Yellow jackets at the ready! Keeping Faith, last year’s surprise hit from BBC Wales, returns for its second English-language season tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9pm, the Welsh version having already been shown on S4C earlier this year. The first season was ideal summer viewing – if not always entirely focussed; the story did quite a bit of meandering in the middle – with its feisty heroine plunged into utter chaos by the disappearance of her seemingly perfect husband, against a background of bizarre gangsters, corrupt cops and lying in-laws who lie, but the ending was somewhat unsatisfying, concentrating as it did on leaving things open for a second season instead of finishing off the one we already had. The only way REDACTED should have shown up was in a body bag, as far as I’m concerned. But we are where we are. Eve Myles is great, I have a sizeable crush on Mark Lewis Jones’s Steve Baldini and the Welsh scenery is just gorgeous – so, whether REDACTED’s back or not, I’m looking forward to season two. I don’t think we’ll be doing weekly reviews, unless Jed takes a notion, though, so comments will be welcome on this thread if anyone’s with me.
Angie’s mum’s secret plastic surgeon boyfriend is sweet, supportive and in big trouble: someone’s hacked into his computer system and is holding his patient files for ransom. What to do? Get Everett and Shade on the case, of course, even if Angie is acutely suspicious of anything or anyone to do with her mum, and Shade is having some parental issues himself, although they happen to be with his (ever so slightly doing my head in this week) offspring as opposed to his mum or dad. “No matter where they come from, parents and kids drive each other crazy” is very much the theme of the episode then, which is fair enough, but the show’s insistence on fitting every aspect of this week’s story and sub-plots into it doesn’t do anyone any favours. You know I love Private Eyes, and I wanted to like this one, but the “parents / kids” thing takes it down a convoluted, torturous route and ties up the case of the week in a way that’s absolutely meant to be heartwarming, but just annoyed me. Dr Rohit is a much nicer person than I am, because I would absolutely have called the police on REDACTED’s ass and REDACTED’s ass would have deserved it.
The story about Angie’s prom dress is great, and I thoroughly enjoyed the very eloquent, very pleased look on Ma Everett’s face when she asks about Angie’s love life and Shade walks in (SQUEE!) but these are small consolations for no Maz, very little Zoe and an ep that never really clicked for me.
The opening flashback to prequel-era Poldark – barely alive, in a field of comrades, wholly dead – makes me wonder, somewhat apprehensively, if this season is going to be about PTSD, which a) was hard enough when we went through it with Dwight and b) seems a bit late now, since Ross has been back from that particular war for years. Happily though, Cap’n Poldark is as far from traumatised as can be at the moment: in fact, he’s positively mellow and calm these days (and incredibly restrained and patient with the appalling George), which is lovely and long overdue, so we’ll see how long that lasts.
Since he doesn’t have any immediate crises of his own for now, though, the writers have to rustle up someone else’s for him to get involved with. So the flashback turns out to be their way of doing it, introducing us to the first of this season’s big problems/ opportunities to get into big trouble in the form of old friend Ned Despard: currently in gaol for taking from the rich and giving to the poor in an entirely appropriate, legal and “must be stopped” if you’re the rich, kind of way. ‘Twas ever thus.
With Ned designated an enemy of “the Government, the Crown, the Empire” and – since his wife Catherine is a freed slave – “the slave trade,” Dr Dwight, bless him, gently enquires (a number of times) “if it’s wise to become embroiled” in this particular storyline, but this just makes Ross and I laugh, since a) of course it’s not and b) since when does that make any difference? There’s Ned to save, slavery to fight and another 7 episodes left, so let’s just get on with fighting the power one last time, hey? And get on with it, we do. By the end of the episode, Ross has, surprisingly easily, managed to save the King from assassination, get himself recruited as a secret agent and free Ned as quid pro quo, but since Ned is about as likely to go quietly and let false charges of treason be bygones as much as Ross is, no doubt things will get a lot harder in early course.
As Ross fights slavery, meanwhile, Demelza tries, not quite as successfully, to soothe dissent among the latest workers fired by George (also a running theme over the years). Offering the chief agitator a job doesn’t quite do it, though. Somebody sets Nampara on fire anyway, which seems a tad unfair, and if Demelza believes Miss Tess wasn’t involved, she might be the only one who does, but we’ll see. No injuries, no casualties – so far – and Mistress Poldark is soon off to join her husband and his merry crew in London too.
Said band of buddies also includes Geoffrey Charles, who wants to leave school and join the military, but needs money to pay for it. Mad, mean George won’t give him a penny, but no matter; GC is soon distracted by one Miss Cecily Hanson who has very Poldark-friendly politics but a very non-Poldark friendly father who was instrumental in sending Ned to jail and is now going into business with George. Or trying to, his efforts being somewhat hampered by the fact that George can’t understand that Elizabeth is dead and wants to know what she thinks of the business plan. Oh God. I loathe George, but poor Valentine. Poor baby whose name I’ve forgotten. And poor, lovely Drake who just keeps finding himself in situations where George tries to have him killed. Argh. It’s a reasonable enough start to the season, and I like this new, relaxed Ross, but the Ned storyline is already boring me, Tess is awful, and there hasn’t been anywhere near as much Dr Dwight and Caroline yet for my liking. I’m not exactly on the edge of my
cliff seat waiting for the next instalment.
Elementary is back, for the last time. “With the seventh and final season underway in America”, wondered The Sunday Times on 2 June, “can we now concede that this modern-day Holmes reboot was far superior to our own Sherlock?” Well, Elementary is better acted and plotted; has a more interesting relationship between the two leads; and, crucially, isn’t smugly, but wrongly, convinced of its own genius . So: yes, The Sunday Times, indeed we can concede it. In fact, some of us have been saying it for years (tonight, 9pm, Sky Witness).
In its own low-key way, Better Things – which also returns this week – has a claim to be somewhere near the top of the Best Things On TV list: Pamela Adlon is the star and auteur of a bittersweet comedy-drama about a single mom in LA, trying to cope with her modestly successful acting career, the pressures of parenthood, and the challenges of life. Although Adlon has now severed her ties with longtime ally Louis C.K., he was still involved with the show during this second season, and on the evidence of the stellar first run of episodes this show shares with C.K.’s self-named vehicle the ability to conjure jaw-dropping genius out of nowhere. For the avoidance of doubt I’m not for a second suggesting that C.K. is the visionary behind Better Things: this is very much Adlon’s show, and the word from America is that the C.K.-less third season of Better Things is astonishing. Meantime, we can savour season 2 (Wednesday 17 July, 10pm, BBC2).
And season 2 of Harrow is here. Didn’t bother with the first season; won’t be bothering with this one; thus far, no-one has told me that I’m missing out (tonight, 9pm, Alibi).
The halcyon days of that heady first season may be long gone, and along with them any real excitement on my part about the continuing sun-dappled, shirt-optional adventures of Cap’n Ross, his friends, lovers and enemies, but we’re not quite done with 18th century Cornwall’s answer to Dynasty yet. Yes, Poldark and pals are back for one last hurrah: the fifth and apparently final (for now – nobody’s completely ruling out the possibility of something more, somewhere down the line, just in case) starts tonight (Sunday) at 9pm on BBC1 and I’ll be back, reviewing, and hoping against hope that Ross has become less of an idiot; he and Demelza manage one season without falling out; George has moved to an off-screen, never to be seen, different county entirely; and Dr Dwight and Caroline just get to live happily ever after. My chances are not good.
Angie’s stressed out about the downturn in Everett & Shade’s business since she went to jail. Zoe and Maz are bickering – not the cute, flirty kind of bickering, but the in-your-bones, weary, miserable one. And Shade’s old friend Cordell hires the team to find out who’s been spying on his possibly-not-entirely-honest wife. Huh. No show can be wall-to-wall happiness, but this does seem a little more downbeat than your usual episode of the Eyes, even if that’s still several thousand times less downbeat than your average detective show. It all kind of works out in the end, though: there’s an unexpectedly poignant, heartening resolution to the case of the week; Shade helps keep Angie’s chin up in typically supportive, squee-worthy fashion (I love him) and, although I’m very sad about Zoe and Maz because they’re great, it’s clearly not over for them yet. Downbeat or not, it’s still one of the nicest hours of my week.
In the scheme of things, we really don’t need yet another cop show, but I quite like the idea for LA’s Finest: it’s a spin-off of Bad Boys II, with Gabrielle Union’s character having moved on from whatever went on in it – I remember enjoying that film a very, very long time ago, but I don’t remember a single thing about the plot – and taken up work as a detective in LA, along with partner Jessica Alba. So I suppose the elevator pitch is Bad Girls. Or Lethal Women. Anyway, years after Cagney and Lacey handed in their badges, all-female cop duos are still relatively rare, but “maverick cops” “skirting the rules” are ten a penny, and reboots/ remakes/ spin-offs are everywhere these days too, so who knows if this will be something new or more of the usual. Critical reaction has not been positive but a second season has been commissioned, so somebody must like it. If you want to make up your own mind, episode 1 is at 9pm tonight (Wednesday) on Fox UK.