BBC tonight kicks off its four-part adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howards End, with a screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan. That’s Academy Award-winning Kenneth Lonergan. Hayley Attwell, Tracey Ullman, Matthew Macfadyen, and Julia Ormond are among the cast. I loved the book and the Merchant/Ivory film adaptation. I don’t think, though, I’m quite going to have the time for this (tonight, BBC 1, 9pm).

And a couple we missed: old warhorse Grey’s Anatomy, back for its fourteenth season (Wednesdays, 9pm, Sky Living); and The Sinner, from the USA Network, starring Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman, in which Biel plays a woman who murders someone in public but has no idea why she did so. It’s supposed to be very good (all episodes on Netflix).

The Good Doctor s1 ep 2

It continues to be difficult to know what to make of The Good Doctor. On one hand, I’m entirely prepared to accept that Freddie Highmore’s performance as Dr Shaun Murphy is excellent, and that the programme’s portrayal of someone with autism is, if not entirely novel, nonetheless both radical and welcome.

On the other, though, it’s in the service of a show which, thus far, is relying very heavily on a sort of greatest hits of the genre; Now That’s What I Call A Medical Drama, if you will. So this week we were treated to the following: residents (Browne and Kalu) taking the credit for someone else’s (Shaun, inevitably) brilliant idea; a young doctor ordering unnecessary tests, being told not to, and consequently putting a patient’s life in danger; another young doctor promising a patient “You’re not gonna die!”, at which point you can start the countdown to a Major Crisis; a patient falling ill outside the hospital but there’s No Time To Call An Ambulance; and so on.

Meantime the Good Doctor’s USP himself, Shaun, is strolling the halls blurting out things like “It’s definitely malignant!” to terrified patients, and having to be coached on what sarcasm is, which (a) is a skill he’s gonna need to acquire in order to be able to follow the dialogue in any medical drama with a brilliant but arrogant hotshot doctor, which is all of them; but (b) something he must, presumably, have encountered at some point in his journey to adulthood, perhaps during his training?

Once again, though, I did quite enjoy it. And, damn it, any show which concludes with the peerless Beach House on the soundtrack knows how to push my buttons.

Private Eyes s2 ep 9

K-pop spoilers

Shade and Angie are hired by a distraught client to investigate the disappearance of her son Pete, an army cadet who has gone AWOL from his training camp. Using Becca’s morning show as a pretext to get onto the base – an item about keeping fit the army way, or something – Shade drops and gives them thirty, while Angie discovers that Pete and two of his friends went missing for two hours during a training exercise. The friends are saying nothing. But data from their GPS trackers point to the three of them having been in a nearby forest at the crucial time.

Which means that Angie and Shade are going into the woods. Together. In the middle of the Canadian winter. Well, any of us could write what happened next. And, in fact, I did; I texted CJ to say “I’m thinking no mobile signal, having to huddle together for warmth…”. OK, as it turned out I got the second bit wrong. But the rest of it falls into place: they make their way to the location, and find an abandoned van with cash which looks as if it came from a bank robbery. But then Shade injures himself, meaning that they’re stuck for the night, and Angie reports that she can’t get a signal.

Huddle time, then…? Not quite. Not yet. But, winding back a bit: relationship drams update. Shade hasn’t yet introduced Mel to Jules, causing the former a certain amount of internal bleeding, it would seem. On the other hand: they’ve been only dating for two months, and as I’ve been off the market for decades I have no idea what’s normal these days. But… it doesn’t seem that long to me. Meantime, Angie is ducking and diving, trying to avoid Dr Ken, his weird pass-ag retention and “hiding” of a souvenir from his first attempt to put a ring on it, and his possible marriage proposal. So they have a bit to talk about, do Shade and Angie. And as they talk, listening to some light jazz on Shade’s phone, they look at each other, start to lean in… then the music changes from jazz to K-pop and the Moment is lost.

The case is solved – and it’s one of the show’s better plots, in fairness – but we need closure on the Shared Moment, don’t we? So… Angie, with the air of a woman who’s made a decision, drives over to Shade’s house, but on looking in the window sees that Mel has now been permitted to occupy the same spaces as Jules. Happy smiles from the Shade family. And a rueful smile from Angie, if not from me. I realise that just about all of these will-they-won’t-they plots depend on the inability of attractive, articulate, and (more or less) eligible grown-ups to use their damn words, but STILL.

Which is where we need to leave the Eyes for now, because it now goes into a mid-season “hiatus” which is going to last for months: the rest of season 2 will be shown next year, and the show has been renewed for a third season which presumably won’t be shown until… 2019? Not gonna pretend to understand this. Private Eyes remains, though, a welcome little outpost of sweetness and warmth and… niceness, in a world which seems to be increasingly drained of all three, which is why we’ll be back for more just as soon as they’re ready to give it to us.