It feels churlish to wonder if we really need a TV show in which Hugh Laurie plays a talented medic with a monosyllabic surname, but that’s what Hulu’s new drama Chance is giving us. Eldon Chance – do you see what they did there? – is a forensic neuropsychiatrist with a complicated private life and a Secret Pain or two, who gets entangled with a femme fatale patient (Gretchen Mol) and thus with her violent detective husband (Leo from Scandal). The first two episodes are directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, Room) which, together with The Handmaid’s Tale, suggests that Hulu want to be seen as serious premium TV players. Although the critical response in America was mixed I have a strong feeling that this is actually pretty good, but I just don’t know if I have the time to watch it (tonight, Universal, 9pm).
Jane and Oliver Kind are basically stuck in a video game: locked in a single room, under video surveillance, in a remote cabin, till they work their way on to the next level (ie downstairs), get the word out to Team Tat, and try not to get some kidnapped kids killed, all while ideally not getting killed themselves.
Jane is pretty tremendous throughout, Oliver Kind not so much – any heroism on his part being more accidental than intended, although by the end he does seem to be picking up the hand-to-hand combat bug, if not necessarily the mad skillz. And I could have done without the words “Ponzi scheme” cropping up, but at least we don’t labour it. Too much.
Kurt, meanwhile, divides his time between fretting over how to rescue Jane, being ridiculously nice to the unspeakable Roman – FFS what is it with the writers and this character? He is uninteresting, unlikeable, and unbloodybearable. ENOUGH -and being exceptionally kind to Reade who, never mind quitting, asshat, should be fired a thousand times over and take his terrible stoyline with him.
Roman and Reade notwithstanding, however, the episode was entertaining enough, thanks to Jane and the kidnap story, the departure (please) of Oliver Kind, and the promise of a Jeller resurgence – I see it, I SQUEE it. Hurrah!
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 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.
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.
This week’s Blacklister – and even Red is calling them that these days – is The Caretaker, who looks after highly sensitive documents containing the secrets of “powerful and dangerous people”, including the usual politicians, criminals, corporations, etc., to be released only on their instructions. Where he hoards them is pretty unpleasant; how he gets them is good fun. (The tubes are a thing, even if there’s not much chance, these days, of them actually being used for that purpose. Nor is it the first time they’ve featured in a TV drama.)
The Caretaker has released one of his secret documents, which leads to the death of an American embassy official in China. After some swift detective work by Red he’s apprehended before the first ad break, so we know there’s much more to come. It turns out that The Caretaker’s daughter has been abducted by someone who has threatened to kill her unless he releases another document: this time, one containing a secret deal between an airline and the German government. “Under no circumstances”, snaps Red, “can that become public knowledge”.
Well, at that point we know that it will, and sure enough Cooper orders its release to save The Caretaker’s daughter. There might be a little diplomatic embarrassment, he reasons, and the Germans could have hurt fee-fees, but whatever. Thing is, of course, you would think that German pride is very high on the list of things Red really couldn’t care less about, which suggests that his warning is about something else. And, sure enough, the US government suddenly has an urgent need of German intel to stop terrorists detonating a bomb in New York City, while the Germans are all, uh, no, we’re not talking to you. “I don’t mean to gloat”, Red gloats, “but boy, did I tell you so”.
The bomb is found by Ressler – who is still being a complete asshole – and Samar. It – inevitably – has a LED clock counting down to detonation, and lots of wires to cut. In fairness, the show comes up with a new spin on this deeply tired trope: Aram is remotely guiding Ressler through the wire-snipping, but with 30 seconds to go he stops and demands that Ressler apologises to Samar for his behaviour, which Ressler eventually does with a very poor grace. It’s quite funny, even if (a) IRL it would result in Aram being sacked and probably executed for treason; and (b) good guy though he is, is it not time for Aram to summon up a little dignity? You’ve been friendzoned, dude. Live with it.
It’s reasonably obvious who’s behind the abduction, but that’s beside the point: Red wants something which was stolen from The Caretaker, and gets it from a remarkably ungracious Cooper, who could perhaps have been a little nicer about Red saving his ass, and thousands of lives with it. (Red also generously provides Cooper with a little marriage guidance.) The object Red wants is linked to Liz’s ongoing motherhunting, and his continual attempts to thwart her, which make his claim to the moral high ground vis a vis Tom’s forthcoming marriage to Liz all the more unfathomable. It’s inarguable that Tom engaged BITD in some weapons-grade deception of Liz, but is Red any better? The Blacklist, though, doesn’t trade in plausibility or consistency, and nor should it. A very good episode.