For the People s2 ep 10

Bit of a shame, this: the last ever episode of For the People. There are no cliffhangers, and one or two happy endings, so it may be that the writers knew what was coming. In the Case of the Week,  Jay’s immigrant parents are intimidated at a polling station. This turns out to be part of a well-funded and co-ordinated campaign across the state. Roger (the delectable Ben Shenkman) is told not to prosecute anyone for it – it’s a Federal matter, and his boss doesn’t want to get into trouble – but he does so anyway. Meantime Seth is given a mob case – and a bodyguard – and Jill tells Roger that they can’t be together, as their relationship is incompatible with their respective positions.

Well, if we’re getting closure, I thought, the ONLY happy ending I want is Jill and Roger. Which is duly delivered: Roger successfully prosecutes the man funding the voter intimidation, then resigns, which means he and Jill can be a couple. Kate is prosecuted to his position. Seth isn’t killed (my guess is that would have been the cliffhanger, had there been one). Sandra finally makes out with hot investigator Ted. 

Throughout the show’s run the predominantly young cast gave it their all: my favourite continued to be Susannah Flood as Kate, and I hope to see her again in something which gets more than two seasons. But the whole thing was also grounded in four terrific performances as the seen-it-all-before oldies: Shenkman, Hope Davis, Vondie Curtis Hall, and Anna Deavere Smith all adroitly combined idealism with experience in their roles. It’s a satisfactory end to a show I really liked, but  the viewers just didn’t turn up. In another era, For the People might have got the attention it deserved; but if you want intelligent, well-acted, issue-driven TV drama you’ve got more choice than ever before. The Golden Age will have its casualties, and this was another.

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The Blacklist s6 ep 14

The Osterman Umbrella Company, this week’s Blacklister, is a group of relentless assassins-for-hire. Its specialism is killing burned agents on behalf of their former employers: so if the CIA, or MI5, or whoever, has an ex-operative they want rid of because he knows too much, they outsource the wet work to Osterman. Red has word that the next hit is on American soil. Well, Cooper doesn’t like that – the CIA can do what it likes abroad, but a killing in the USA is his business – and he reaches out to an old CIA friend to try to get details by asking nicely. Red, meantime, takes a more direct route, and obtains a name. And while that’s going on, Aram has taken Samar on a romantic getaway to a luxury lodge with no phone reception or internet connection.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t spot what was going on until the last possible moment: Samar, of course, has just left the Mossad; her illness, which Aram told Levi about last week, means that she won’t always be able to keep secrets; and the Mossad has hired Osterman to kill Samar. She manages to escape, just about, and plans to go away in order to be safe: Aram insists on going with her, but we kinda sorta know that he’s not going to be able to, even as she assures him that they can go abroad and be together forever.

What it all adds up to is, firstly, a fitting farewell to Mozhan Marnò, who is leaving at her own request as far as one can see; she’ll be missed, but I suppose if the grass isn’t greener she can always return. Secondly – and I know I’m repeating myself – this is yet another ridiculously good episode. Not just because of the action and plotting, but because of the way that the history of the show informs the drama: Samar’s apparently pointless exit interview last week very much had a point, for example; and Aram’s mancrush on/terror of Red has always been a bit of a Blacklist running joke, right up to the point where it suddenly wasn’t, as Aram finds out about the part Red played in the episode’s denouement.

Private Eyes s3 ep 11

Ahoy, me hearties. Angie in bed with Speedbumpy McSpeedbumperson was not a promising start to this episode and following up with some nonsense about Jules being a DJ genius didn’t make me any less well-disposed towards it but, mercifully, the Eyes rushed through all that reasonably quickly to get on to the mystery of the week. Not that the mystery of the week really grabbed my attention either: perhaps I was still annoyed at Speedbumpy McSpeedbumperson. Or unimpressed at the prospect of yet another sub-plot about how Jules wants something, Shade’s uneasy about it, Angie or Don talks him round, and Jules gets what she wants in the end.

Either way, even if it left me slightly cold, the main story was fine – mildly amusing, even – involving as it did a pirate-themed dinner cruise, drug smugglers and the answer to where Maz has been for the past few weeks. Welcome back Maz! Although the season finale’s next week so it’s not like we can enjoy him for very long. Still, his return is the second-best thing about the episode, the best being the handful of wistful, squee-able moments threaded through it to make sure we know all is not lost on the Shangie front: the regretful, resigned look in Shade’s eyes when he asked Angie about her relationship with Speedbumpy, the stricken look in hers when Shade announced that there was “nothing more dangerous than a workplace romance”, that type of thing. Sigh. There’s a very obvious “we got one kind of ship this week but not the one we really wanted” joke to be made here somewhere: it really is just as well that Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson are so good at this sort of quiet, hidden-but-not-really yearning, since it doesn’t look like we’re getting much else on the Shangie front for now. We’ll see what next week brings.

Public Service Announcement 56 of 2019: The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone is a six-part drama series based on Richard Preston’s best-selling non-fiction book about unpleasant diseases; specifically, an incident when an Ebola-like virus was found in America. It stars Unpopcult royalty and proper Big TV star Julianna Margulies, and there’s a decent supporting cast as well: Noah Emmerich, James D’Arcy, Topher Grace, Robert Sean Leonard, and Grace Gummer, among others.

I can’t decide whether to watch or not: on the one hand the reviews were pretty good when it was shown in America, and it’s undoubtedly an interesting topic. On the other, I tend to skip articles about medical crises – antibiotic-resistant bacteria, fast-spreading haemorrhagic viruses, and so on – because it all strikes me as a frighteningly plausible way in which human life might end, if we don’t overheat first. And, as our CJ sniffed, the shower scenes in The Hot Zone are unlikely to be particularly sexy (Tuesday 10 September, National Geographic, 9pm).

Private Eyes s3 ep 10

*SPOILERS*

Dear Private Eyes,

Are you trolling me?

After last week’s near-miss on the make-out front, I’m very suspicious when this one kicks off with Shade being approached by gorgeous journalist Stefani who seems interested in a lot more than his fascinating career trajectory. Is this Mel mk 2? Are we doing yet another round of romantic speedbumps? But, wait! Turns out Angie, sorry, Angela, is visibly worked up and confused about their pashus interruptus, and Shade, sorry, Matthew, really, really wants to talk to her about it, although he also doesn’t mind talking to the journalist about his fascinating career trajectory in the meantime. You guys! This means….. they’re not just ignoring their feelings (and mine) like they usually do! Does the handholding of the past couple of weeks mean something’s changed? Are these people finally going to talk to each other?! IS THERE GOING TO BE SHANGIE AT LAST?

Well, the answers to those questions are apparently “sort of,” “sort of” and a resounding “no,” because I love these characters and I want them to be happy but they apparently do not feel the same way about me. I mean, things are going reasonably well at first – even Zoe, back in the same room with her boss at last, can tell there’s been a shift in the force – but it starts to go awry when Danica (FFS, Danica, Maz would never) somehow hires our heroes to solve the mystery of a handsome-ish (I would have been markedly more enthusiastic about his admittedly impressive looks if I didn’t want to punch him in the jimmy face) flirty amnesiac with a tattoo of Texas and an interest in more than Angie’s investigative skills.

This is man manna from heaven for Angie, who is desperate to prove to Shade and herself she doesn’t actually have feelings for her partner and, sensing that bickering with him throughout the episode is giving a different impression entirely, is delighted to have a handsome-ish man to help her out with that particular pretence. Hello Dr Ken, mk 2, and oh, yeah, desk, meet my forehead. Thump. But wait (again)! Our heroes are going undercover at a couples, er, sex retreat? (This episode’s a bit racier than usual.) Undercover as a couple! You know what that means – fakeout makeout that’s not so fakeout after all! Except – no, it doesn’t, not this week. This week it means talking about our feelings in not-very-coded language at all in a mad, brilliant scene where Matthew and Angela pretend to talk about buying a sex swing. (Told you it was racier than usual.)

This is all both tremendously SQUEE-worthy and absolutely hilarious, but obviously culminates in Shade going on a second sort-of-date with Stefani, and Angie going on a first very-much-date with Tex. But wait (a third time)! Shade – very gently, because he’s lovely – turns Stefani down and pretends to be baffled as to why. Of course, he’s fooling nobody, least of all Don, who goes some way to redeeming himself for Gumbogate last week with a wry “Yeah, real mystery you got there.” Heh. If only Angie were there to help our hero solve it, instead of taking Mr Speedbump home and ending this episode in the most infuriating, but predictably Angie-ish way possible. ARGH. This was a fantastic episode and maybe the best one of the season so far, but I’m RAGING.

The Blacklist s6 ep 13

What a terrific episode this is. It starts with Red swaggering his way through a huge got-out-of-jail party, with lots of guest stars from the show’s deep bench: Glen, Heddie, Max; even Vontae, who now seems, delightfully, to be a part of Red’s support network. Meantime, Dembe is in Cuba, checking up on rumours that legendary (and real life) conman and fugitive Robert Vesco, thought to be long dead, is in fact still alive. This is of considerable significance to Red: Vesco, at one time his mentor, swindled him out of a vast sum of money before going on the run, reputedly in order to pursue the location of a shipwreck full of gold. So if he faked his own death, Red wants to know.

Vesco, of course, did indeed fake his own death. Keen and Ressler pursue a lead to small-town Nova Scotia, where he is inexplicably hiding out. He escapes them, and runs… straight into Red’s back seat. Money, demands Red. I want my money. Well, says Vesco (a tremendous turn by Stacy Keach), I don’t have your money, but I think I know how to find the shipwreck: help me and I can settle up.

This leads to a treasure hunt, a heist, and a chase all in one, as Vesco and Red decipher clues in old poems while Keen and Ressler follow close behind. It’s inventive and fun, and even if it could be argued that there wasn’t much point to it in the context of The Blacklist’s overarching backstory, since when did everything have to have a point?

Even the Samar plot arc was sweet rather than tiresome this week: she has to endure an exit interview conducted by the Mossad – which is, I suppose, a public sector employer after all – and supervised by the returning Oded Fehr as Agent Levi Shur. The Mossad wants to find out if she’s turned; she wants to conceal her medical condition from anyone who doesn’t need to know about it; and it develops in a way which ultimately obliges Aram to realise just how much he loves her.

“This”, grouches Ressler after the final twist, “was a complete waste of time”. You couldn’t be more wrong, Donald. You could not be more wrong.

Darkness: Those Who Kill eps 1 and 2

My sight unseen PSA of Darkness: Those Who Kill was reasonably accurate. Many of the Scandi-noir tropes are present and correct; forests, snow, a body in a lake, a moody piano-driven soundtrack, a brooding male cop with a complicated love life (lead detective Jan is furrowed of brow and tortured of mien), Secret Pain (Louise the profiler has something in her past), interior design (Louise’s apartment is quite something), and a familiar face or two (Mette from The Bridge and Anne Sophie from Borgen, for example). And, of course, the most important ingredient of all: the repeated, inventive, and/or sadistic abuse of young women, which is there in bucketloads.

But it is, also, quite good. A woman has been missing for a few months, and Jan (Kenneth M. Christensen) is convinced that it’s linked to the disappearance of another woman ten years before. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to spend several weeks convincing a sceptical police hierarchy that he’s right; a couple of this-has-to-be-more-than-coincidences later, Louise (Natalie Madueño), a former police profiler who left for the UK then returned to Denmark in mysterious circumstances, is persuaded to come back for just one more case and to confirm Jan’s theory. And when a third woman is abducted, Jan and Louise are on the case. And on each other? Well, maybe. Time will tell: Jan is still making out with his ex, and Louise is working in a shelter with survivors of sexual abuse, which might be a hint as to what happened to her either before or during her time in the UK.

It’s a psychological thriller rather than a whodunnit: the identity of the perp is revealed, to the viewer at least, in the first episode; and to Jan and Louise in the second, although there’s an unexpected twist right at the end of the second episode which, together with the allusions to Citizen Kane and Psycho – that’s some highbrow company to be keeping, producers – more than kept me interested. Madueño and Christensen are properly engaging screen presences, and I’m probably shipping Jan and Louise as well. I expect to watch the rest of the season, and I’d say it’s worth a look.