The Good Doctor s2 ep 4

It’s a bumper week of parents, children, and Secret Pain at St Bonaventure, and it kind of annoyed me. Patient of the Week #1 is Kitty, an 18-year-old free solo climber, who after her latest free solo climbing accident has a few fractured limbs. Two choices are before her: low-risk surgery which will restrict her movement, and high-risk surgery which might – might – allow her to keep climbing. Kitty opts for the latter, of course, which makes her the latest in a very, very long line of characters in medical dramas who want incredibly dangerous surgery in order to keep open the possibility of continuing to participate in a hobby. I mean, it might just be that I’ve never really been that invested in anything, but I’ll take the safe option and stay alive, thanks. At this point absurdity piles on absurdity, when Kitty’s parents have her declared medically incompetent – which she plainly isn’t, she’s just stupid – in order to override her wishes.

Patient #2, Mac, gets the best storyline of the week: he’s a young boy with a learning disability (fragile X syndrome), he’s in hospital having injured himself, and his single mother, Nicole, doesn’t want to admit that she can’t cope with him any more. It’s an incredibly difficult situation, and one in which a couple of doctors have a personal interest: Shaun has a degree of insight, of course, and a flashback or two to a foster mother of his own; Melendez’s sister lives in an assisted care facility. Eventually she makes the only choice she can, but it’s harrowing.

Meantime Glassman is still having hallucinatory visions of his dead daughter, Maddie, who seems pretty insufferable if I’m being honest. But we do, at least, discover the source of Glassman’s SP: he locked her out of the house when she was high, and she died. And Shaun is trying to work out how to apologise to Lea, who is still pissed at his behaviour towards her. Eventually they make up, but Shaun has a surprise: he’s rented an apartment for the two of them to live in. Well. 

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Hawaii Five-0 s8 ep 13

An off-duty Lou sees a crashed car which is the subject of a BOLO, decides what the hell, leave is overrated, and wanders over. However, the driver is pointing a gun at himself and threatening to commit suicide. Turns out his wife has just died after “falling off” a balcony at their shared apartment, and he’s about to be arrested for her murder. He says she jumped. Lou agrees to re-investigate the case. “Dangerous precedent”, sniffs Danny.

Needless to say the Five-0, after doing some rudimentary investigative work, finds evidence which conclusively proves that the accused man couldn’t have murdered his wife; and he, in turn, helps things along by providing some fairly fundamental information which strongly points to her being likely to self-harm. So there we go. In the middle of all this there’s a incident – truly bizarre for anyone on this side of the Atlantic – in which the father of the dead woman turns up with a gun, intent on shooting the suspect. Steve disarms him… then allows him to hang around. (As it happens, this demented decision has consequences.)

But the episode is really about Grover confronting his Secret Pain: the incident which ultimately led him, years ago, to leave his beloved Chicago and move to Hawaii: a murder-suicide he wasn’t able to prevent, which left him in the throes of depression and contemplating killing himself. So, although this isn’t the best episode by any means, it’s really a showcase for Chi McBride, and as we’ve seen before the big guy can bring it home when he needs to.

Nashville s6 ep 4

I can see that Nashville and I are going to have some bother if this equine therapy storyline is going to be a thing, and all the signs are that it is. Scarlett turns up at a set of stables which help out troubled teens by bringing them together with Brer Horse. “Horses”, she’s told by the grumpy ranch director, who frankly could do with loosening up a little herself, “are the teachers here”. No. They’re effing HORSES. People are helped. Scarlett mucks out and, you know, finds out something about herself in the process? Oh God.

Avery, Gunnar, and Will start working together, but Will is on steroids and hogging the limelight, and Gunnar is post-break-up and tetchy, so there are lots of fights, to the point where it looks as if they’re not going to be able to coexist. But Bucky wants to manage, Deacon gives them some guidance, and by the end of the episode they’re covering NSYNC’s ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’ and even throwing in a few dance moves, while Deacon watches proudly and Jessie tries not to faint, because she loves boybands and she fancies all three of them.

Meantime, the Deacon/Jessie relationship still isn’t going down well with Daphne, who is also landed with Jessie’s weird son Jake as a lab partner for frog dissection. Actually, I say Jake is weird, because that seems to be his reputation at school; I suspect he’ll turn out to be OK, all things considered. He doesn’t seem to be wanting Deacon in his mother’s life either, particularly as he’s aware of his history. Hey, Daphne, remember that time your sister took your dad to court because he’s a “rage-aholic”? But Daphne and Jake, too, manage to sort things out by the end of the episode, bonding happily while on detention.

So a happy ending all round, then? Well, not for poor old Juliette, who hears some heart-rending sobbing while at the Movement for Coherent Philosophy. It’s a Witnessing, she’s told, which seems to be cult-speak for a kind of hypnotic regression that gets your Secret Pain out in the open. Soon enough it’s Juliette’s turn for her Witnessing, during which she remembers that while she was still a child she was being pimped out by her appalling mother Jolene. Will this mean that she now realises that she deserves to be loved? And, if so, will that involve Avery, who (as he reveals) knows a cult when he sees one? Not terrible, but probably my least favourite episode of the season so far.

Below the Surface (Gidseltagningen) s1 ep 5; s1 ep 6

At the start of episode 5, we get to see that the WTF?! moment at the end of the fourth episode was the TTF going into the lockup associated with the terrorists, and finding a splendid Conspiracy Wall covered in pictures of Philip. Oh no, it’s just because you’re head of the counterterrorism task force, he’s assured by one of his superiors; it’s nothing personal, even though short of putting up a sign on the wall saying “This Is Totally Personal, Philip” there doesn’t seem to be much more the terrorists could have done to drive that point home.

Underground, though, patience is running out: the captives decide to launch an assault on their captors, and they’re going to use the next Naja Toft interview as a distraction, although Naja herself is thrown before she goes live with hostage Ricco, when he tells her that he’s known Leon for years and he doesn’t have a son. So who, wonders Naja, is Jonas, that man I’ve been hitting it with…? Before she can explore that thread on air, though, the interview starts and Joachim, having earlier smuggled a spanner into the cage, moves into action: he knocks one of the terrorists out, takes his gun, and releases everyone else from the cage. 

Unfortunately he can’t quite cement his advantage, and Philip, by phone, persuades him to disarm before everyone gets killed. Joachim gets a beating from the terrorists for his insubordination, and when this turns into a scuffle Bodil, another hostage, is shot and killed.

So the subterranean mood is pretty gloomy in episode 6: it’s Joachim’s 50th birthday, but he doesn’t want to celebrate it. I know how you feel, dude, and I wasn’t even being held at gunpoint. And upstairs, when Bodil’s corpse is the latest to be delivered to the surface in the Lift of Doom, the politicians are starting to get a little bit more demanding with Philip and the TTF. They aren’t mollified by his observation that it could be worse, in that the hostages could all be dead, which is both true and hardly the point. Luckily, there’s a break coming, and it’s because Jonas couldn’t keep his story straight: Naja now knows that there’s something wrong, and manages to alert Louise before Jonas, who has turned aggressive, is able to drag her out of her house.

The TTF, then, has someone directly involved with the plot under lock and key. Once again, it being Denmark, they don’t take a blowtorch to Jonas’s nipples, but sit him down, offer him coffee, and do a bit of quick Googling. His name, it turns out, is Ben, and his brother was killed in action when part of a platoon called K7. This gives Louise something to work with. Incidentally, I was perhaps just a little unfair when in my review of the first episode I suggested that Louise was somewhat high-maintenance: as flashbacks reveal, she has a great big Secret Pain, relating to issues around men who hide emotional turmoil; so it’s unsurprising that she wanted Philip to open up. She may also be the most competent person in the TTF, as she manages to identify one of the terrorists: an ex-squaddie named Mark, who Philip seems to know.

Another two very watchable episodes, then. It should be said that this show was postponed last week because of events in Carcassonne and Trèbes in France on 23 March, when hostages were taken. This included a gendarme who demonstrated almost unbelievable bravery in offering himself as a substitute for someone who was being held, and who then paid with his life when trying to bring the incident to an end. Requiescat in pace, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame.

Cardinal s1 ep 1; s1 ep 2

Algonquin Bay, Ontario, Canada. (Apparently a thinly-disguised North Bay.) A missing First Nations girl, Katie Pine, turns up dead and encased in a block of ice. This comes as little surprise to the detective who was originally looking into her disappearance, John Cardinal (Billy Campbell in fine form), and he’s put back on the case, with dark warnings to behave himself; we’re given to understand that he became obsessed with the investigation first time round. Cardinal is paired with Detective Lisa Delorme (Karine Vanasse, reliably good), who’s just transferred in from Financial Crimes.

In the first of this double-bill Cardinal pursues his belief that whoever killed Katie is, to use his word, a “repeater”, and he starts to review unsolved missing person investigations to see if he can find similar cases. Meantime Delorme is sent off to stay on top of Cardinal’s outstanding enquiry into a string of housebreakings, which – as yet, possibly? – don’t seem to be connected to the murder.

But in the final few minutes of the first episode the show moves up a gear. We discover that Delorme’s presence in the homicide squad isn’t because she fancied a career change: she’s been planted there by Musgrave, the unlikeable Witchfinder General of Internal Affairs, who thinks that Cardinal has a corrupt relationship with drug dealer Kyle Corbett. (And, from what we’ve seen, Cardinal is undoubtedly up to something in the background.) So Delorme is investigating a murder and her partner, at the same time. Awkward, potentially. And while she’s being lectured by Musgrave, Cardinal’s pursuit of one of his missing-person leads results in him finding the body of runaway teenager Todd Curry.

Which sets up the second episode nicely: Cardinal and Delorme head to Toronto for Todd’s post mortem, and discover that his head was wrapped in old-fashioned audio tape, which when analysed contains a faint recording of Katie Pine, pleading for her life, and an unknown man, presumably her killer, thus establishing a link between the murders. Meantime Delorme is visibly wrestling with the fact that Cardinal is more agreeable than the other men in her life – husband and Witchfinder – but nonetheless continues to investigate Cardinal, tailing him to a casino at which he appears to exchange black market chips for cash. He looks dirty, but I’d bet my mortgage that means he isn’t.

By the end of the second episode I was kind of hooked, I think, although with one or two reservations. Even leaving aside Cardinal’s obvious debt to Scandi-noir – the snow, the dead girl, the multiple plots – there’s much about this show which draws from the well-established procedural playbook. Cardinal and Delorme, to start with, tick quite a few of the maverick-TV-cop boxes. For Cardinal, there’s inevitably Secret Pain, personal (his hospitalised wife is bipolar), and professional (his thwarted investigation into Katie’s disappearance). He also has a dead raccoon in his crawl space. I have no idea whether that’s supposed to be a metaphor for something. Delorme, meantime, is supposedly trying for a baby with her husband, for whom I do not care at all. I suspect that before the end of the season he’ll be finding a hidden stash of birth control pills lying around. But Campbell and Vanessa are attractive and watchable actors who elevate the material. And in addition the show looks, well, amazing. The snow-covered, desolate landscapes are, I would guess, a gift to a cinematographer; and the shot of the block of ice containing the remains of Katie being hoisted out of the murder scene on a pulley isn’t one I’ll forget any time soon. So Unpopcult is in, with further reviews to follow.

Timeless s1 ep 6

I discovered last week that The Alamo isn’t my thing. On the other hand: post-WW2 American politics? That is very, very much my jam. So a Watergate-themed episode of Timeless, and specifically one which turns on the 18 minutes excised from President Nixon’s White House tapes, is always going to appeal to me. As it happens, I thought it was the best episode so far.

Flynn and the BTM are in Washington, D.C., in June 1972, on the very day when Nixon recorded the tape which was later “inadvertently” “edited”, with Flynn intending to seize the tape before that can happen. Wyatt, Lucy, and Rufus therefore need to stop him, although were I part of the LTM team my hand would have been in the air at this point asking whether we could, at least, hear what was on the tape first? As it happens Flynn’s a man after my own heart: not only does he capture the three of them to stop them interfering, he’s already got the tape and he plays it. This reveals that Nixon was talking about – oh yes – Rittenhouse, and he also mentions a missing “doc”. Flynn then sends Lucy and Rufus to recover the document, while holding onto Wyatt, threatening to kill him if they’re unsuccessful. And, meantime, Rufus is secretly reporting to someone in 1972, who wants him to “destroy the doc” But it isn’t a document, it’s a doctor, and she’s connected to the Black Liberation Army, which for once means that Lucy feels less comfortable than Rufus.

On top of that there’s stuff about Flynn’s Secret Pain, Wyatt’s Secret Pain, Rufus’s Secret Recordings, and Lucy’s Secret Conversations With Flynn, not to mention her biological father, who is inevitably someone we already know. Plus a splendid Conspiracy Wall. I loved it.

Timeless s1 ep 1

As I’ve said before, I really can’t be doing with storylines about travelling in time, any more than I can be bothered with dream sequences: all of that plot-holed changing-the-past-to-change-the-future nonsense. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at NBC’s time-travel drama Timeless. An armed gang led by Garcia Flynn (Goran Višnjić), a former NSA asset in East Europe who killed his wife and child then went rogue (except he probably didn’t do any of these things), storm a building owned by zillionaire Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph), steal a time machine, and disappear into the past.

Fortunately, Mason has a prototype time machine tucked away somewhere, and Homeland Security immediately rounds up a team to go after Flynn, assembled along the same gender and racial lines as The Thompson Twins, the 80s pop group: reputedly brilliant but still untenured history professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer); Delta Force soldier and Secret Pain-possessing Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter); and Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a programmer from Mason’s company. Pleasingly, the show doesn’t allow them to spend too much time agonising about whether or not to participate; they just get on with it.

And so to May 1937, where – as the cold open has already implied – the Case of the Week centres on the Hindenburg disaster. Flynn manages to prevent the airship from crashing and burning, although it seems as if his motive is simply to delay the explosion until the following day, when the Hindenburg will be laden with passengers, some of historical significance, travelling from America to Europe. The bomb he plants has an LED countdown on it, so that anyone planning to defuse it will know exactly how long he’s got to do it, which is handy.

I must admit that I expected the Thompson Twins to find a way of restoring history to its original state. That they fail to do so, thus altering Lucy’s 2016 reality in some fairly hefty ways, suggests that this show is aiming a little higher than it otherwise might.

Which is to say that I enjoyed Timeless. It’s complete nonsense, of course – as well as Secret Pain and the LED timer there’s a Mysterious Word – but to its credit the show repeatedly takes the opportunity to find humour of the very pointed kind in respect of the problems encountered by someone of Rufus’s race (he’s African American): “There’s literally no place in American history that’ll be awesome for me”, he observes when told that he’ll be going back in time; then, after he, Lucy, and Wyatt catch a bus in 1937, he reminds us on disembarking that “the back of the bus was amazing”. Spencer, Lanter, and Barrett are all attractive screen presences, and I’m guessing that in due course we’ll be expected to ship Lyatt, which I for one am already prepared to sign up to.

And there’s clearly very much more to Flynn than meets the eye; rather than the gleeful mien of a master criminal turning history upside down, he has the grim countenance of someone doing what needs to be done. With big business and the government both available as potential villains, it seems reasonable to speculate that Flynn is more sinned against.

Next week: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I don’t see how I can possibly resist.