What have you been watching? Including The Oresteia (Shakespeare’s Globe), Y Gwyll and The Flash

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.

I haven’t quite managed to review the first episodes of everything I’d intended to, this week. The CW’s My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is still on the pile, as is CBC’s The Romeo Section, which will both have to wait until Monday or Tuesday next week.

However, miraculously, I’m up to date with everything else. Elsewhere, I reviewed the first episode of The Last Kingdom (US: BBC America; UK: BBC Two), and I passed third-episode verdicts on The Player (US: NBC), Quantico (US: ABC; UK: Alibi), Blood & Oil (US: ABC), The Grinder (US: Fox) and Grandfathered (US: Fox).

And after the jump, you can find reviews of the latest episodes of 800 Words, Arrow, Blindspot, The Flash, Limitless, The Player, Y Gwyll and You’re The Worst.

On top of all that, though, I managed to find time to go to the theatre, too.

The Oresteia (Shakespeare’s Globe)
The second of the three Oresteia‘s this year (Almeida/Trafalgar Studios, this, HOME), the Globe’s adaptation isn’t as radical a reinterpration as the Almeida’s, giving us pretty much the original text bar a few excisions. There’s even singing, too.

However, text is one thing, production is another, and between director Adele Thomas and the cast, what we have is every bit as radical, giving us comedy, thanks in part to a Klytemnestra who is quite clearly bonkers, and even sci-fi and horror towards the end, with the Furies/Erinyes reinterpreted as zombies. And while the the Almeida gave us an entirely new first act derived from the myth, here we have just the slightest incursion in the final moments from what would have been the fourth accompanying play to the Oresteia. Which is all almost as bonkers as Klytemnestra. 

As well as some really interesting staging – a lot of which unfortunately requires the poor ‘pit audience’ to scoot out the way of the oncoming action – there’s some excellent costuming, too, that combines early 60s fashions with classical Greek armour, and that gives us an Athena who makes you think for a moment there really has been an epiphany.

The first act/play could probably have done with some trimming, since it does plod along a bit and drift into inaudibility when it’s mostly the chorus, but the rest of it goes along at a clip and is imaginatively handled, for once showing us why the second of the plays is called The Libation Bearers. Generally good, with some horrifically gruesome moments, but probably a bit funnier than it should have been, too.

Agamemnon in the Globe's Oresteia

Klytemnestra in the Oresteia

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

800 Words (Australia: Seven)
The second of the show’s ‘let’s give the women some characters’ episodes, but nevertheless something of a slow-paced beast, despite the central surfing plot. The show’s problem, to a certain extent linked to the show’s premise, is that it’s all a bit directionless, not really knowing what to do with its life. Thomson’s purpose in his new home town appears to be to lurch between different house repairs, different scenarios that will cause the rest of the town to hate him and which he has to redeem himself from, finding out about different women who might be interested in him, mourning his dead wife and trying to work out what to do with his life except write an exceptionally vapid 800-word column for a Sydney newspaper. But there’s no sign that Thomson and family are going to drive rather than be driven by the narrative, making the show a pleasant enough way to spend your time, but not exactly a must-see.
Reviews: First episode

Blindspot (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
1×4 – Bone May Rot
A slightly tedious twist ending that for the series’ sake better untwist itself to avoid undoing the previous two episodes’ good work, but otherwise the best episode so far, and I’m not just saying that because it’s a killer virus episode. While the plot itself was no great shakes, this was the first time the leads and supporting characters got to breathe and show some personality traits other than ‘dogged determination’. Sullivan Stapleton was even allowed to crack a smile, although it was Ashley Johnson’s Nerd-In-Chief who got to have the most fun. Jaimie Alexander still has to endure ‘tortured victim’ status, but give her time.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Limitless (US: CBS)
1×4 – Page 44
Not as funny as the previous two episodes, but like Blindspot, this week’s episode was the first to give the supporting cast – namely Jennifer Carpenter – something to do rather than be the foil to the lead’s more exciting plot machinations. The comedy still sits oddly next to the new sub-plot with Colin Salmon as the agent of the more expensive Bradley Cooper’s evil (don’t worry, he’ll be back in a fortnight), but the show’s still working as a better Chuck, at least for now, even if the NZT is largely only functioning as a great way to remember things, rather than inducing cunning new plans.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

The Player (US: NBC)
1×4 – The Big Blind
Only in its fourth week but already falling foul of NBC’s ‘very special episode about a very important issue’ syndrome, which afflicted The Blacklist before it (this time, domestic violence is bad, kids). No Wesley Snipes doing martial arts or having a laugh either. Eric Roberts did turn up in a wheelchair and there were a few good stunts, too. But rapidly losing interest as anything other than a collection of very well executed ‘stunts of the week’.  
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

The recommended list

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×2 – The Candidate
While The Player is losing its fun, both Blindspot and Arrow have now found theirs. Arrow in particular is now almost a funny show, despite all the dark glowery stares and the dead being resurrected. Nice to have Jeri Ryan around for at least an episode, too, and giving Felicity an actual plotline of her own is very welcome, particularly since she’s sharing it with Mr Terrific (Echo Kellum, who’s also been on You’re The Worst of late). 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×2 – Flash of Two Worlds
Let the ultra-nerdery begin! For anyone thinking there wasn’t enough sci-fi and comic book dweebery in The Flash, as well as giving us Earth 2, we’re now getting Zoom and the Jay Garrick Flash. It’s got me all a giddy. And then, of course, there was the reveal at the end – I wonder which Earth that was?
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (UK: S4C)
The first promising episode of the series, with something shaping up to be a proper police investigation and poor old back office Lloyd finally getting something to do. All the same, it’s YA missing/hurt/dead child for DCI Tom to get all mopey about. It’s like a child killing fields in Aberystwyth, I tell you.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst series

You’re The Worst (US: FXX)
2×6 – Side Bitch
Not as funny as previous episodes, although a cracker of darkly funny ending that more than made up for it. Jimmy really is the worst, isn’t he?
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    Your first photograph for “The Oresteia” looked at first to me like something to do with “The Time Tunnel”. (-:

    Not exactly watching anything I actually remember right now, sorry! Still things like “Once Upon a Time” on but, meh, mostly I've read instead.

  • I think they really are going for something Time Tunnelish, surprisingly, since that's Apollo's temple (with Apollo) and it also doubles as Athena's temple. Mullarkey says that the first two plays are essentially mortals running around trying to work out what the gods want and in the third play, 'the fabric of the universe' is split and the gods actually show up. So time tunnel, god tunnel – take your pick.

    No tele? How's that work? Is it possible for people to live like that?

  • JustStark

    This weekend I watched two Doctor Who stories about the Doctor defending a small residence in Earth's past from motivelessly warlike aliens. The better one was Delta and the Bannermen.

    The episode of The Americans we've been waiting for since the programme began finally arrived, and did not disappoint, in its quietly dramatic way. But I can't help but feeling this series could have done with one fewer storyline and four fewer episodes, as some of the story threads are getting dropped for weeks at a time.

    (I'm also increasingly curious about their cover jobs. I have always assumed that the travel agency was a KGB operation, as it's v. convenient they managed to get jobs together and they need to be able to rush off at short notice; but on the other hand that seems very dangerous, as it means that if the agency operation was blown they would be too. These things bother me. Perhaps they bother only me.)

    Homeland was interesting, perhaps less so because I can't read Arabic, but I was thinking the trip would be built-up to over the course of the series; to get it out of the way in the second episode and use it to set up the plot (someone has a personal grudge against Carrie; well, that narrows the suspects down to the entire Middle East) was a nice decision; again, just like after the first episode, I'm left thinking it's a very promising set-up. I hope they go somewhere with it soon.

    And I watched a film, a supernatural British indie thing called Skeletons. Some funny bits, all in all not bad, not quite great, but not bad.

    Tonight, The Muppets. Based on reports I am curious but not without trepidation. I suppose the only way to judge will be, how much does it make me laugh?

  • Mark Carroll

    I was off at a conference to win brownie points at work, finally back home yesterday afternoon but after maybe a couple of hours' sleep. I actually napped during HIGNFY (so I'm told)! Service is now returning back to normal and there've been some good shows that with luck I'll still recall next week when you ask again.

    I did flip through the channels in the Holiday Inn but it was all utter rubbish, and wifi reception in the room was sufficiently poor I didn't want to attempt streaming.

  • Mark Carroll

    I don't remember “Skeletons” too well now (which says something) but “not quite great, but not bad” fits with the feeling it leaves with me. I'm also open to that one fewer storyline thought about “The Americans”.

    “Delta and the Bannermen”: ha. Yes, it was the scripts that killed the show. It's still too soon for me to attempt to watch that particular story again.

  • JustStark

    I'm also increasingly curious about their cover jobs

    So according to this week's episode their cover jobs are real and nobody at the travel agents knows who they are.

    So I guess they're just very, very understanding employers.

  • JustStark

    Actually I was surprised by Delta and the Bannermen being much, much better than I remembered. Okay, there's some truly bizarre plotting where characters act against their own interests for the sake of the plot (the resolution to the first-episode cliffhanger is just barmy) but no worse in that respect than a random episode of the new series and better than a significant number, and the good stuff is good.

    The special effects are even not-that-bad (I mean, they're bad, but not as bad as you remember Doctor Who effects being), and there are some great inventive moments when they make a knowing joke for the audience out of the fact that they don't have the budget to match their ambitions; eg, how to show a spaceship disguised as a bus landing outside a holiday camp when you clearly don't have the budget for the shot? Just put the camera low, lift the bus up three feet on a crane, and drop it into shot!

  • They own the travel agency, don't they? So I'm guessing the employees are glad their employers work so hard, lining up new work for them (presumably lots of undercover Russian spies in need of a break).