Magnum P.I. s2 ep 20

With this episode, which is – typically – polished, entertaining, and slightly inconsequential – Magnum P.I. finishes its second season. Returning villain Icepick (Corbin Bernsen), a father figure to Rick, is terminally ill, but nonetheless intent on one last score. Rick finds out and talks him out of it, but Icepick goes ahead with the job anyway, taking a bullet in the guts from his partner Reese for his trouble. Reese also shoots and kills a security guard, which means that both Icepick and Rick are in some trouble: no hospital for Ice, and no cops for either of them.

Magnum, meantime, is coming to terms with the possibility of life without Higgins, whose visa is about to expire. But he’s reached out to the Five-0, and Adam – of course – has a, uh, connected attorney who might be able to help: “He’s hooked up a few Yakuza with legit papers”, says Adam of his guy, which should be in no way reassuring. A gang lawyer, Magnum? Are you sure about this?

But then the episode kicks into gear, with Magnum and Higgins tracking Reese down, leading to a properly thrilling rooftop chase and a punch-up between Magnum and Reese on top of a speeding truck. It’s the kind of thing that Steve and Danny just aren’t up to any more, frankly, so this might be the right time for the passing of the Hawaiian crime-fighting torch from the alpha males of the Five-0 to Magnum, Higgy, and Magnum’s “boys”. Although, and not for the first time, it’s Kumu (Amy Hill) who has one of the best scenes: her contempt for Icepick, who has dragged her friends into serious bother, is delicious.

Magnum’s already confirmed as coming back for a third season. I’m looking forward to it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to see Five-0 alumni from time to time. But the writers might need to make their mind up about something: after teasing us a few episodes ago with a glimpse or two of #Miggins action, the show has backed away from that a little. I have no idea why, unless they want to keep us waiting for longer.

9-1-1 s3 ep 1

What a ride. 9-1-1 Season 3 storms out of the blocks with a high-speed car chase which turns into an unexpected delight. We then make an equally quick trip to Mr and Mrs Bobby Nash’s first dinner party as husband and wife and a lot of good-natured ribbing about the lack of invitations to any sort of wedding, stopping briefly for a weird moment when Athena’s daughter looks absolutely furious at Bobby for suggesting she try looking in the shed (?). I really hope this doesn’t mean we now have a “You’re not my dad, you can’t tell me what to do!” teenage strop-a-thon to look forward to but, if we do, we’re at least spared it this week by guest of honour Buck having a pulmonary embolism and shutting the party right down. A bit dramatic, Buck, but thank you for your service.

Not that Buck’s the only Buckley going all out this week. Maddie is very busy being instrumental in the high-speed chase business, and in finding poor, traumatised Jill, a woman who is both trapped somewhere unknown and very quickly bleeding out, as if one of those two problems weren’t challenge enough. All these heroics aren’t all on Maddie, though: a big part of the joy of this show is the teamwork and this is a particularly great ep for that, with Athena having a truly glorious week, working with Maddie to solve everything that needs solving so that Bobby and the 118 can then get on with the business of saving everyone that needs saving. Woo hoo!

While all this wildly exciting stuff is going on, there’s still time to pack in some comedy – “No, sir, it looks like you have a flesh-eating STD. Don’t thank me!” – and some chat about babies which suggests that somebody’s going to have an unexpected pregnancy by the end of the season and it probably won’t be Hen’s girlfriend. Will it be Maddie or Athena? We’ll see.

Meantime, we end the week back with Buck who, in true Buck-like fashion (he has improved exponentially since season 1 but he is still just not that bright), is stunned and outraged that he can’t just return to work after his latest near-death experience and take his chances, so he ups and quits. Or rather downs and quits, since Buck quitting involves a lot of staying in bed and worrying his friends. His friends, understandably, tire of this fairly quickly, so Eddie takes first shift in Operation Tough Love and, before young Evan can say “five more minutes, mum!”, the Buckmeister is spending the day having a whale of a time with young Christopher at a theme park by the Pacific. Lovely! Except… that was some cliffhanger. What a tremendous episode. Fast, fun, funny: fantastic.

Hawaii Five-0 s10 ep 21

A mother and son, Sylvia and Manu, are kidnapped at a diner and are being held at gunpoint in their house by two armed men who have just carried out a bank robbery, one one sustaining a bullet wound which needs treated in the process. A waiter from the diner turns up at the door, ostensibly to hand in something the boy left behind, but he rescues the woman and her son, killing one of the baddies with remarkable and brutal efficiency, and taking a bullet in the shoulder himself, before disappearing.

The Five-0 gets the call, and Danny tracks Steve down at his father’s grave to tell him that they have a case. “We always got a case”, Steve sighs wearily, who has been handed the package he was promised at the end of last week’s episode: a sheet of paper, from Ma McGarrett, with a coded message. What does it mean, wonders Danny? “To be honest with you, I don’t think I really care”, mutters Steve. It’s impossible to miss the signs of impending burn-out, and Danny doesn’t.

The Good Samaritan is identified as Sgt Lincoln Cole (Lance Gross), formerly of an elite Marine counter-terrorist unit, but who went AWOL just after being awarded a Purple Heart. So what the hell is he doing working under an assumed name as a waiter on Oahu? And he needs to be found and protected: Hector, the brother of the man he shot, is looking to avenge his death.

So when the Five-0 tracks Cole down, they stash him in the Blue Room in order to keep an eye on him. But then Sylvia and Manu are kidnapped again, this time by Hector, who offers to trade them for Cole. Steve has a plan to get them back, using Cole, which is threatened when some military police turn up looking to arrest Cole. In normal circumstances you’d expect Steve to chase them the hell out of his Five-0. Not this time: eh, he effectively shrugs, what are you going to do? as the MPs take Cole away. And by now there’s something close to panic in the ranks of the Five-0, with Steve’s decision-making openly being questioned.

Steve pulls himself together for long enough to sort everything out: Sylvia and Manu are rescued, the MPs are squared, and Cole even offers to put Steve in touch with a guy who knows ciphers. Which is just as well, because it’s clearly of interest to some bad people: just after Steve and Danny share a tender moment outside the McGarrett house – “This is how I thought it would end for us; a couple of old guys sitting on a beach, watching sunsets” – Danny goes to fetch some more beers and is beaten up by someone in Steve’s kitchen looking for the letter from Steve’s mom, which happily Steve still has in his pocket.

It’s an excellent episode, and sets up next week’s series finale nicely. It also affords a tantalising glimpse of what might have been had the show gone on: apparently Lance Gross had been offered a regular slot in the Five-0, and one can see that Steve would take the view that his combination of lethal skills and spectacular recklessness would be an ideal fit with the rest of the team.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist s1 ep 12

At the time of writing, there’s no word on whether Zoey’s is going to be renewed. But it finished its first and, quite possibly, only season with a properly stunning episode: starting with Zoey singing ‘Bad Moon Rising’, which she correctly interprets as a portent of something bad happening, running through to the death of her beloved father Mitch, and including a swift makeout session with best friend Max along the way. (Although Max formed part of a supposed love triangle, I was always on Team Simon: both he and Max were fairly needy, but I thought Simon to be a little more… well, adult.)

The bravura final scene – an unbroken six-or-seven minute single shot to which the whole cast contributed – didn’t quite do it for me, unfortunately, because it was set to ‘American Pie’, a song which I regard as having been written for the sole purpose of annoying me to hell. But the rest of the world loves it, so that’s on me. By then, though, I had already been undone by Mitch singing ‘Lullabye’ to his unborn grandchild; Maggie singing ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ to Mitch; and, most of all, the brief sequence, just before Mitch’s death, of Zoey and her father dancing – and, notably, conversing – to a string version of ‘True Colors’, a callback to an impossibly emotional scene in an earlier episode, and a song I find impossible to resist even if it just turns up on the radio when I’m driving. 

I started out liking this show, and I ended up loving it. The writers, of course, deserve huge credit, and on top of that it was very well-served by an excellent cast. Singling individuals out is unfair, but here goes anyway: Peter Gallagher, one of the best TV actors around, did a vast amount with the incredibly challenging role of Mitch, mostly confined to his couch by a life-limiting illness; but occasionally able, in Zoey’s fantasies, to soar. As far as Mary Steenburgen, who played Maggie, Zoey’s mother, is concerned, all I really need to say is: how good was she?! 

And of course the remarkable Jane Levy, as Zoey, convincingly blended genuine charm with both resolve and vulnerability, which meant that the viewer’s disbelief in Zoey’s “heart songs” could be pleasurably suspended. I’ve said this sort of thing before – about Madam Secretary, for example – but in the days when network TV shows hoovered up awards, Levy would have been on all the shortlists going. Her performance emphasised the way in which the musical numbers illustrated the various ways in which the show’s characters – and, for that matter, all of us – aren’t always willing or able to articulate what we want to say, even if it’s important. I hope it won’t sound unduly affected if I were to suggest that the show’s underlying theme was the way in which people, even if they love each other, often don’t communicate effectively enough; particularly given that Zoey’s was also entirely capable of being a light-hearted dramedy with a couple of ships and some excellent song-and-dance numbers.

The tribute in the credits to Richard Winsburg, the father of show creator Austin Winsburg, who died of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), as did Mitch, was a fitting end to Austin’s Extraordinary Show, which – if I may say so, with respect – did his father proud, and I really hope we get to see more of it.

The Blacklist s7 ep 4

‘Kuwait’ is one of those very rare episodes of The Blacklist which doesn’t have a Blacklister as its title, which generally presages A Very Special. This one isn’t, though, and it’s a slightly odd choice, as there’s a perfectly good megavillain whose name could have been used.

All in good time. We start in Kuwait in 1989, with Cooper – then serving in the Middle East – under fire while sharing a vehicle with Daniel Hutton, a colleague who then went missing, presumed dead. But someone claiming to be Hutton has turned up at a CIA outpost in Iran. Cooper, of course, feels duty bound to travel to Iran to confirm his identity and bring him home, and he’s accompanied by Red, for reasons which never really feel sufficient – Cooper is planning to tell Panabaker Red’s real identity, and Red has the dirt on what Cooper was up to that day in 1989 when he came under fire. The real reason, one suspects, is that the writers wanted to put Red and Cooper in a men-on-a-mission situation, and I’m good with that.

In Iran, Cooper meets Hutton at the CIA, and discovers that he was traded, tortured, caged, and so on, all under the direction of The Simoon, a mysterious, legendary and long-standing scourge of US forces in the Middle East. And The Simoon is after them – willing, picturesquely, to “burn the city” to find them – so they need to return to the airstrip stat. On the way, though, they get stopped at a roadblock, and Cooper is himself thrown into a cage. As ever this calls for a Red-inspired deus ex machina, and Ressler and Francesca are back in America making contact with one of Red’s familiars in order to bring it about. “Mr Reddington called in a drone strike. From a gaming store”, Aram will later summarise. Indeed Red did, and he also gets his way: Cooper meets Panabaker, and doesn’t disclose Red’s real identity. But he does hand over evidence about what he, Cooper, was up to in Kuwait all those years ago. (It seems to have been a payment of cash money to the Kurds; a payment which was both authorised and not authorised. Or something.)

There is, however, a real danger that my irritation with the Katarina Rostova arc will overshadow my enjoyment of the rest of The Blacklist. To recap: Liz is not only a highly-trained FBI agent, but one who works for a top secret task force, which might incline one to even greater circumspection. She has had to go through, over the past six seasons, quite the most remarkable crash course in deceitful behaviour, on the part both of others and herself. She lives under an assumed name. And she knows that her mother might be trying to gain access to her.

And yet she is, apparently, quite willing to welcome a complete stranger of around her mother’s age into her life; to confide in her that there are people outside the apartment block who are “there for my protection… from my mother”; to consult her about the recruitment of a nanny; to allow her to babysit her daughter; and, apparently, to turn a blind eye to such raised-eyebrow glance-to-camera dialogue as “Sometimes people just aren’t who they seem to be” from her. Come off it. I’m absolutely fine with ludicrous fun; in fact, the older I get the more I realise that’s sufficient for most of my TV viewing needs. But this isn’t that. It’s just stupid. At this stage my feeling is that the only possible justification for this plot is that Liz actually knows. I haven’t looked for spoilers, so I have no idea whether that’s the case. But if it isn’t I may throw something at the screen. The rest of the episode, though, was fine.

The Rookie s2 ep 18

As the end of the season approaches, The Rookie is hitting top form, with three strong plots in this episode. Nolan and Harper are required to escort a group of four cocky, sullen young offenders to a local prison, as part of a Scared Straight programme intended to persuade them that a life of crime is a bad idea. (Like quite a lot of ideas which seem to make intuitive sense, the evidence that these programmes work is mixed at best. At the very best.) They lose one delinquent along the way when he tries to steal the police van, but that still leaves three of them to be, theoretically, Scared Straight by some ferocious prison guards and a couple of inmates. Including, joyously, a recurring Rookie baddie, the urbane but thoroughly nasty Oscar Hutchinson (Matthew Glave).

Then a riot breaks out and, armed with nothing more than bits of wooden chairs, the visiting party has to escape through a prison which, by then, is mostly under the control of inmates who would like vey little more than to take a couple of cops and a few kids as hostages. At this point I started to wonder whether this was all some kind of demented theatrical production aimed at terrifying the kids, but no: it’s a real riot, and after Nolan and Harper get out, with an assist from Hutchinson, they discover that the prison warden has been captured. What to do? Well, plunge back in, of course, still armed with a couple of chair legs, and free the warden with Hutchinson’s help, traded for a plasma TV and a few other privileges. It’s ludicrous, of course, but also properly thrilling in places.

For Bradford, the day starts… badly? Rachel has been offered a new job. In New York. “You have to take it”, counsels Bradford. Yeah you do, Ms Speedbump, I thought; take yourself and your possible life-limiting illness off to Manhattan, and leave Bradford and Chen to get on with it. And for all of them, it gets a bit worse after that: Rachel has been monitoring the health of a young boy who seems to get better when hospitalised, and then worse when back home. His mother, a single parent, has been funding treatment through a Go Fund Me. Well, that all adds up to Munchausen syndrome by proxy if anything ever did, so Rachel ensures that the child is taken into care, only to discover subsequently that the cause of his illness is something else entirely. And then she gets arrested. Does Bradford really need this in his life? Does he, though?

Lopez, meantime, has been flagged, by data-analysing-tech-idiot Elvis Grimaldi, as the Officer Most Likely To Be Sued. And Grimaldi has the ear of the brass. So Grimaldi accompanies Lopez and Jackson on what is intended to be a low-risk, low-impact tour of duty, during which she will help old men across the road and rescue kittens from trees. Lopez, instead, has set up a particularly dangerous operation, intended to give her the opportunity to kick some perps around. While that’s going on, one of Grimaldi’s other clients has appeared at his HQ with a gun. Grimaldi didn’t see that coming, calling into question the predictive value of his algorithms.

And Nolan meets Grace’s husband – not divorced yet – Simon, when he turns up at the hospital. Which is OK as far as it goes, but Simon’s reason for doorstepping his estranged wife is that their son is having trouble at school, thought to be related to his parents’ marital woes. Simon wants to give it another go with Grace, and she’s considering it, because trapping yourself in an unhappy marriage is… a thing, I guess? That apart, though, this was excellent.

Public Service Announcement 24 of 2020: 9-1-1

Unpopcult is a big fan of shows about, as Jed puts it, “decent people doing their best” so we’re delighted to see that season 3 of 9-1-1 is finally making its way on to UK screens. It kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9pm on Sky Witness and not before time: the season 3 finale aired in the US a week ago, so we’re miles behind, which is somewhat ironic for a show where getting to places as quickly as humanly possible is absolutely crucial, but we are where we are. What have Bobby, Athena, Hen and co been up to since season 2? Well, let’s find out. We’ve only reviewed it a couple of times in the past, but since it’s improved massively since that clunky pilot , and since I’ve not been watching much or writing about much over the last wee while, 9-1-1 is officially moving up an unpopcult level – I’ll review weekly for the moment at least. So, behave yourself, Buck, or we’ll have words.