Madam Secretary s5 ep 20

When this episode was being made, it looked quite possible that it would have to function as a series, as well as season, finale. (Mad Sec has, of course, since been renewed for a sixth and final ten-episode season.) With that in mind, the writers clearly decided to leave everything on the field.

We’re at the final stage of nailing down the treaty on climate change migration: Russia and China are holdouts, but brought back into line quickly enough. Elizabeth then officially tenders her resignation, but stays in post long enough to go before the Foreign Relations Committee and bitch-slap Senator Luke Wheeler out of Nashville, then twist the arm of another Senator into supporting the treaty. With that, POTUS has the numbers in the Senate as well; the deal is done.

And that. it appears, is pretty much Mad Sec’s job done as well, and all that’s left is for her formally to announce her candidature for the White House. In anticipation Mike B has Daisy and Blake vetting Elizabeth’s kids: Blake is a bit rough on Stevie, and takes her out for a drink to apologise. They’re getting on well, and then they’re standing outside the bar, perhaps a little closer together than necessary, and all of a sudden you know where this is going… and they TOTALLY KISS. This possibility hadn’t even been on my radar until this episode, and now I am HERE for it. (They wind back to “platonic” later. Hmph.)

But there’s one final foreign policy crisis to be handled, and it’s a big one: so big, in fact, that it… kind of gets underplayed a little? Anyway, the UN Security Council, including Ambassador Peter Harriman, is meeting in Geneva. But a white nationalist terrorist group murders the entire Security Council with sarin. The entire Security Council. I mean, that’s not the sort of thing you can just… move on from? Anyway, this starts to scare off some treaty signatories, with a view to their own domestic politics; particularly when Luke Wheeler basically says that the terrorists have a point and that he’ll cancel the treaty if elected.

Cometh the hour, though: Russian Foreign Secretary Avdonin clearly wants to do business with Elizabeth rather than Luke, and tips her off that the Wheeler campaign has been bought. One very quick investigation later there’s a money trail from Russian oligarchs to a Wheeler Super PAC; and, unlike in real life, evidence of Russian support for a campaign is enough to knock the candidate out. Elizabeth then tries to walk back her resignation – the country needs her, etc. – but POTUS tells her to get out there and secure their legacy. Which she does: or, at least, she declares, and presumably we’ll get to see the outcome in the final season.

It’s an excellent end to another good season; perhaps it sagged a little in the second half of the run, but Madam Secretary continues to be a reliable source of grown-up pleasure: a thoughtful, intelligent, well-acted drama. The writers maybe wore their hearts on their sleeves more explicitly this time round, but these are not normal times, so I’ll forgive them that one.


Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 21

An odd little episode starts with someone being cremated alive – EW EW EW – but then immediately takes its time with a couple of diversions, neither of which are all that interesting. Steve and Danny end up as custodians of a cat, left in the will of the woman whose flat they used for a stakeout in a season 5 episode. And Lou and Adam go for breakfast, during which Lou lets Adam know that he, Adam, will always be able to look to him, Lou, for emotional support…? I mean, it might have been Mental Health Day in the States when this was shown, or something? I dunno. I feel as if I missed something important.

And the really weird thing is that, when the show finally returns to the A-plot, it’s potentially a good one: the deceased was a sort-of PI who was investigating the disappearance, 24 years ago, of a toddler, all of which suggests that he was getting uncomfortably close to solving the case. Unfortunately the main plot beats are covered in about two minutes at the iTable, which means that the big emotional climax didn’t feel earned. At least Tani has asked Junior to be her escort at a wedding – just as friends, it’s not a date – which means that in a couple of weeks we’re going to see their faces when each realises that the other scrubs up rather well, and maybe they’ll make out.

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.