Madam Secretary s5 ep 19

Although Elizabeth has not yet officially announced her Presidential run – a run which the show’s renewal for a sixth, ten-episode, season means we will see – she has started to assemble her campaign team. Unsurprisingly, her campaign team is more or less the same as her team in the State Department, plus Mike B and minus Nina, who in declining to work for her proposed new boss – a well-known groper – will eventually bring him down. Elizabeth is courted by Democrats and Republicans to seek their party’s nomination, although she decides to follow POTUS and run as an independent. And Luke Wheeler out of Nashville announces that he’s seeking the GOP nomination, running on a populist-nationalist platform.

There’s also a little State business to be handled. But, this week, only a little. China has broken an international embargo by selling a fighter jet to Myanmar, which is oppressing the Rohingya people. Elizabeth spars, more or less amiably, with her old foe Foreign Minister Ming, then tries to have the treatment of the Rohingya classified by the UN as genocide.

The main action, though, revolves around a newspaper story that Elizabeth and Conrad had an affair while working together at the CIA. Elizabeth denies it, and to start with Mike B thinks they should just ignore the story and make no comment. Since this advice is very evidently insane Elizabeth will, in due course, go on the record with her rebuttal. However, Henry wavers just a little – of course he believes Elizabeth, but would there be any, uh, evidence of this affair you definitely weren’t having? – and for a few delicious minutes I was prepared to consider the possibility that it  might have happened. However, Conrad also denies it, so I suppose that’s that. An entertaining episode, but it would have been even better if the final scene had been Elizabeth and Conrad in the Oval, with one of them saying to the other “Think we got away with it, then?”. That might have introduced an air of jeopardy to a show which is occasionally a little short on real tension.

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Public Service Announcement 30 of 2019: Mary Kills People, The Bad Seed, Years And Years

If the schedules are anything to go by, at some point our hypothetical spinoff project, Unpopcommonwealth, might become a reality. We had Coroner at the start of the year; The Heart Guy has just finished; Cardinal is ongoing; and we’re expecting Private Eyes in June.

And here, tonight, are a couple more shows from the corners of what used to be the Empire. Mary Kills People, from Canada, is a black comedy about an ER doctor (Caroline Dhavernas, so good in Hannibal), who has a side hustle: assisting the suicide of the terminally ill. This first season aired back in 2017 in Canada, and attracted generally good reviews and a shit-ton of nominations at the Canadian Screen Awards. You know, I have a feeling that this might be worth a look (9pm, More 4).

New Zealand, meantime, offers us The Bad Seed, a five-part psychological thrillers based on books by Charlotte Grimshaw. Dean O’Gorman from The Almighty Johnsons is in the cast, as one of two brothers with a shared dark history. No idea whether it’s any good (9pm, Alibi).

And plucky little Britain fights back with Years And Years, a BBC/HBO/Canal+ co-production written by Russell T. Davies and starring actual Academy Award winner Emma Thompson. It’s a family drama which takes us into an increasingly dystopian future. Again, I have no idea whether it’s any good or not, but I expect that we’ll all be getting told tomorrow that it’s a work of genius (9pm, BBC One).

Game of Thrones s8 ep 5

*ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE SPOILERS*

In television, as in life, you can’t always get what you want. With this deeply frustrating episode and the one before, though, Game of Thrones seems determined not to give us much of what we need, either.

We begin with Varys, plotting away till the end. ls that last chat with his last little bird about trying to poison Daenerys? Or just trying to cheer up Her Royal Sadness with a tub of the Seven Kingdoms equivalent of ice cream? (Haagen-Daariozs? Ben’n’Jorah’s? Never mind.) Maybe we’ll find out next week, maybe we never will – either way, Tyrion adds another to his very long list of bad decisions, and shops him to the increasingly moody Dragon Queen who seems more upset about her nephew/ boyfriend’s “betrayal” / reasonable refusal to hide his own identity having waited 8 seasons to find it out (you say potato, I say potahto, etc) than anything else. Still, at least she doesn’t let it spoil her sense of the dramatic – Varys, er, “goes Dracarys” on a dark, windy Dragonstone night, with everyone but Her Grace and Grey Worm looking profoundly uncomfortable because nothing says “I’m not going the full Targaryen” like flame-grilling the guy who suggested you might be.

Goodbye, Varys. Conleth Hill’s performance over the years has been such that l’ve forgotten practically all the deceitful things the Spider ever did and will remember him with fondness. His death is sad but it’s fitting, in terms of the development of the character and the story over the years, and it makes sense. Would that the same could be said about some of the others this week, though, as the show lays waste not only to Kings Landing but to years of writer and audience investment in Jaime Lannister who, it turns out, is doing exactly what he told Brienne he was: going back to Cersei and, in the process, as legions of distressed fans have pointed out today, going back on years of character development because, in the end, everything Jaime did to redeem himself in our eyes and his own matters naught to him. All that matters is Cersei.

Sigh. At least he gets a sweet, final scene with Tyrion first, as his little brother repays a favour and helps him escape. I don’t believe he means it when he says he’s never much cared for the common people either – the very reason he became the Kingslayer gives the lie to that. That’s just some of the old Golden Lion bravado coming through, but it’s the old Golden Lion that the show seems determined to leave us with: battling his way back to Cersei’s side to save her or die trying. It’s a sad, ignominious exit for a character who should have been one of GOT’s greatest triumphs – when we first met him, he pushed a child (a Stark child!) out of a window, to stop his own nasty, seedy family secret getting out. You’d think there could be no sympathy for him and there could be no coming back from that but, somehow, thanks to patient writing, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s fantastic work, and his wonderful partnership with Gwendoline Christie’s Brienne, there was and he did. Until this week. Jaime and Cersei dying together is an ending that makes sense too, yes, but Jaime and Cersei dying together with him back in her arms as if he never left them is an awful, nihilistic one that doesn’t, made even worse by that smirking idiot Euron being a smirking idiot right till the end.

Sigh. I’m talking around rather than about the basic plot, I know, but then the basic plot is exactly what I thought it would be: Dany has a tantrum because she’s lost her friends, and she might not get the cool crown she wants, so Kings Landing and everyone in it has to burn.

The outrage on the Lannister army’s faces when they realise their surrender is being dishonoured in this way; the horror on Jon Snow’s as he tries fruitlessly to stop the fighting; the men, women and children of the city running from the flames and the fighting but dying in their thousands nonetheless – it’s all beautifully, majestically shot and fantastically acted, with each scene its own perfect tableau of violence, terror and senseless, merciless bloodshed. None of this needs to happen, none of it, but Daenerys must be queen, or kill everyone else trying because the First of her Name has always sought revenge and the throne above all else. She only wants the wheel broken if she’s the one who gets to do the breaking, and since the only people she would have allowed to talk her out of fire and blood before are now either dead or standing in her way to the Iron Throne, then fire and blood it must be.

What Dany does this week, then, what she has finally become is, unconscionable but, like Varys’s fate and unlike Jaime’s, it’s fitting and it makes sense. Contrary to a lot of online chatter and a lot of criticism I’ve levelled at GOT over the years, I don’t think this particular twist is misogynist, and I don’t think it’s sexist – I just don’t think she was ever the hero people thought she was, and the show did a better job showing that over the years than it did with Jaime, even if the ultimate goal was to show that neither of them could ever really escape the families and family traits that made them what they were.

In one sense that is the ultimate theme of the episode, I suppose. After all, the Hound and the Mountain are family who couldn’t ever truly escape each other too, albeit their mutual self-destruction is both horrible to watch and absolutely perfect. And at least their ending gives rise to one of the few moments of humour in the episode when Cersei, realising that the Mountain is more interested in fighting his brother than looming about behind her any longer, quietly slides past them and scoots off. I don’t know if I was supposed to, but I smiled.  The Hound’s also semi-responsible (in a very roundabout way) for the one time I laughed during the episode, too. His last redemptive act may be one of vengeance and death, but his last truly good deed is to persuade Arya (if nobody minds me borrowing from Wham here) to choose life. Nothing funny in that, even though Arya’s subsequent doomed attempts at heroism as she tries and fails to save Michelle from Line of Duty (!) and various other unfortunates border on the farcical. But the sudden, random appearance of a horse for Arya to ride out on reminded me of this and made me shout “HORSE!” again for the first time in years. I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I laughed. After all that, I needed it. See you next week for the big finish.

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 19

The Five-0 is called out to investigate the murder of a window cleaner, found with his harness cut at the foot of a building. His uniform, though, carries the name of a non-existent company, raising the question of whether he’s just pretending to be a window cleaner… which he is. Sometimes you just don’t connect with an hour of TV, even an episode of a show you like, and I’m afraid the tangled tale of the window cleaner/street artist/political activist left me a little cold. I did, though, like Jerry’s crime scene modelling drone, because I’m always here for a drone.

There’s also an undercooked B-plot, in which Lou and Adam pick up the case of a murder victim who was also robbed, post mortem, of his valuable vintage Aloha shirt. (Brought to you by Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts, Honolulu.) And… oh, I don’t know, something about Junior’s dead sister. Not feeling it, I’m afraid. Still – and I’m genuinely pleased about this, even if it might not look that way from this review – the show has been renewed for a tenth season, which is good news.

Public Service Announcement 29 of 2019: Cardinal, The Society, Lucifer

Intriguing Canadian police drama Cardinal is back for its third season this weekend. If the first two seasons are anything to go by it’ll be a taut and nasty thriller, conspicuously well acted by the leads, Billy Campbell as Cardinal and Karine Vanasse as Delorme. I am also shipping them, although given that Cardinal’s wife REDACTED herself – or did she? – at the end of season 2 I have already braced myself for this as a likely example of TV’s latest unwelcome trend, a STUPID DEAD WIFE who gets in the way of a PERFECTLY GOOD SHIP (Saturday, BBC 4, 9pm, double-bills).

Netflix’s latest pitch for the YA market, The Society, drops today. It’s exec produced by Christopher Keyser (Party of Five) and Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, a couple of Spider-Men, Limitless), who also directs the first two episodes. It’s about a group of teenagers who are transported to a facsimile of their hometown, sans adults, and if it’s even halfway decent – and perhaps not even that – it looks as if it might have “cult” written all over it.

And Netflix also has, as of now, the fourth season of Lucifer, which it picked up after Fox cancelled it. I’m still watching season 3 week-by-week, and I’m doing my best to keep myself from being spoiled, so I have no idea where s4 might go. However, from what I’ve seen so far of the third season the quality remains high, so once I’ve finished that I will be very much HERE for more #Deckerstar.

Madam Secretary s5 ep 18

The episode starts with Elizabeth rehearsing an important, yet dull, speech on climate change and related migration. And after a string of important, yet dull, episodes of Madam Secretary, I’m afraid my heart didn’t leap with joy. I know I should be a better person, but in all honesty I come to this show to be entertained, and the second half of the season has been a little too didactic for my tastes.

Unexpectedly, though, the episode takes off from there. Poland starts to make noises about pulling out of Elizabeth’s climate migration deal, and other central and eastern European you tries threaten to follow suit. In an attempt to shore up her position she asks an old acquaintance, Lena, a Polish academic, to make a speech in support. However, Lena is then the subject of an assassination attempt, which appears to be a black-ops job ordered by Polish intelligence. The President wants sanctions on Poland, but the Foreign Relations Committee – chaired, of course, by future Presidential candidate Senator Luke Wheeler out of Nashville – says no.

Meantime Elizabeth is insistent that Lena – a Polish national, but an American resident – should be extracted from Poland. There are all sorts of problems with this; it’s one thing to rattle sabres with an enemy, but Poland is a fellow-member of NATO. In the face of Russell’s objections, POTUS gives the go-ahead. The extraction is successful, and the diplomatic shit hits the fan. And just to complicate things at home Alison, Elizabeth’s daughter, is dating Lucas, Morejon’s son. Henry and Morejon have a sit-down at which they agree that family is off-limits, and Henry tries to persuade Morejon to back away from Senator Luke Wheeler’s populism. Which he does; and, I say again, I can now totally see Morejon as Elizabeth’s running mate. 

Amazingly, Elizabeth pulls it all together, which prompts Russell to tell her that she’s ready for the Oval. So she tenders her resignation to Dalton in order that she can officially run. 

I was bored by the first five minutes of this episode, and thrilled by the rest. Even the C-plot – in which UN Ambassador Harriman gives Elizabeth’s assistant Nina a pep-talk about how working-class grafters like them always succeed, because they can’t afford to fail – looks unassuming to start with, but is solid gold.

The Good Fight s3 ep 6

*SPOILERS*

Blum is camped out at Reddick Boseman, ingratiating himself with Adrian and Julius, and even getting under Marissa’s skin, much to the frustration of Diane, Liz and yours truly. Lemond Bishop drops in to raise my hopes that we might be going back to some Good lawyering, only to dash them again by giving the show more excuses to keep Blum around. (Mike Colter’s Lemond is terrific, do something non-Blum-related with him please.) And Lucca is consulted in the most bizarre, roundabout way about a potential celebrity divorce. Whose? Jay thinks it’s REDACTED and REDACTED, but turns out it’s actually EVEN MORE REDACTED and REDACTED. Or maybe it isn’t. I think by the end of the episode we’re to understand that EVEN MORE REDACTED is a fake, but by then I just wanted it over with.

The initial stuff with Wade V and Zelda Raye, the hatbox of phones, everyone’s excitement that it might be the people it turned out not to be – all that’s fun, and Cush Jumbo battles valiantly to try and keep the rest of it on the right side of strange. Unfortunately, though, she’s saddled with a storyline that’s just a bit too weird and arch to work. Also, I’m no fan of the individual portrayed, but the “short” of the week is just obnoxious too. So it’s an episode best forgotten as far as I’m concerned. And everybody can just knock it off with the talking to camera, just STOP.