Person of Interest s5 ep 7

Person of Interest is still doing its very best to keep its structure intact even as it reaches the end of its run. So there’s a Number, and this week it belongs to mild-mannered talk radio host Max Greene (30 Rock’s Scott Adsit), who has a show called Mysterious Transmissions which covers conspiracy theories, the paranormal, and the like. Max is “more paranoid than we are”, muses Finch. Root turns up as his producer, having already cycled through this week’s helping of fan service: cop, dancer, “colonial re-enactor”. I hope Amy Acker is having as much fun as she seems to be.

Samaritan is using the radio station’s network to broadcast to its operatives using a code which sounds like static to listeners. Root tries to use this network to get a message out to Shaw; meantime, Max is in danger, as he has become aware that there’s a pattern to the static. The conclusion of Max’s story will once again emphasise that the Machine ultimately allows for the possibility of free will, even at the expense of the safety of the individual, in a way that Samaritan does not.

Shaw, meantime, is on another Samaritan-led field trip, during which she’s prompted to kill a scientist working on bringing the thylacine back to life (if, that is, it needs to be…), because Samaritan has seen that the consequences would be catastrophic. Everyone talks so much about this being another simulation that it’s reasonably obvious that it’s not; Shaw decides that she’d sooner be dead, but just as she’s about to commit suicide Root’s message gets through to her.

And poor Fusco, who just about survived last week’s tunnel demolition, is getting pissed off with Finch and Reese keeping things from him; it’s ostensibly for his own protection, but that doesn’t really seem to be working, does it? So he hands back his Team Machine phone and announces that he’s out. It’s a bit like the cop slamming his badge down on the boss’s table. It’s another brilliantly cerebral yet entertaining episode. There’s really nothing quite like this show.

24: Legacy s1 ep 7

I was hopeful that the end of last week’s episode might finally have lit the blue touchpaper on this show. I wasn’t wrong; this was comfortably the best episode since the first of the season. Henry Donovan is still claiming that he knows nothing about any leak of the whereabouts of the Rangers, so Rebecca concludes that it’s time to use “enhanced interrogation” on him. But she knows her husband won’t approve, so someone on Mullins’s staff will need to keep the Senator distracted while Henry is “released”, then snatched by Rebecca’s torturer of choice and taken to a black site.

Mullins signs off on the plan, but then makes the mistake of asking Rebecca who she has engaged for the job. And the really good news is that she’s contracted an old friend of the show, and very, very special guest star, the one and only Tony Almeida. “Almeida?!” splutters Mullins. “He’s a criminal! A lot of people are dead because of Tony Almeida!” Yeah they are, bitch, because the Almeida is the biggest, baddest mutha you and your pretend CTU have ever had to deal with. He even performs the extraction in a menacing obsidian-black van with tinted windows. And his current partner-in-torture – some popsy about half his age – correctly guesses that he used to be in a relationship with Rebecca, thus continuing Almeida’s impressive record of hitting it with just about every woman in every iteration of 24.

Can you tell I’m excited?

Almeida and Rebecca meet at the interrogation site, where he finds out that her husband doesn’t know what she’s signed her father-in-law up for. “That’s going to be an awkward conversation”, murmurs Almeida. And he’s right, and it is: the Senator finally works out that he’s being deliberately kept distracted and demands to know what the hell’s going on. “Your father… wasn’t responding to conventional interrogation”, he’s told, while Tony and his partner are futzing around with blood samples and counselling Henry on what’s about to happen to him: it’ll feel as if his skin is being burnt off, and that’s just the beginning.

Meantime, the other half of the show, now freed from the underperforming subplot with the teacher and the two murders of Drew, is finally able to hit escape velocity as well. Carter’s wife and brother have been kidnapped by Jihadi, Jr., who’ll trade their lives for someone who can repair the USB drive which holds the details of the terrorist sleeper cells. Unfortunately for Andy, who has of course already lost his job, he’s also the best tech guy available, so Carter grabs him and proposes that they head over to see the terrorists, secure the release of Isaac and Nicole, then make it look as if they’re fixing the USB drive while in fact erasing it. Of course, that’s a certain suicide mission. “There’s gotta be another way?” pleads Andy, who’s obviously never seen this show before. No, dude, you’re going to die. Think of the thousands of lives you’ll be saving…?

So Andy says her farewell to Tom, who discerns that there’s something going on, and catches up with Carter and Andy on the road, but is handcuffed before he can interfere. They get to the terrorist hideout and persuade Jihadi, Jr. to release Isaac and Nicole. “Take care of her, man”, says Carter to Isaac, who has already made his declaration of undying love to Nicole, so I think we can be reasonably sure that he will, uh, “take care” of her should she be widowed. Isaac and Nicole drive off, but Jr. then orders one of his henchmen to follow them and kill them. Tsk. Can’t you trust anyone these days?

Scandal s6 ep 2

‘Hardball’ jumps back and forth between two timelines, without ever being wholly convincing in either. In flashback, we discover that Mellie had an affair with Marcus during the Presidential campaign, despite Olivia’s prim advice to her to keep her knees together. This, in turn, leads to Olivia ensuring that Marcus is appointed as Press Secretary by Fitz, thus removing him from Mellie’s campaign team. (I was going to put “somewhat improbably” in that last sentence, but yet again I’m forced to acknowledge that that the IRL appointments made by the Trump administration have rewritten the book on what might be regarded as possible.) I could have lived without Mellie’s breathless and excited analysis of Marcus-as-lover; the greater problem, though, is that forbidden-yet-passionate love between a Presidential candidate and an aide has been done fairly recently, and on a TV show not a bajillion miles away from this one.

In the present day, meantime, “the Constitution’s going up in flames”, according to David Rosen. Isn’t it just, David, and you don’t even have a President prepared to demean the role of the independent judiciary on social media, or use his office to promote his own leisure resort. The man in custody for the assassination of Frankie Vargas, Nelson McClintock, is making Oswald-esque claims that he’s just a patsy, which doesn’t help; everyone wants a confession that he was acting as a lone wolf, which would enable Cyrus Beene to slide, unencumbered by suspicion, into the Oval. This roadblock is resolved when McClintock spends a couple of minutes in the company of Jake, who doesn’t even need to touch him in order to extract the necessary document, along with a lot of urine.

Meantime, Fitz is as ever pursuing both political and personal goals: he sits Cyrus and Mellie down to come up with a compromise – Vice-President Mellie to President Cyrus? Really? – and he chases the new FBI director, Angela Webster, while Olivia looks on, grits her teeth, and pretends that she’s totally fine with Fitz going after a powerful African American woman who isn’t her. But Olivia and her team aren’t letting go of their suspicions about Cyrus, and manage to unearth an apparently damning piece of evidence: footage of Cyrus threatening Vargas, which Olivia takes straight to Fitz, who possesses sufficient integrity to call the Attorney General, while Olivia strolls off with a Carrie Matheson triumphant face. Not at all bad, I should say; I have a hope that there’s better to come, but Scandal seems at least to have shaken off its season 5 malaise.

Public Service Announcement 24 of 2016: The Night Of, Wolf Creek

First on this week’s list is the acclaimed eight-part HBO drama The Night Of, based on the UK show Criminal Justice. British actor Riz Ahmed plays the lead role of Naz, who has a night of sexy and druggy action with a young woman, then – inevitably, this being TV – wakes up the next morning to find her stabbed to death, and is accused of her murder. Richard Price and Steven Zaillian are co-creators, writers, and exec producers. The American critics loved it (Sky Atlantic, Thursday 1 September, 9pm).

And from the other side of the world, Wolf Creek, a six-part remake of the horror film of the same name, is one of the first original programme offerings from Australian streaming company Stan – no, I can’t keep up either. An American tourist in the outback survives an attack during which other members of her family are killed, then tries to track the killer herself. I haven’t seen the original – and, apparently, thoroughly nasty – movie, but the TV show was reasonably well-received in Australia. Trailer here (Fox UK, tonight, 10pm).

Also starting: Amazon Prime’s The Collection, which they’re touting as their first ever original UK drama, even though it’s set in post-war Paris (episode 1 available from Friday 2 September); season 3 of NBC’s The Night Shift (Sony Entertainment Television, tonight, 10pm); season 2 of Netflix’s well-received Narcos (available from Friday 2 September); and  the first and only season of Syfy’s already-cancelled Hunters, about a Philadelphia cop who tracks down aliens, or something. I have no intention of watching, but I quite like the fact that each episode has the title of an OMD song (Syfy UK, Wednesday 31 August, 9pm).

Forthcoming attraction: him out of Poldark, in Poldark. More on that soon.

The Catch s1 ep 7

‘The Ringer’ opens on an unusually domestic scene: Ben’s still there, in Alice’s bed, in the morning. She, of course, tells him that they can’t do this any more, a pill which is sugared considerably by the gorgeous dress she’s wearing. And the fact she doesn’t mean a word of it, which means that she isn’t wearing the dress for too much longer.

Anyway, she has a Case of the Week, but like last week’s it’s nothing special: the son of video games zillionaire Vincent Singh (Vik Sahay, Lester out of Chuck and, more specifically, Jeffster!) has run away from home because he doesn’t want to live with his father any more. Vincent got sole custody after divorcing from his bipolar wife Karen (Unpopcult favourite Annie Wersching), who he successfully portrayed as a danger to their son. It starts to look as if the boy was kidnapped, and it’s reasonably obvious who’s behind it; what’s less obvious is why Alice should pivot so smoothly to blackmailing her client.

The Con of the Week, though, is much more fun, and perhaps one of the best of the season. Rich young gambling addict Teddy Seavers is “a bit of an idiot”, according to Margot (Sonya Walger having her best episode so far), and a whale who needs to be landed. So she sets up a high-stakes game of poker with the intent of using Ben, Rhys, and the returning Reggie to take a chunk of Teddy’s spare change. What Margot and Ben don’t know, though, is that Rhys is now aware that Ben and Alice are still in contact, and has a much bigger agenda of his own to advance. The episode’s last twist is beautiful, and rounds off yet another smart, fast-moving episode.

The Catch s1 ep 5

I thought the last episode was the best so far. ‘The Larágon Gambit’ is better. In the Case of the Week, Alice is consulted by school worker William Etheridge, who suspects that his wife Renee, a district attorney, is having an affair. There’s a slight problem – Alice and Val ran Renee’s election campaign, so she’s a client too – but no-one’s going to allow that to get in the way of the investigation, at the end of which Alice’s firm has made a powerful enemy, who I’m sure we’ll see again.

The real fun this week, though, is with Ben and Margot. Their benefactor wants them to pull off a jewellery heist, and for that purpose they’re effectively joined by Felicity, who we first saw last week as The Benefactor’s hired gun and Margot’s FWB. “I’m a killer, not a thief!” she protests to no avail. The target is a priceless bracelet which never leaves the wrist of its owner, who will be wearing it at a reception at a consulate. However, two other criminal syndicates are there as well, all planning to try the same thing. What Ben doesn’t know is that Alice has tracked him there, after some more phone flirtation, during which Alice found out that Dao has been bugging her apartment. But what Dao doesn’t know that Alice knows about that too. The amazing conclusion which Alice kind of arrives at is that Ben might actually be the more trustworthy of the two. More bedworthy, anyway. The heist sequence is a joy to watch, the aftermath is convincingly sexy, and the final twist – shifting the power balance again – is a delight.

It’s a packed episode, but it never becomes overloaded or confusing, and it’s as entertaining as all hell. I’m becoming more and more surprised at the lukewarm critical reception which this show has attracted. I think it’s great.