Public Service Announcement 17 of 2017: The Blacklist

Now that The Blacklist: Redemption has finished its run, The Blacklist is returning, with Dembe the Blacklister of the Week in the next episode. Given what happened before the hiatus I can’t see that ending well.

As for Redemption: it hasn’t been renewed, and I can see why not. I watched it all. I quite liked it. The characters were interesting, as were the plots. But it stubbornly refused to take off. That does give the main show’s writers a few opportunities, though, particularly given that Redemption’s final episode was clearly designed to open up the possibility of a second season. It’s been announced that Ryan Eggold is returning to the parent show, and Scottie and Solomon have already been Blacklisters, so the crossover is in place. Moreover Howard Hargrave (Terry O’Quinn) hasn’t yet featured, nor has quantum computing genius Richard Whitehall (Clarke Peters), and given that The Blacklist itself has been renewed for another season I wouldn’t be surprised to see Halcyon Aegis featuring again (Wednesday 24 May, 9pm, Sky 1).

Person of Interest s5 ep 13

Machine vs Samaritan spoilers

POI_0513_Reese

“Everyone dies alone. But if you mean something to someone, if you help someone, or love someone. If even a single person remembers you. Then maybe, you never really die at all.” – The Machine

The final episode, and therefore the final battle between The Machine and Samaritan, which it would be reductive to call a fight between good and evil; as we have seen, Person of Interest, and real life for that matter, are more complex than that. The Ice-9 virus is causing worldwide havoc, but Samaritan is scrambling to stay alive: first, it uploads a virus-free copy of itself into the Federal Reserve, then to a satellite, with a view to downloading itself back to Earth when Ice-9 has run its course. Meantime there are Samaritan agents everywhere, with Jeff Blackwell having established himself as a particularly nasty little piece of work: he stabs Fusco and shoots Shaw, with Finch also taking a bullet from a Samaritan operative.

The Machine tells Finch that the only way to kill Samaritan once and for all is to upload, from a building in New York City, a copy of The Machine to the same satellite as Sam, where they can kill each other off. Only problem: Samaritan is aware of the plan, and has targeted a missile on the building from where the uploading is to take place, meaning that whoever does it will end up dead. Finch, of course, won’t allow anyone else to offer themselves for a suicidal task, so locks Reese in a vault in the Federal Reserve and heads off. But when he gets to the building specified by The Machine he realises that he’s on the rooftop of the wrong one, and looks over to see Reese on top of a neighbouring building: with the help of an unusually playful Machine, Reese has arranged to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and for Finch.

And this means that, perhaps surprisingly but nonetheless gratifyingly, everyone in Team Machine does get a happy ending, of one sort or another. The Machine itself destroys Samaritan and then manages to download itself from the satellite back onto Earth. Although Root is dead, it’s pretty clear that The Machine, with her voice, is really just Root reborn, a point which is driven home this week by having Amy Acker appear as, well, The Machine. Fusco lives, and as we saw in last week’s Sliding Machines counterfactual history, his life has been transformed for the better by his encounter with the team. Shaw has also survived, unrepentantly shoots Blackwell in cold blood, now seems to be The Machine’s go-to human (in a scene which takes us full circle from the pilot), and gets custody of the dog.

But the show’s OTP, Finch and Reese, get the happiest endings of all. Reese doesn’t survive his act of sacrifice; in fact, Samaritan’s foot-soldiers get to him before the missile does. But he, more than anyone else, has been saved and redeemed by The Machine and by Finch; his work for The Machine has been a resurrection of sorts, and he knows it. Little on this show has been more moving than Reese’s satisfied half-smile on getting his final sight of Finch, which is Finch accepting that his own destiny is to survive. And Finch himself does what he’s been spared to do: Samaritan having been vanquished, he can allow himself to return to something like normal life, part of which means revealing himself to Grace.

It’s fitting that Person of Interest finish its run with yet another remarkable, memorable, and emotional episode. Everything works: it’s no surprise that the acting and writing are terrific, but on top of that ‘return 0’ is given a subtly different look and sound (the evocative and haunting Philip Glass music is quite something in the context of the episode) which gives the episode an additional significance befitting the series finale of a show as great as this one. In the network TV hierarchy I’d put Person of Interest in just behind The West Wing and The Good Wife, although you could argue that its exploration of complicated and important ideas was, at times, even more challenging. Either way it isn’t going to be forgotten, which, as The Machine told us, means that it’ll never really die.

Public Service Announcement 16 of 2017: Twin Peaks

When Twin Peaks first appeared on our screens, I was a teenager and UK tv only had four channels. Tucked away on BBC 2 on a Tuesday night, I have a feeling I missed it at first – I could be wrong, but I think I started watching a couple of episodes in and was probably even more bewildered than everyone else as a result. As soon as I did see it though, I was fascinated.

Beautiful, strange and terrifying, I had never seen anything like it. As the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer unfolded, the show got weirder and crazier and even scarier – by the end it was completely demented – but flawed though it was, its place in tv history and in my consciousness was assured. I wouldn’t call myself a superfan or anything even close; OK, I do have “Falling” as my phone’s ringtone because modern technology means you can do that kind of thing, but I found The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer deeply unpleasant and I never even tried to watch Fire Walk With Me. Which makes me a complete lightweight in terms of Twin Peaks fandom – I’ll not be dressing up as the Log Lady any time soon. But something about the show still got under my skin and stayed there, the effects both immediate and long-term – for months after it ended, I was genuinely frightened of looking in the bathroom mirror; and now, decades have passed but sometimes, if it’s very late and very dark and I’m at the sink, I still have to tamp down a shiver and force myself to look up.

All of which means I’m both excited and more than a little scared that, almost twenty-six years after the second season of Twin Peaks ended, we’re getting a third one. Correctly deducing that any delay would be a bad idea, Sky Atlantic is showing episodes 1 and 2 of Twin Peaks: The Return in a simulcast with Showtime tonight/early Monday morning at 2AM and, as a special bonus for UK viewers, making episodes 3 and 4 available on demand immediately afterwards. For old times’ sake, it’ll also have a prime-time slot on Tuesday at 9pm, which is either a cute nod to the original UK timeslot or a very creepy coincidence. Either way, I’ll be watching. And hopefully reviewing an ep or two at least, but we’ll see how we go.

Hawaii Five-0 s7 ep 20

In the Case of the Week, returning veteran PI Harry Brown is carrying out surveillance on a woman named Celine, on the instructions of her husband Tom, a wealthy older man, who suspects his wife of infidelity. While Harry is watching, though, Celine is abducted and bundled into a car. The usual demands ensue – money, don’t tell the cops, etc. – but Harry involves the Five-0. Unfortunately Tom declines to pay the ransom, so the same gang abduct Tom’s mistress Natasha, then when they’re all tracked down to a nearby house the kidnappers push Celine out of the front door wearing a remotely-detonatable bomb vest, thus ensuring that they can escape with Natasha. Which means that Celine is dispensable both to her husband and her abductors, which is kind of a kick in the teeth if you think about it.

Anyway, this time Tom is prepared to pony up, and the kidnappers – credit where due – come up with a pretty cool mechanism for delivering the ransom money. That having been said I’d surmise that the majority of kidnappings in TV procedurals are inside jobs, so it’s really just a matter of guessing who – husband, wife, mistress – has been behind it all along. Harry works it out before the Five-0, with the benefit of just a little retconning.

Danny’s present this week, but distracted throughout: his ex-wife is divorcing Stan, who thinks that she’s still in love with Danny. And Danny, on the face of it, has feelings for her. But he also has a girlfriend, of course. Ruh-roh. A thoroughly enjoyable episode, with Harry kibitzing during the Steve/Danny exchanges, and adding a bit of spice while doing so.

This episode was brought to you by: Kona Big Wave Ale, the choice of kidnappers.

Nashville s5 ep 3

It looks more and more as if this is indeed a change of direction for Nashville. Nor is it obviously budget-driven: it appears to me more like a conscious attempt by the former thirtysomething head honchos Herskovitz and Zwick to turn Nashville into a quieter, more intimate drama, with the music business pushed into the foreground again, and doubling as an extended family for the main characters.

And one sign that the new showrunners are doing something right: the most fun storyline of the week probably belongs – although I can’t quite believe I’m saying this – to Older Girl. Deacon has managed to wangle her an internship at a recording studio, where Avery is producing an album, on which Deacon is also a hired hand, by very modestly talented YouTube sensation Ashley Willerman. Now, Ashley has a clear idea of what she wants to do – and it isn’t what Avery thinks she should be doing – and is also a little high-maintenance, although in truth no more than most recording artists. That she falls short of insufferability is probably in part due to Bridgit Mendler’s layered and nuanced performance as Ashley.

Avery, unhappy that Ashley won’t take his advice, walks out of the studio (“I thought I was bad”, Juliette observes, when Avery tells her the story), and OG – head turned, perhaps, by the handsome street musician playing outside the studio – manages to keep screwing up Ashley’s lunch and coffee orders, and when Ashley overreacts OG calls her a bitch and gets the sack. Which, y’know. As Younger Girl says to OG later, regarding her getting Ashley’s orders wrong, “Isn’t that your job?”

OG isn’t for budging until Deacon has a word with her, which is less appealing as a storyline: the premise is that Deacon is walking on eggshells around OG because of the evidence she gave at her emancipation hearing, evidence which we’re now all expected to accept was untruthful. Dudes, I was there, and I haven’t forgotten: Deacon’s behaviour throughout season 4 was more or less entirely insufferable, and it’s reasonable that OG should have been frightened of him. But OG apologises to Deacon (“I’m not blameless in all this”, says Deacon, which understates matters somewhat if you ask me) then to Ashley, who accepts it graciously; and OG-the-intern is back in place. Nicely done, all in all, and I look forward to seeing more of Ms Mendler.

Nothing else works quite as well, although – with one exception – it’s far from unsatisfactory. The Exes need a video to relaunch their careers. Will is moving in with Kevin. Juliette starts to regain some feeling in her legs, and visits Hallie: after we get the crassness of Juliette’s gift to Hallie of a new car out of the way, it looks as if this storyline will indeed be about Juliette and religious faith, which could be interesting. The episode was let down by Nerd, whose name I still haven’t caught, stealing some trinket from Rayna’s office when she’s not there, and I already KNOW just HOW MUCH this arc is going to annoy me. That aside, though, I liked ‘Let’s Put It Back Together Again’ quite a lot.

Spin (Les Hommes de l’ombre) s3 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

It looks like the worst may be behind us as, with just one ep to go, Spin seems to have moved from truly awful to merely comme ci comme ça.

Focussing on les femmes, first – Appolline has a busy time of it this week, being rescued by French commandos, returning to the enthusiastic (the face-stroking is back!) embrace of Simon and his Petite Princesse, and filling French intelligence – no stopping them now Palissy’s “had to resign for medical reasons” – in on Jennifer/Ayesha’s activities. Jennifer/Ayesha herself is running around Paris up to no good, and not best pleased to hear that her charge is at large. Clemence Parodi is apparently so overwhelmed with love for Le Prés (come on) that she has to return to Paris to check out his soft furnishings (not a euphemism), argue with his wife and kiss him in front of windows some more, because nobody in this show ever learns ANYTHING. And despite Ludo’s misgivings – “it’s not the classiest” approach, he points out, and you know you have un problème when Ludo thinks something’s not classy – Anne-Marie goes full Alexis Carrington and outs Deleuvre by text message at some kind of right-wing Primary candidates’ assembly, which is horrible, sad and, given how nonchalant she is while doing it, slightly bizarre. In terms of both nonchalance and bizarreness, however, that scene has nothing on the subsequent one where Deleuvre walks up to La Carrere in the street, and slaps her across the visage, while Ludo just stands there looking non-plussed. I didn’t expect him to break out the judo moves, but not even an “Annie, are you ok?” Ludo? Vraiment?

Apart from Ludo, though, whom I expect just wants this to be over as much as I do, it’s all systems go for the rest of les hommes. Le Prés has a bone-achingly tiresome confrontation with his dreadful wife, having her dragged in by the Secret Service so he can ask her for a divorce then yelling at her because she agrees to it. (FFS, man, if you wanted the divorce to be in a couple of months, you should have waited a couple of months to ask her for it. Idiote.) Ban-Kapita Moon intervenes to secure peace in the Élysée once again, and possibly peace across the world with Marianne Joly the quid pro quo for the brief extension to the Marjorie marriage. Because somebody remembered this show is supposed to be about politics rather than the world’s least compelling marital woes, Marjorie and Simon then decide to distract from his love triangle problem, his third Prime Minister in three weeks problem *and* his trailing-in-the-polls-might-not-make-it-through-the-Primaries-problem by launching a referendum on massive constitutional change because that type of gamble always goes swimmingly for folk, n’est-ce pas? And, having been told not to pass go and certainly not to collect €200 on his way out of both his jobs, Palissy tries to shore up his alliance with Beaugendre who’s about as interested in that idea as I am. *Shrugs* You know I’m just here out of contrariness now. One to go!

Scandal s6 ep 13

Thirteen episodes into a sixteen-episode season, and the Big Bads are finally taken on and defeated, a problem to which it really didn’t take that long to work out a solution. Which brings me back to the point I’ve been making for a while: if it’s always just been a matter of killing Peus and Ruland, that really isn’t much of a challenge for the Scandal gang.

And so it proves: Peus ups the ante a little by posting drones (yay!) over nine American cities and exploding a couple of them in the hope of regaining control of “his” President. Ruland, still in custody, is punched by Rosen, supposedly because he’s in such a state of grief and fury about the death of Elizabeth, whom he didn’t actually like much; or, indeed, at all. Ruland gets sprung by Rowan, apparently in terror of his kidnappers, but it is – of course – a set-up; it enables Jake to track and kill Peus, and Rowan stabs Ruland with a dinosaur-tooth fossil. I can’t even.

In fairness, the show has continued to make its points about gender and race. “A woman in power is a nasty woman”, Olivia snarls at Mellie at one point, when observing that there was every possibility that the Oval could have been handed to Cyrus, someone recently in jail under suspicion of assassination, rather than Mellie. The provenance, and point, of the line is clear: no matter how unsuitable for office a man might be, he’s always going to have an unfair advantage over the most ferociously well-qualified woman. And the apparent breaking of Rowan’s resistance by his captors always had racial overtones, given a nasty spin by Peus this week when he confirms that Rowan has been “emancipated”.

It’s possible – given the sort of criminal infrastructure which enabled a nine-city drone attack – that the deaths of Peus and Ruland aren’t going to be enough to wipe out their organisation. (I’d still be keeping a close eye on the Widow Vargas, now installed as the prospective VPOTUS.) And it may well be that unexpected real-life events forced Shonda into a late change of direction, meaning that the season’s major plot arc was a little rushed. It’s still remarkably unsatisfactory. This week’s announcement that season 7 will be the last of Scandal at least gives the writers a chance to let the show go out on something approaching a high.