What have you been watching? Including Bridge of Spies, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley

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. 

I spent most of the weekend not watching a lot of things I was supposed to be watching, instead watching season one of Daredevil again – it’s so much better than the second season, which is starting to feel more disappointing with every passing day. But that doesn’t mean I’m not up to date. It just means I still haven’t watched Ófærð (Trapped) yet.

Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed Containment (US: The CW; UK: E4) and passed a third-episode verdict on The Detour (US: TBS). I’ll be passing a third-episode verdict on Game on Silence either tomorrow or Wednesday. That means that after the jump, we’ll have a look at the latest episodes of The Americans, Banshee, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Limitless, Lopez, Lucifer and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the season finale of Supergirl. HBO’s also just brought back Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley , so I’ll be looking over them, too.

But first, a movie:

Bridge of Spies (2015) (iTunes)
Slightly soporific Spielberg biopic of Cold War lawyer James B Donovan (Tom Hanks), who defended notorious spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), and ended up helping in negotiations in Berlin to exchange Abel for U2 pilot Gary Powers. He does that by talking about the Constitution and what it is to be American. All solidly made but that summary is really all you need to know, in what is basically a not very subtle commentary on post-9/11 US attitudes to human rights, treating enemy combatants civilly, etc. If you do watch it, don’t be surprised that there’s a chunk in the middle in German without subtitles, as that’s deliberate. Don’t worry – they’re just talking about how expensive his coat is.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×12 – Last Refuge
The uptick in quality over the past few episodes plummets away with a poor rip-off of The Terminator, with all our goodies trying to save their younger selves from being killed by the woman who was the Chinese baddie in Intelligence. It doesn’t make the blindest bit of sense, although there is some fun to be had from the younger Mick and Sara, as well as a cameo from Captain Lance with hair. We also discover that Rip Hunter’s mum is Celia Imrie and that he appears to have been born in the 1950s, judging by his cheery younger self’s cockney chipperness. I’m sure an essay could be written about how US TV series seem to regard the father as the more important parent in any US character’s development, while Brits’ mums are always the more important, but I can’t be bothered.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

Lopez (US: TV Land)
1×4 – George’s Party
A slightly mediocre episode that reverts to the usual ‘grumpy misanthrope’ approach to eponymous shows. Some fun discussions about race between Lopez, his black friend and the racist neighbour, though. Arsenio Hall cameos simply to make noises, rather than say lines of dialogue, which is novel.
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
1×12 – #TeamLucifer
Stuff happens involving Satanists. It doesn’t make any sense at all, but it is a bit funny. However, the show does make an interesting theological point about whether the Devil causes evil or is only there to punish evil-doers who do evil of their own volition.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Supergirl (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)
1×20 – Better Angels
A finale that never quite finds its feet and that suffers in smaller quantities from the show’s earliest excesses of poor writing and schmaltziness. The season had some good episodes, though, has a fine Supergirl, and did some intriguing things with Supergirl’s Kryptonian heritage, making it clear she’s a lot more alien than her cousin. It just doesn’t have the right format to really do much beyond flip the genders of all the characters and say, “Hey, we’re a bit like Superman, but with a girl!” so really needs to reboot quite a lot next season.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV Encore)
4×6 – The Rat
You can see where it’s all going with Martha, but you’ll have to hide between your fingers, because it’ll hurt when it gets there. In terms of the bioweaponry, the show is now more or less flipping US and Soviet Cold War capabilities, with the pathogen mentioned this episode being a top Soviet bioweapon, not a US one.
Review: First episodethird episode

Banshee (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)
4×3 – Job – 4×4 – Innocent Might Be A Bit of a Stretch
A show that’s really lost its heart, simply because it’s now trying to show that crime isn’t fun and that if you spend too long committing crimes, eventually, everything’s going to turn to dust in your hands. It’s heart’s not really in the fights or the exploisions any more, I don’t think. Eliza Dushku’s now turned up, sans acting ability, as the world’s least plausible FBI agent, although she might be doing a Lucas Hood, if you get my meaning. Episode 3, Job, is an obvious pun on both the character’s name and the book of the bible, with its series of torments BTW.
Reviews: First two episodesthird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×18 – Versus Zoom
In which the show tries to create a motivation for Zoom that’s different from Reverse Flash’s. It doesn’t quite work, unfortunately. The episode also reveals that Barry Allen is not only the world’s fastest man, he’s also the world’s stupidest. Really – that was your plan, Barry?
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
6×1 – The Red Woman
I don’t know how much they’re now free of the books, but whether it’s because the producers can now do their own thing or it’s simply episode one, where everything starts off well to grab the viewer, this was the best episode for quite some time, giving us everything we look for in Game of Thrones, ranging from carnage and political manipulations through to deaths of much loved characters through to hope for other much loved characters. Everyone got equal screen time, too. Fingers crossed, it’s not going to be a wheel-spinner this season like last season, but some great moments overall.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst seasonsecond and third seasons

Limitless (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
1×21 – Finale: Part One!
Despite the almost explicit reference to Chuck in this episode, it’s clear the show is momentarily shifting back to the style of the first episode. It’s a bit disappointing, yet also novel to have a show where the filler episodes were the ones you longed for, but now we’re back to the series plot and crimes galore, it’s not quite as fun as it was mid-season. But due credit – I did not see the producers taking the show in this direction, to a world with NZT changing everything, rather than simply having a crime of the week solved with the aid of drugs. Kudos again.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
3×1 – Founder Friendly
Picking straight up from last season, Silicon Valley continues to mix cleverness with stupidity, with some really astute observations of Silicon Valley mixed with absolute filth (what’s forking? Well…) Despite the clownishness, it’s also one of the most perceptive shows going about both IT and business, and it’s surprising how close to real life it can be. Particularly enjoying seeing Stephen Tobolowsky not being the butt of all the humour, but almost being the alpha male of the situation.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Tunnel (Tunnel) (UK: Sky Atlantic; France: Canal+)
Ben Richards shows again his remarkable alacrity for writing working class Kent dialogue and characters with depth, as well as characterisation that makes you care about even minor cast members. However, he doesn’t have the same insight into French life, and although France is getting more of a look in than it did last season, most of the characters are still foils for the British characters.

There were also some peculiarly powerful debates about religion, stereotyping, Zionism and terrorism, as well as a couple of shocking scenes. Squint and you can see season 2 of Bron/Broen (The Bridge), so it’s impressive to see how far Richards has taken that base template and spun it. Oddly, Sky has made the entire season available on demand, but not on NOW TV. I’m not sure why. Or whether to watch them all in one go. I think I’ll stick with Daredevil for now.
Reviews: First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    Ha, I didn't notice the “Job” pun; I usually miss the obvious-but-not-explicit like that. And, yes, Eliza Dushku's later antics didn't make much sense. So, anyway, shows:

    Obviously “Banshee”. I'm still enjoying it though as of this latest it's definitely sillier still. Glad it's wrapping up while looking forward to the season. Nice that the plot is moving along at a decent rate. Hope we get some Job back without much dwelling on can-he can't-he. I hope unpleasant Nazi family tensions don't overly drag on though.

    I'm enjoying “The Americans” too. I'm looking forward to the resolution of what's currently occurring. I wonder where things will go next. For this show I tend to enjoy the sequence of events more than being interested in how it is for the characters.

    The latest “The Blacklist” was a strange interlude, more Reddington-centered psychological drama than anything, and not wholly plausible at that. Okay but missable. Not clear where the next episode goes.

    To my surprise I am liking “Grimm” a little more, perhaps mostly for a couple of women's arcs as they go through changes. The main plot's deeply silly and I wouldn't recommend it but I am actually paying a bit more attention and cringing a little less. Perhaps my standards are dipping. The monsters of the week continue to be adequate. A recent episode, maybe not the latest, had a pretty obvious twist (and if I can see it coming, y'all surely can).

    “Gotham” I'm actually rather enjoying, I confess. Penguin certainly has a persistent arc and Hugo Strange is clearly going to keep doing things for a while. Aspects are missably silly without actually grating.

    “Points of View” pointed us to “The Reassembler” with James May and,
    while not exactly gripping, it was entertaining enough for its half-hour
    apiece. It was more mildly witty than it was actually informative.

    We finally finished “In Treatment”. I didn't like the third season quite as much as the others but the way things went with the patients and the final conclusions and events made some sense. And, I did enjoy Sunil.

    “Game of Thrones” was about as one might reasonably expect. I mostly remembered where we were and the episode caused me to be intrigued to see where things go as well as delivering a satisfying moment of payoff.

    We watched “Richard II”, the David Tennant one, not the recent BBC showing. That was a good production, nothing grated there either and David Tennant did a good job. On to the “Hollow Crown” series maybe to compare.

  • The third season of In Treatment was the first they had to make from scratch, since there were only two seasons of Be'Tipul, which is perhaps why it wasn't as good. All the same, I did enjoy it and Sunil's plan was a highlight

  • Mark Carroll

    Ah, thanks, I didn't know (or forgot) that; they did fairly well then I guess.