What have you been watching? Including Gone Girl, Suits, Spiral, The Blacklist and The Americans

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

It’s February. How did that happen? Anyway, what with the Superbowl and the fact that no one launches any new shows at the end of January, it’s been a relatively quiet week in terms of new shows, with only Sky/Pivot bucking the trend to give us Fortitude. On the other hand, a few old hands have returned with new seasons…

After the break then, all the regulars, including 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, Constantine, Elementary, The Flash, Gotham, Ground Floor, Hindsight, Man Seeking Woman, Spiral (Engrenages), State of Affairs, and Suits. The observant will notice that neither Cougar Town nor Marvel’s Agent Carter are on that list: that’s because I’m watching them with my wife and she only watches TV – get this – when she’s in the mood. It’s just inconceivable, isn’t it? I also tried to watch Backstrom‘s second episode but failed, as it was even less engrossing than the first episode.

But that relative lull means I’ve been able to squeeze in a movie this week.

Gone Girl (2014) (iTunes, Amazon Prime)
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike meet, fall in love and get married. Then one day, Affleck returns home to find his wife gone in mysterious circumstances. But it’s not long before the finger starts pointing at him. Novelist Gillian Flynn adapted her own bestseller for this slightly meandering, variable piece, shot with the usual visual precision by David Fincher. By turns disturbing, upsetting and even comedically ridiculous, the film veers close to misogyny, but the specificity of Affleck and Pike’s characters means they can’t be generalised to All Men and All Women or even to reality itself, such are some of the ludicrous twists. It’s at its best when analysing the nature of media coverage of criminal cases and allowing the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross soundtrack to dominate, at its worst when trying to convince the audience that This Could Happen.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

12 Monkeys (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
Cassandra Complex
Perhaps more accurate to title it The Girl Who Cried Wolf, a solid, rather than revolutionary third episode, following on from the first two episodes in terms of plotting, character and themes. While threats of a storyline involving additional characters in the future have the potential largely only to dilute the existing story, there’s still enough going on in the present storylines to maintain interest, particularly Tom Noonan’s presence. Not a recommended yet, but still showing plenty of good qualities all the same.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Constantine (US: NBC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
A Whole World Out There
Hellblazer character Richie turns up, played by the always kooky Jeremy Davies (Lost). As usual, nothing outstanding, but a decent horror episode that’s essentially a Constantine version of Nightmare On Elm Street. The show amusingly now always seems to have a short scene explaining exactly which characters are going to appear this episode, like a somewhat limited Mission: Impossible.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodeThird episode

Elementary (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
The One That Got Away
What looks like the conclusion to the Kitty Winter storyline actually returns quite faithfully to the books for its story, while still maintaining the Elementary themes. Probably the first episode I’ve really enjoyed this season.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Gotham (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
Welcome Back, Jim Gordon
The usual usual, with Jim back on the force this week. At least we had some Bruce and Selina fun to make it all a little more bearable.
When’s it airing near me?
First episode

Hindsight (US: VH1)
A Very Important Date
A combination of episodes 2 and 3 in style, with as much time spent on Becca’s career this episode as on her personal life, making the whole thing a lot smarter and more bearable. Just about finding its comedic feet and the ending is promising, but the show still feels more like it’s about plugging soundtracks then saying anything too interesting. As a side note, a decent English accent by Sarah Goldberg made me look up her credits and it turns out she went to LAMDA and won an Olivier Award – I’m really not sure why she’s slumming it here…
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
Some laugh-out loud fantasy sequences this episode, especially one involving a 1,000-piece jigsaw. However, the characters are still distinctly unlikable and the fact FXX keeps putting the best bits from the next episode in the trailers at the end is really ruining all the punchlines.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

State of Affairs (US: NBC)
The War At Home
A reversion to crassness again, with the overall good spy qualities of the show ruined by a “Don’t trust any Muslim!” revelation that ruined an otherwise subtle point halfway through the episode. The show’s still suffering from having Katherine Heigl stuck back in DC, nattering in offices, rather than doing anything exciting in the field, though.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

19-2 (Canada: Bravo)
A reduction in tension following last week’s outstanding season opener, as everyone tries to adjust to the fallout from the shootings and an old character returns. Again, some brilliant acting from the regulars and a feeling that the writers are trying to make it as emotionally true as possible.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episodethird episode

The Americans (US: FX)
The usual mixture of quiet sadness and isolation, as our spies decide whether they’re prepared to sacrifice their daughter to the cause. Less of a boom than previous season openers, more a continuation of previous themes, the show still shows how strong it is in its third year. Unfortunately, ITV has now dropped this and no one has yet picked up the third season in the UK. 
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
Midnight City
Somewhat like Torchwood to Doctor Who, in that it provides the same answer to the question “How would everyone do if the hero wasn’t around?”, this episode shows our surviving heroes do their best to defeat the bad guys and end up only making things worse. The least plausible member ever of the League of Assassins is revealed, as well, but at least Laurel’s efforts at becoming a superhero aren’t getting instant wins.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

Banshee (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Real Life Is The Nightmare
While the action was as over-the-top as always, Banshee‘s quieter side is getting stronger, with relationships and characterisation pressed to the fore. Some lovely direction, too, and a great cliffhanger. I can’t help but feeling that a lot of people shouldn’t be walking around yet, though. 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodesthird episode

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
Luther Braxton (1) 
The Blacklist returns in style, giving us Ron Perlman as the blue collar equivalent to Reddington in something akin to Die Hard on an oil rig. We also get Janel Moloney from The West Wing as a CIA agent and David Strathairn (The Bourne Ultimatum, Alphas) as one of The Conspirators. Not exactly a subtle episode but thrilling, although people are surviving explosions a little too easily for my taste.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
The Sound and the Fury
Proof that even with a stupid episode like this, The Flash is still fun. While one can question the fact the first gay character in the show is an evil twisted villain with hang-ups about one of the other characters and whether the Flash would have a single harmonic frequency, we got a lot of mythos delights from the show, including the first mention so far of the Speed Force, as well as the first demonstration that Dr Wells is definitely a Flash.
UPDATE: Turns out Captain Singh is gay, so scratch the above criticism. Hat tip to @ZombieJohnsus
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Ground Floor (US: TBS)
The Mansfield Who Came To Dinner
The boss comes round to dinner and there are fights between the couples. As usual, real class conflict is glossed over, but the show continues to raise smiles.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode

Spiral (Engrenages) (France: Canal+; UK: BBC Four; US: Hulu)
Season 5, episodes seven and eight
Everything’s dovetailing together nicely, with everyone’s storylines combining into one glorious big whole. Some tour de force acting from Audrey Fleurot, too, with some real heartrending moments. Good to see, though, that nothing changes with regard to the police’s high level of incompetence.
When’s it airing near me?

Suits (US: USA Network; UK: Dave)
Enough Is Enough 
Long-time readers will recall that I was about to give up on Suits at the end of the last half-season, but this episode was enough to make me keep watching. A real return to first season hardness and game playing, with Louis now becoming a plausible human being again. But will they be able to get that to work in the sub-plots, too? Fingers crossed…
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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