The Good Fight s3 ep 8

An episode steeped in classic Good Wife/Fight themes and dilemmas this week as the excellent case of the week pits the firm and long-term clients Chumhum against old frenemies Solomon Waltzer (hi Alan Alda!) and “motherless chi-i-ld” Felix Staples, with free speech vs hate speech, Sillicon Valley’s profits vs its morals and, spectacularly ironically, a short we don’t see because it’s censored by CBS. Turns out Silicon Valley companies aren’t the only ones who don’t want to upset the Chinese government.

The case of the week isn’t the only one going all meta on us, either: Lucca and Gary Carr’s romance continues, making some sort of point about (TV) life imitating (TV) art (I think), and it’s all very clever and mildly amusing but I still feel like I’m missing something. Maybe I’m just overthinking it. Points off for shoehorning in a monologue, however, even if it’s significantly less jarring than the ones we’ve had before as Cush Jumbo plays it less as directed to camera and more as directed to herself.

Amongst a crowded field of Good actors at the top of their respective games, though, this week’s MVPs are Gary Cole and his moustache as Kurt (who, delightfully, seems to work in a 70s spy thriller) accidentally intercepts an ominous warning meant for Diane and sets about solving a mystery and saving his wife, with the help of an unexpected ally – I was so impressed with the twist, I almost clapped my hands when I realised who it was. No Blum, no Maia, two terrific stories and a third that’s not too bad at all: job’s a good’un.

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Game of Thrones s8 ep 6

*For one last time: SPOILERS*

Snow and ash falls onto the bodies and rubble that once was Kings Landing, as the weary, dejected Tyrion makes his way to what’s left of his family and grieves. Jon and Ser Davos, grimly picking their way through the eerily quiet streets, try to prevent more slaughter but Grey Worm, if he ever cared, doesn’t now. Lannister soldiers on their knees isn’t enough for him or his Queen: the Mother of Dragons will not hide behind small mercies any longer.

“How much more defeated do you want them to be?” asks Ser Davos, but it’s the wrong question. “How many more defeated do you want there to be?” turns out to be more apt, as the First of Her Name proclaims, Targaryen banner and Drogon flying by her side, that this victory isn’t enough either, it will never be enough: “From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea”, she will never stop.

Because they have been raised to fight and to kill / because GOT‘s racial optics have always been problematic (you choose) the Dothraki and the Unsullied cheer her on, while the two white men who fell blindly in love with her look on in horror. This is the Queen they chose. This is the liberation they fought for? Tyrion gives up on the dream, surrendering his pin and his freedom but Jon can’t quite let go yet: not when Arya tells him what Daenerys is, not when Tyrion tells him what Daenerys is, not till Daenerys herself tells him what she is. “You are my Queen”, he vows, “Now and always”, and I don’t understand at first – did you hear her, Jon? Do you understand? – but then I do. As Tyrion says, Jon Snow has always tried to do the right thing, no matter the cost. And in this game, at least, duty really is the death of love.

If you believe Jon Snow did love Daenerys Targaryen, that is. I was never quite convinced by their relationship, but he told us enough times and Jon has never been able to lie, so I suppose we must accept that he did. Drogon certainly did, though, so he destroys the Iron Throne that brought her to this, and flies away with his mother’s body, leaving her nephew alone to face whoever’s justice comes next.

And breathe.

Like the ending or loathe it, the first part of the series finale is visually stunning. Grey, cold, snowy, with the increasingly unreachable Daenerys atop an endless series of stairs, now almost wholly detached from Jon, from righteousness and from all those small mercies that might have made her a good Queen instead of a power-crazed one. The part which comes next, then, while shot perfectly well too, is jarring in its contrast: prisoner Tyrion, dragged blinking into the courtyard bathed in sunshine where the lords and ladies of Westeros are to decide where they go from here. Or really, as Tyrion decides where they go from here.

There are perfunctory threats amongst the arguing, of course, but Ser Davos has had more than his fill of violence: “we’ve been cutting each other’s throats long enough”, he says, and they all know he’s right. There must be a better way. Sam’s suggestion of Westeros’s first mass elections is laughed at, as it should be, because polls and campaign posters would be a fine idea in a 21st century world but a profoundly boring ending for this one. Edmure, who hasn’t been seen since the Red Wedding and is only being seen at all now because Arya is exceptionally good at assassinations, tries to take charge but Sansa’s “Uncle, please sit” is a joy. Olenna may be gone, but she taught Ned Stark’s daughter a thing or two before she went. Sadly, she didn’t get to teach Tyrion much, though, or I suspect his choice for King might have been different.

“Who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” About three quarters of the cast, since you’re asking, T, and at least three or four people in that one scene, including yourself. All the people railing at the show runners do need to remember though that this must have been GRR Martin’s choice: he told them how the Song of Ice and Fire is meant to end, and he, like Tyrion has “a tender spot in (his) heart for cripples, bastards and broken things” (his words, not mine, apologies) so I assume he chose to crown King Bran the Broken, First of his Name. I can see why, I suppose. If you want to subvert reader/audience expectations, you can’t give the Throne to the handsome, virile “rightful heir”. If you want to break the wheel, birth and “birthright” are to be disregarded. If you want to give it to the person with the best story….. well, I remain unconvinced that the boy who spent years mired in mystical guff in the snow and now speaks almost exclusively in riddles is the right choice, but you do you, GRRM. You do you.

The rest of the finale’s choices are just about perfect, though. Bran will be King in name only: he will warg about doing not very much, while the real ruling is done by Tyrion and his bantering, buoyant Small Council made up of former outcasts Brienne, Davos and Sam who not only made it this far but proved their worth along the way, and Bronn who apparently lands on his feet, no matter what. Their cheerful teasing made me smile, while Brienne writing Jaime’s entry in the book made me cry. And the rest of the Starks? Arya is off into the unknown, to seek the adventures she’s always wanted. Sansa is the Queen in the now independent North, exactly as she should be. And Jon Snow comes full circle: back to Castle Black (“there’s still a Night’s Watch?”), back to Tormund and Ghost (sob) and back to the free folk, who’ve never cared who his parents are, to be King Beyond the Wall. It might not be the ending everyone wanted but, other than King Bran, I thought it was the right one after all.

So that’s it for Game of Thrones, then, the biggest tv show in the world, except of course for the debriefs, the petitions, the memes and the spin-offs: a cultural phenomenon like this is never really over, these days. It’s been eight seasons of very high ups and crushingly low downs, with the show’s uncompromising brutality, somewhat erratic pacing – a few years of treading water in the middle, a headlong rush at the end, entire seasons of Ramsay Bolton torturing folk along the way – and troubling attitudes to women causing me all sorts of distress and frustration, but I kept coming back, as did millions of people all over the world because, as Tyrion says, “there’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story”. And Game of Thrones, for all its many flaws, was a rich, sprawling tapestry of a tale, spread across years and continents, with a host of iconic characters brought to life by an enormous, often magnificent cast. How could I resist?

Of course, I’ll miss talking about it as much as I’ll miss the show, so thank you so much to the online and offline friends who read or commented on these posts and indulged all my ramblings. Who knows if there will ever be another show with the global reach this one had? As one Petyr Baelish once said, the past is gone for good, and a lot can happen between now and never, so I’m just glad we got to share this one: we loved the characters we loved, hated the characters we hated and had the best time swapping them round every now and again. Now Winter has been and gone, goodbye Game of Thrones. You know there’s no other way to finish this post: Our Watch has finally ended.

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.

Public Service Announcement 31 of 2019: What We Do in the Shadows

Fans of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s delightfully deadpan mockumentary about vampire daily “life” in Wellington, New Zealand, may be interested/ pleased/ a little apprehensive to note that the FX tv adaptation of What We Do in the Shadows arrives on UK terrestrial tv screens this weekend. Beginning tonight (Sunday) on BBC2 at 9pm with a double-bill, the vampires are now Staten Island residents instead, and it’s a ten-part season (already renewed for a second one) instead of an eighty-ish minute movie, so I’m not sure how it’ll measure up, but Clements is the creator of the tv version and he and Waititi are both executive producers, so signs are a lot more promising than I would otherwise have suspected. I’m a big fan of Waititi’s, I love a supernatural flatshare and I really liked the original film, so I’ll be giving this version a go at least.

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.

Blindspot s4 ep 19

I’ve dawdled a bit with this post since Blindspot, having only just returned,  is taking yet another break – I think the announcer said it won’t be back till 3rd June – but in the meantime, against the odds, the show’s been renewed for a fifth and final season. I’m fine with that. I would’ve been happy enough with it ending this season too, but as long as the fifth season involves plenty of Rich and Patterson and the continued possibilities that a) PATDOTCOM might happen and b) they get their own spin-off, I am ON BOARD.

This instalment, meanwhile, not only has plenty of Rich and Patterson, but so many other things going on that, when sitting down to write this, I couldn’t remember the case of the week, even though the case of the week is characteristically demented: Russian spies, Juliet from Lost and a satellite equipped with live nuclear missiles which can be launched from space. Sure, why not?

All of that’s wrapped up with minimal fuss and minimal staff, though, since most of the cast is occupied elsewhere. Kurt dips in and out of satellite-gate, since he’s busy tracking down his mum, finding out from Jane that he didn’t quite know the truth about his childhood after all, paying cash money to save Mrs W from gangsters she’s in tow with (that bit seems counter-intuitive for, y’know, FBI agents), and possibly sending her to rehab. Jane makes tea (so. much. tea.) and provides sympathy for Ma Weller. And Rich and Patterson are alarmed (as am I) by the fact that Krazy Kathy – who, let’s not forget, kidnapped two FBI agents, electrocuted them with shock collars and threatened to kill them – is not only out of jail after serving about five minutes of her sentence, but is up to her old hacking tricks again, complicating their lives somewhat since Reade is not going to be able to ignore the Three Blind Mice issue forever.

I liked it all, but Patterson and Rich’s story is far and away the funniest and the best, as usual, thanks to Kathy’s dream wedding plans, Rich’s “tongue”-coloured suit, Patterson just having “so much money” and the completely ridiculous twist at the end. Good times.

The Good Fight s3 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

I’ve been increasingly confused and a little distressed by the way this season’s Good Fight has very quickly changed from the best show on TV to… something else, so I don’t know if the new uber-wackiness has just worn me down and I was just relieved to get a reasonably traditional episode, but I really liked this?

Of course, when I say “reasonably traditional”, we did still have Lucca in a fledgling romance with Gary Carr from Downton Abbey playing Gary Carr from Downton Abbey (or so TGF and IMDB tell me, I don’t watch Downton Abbey). I didn’t quite understand why this was happening, to be honest – I mean, Rose Leslie was also in Downton Abbey and I know she wasn’t in this ep, but surely the fact that they specifically chose another person from Downton Abbey and not, say, some dude from Call the Midwife (I don’t watch that either) wasn’t a coincidence? What point am I missing? My distress levels are rising again….

Still, Cush Jumbo made it work and the very meta “wallet” scene was cute, so, despite my unshakeable suspicion that not only was something going over my head but it was all a bit unnecessary, that sub-plot worked out ok. It was very much a side dish to the bigger, better storylines of the week though, which, probably for the first time, wholly successfully married up the arcs involving the Book Club, the work and history of the firm’s characters, and the unspeakable Blum in a way which felt organic and meaningful, as opposed to gimmicky and weird.

Essentially, the firm took on a class action about dodgy voting machines; it turned out to be a cover for the next phase of the Resistance, giving Liz and Diane not only their now-weekly conflict of interest but an astronomically-high stakes moral dilemma too; and, in the midst of all of that, Blum started sniffing about threatening to air the dirty Reddick laundry if he didn’t get a permanent gig at the firm. (NO. JUST… NO.) Great scenes included Adrian shoving Blum up against a wall, and, at one point, when Blum was splayed across the window ranting about horned beasts and revenge or something, everyone turning round and completely ignoring him. Heh. And Diane actually getting to be a lawyer in court again – as opposed to an axe-thrower or whatever – for the first time in weeks and being fantastic at it was fab too. MVP for the night, though, was Audra McDonald’s Liz (with Christine Baranski assisting) – her scene explaining to Diane exactly why history isn’t one of the things they share was both utterly devastating and absolutely tremendous, as well as a reminder of why we’ve stuck with the show this season, wackiness and all.