What have you been watching? Including John Wick, Vikings, The Americans, Arrow and The Blacklist

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.

Well, despite all that planning, I kind of forgot I was going out pretty much every night this week, so I haven’t managed to watch everything I planned to. That means I’ll do a full, three-episode verdict of The Comedians on Monday, once I’ve binge-watched it this weekend. Maybe I’ll do that Daredevil season review at the same time…

The fact I didn’t look hard enough at the Australian TV schedules for this week didn’t help, either, otherwise I’d have realised that Deadline Gallipoli was a two-parter that was going to air over consecutive nights, rather than weekly – fingers crossed, I’ll be posting a review of that later tonight, after I’ve gone to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.

After the jump, tele: American Crime, American Odyssey, Arrow, The Blacklist, Community, The Flash, Forever, and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. I’ll also be looking at the season finales of The American and Vikings.

But first, just in case you think I don’t listen to your recommendations, a movie review!

John Wick (2014)
Keanu is a recently widowed former hitman for the Russian Mob who turns his almost supernaturally violent talents to revenge, after Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) kills his… dog. No, really. His dog. If that sounds a bit silly, that’s because it is, and even the film acknowledges it. But it sits in a knowing intersection between Banshee and Wanted, with considerable visual and tonal nods to the nihilistic yet surreal Point Blank, with Keanu’s mission explicitly arbitrary and meaningless.

Once you’ve got over that tonal decision, there’s a lot to like about the movie. It has a surprisingly slow, thoughtful and emotional beginning; it’s packed full of great character actors you’ll recognise from The Wire, Daredevil and other shows and movies, including Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Michael Nyqvist, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Bridget Regan, Lane Reddick and Clarke Peters; there are some interesting fights, including some semi-decent jiu jitsu; it can be pretty funny at times; and there are some decently smart villains for a change.

Some bits are a little too silly for their own words, including a neutral ground hotel for hitmen and women, and Lance Reddick’s accent. But a decently enjoyable action thriller that sets things up well for a sequel that could be potentially different. However, I’m not sure I needed to see it in IMAX – Empire Leicester Square setting me back an eye-watering £18 a seat.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending  

I’ve already done a third-episode verdict on American Odyssey this week. But here’s what else I’ve been watching:

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
2×19 – Leonard Caul
After weeks of diddling around, The Blacklist finally gets its mojo back and dumps answers to about 75% of its mysteries into our laps, while simultaneously giving us some good action scenes. Could well be earning its way back into the recommended list if it can maintain the momentum.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Forever (US: ABC; UK: Sky1)
1×21 – The Night in Question
Abe and Ioan investigate what happened to Abe’s mum/Ioan’s wife and end up solving a cold case at the same time. There’s almost no mystery in what happened in either case, since case a) is foiled by “Oh, it’s him, he’s quite well known. I can’t imagine they’d hire him for just two minutes at the beginning” and case b) is foiled by “Oh, his name was in the credits. That means it was him.” However, both are interesting in their own terms, we get to see Lucas expanding from mere sidekick and there’s some odd character work, showing us what everyone gets up to on their days off. And, of course, it all feeds into the show’s larger story arc. One to catch, if you’re just dipping in and out of the series.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; Third episode

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (US: ABC; UK: Channel 4)
2×18 – The Frenemy of My Enemy
Ward’s back. Whoopdy-do. More importantly, perhaps the first episode since the series began where Skye has been remotely tolerable. But the retreat away from the SHIELD-proper storyline in favour of the tedious Inhumans storyline is a mistake.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode, Third episode

The recommended list

American Crime (US: ABC)
Everything is closing in as American Crime shows us how pretty much everyone’s fates have been sealed, right from the outset and despite best intentions, as various systems – judicial, criminal, societal, the media, religious – all conspire to lock people into particular courses of action that cause obvious reactions and so on and so on. Felicity Huffman excels this episode in a couple of scenes in particular, while Timothy Hutton does his best to be the only real gleam of hope in the whole series. The inevitable tragedies at the end of it all are obvious, as indeed are the utterly realistic paths that will take the characters there, but that’s the real horror of the piece. It doesn’t half make me frightened to go back to America though.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

The Americans (US: FX)
3×13 – March 8, 1983
A very strange, structure-defying finale that leaves all kinds of old plot threads dangling (spoilers: Kimmy, despite being important enough to need to be seen weekly at one point, hasn’t been seen in ages; Martha, who looked like she was up for imminent assassination at the end of the previous episode, appears to have had a strange reprieve) while all sorts of new plots are introduced. Of course, we do get the cliffhanger, a lovely tribute if not to 1980s West Berlin but to 1980s US TV shows’ depictions of West Berlin; we get an unexpected payoff on the Nina storyline, both in the US and the USSR; we get the poignancy of that meeting; and we get a Commodore 64 running what looks like WordStar (woo hoo!). But it doesn’t quite feel like it brings the third season into focus, in the same way as the second season finale did, which makes it a brave but dissatisfying ending to what has been a consistently interesting if occasionally meandering season.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
3×20 – Fallen
Mega revelations all round, the Lazarus Pit gets put to good use, and the Barrowman does some awesome fights and acts a bit. Poor old Brandon Routh, though.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Community (US: Yahoo; UK: Sony Entertainment Television)
6×7 – Advanced Safety Features
While season four was just actively bad, there was always the hope, which sustained fans, that if Dan Harmon came back, it would return to its former glory. While season five wasn’t quite that, it did show us that Harmon was key. Season six, though, is showing us that there’s a lot more to Community than simply Dan Harmon, and Advanced Safety Features is perhaps a demonstration of that: pop culture references, meta-analysis of genre conceits as well as of the show itself, and simply twisting expectations don’t make Community. Here, the show does manage to pull off the same piece of over the top product placement we saw in the KFC and Subway episodes, making a virtue of Honda’s sponsorship by combining it with a fun little spoof of The Joneses (possibly Amber Heard’s best movie, not that that’s saying much). However, all the characters are now little more than airbrush strokes of their former selves (particularly Britta), rather than the people they used to be, making it a lot harder to care about them. It might be time to say goodbye to Community.  
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×19 – Who is Harrison Wells?
As the episode title suggests, a quest to find out why that Harrison Wells is being so odd and perhaps even killing people, a quest that leads to yet another Arrow crossover, this time with the Lances. Over in meta-of-the-week territory, we also get a shapeshifter called Everyman, who has one cool moment at the end but is otherwise a bit forgettable. Thankfully, the Wells quest was bristling with revelations and Black Canary gets her Canary Call at last – it was also the first time Laurel’s been remotely likeable in about two seasons, while Captain Lance also gets to be a lot less gruffer for a change. Plus there was the usual, game-changing ending to enjoy, too.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

Vikings (US: History; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
3×10 – The Dead
Vikings’ trickiness with history this season has led to the possibility that things won’t go as they’re recorded (historically or mythologically) in the series, which is why one particular fake-out this episode worked so well. While that was the clear best bit of the episode, it was also interesting to see King Charles the Bald effectively becoming Æthelred the Unready and for Rollo to get something to do, too.

One of the big problems this season has been that everyone’s been treading water, with not much happening to anyone while the big preparation for the Paris raid has been underway, and Ragnar generally just not being himself. On top of that, we had to weed out a lot of characters.

In retrospect, it’s clear that season 3 has effectively been the reconfiguration of the show ready for later seasons. This season finale effectively sets up France/Francia as another area for exploration in subsequent seasons, and promotes other characters, presumably for a time jump that will eventually give us the great Viking invasion of England and perhaps even King Alfred.

On the whole, an inferior season and finale that didn’t really give us everything it should have been, and whose dicking around with history in favour of soapiness is doing it no favours. In particular, it was a little disappointing that the season’s earlier ‘Wanderer’ (or was it Odin?) never returned – and was never returned to – but let’s see what happens next season with that. Nevertheless, still generally enjoyable and not a series I intend to demote from the recommended list, just yet.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: Season one review


  • 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.