Madam Secretary s5 ep 11

“I feel”, says Elizabeth, “like the soul of our country is at stake”. As with the first episode in this two-parter, there’s no doubt that the real subject is the real-life Trump administration, rather than the fictional big-hatted redneck Governor of Arizona. And in the world of Madam Secretary, Elizabeth is determined to raise the stakes: having been arrested, she refuses to be released, pending trial, while there are still children being detained; then, having been offered a deal in which she pleads guilty to a misdemeanour, she refuses to do that as well, leaving her facing trial for a felony. Which is just the sort of thing that might get in the way of a run for the Oval. Russell Jackson is apoplectic with fury, and for one delicious moment I thought that Henry was going to start punching him for bad-mouthing his wife.

But then one of the guards leaks a video of conditions inside the detention centre, and makes a public statement deploring what’s going on. And, suddenly, Elizabeth looks vindicated. Presidential, even. Jay brokers a legislative deal with Senator Morejon which will allow him to continue to look tough on immigration while reducing the number of asylum-seekers; the charges against Elizabeth are dropped; and she and Henry are able to have their marriage renewal party, with the actual Peter Frampton providing the music. Also, I think I saw her former enemy Morejon there, and all of a sudden I’m wondering whether he might just end up as Elizabeth’s running mate. Not the best episode, but its heart was in the right place.


The Good Doctor s2 ep 17

Two Cases this week, in a fantastic episode. Kenny has a 200lb tumour – props to the production design team for this one, although I’d be at least as happy if we’d been left to imagine it, tbh – which is to be removed by a Melendez-led surgical team. And Laura, an old friend of Lim’s, is in with her newborn daughter, who has brain injury symptoms consistent with being shaken. Lim follows the scientific evidence to its logical conclusion, while Laura continues to insist that no-one has been abusing her baby.

And Shaun is still marooned in pathology, still very unhappy about it – despite the support of the ever-perky Carly – and still hoping to persuade Han that he should be allowed back in. His ongoing problem is that Han is unpersuadable, no matter what he does. In fact, not content this week with just one spectacular save, Shaun comes up with two. The surgery on Kenny goes badly wrong. Melendez, who knows Shaun’s talent for three-dimensional thinking, calls him in for a consult on Kenny, and Shaun provides a solution which will allow for both the removal of the tumour and the survival of the patient. 

Meantime, he also comes up with another interpretation of Laura’s baby’s injuries, one which would mean that Laura didn’t abuse her daughter, and which proves to be consistent with the medical evidence. Laura is understandably unhappy that her friend thought her capable of assaulting her baby, but nonetheless perhaps a little ad hominem about it. “You don’t understand love”, she tells Lim; who, in response, persuades Melendez that the two of them should be open about their relationship.

For Shaun, it’s all further proof that he should be back in surgery, and he corners Han in his office, saying that he’ll refuse to leave unless Han gives him his old job back. “I am a surgeon!” he shouts over and over; once again, in Han’s eyes, proving his point, and ending – I think – in Shaun’s dismissal. I worry that the upshot of all of this, in the season finale, will be that Han will leave and Shaun will stay. I’d quite like Han to hang around; the scene this week in which he proves himself quite the master of hospital realpolitik with the tribunal investigating Shaun, Melendez, and Lim, was a delight. But I suspect that there’s only room for one of them at San Jose St Bonaventure. And Glassman finally gets the all-clear, which with any luck will mean that he can get a proper storyline again.

Public Service Announcement 19 of 2019: Proven Innocent

I know it’s grossly unfair to judge it on the trailer alone, but Proven Innocent looks pretty terrible. A new US drama about a law firm which fights to overturn unlawful convictions, led by a woman whose not-so-Secret Pain is that she too was wrongfully convicted, it all sounds well-meaning enough but the gleefully nasty DA/ bogeyman and very high quota of potboiler-ish posturing in the promo suggests this show is more likely to be a one-note, cheesy melodrama than a nuanced examination of the US legal system. And the unenthusiastic critical reception isn’t making it sound any better. Having said that, though, if the trailer is indeed anything to go by, there’s every possibility the show might be blandly entertaining in a pulpy, supermarket-own-brand Law and Order-kind of way, so it might be more fun if you’re in the mood for it. I’m not, but any Kelsey “Used to be Frasier, now a self-appointed authority on Brexit (WTF?)” Grammer completists interested in checking it out can find it at 9pm on Universal tonight (Monday).

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 11

It’s Avenge Joe White week on H50. Danny travels to Joe’s ranch, where Steve – rocking, it should be said, a somewhat unconvincing beard; I was half expecting Danny to reach out and give it a sharp tug – has been hiding out for over a month. With Catherine.

Danny thinks they’ve been playing house, but if so it’s a specifically McGarrett-esque form of mummies and daddies: also on the premises is the Danish lawyer of Omar Hassan, the man behind Joe’s death. The lawyer has been beaten to a pulp in an attempt to find out where Hassan is. Which, y’know, credit where due: I mean, I too am a lawyer, and I’d totally give my clients up at the first polite enquiry from the Big Kahuna. Maybe they breed their legal professionals tougher in Denmark.

Anyway, Steve finds out that Hassan is in Laos, and puts his squad together: Catherine and Danny, of course, plus Junior (“Teams! Hooyah!”). And a couple of old friends: Wade “Gutch” Gutches, who we’ve seen once or twice before; and, meeting them in Laos, Harry Langford, the Lidl James Bond himself. You know how this goes: a looped security feed, guns, a stand-off, and so on. Steve gets to Hassan, but doesn’t kill him: what he really wants is the whereabouts of Agent Greer, former squeeze and current traitor. And he gets it, meaning that Catherine can shoot her predecessor in Steve’s bed, a task which she undertakes with ill-disguised relish. Which of us hasn’t, at some point, wanted…? I’ll leave that thought there.

There’s a B-plot in which two bros successfully bid for the contents of a storage locker, and discover themselves to be the proud owners of a human skeleton. (I think I’ve seen this in another show before, but can’t place it.) The bros are themselves killed, and the bones taken, before Noelani can get there to examine the scene. It’s really only intended as an occasional distraction from the main event, but it helps to round out a very good episode.

Blindspot s4 ep 13


It’s been a week of unspeakable horrors in the real world, and really not the most sensitive time to be showing a Blindspot episode about people trying to bring down a plane. Which means I’m now wondering whether I should be writing about it all, but I don’t suppose I’d be helping anybody by pretending it wasn’t on, and, in fairness, this Blindspot is thankfully very different from this week: love, friendship and teamwork triumph, the plane stays exactly where it’s supposed to be and everyone goes home to their loved ones at the end. Thank God. (Except Tasha, of course. “Once a lone wolf…”)

So while I might not have been in the best mood for it, this episode is pretty terrific – fast, exciting, and surprisingly sweet and moving too. Everyone works brilliantly together as well: Rich and Boston are both particularly terrific, Jane and Weller are disconcertingly cheerful and angst-free (seriously, have we ever seen them this light-hearted before?) and even Zapata is infinitely less of a sad sack and much more engaging than usual, thanks to the aforementioned Mr Arliss Crabb. Team Tat for the win! Great stuff.

The Good Doctor s2 ep 16

Following Han’s orders in last week’s episode, Shaun has moved from surgery to pathology, where he’s shown the ropes by the perky and personable Dr Carla Lever. Her perky personableness does not, however, move Shaun, who still hankers after a return to surgery. And he sees an opportunity for just that, when Sadie, a young woman who presents with vague symptoms of tingling limbs and a premonition of doom, is  scanned and diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Shaun, however, thinks that Sadie has something else, and wants to talk to her to work up a full history. 

This request is rejected, but his conclusion is correct: Sadie is, in fact, suffering from an unpleasant but entirely non-fatal parasite thing related to the eating of sushi. Unfortunately, Han takes the view that this kind of proves his point: Shaun has terrific diagnostic skills, which make him ideal for pathology; and he’s unlikely ever to develop his communication skills to the point where he’s suitable for surgery. So Shaun stays where he is. Whether that decision is right or wrong I’m not yet convinced that Han is a bad guy per se. Maybe he’ll do something vicious next week.

The other Case of the Week features Clarence, a pastor with a tumour on his spine. This one is treatable, but Clarence wants a risky intervention which will remove the tumour but leave him with pain he thinks he deserves for failing to save a parishioner from suicide. This is clearly idiotic, whatever one’s view of religious faith, but if that’s what the patient wants that’s what the patient gets. The funny thing, though, is that when the tumour is removed it’s shrunk to half its original size without any apparent medical reason. Is it a miracle? Or is it explicable? Morgan (theist) and Claire (agnostic, I’d say, rather than flat-out atheist) debate the relevant issues. And who’s to say? Not the writers, who leave it unresolved. A good rather than exceptional episode.

Blindspot s4 ep 12


Jane is in hospital, in the final stages of ZIP poisoning and uncharacteristically freaking out. (I’m not saying her fear and distress isn’t completely understandable, I’m just saying it’s not very Jane-ish.) Kurt, by her side, is doing his best to be loving and supportive, but love and support aren’t going to be enough, you guys, what we need is a quest! Yes, the only way to save Jane is to get the Stanton cells (which have gone from not really existing, to there being only one set in the world, to there now being a second…. by next week, they’ll be 3 for 2 in Tesco). And the only way to get the Stanton cells is to exchange them for the BOOK. OF. SECRETS. We’re going on a treasure hunt!

Happily, by “we”, I mean unpopcult’s favourites Patterson and Rich because, although Blindspot as a show is probably as close to done as Jane is for most of this ep, the PATDOTCOM double-act is only just getting started. So off they go to Peru to have an absolute ball finding EL LIBRO, and as Jed has commented before, the show’s commitment to location work makes a massive difference – that they really do go to Peru, and it looks amazing makes what was already going to be a delightful episode even better. Well, that and the fact that Ennis Esmer and Ashley Johnson are wonderful, and clearly having the best time together, and I love them. Yay!

And, by way of bonus, now that they’ve saved Jane, it looks like PATDOTCOM are going to try to save Zapata and her storyline too, which can only be a good thing. Not because I particularly like Zapata (I don’t), but because her storyline has been nothing but po-faced, unmitigated angst forever and I feel like I have been bored with it and her for my entire life. Even just adding Boston this week lightened things up considerably on that front. Imagine what adding PATDOTCOM could do….