Designated Survivor s1 ep 16

On Designated Survivor this week, A Tale of Two Shows on Two Floors.

Overground/ upstairs, the PJB administration tries to push a gun control bill nobody really believes in through the Senate – they’ll “fix it in the House,” apparently, which seems risky to me, but then again I’m just recapping not legislating the future of a nation. The writers and the cast do their best with this Very Important Subject: Aaron gets to reach out to Emily (SQUEE!) and offer Kimble’s help; Kimble gets to reach out to PJB and confound him yet again (easily done); and the First Lady gets to almost screw everything up, as per usual, with the supposed “move” to Camp David now nothing but an ephemeral, beautiful, idea consigned to the dustbin of time, along with Betamax and my youth.

While perfectly watchable and reasonably entertaining, none of this save-the-bill, save-the-world stuff is very surprising. PJB is earnest, Moss has a whale of a time chewing the scenery (and chewing up anyone not playing ball), Seth is Seth and therefore awesome, and the final vote is fun, albeit the “shock! twist!” is about as “shocking!” and “twisty!”as a ruler. The problem with spending such a big part of any episode on a serious politicking story like this one, however, is that it reminds us of what the show isn’t capable of doing, as opposed to what it is; I’ve said in the past that I really don’t mind PJB not being The West Wing and I don’t like comparing the two, because PJB’s not meant to be a serious prestige political drama, it’s a high-concept thriller set against a political background, which is a very different thing. An episode like this one suggests, though, that the writers have forgotten that, and think this gleefully crazy show (I mean that as a compliment) can compete in the serious political drama arena, which it not only, patently, can’t, but makes that sort of unfavourable TWW comparison both inevitable and damning, whether I love both shows or not.

Since PJB is usually more successful when it’s being daft and thrilling than when it’s trying to be serious, then, it’s unfortunate that this weeks Conspiracy Plot side of things is more exposition than exciting. While upstairs focuses on gun control, below stairs is in charge of missile control – Agent Q (now apparently allergic to sunlight?) sticks to the lower levels, firstly using her basement office at the White House (When did she get this? What happened to QHQ?) to show Agent Mike all the exciting “Hey, we can blow stuff up!” graphics that she and Jason found on Janice from Stalker’s computer, before heading off on another road trip to Conspiracy Corp’s underground missile silo in North Dakota. Despite “the one man you can trust” Reed Diamond being back from his holidays, Q still chooses to take the not-entirely-stable Jason Atwood along instead, but he holds it together long enough for both of them to find enough bombs to blow up three Capitols, which I probably should’ve been a lot more aghast about than I was. I mean, I know it’s bad and all, but it’s difficult to get worked up about a dusty warehouse full of giant, oddly-shaped Lego. To be honest, I was much more excited by Aaron’s husky post-vote call to Emily (SQUEE AGAIN!), than anything Agents Q and Atwood were getting up to. The episode was fine, sure, and I enjoyed it, but PJB has been much sillier in the past and much better for it.

Homeland s6 ep 12

Spoilers. It’s the last episode.

Homeland doesn’t always manage to stick the season-ending landing, but as these things go I thought this was a pretty good finale. Dar is going down fighting: he has a Senator, in his underwear, imprisoned in the freezer room of a restaurant, and he’s trying to find out from him what the conspirators are planning, with specific reference to Quinn. I must say that I’m not entirely convinced that the Prince of Darkness would put his evident affection for Quinn ahead of his messianic belief that President-elect Keane needs to be stopped, but there it is. Anyway, while Carrie and Quinn are with Keane at her hotel, overseeing an evacuation because there might be a bomb in the building, Dar discovers that the plan is to flush Keane out and assassinate her as she leaves. He tells Carrie just in time for her to stop Keane exiting the building, and thus saving her life, as a bomb goes off outside.

And then it’s Peter Quinn’s last stand: he bundles Carrie and PEOTUS into a 4X4, and drives them to safety through a hail of bullets from the would-be assassins. But in the process he’s shot, and – finally – dies. Which is irritating. Last week I said that – having survived sarin, stroke, and explosion – he was probably immortal for the show’s purposes. I was very wrong. But it hardly seems worth keeping him alive for this, and I’m now even more of the view that he should have been allowed to die at the end of season 5. Farewell, Quinn.

We then jump forwards six months. According to O’Keeffe, President Keane has extended the reach of the PATRIOT Act. And she was inaugurated behind closed doors. Given the events of episodes 1-11 I can see the need for her to be circumspect, but presumably a camera crew could have been allowed in? Still, O’Keeffe can piss off. Dar is in prison, not before time, and on being visited by Saul, Dar confides that he still thinks there’s something “un-American” about Keane.

My guess is that what then happens is to be interpreted as corroborative of Dar’s position, as the episode – and the season – ends on a disquieting note. Carrie has been working as Keane’s liaison to the intelligence community, and in that capacity reassures senior officials that, although Keane hasn’t been granting them much direct access, their jobs aren’t in any danger. Keane then offers her a permanent position in the West Wing and, while she weighs her options, she gets FaceTimed by Saul, who is being arrested. She then discovers that he’s far from the only person in the intelligence agencies to get arrested and, when she tries to protest directly to Keane, she’s blocked by new Chief of Staff David Wellington (Linus Roache).

The show, I think, is inviting us to regard this as sinister, and maybe it is. The thing is, though, does Keane not have a… point? There has just been an attempt to mount what would have effectively have been a coup d’état, involving significant numbers of Agency officials allying themselves with an alt-right bloviator and his lie factory, and using bombs and bullets along the way. Not to mention everything that’s happened in seasons 1-5. Time, I’d say, to clean house. And if one or two innocents get swept up: well, can’t make an omelette.

The final shot – Carrie staring at the Capitol – is presumably a deliberate callback to Brody’s similar scene at the end of the pilot. I can’t imagine that Carrie is going to go full terrorist on us, but at this point it’s quite possible to imagine her working in Keane’s White House, or campaigning in opposition to it. However, having once again enjoyed this admittedly patchy but ultimately compelling season, I’ll once again be on board to find out.

The Good Fight s1 ep 3

Okay, it’s taken a couple of episodes but I’m now fully on board with The Good Fight.

This week’s compassionate, intelligent and still witty episode combined a complex, tragic case involving a doctor operating on patients in Syria via Skype, a joyously funny sub-plot with Adrian and Barbara having to out REDACTED as a Trump voter, and Marissa teaming up with both the wary office investigator and the wearing Maia (sorry, Jed) to remind us once again how much better she is at everyone else’s jobs than they are. Hurrah!

In terms of minor quibbles, I’m struggling to care about the ongoing “Who’s the real brains behind the Ponzi scheme?” story arc – as far as I’m concerned, every one of the suspects can pretty much go and raffle themselves – but I can live with it in return for all the other excellent stuff the show is serving up, especially if it involves Adrian who, I say again, is the BEST. I thought this episode was great.

Les Hommes de l’ombre s3 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

We begin in deeply unsettling fashion with a convoy of official vehicles racing through a Parisian tunnel. Maybe it’s not meant to evoke the memories it does, maybe it is; either way, and since I knew going in that season three of Spin (like season one) was going to start with a significant public death, it’s a disturbing moment, but it turns out that even Spin isn’t crass enough to go there. Instead, the Marjories make it through the tunnel unharmed, and it’s Simon Kapita and the Minister for Parliamentary Reform(?) Clemence Parodi – a woman whom I initially thought might be Gabi from last season – who are at the epicentre of the tragedy, namely a radio station where a gunman shoots up the studio live on air, killing a high-profile Far Right candidate. At least I think he was a high-profile Far Right candidate – the combination of Spin’s usual terrible subtitling with my lack of knowledge of the French political system makes it something of a struggle to try and get a grip of who belongs to which party. I wouldn’t put any euros on me being right about any of them.

Alors. Simon and Clemence are understandably traumatised by the whole business, but the emotional impact of “We could have died!” and “All that blood!” is somewhat diluted by the segue straight into “Let’s crash right into each other and have sex tout de suite!” I laughed out loud, which I’m guessing is not the effect anyone was going for and which also means, in terms of sex with Simon at stressful moments, Clemence is pretty much Gabi from last season after all.

It’s back to business the matin after, though, as Clemence shifts back into work mode, unceremoniously swapping Simon for an immediate, wholesale change of the entire French voting system, because trying to alter the course of the nation’s destiny forever really could not wait till episode 2. *rolls yeux*

Malheureusment for Clemence and her big plan, however, since Simon spends most of the episode having woozy spells and hiding out in Ludo’s old office (now Simon’s new office?) in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid his appalling ex-wife, he’s not really up to doing too much politicking on her behalf. And nobody else thinks it’s a magnifique idea to be handing power to the far droit anyway, so the PM pulls a fast one, the bill tanks and poor Clemence is left wondering if it’s too late to go back to bed.

As Simon drinks and broods, and Clemence considers a new career, then, Madame Marjorie, er, walks repeatedly around the Palais in a series of dubious-looking pairs of slacks. Every few minutes, there she is – round a corner, up a staircase, along a corridor – wandering aimlessly into shot, looking either dazed or ready for a fight with Monsieur Le Prés, who is visibly wondering why this pair didn’t just split up at the end of season 2. Je ne sais pas pourquois, either, Alain, but it’s jamais too late.

Alors, again. Since she’s not getting any sort of satisfaction (or any sort of birthday present) from Le Prés, Mme Marjorie eventually gets bored with her route and changes things up by walking all the way to the UAE and involving herself in a stupendously daft rescue attempt, either because she’s looking for a more active role in foreign policy or because she’s an imbecile. *rolls yeux encore*

Thank goodness then for mon amour Ludo, who’s having a much more successful (if brief) time than the rest of these nitwits. With artfully unshaven visage and his own right-wing (je pense?) candidate Anne-Marie, the handsomest man on tv is poised to take full advantage of Morlaix’s death, not to mention full advantage of the fact that he looks like Gregory Fitoussi and she looks so like fellow Spiral alum Audrey Fleurot that for a moment I was confused about which French drama I was actually watching. If they’re not sleeping together yet, it can’t be long, non?

Not that Ludo and his cinq heures shadow get any more than a few minutes to woo us; a sneer from old frenemy Deleuvre, a few seconds plotting with Anne-Marie and he’s done for the week, which is disappointing but not unexpected given how under-used he was last season. And given time has to be found for two new shows-within-the-show, namely “Elisabeth Marjorie: International Rescue” and, most exciting of all, top new detective drama “Palissy de Justice.” You thought he was just the Minister for the Interior? Oh, non. While the intelligence agencies scratch their derrières, the French answer to Columbo cracks the assassination case wide open, working out the whos, the whys and the wherefores, and organising elegantly-choreographed SWAT raids all over the French countryside. Dude is so bien at fighting crime, he should get a gig on Spiral himself. And his entire storyline would have fit better there too, instead of taking up temps on a show which is supposed to be saying something important about French politics at a time when the entire planet’s future is in the balance, as opposed to doing a French version of Le Bill.

Sigh. As usual with Spin, this episode was rarely more than all right, and frequently much less than that. The political intrigue continues to lose so much in translation that I’m confused or bemused far too often; the Marjories’ relationship continues to take up an amount of screen time inversely proportionate to the interest anyone except the writers can possibly have in it (Mon Dieu, just GET. A. DIVORCE); and the insufferable Appolline continues to get way more to do than the indispensable Ludo, whose job description is actually in the name of the show. Something not right there, n’est-ce pas?

Homeland s6 ep 11

Now that Quinn has found Sekou’s original van, providing evidence that he was framed, Carrie wants to call it in to the Solicitor General. Quinn doesn’t, though, because he wants to offer some extra-judicial justice to the guy who shot Astrid. “You owe me!” Quinn shouts at Carrie. “Because you made me this way!” He does have a point, in fairness. So when he tells Carrie that he’s going out, following the men from the house when they leave, Carrie takes the opportunity to have a look round for herself. It’s entirely possible, given what then happens, that Quinn was getting Carrie to repay her debt by using her as bait: Astrid’s killer is still in the house, and he’s about to strangle Carrie, but Quinn comes bursting in, shoots the man, then batters him to death, of which we are not spared the details. Still, he deserved it.

Meantime, Saul is once again trusted by President-elect Keane, and takes the opportunity to show her the evidence that Dar Adal is linked to alt-right wing nut O’Keeffe. Keane is invited onto O’Keeffe’s talk show, and her advisers are inclined to tell her not to go. Saul, however, knows what’s going on, and although he’s as much of a practitioner of two-fisted realpolitik as anyone on the show he has never quite lost sight of the moral dimension of what he does: he observes that there’s a disinformation campaign, and there are protestors with “boots on the ground”. This is the sort of thing the US does in other countries to delegitimise governments, and “it does not end well”, he notes drily, “for the elected regime”. I’m more than ever convinced that the Homeland writers were expecting a Clinton victory and a subsequent right-wing campaign to destabilise her, similar to the one before the election which (successfully) made such a big deal out of a bit of ill-advised email handling. Anyway, PEOTUS goes on O’Keeffe’s show, and does a reasonably good job, but what can you say to these people? In real life, I mean, as well as on Homeland. Seriously?

Max is still being held at O”Keeffe’s alt-right fake news factory, and thinks he’s escaped, but he’s recaptured and taken to meet Dar, whose motives are now becoming opaque again: Dar caught sight of O’Keeffe’s next project, something about Quinn, and Max digs around until he finds it. It’s a blog, purportedly written by Quinn, in which he’s set up as an anti-Keane fanatic. This ties in with what Quinn – now offered immunity for using the terrorist as a punchbag – and Carrie have found at the house, where it looks as if an attack on the East Coast is planned. Putting two and two together, I’m guessing that Keane is to be assassinated with Quinn as patsy. But as Carrie tries to call Keane’s chief of staff – the underused Hill Harper –  to warn him, the house blows up. Quinn survives, mind you, and given what he’s already been through I think we can now peg him as being essentially immortal. It’s another excellent episode, although it depressed the hell out of me.

Public Service Announcement 13 of 2017: Doctor Who

It’s the holiday weekend and I have chocolate to eat, so just a very quick reminder that BBC stalwart Doctor Who returns to UK screens this evening (7:20 PM on BBC1) with a lot going on: not only do we have Pearl Mackie’s debut as new companion Bill, but it’s also Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi’s final season as showrunner and eponymous hero, respectively. All three of them will have to get through the run without me, however as, much as I enjoyed the Christmas special, the show in general lost its spark for me some time ago. If you’re still watching, I’d be interested to hear what you think – comments are welcome as always.

Hawaii Five-0 s7 ep 15

The body of a woman in her thirties, Leia Rosen, is found floating offshore, with a number tattooed on her arm, akin to those inflicted on Nazi concentration camp prisoners. This enables the Five-0 to identify her as Leia Rosen, the granddaughter of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor. Leia had been working as a volunteer in Kalaupapa, a peninsula on the island of Molokai, which hosted what used to be called a leper colony until the end of the 1960s. For the second week in a row, a quick check on Wikipedia revealed to me that this wasn’t an invention by the writers: although it is now a national park, there are still a few elderly survivors of Hansen’s disease, ill at ease with outside life, living in Kalaupapa as part of the community. And, once again, Hawaii Five-0 deserves considerable credit for illuminating a hidden corner of the history of the islands.

Anyway, Leia’s journey to Molokai turns out to have been linked to her grandfather’s past, and specifically to an elderly Nazi who escaped Germany after the war and set up home there. I thought it to be a little better plotted than last week’s equally-worthwhile episode – perhaps every other viewer worked out who the killer was, but I certainly didn’t – and, once again, an excellent example of H50 providing education and entertainment at the same time.

There’s some filler elsewhere: a B-plot in which a reviled hunter of exotic animals is found hanging upside down having apparently been eviscerated by a shark. There isn’t much to it, but it introduced me to the practice of “finning”, which sounds ruder than it is. And there’s a flimsy C-plot in which Kamekona tries to get the Five-0 to intervene when his employees go on strike. Putting that aside, a strong episode.