What have you been watching? Including Luke Cage, Arrow, The Flash and Westworld

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. 

So now I have to apologise. Sorry, Australia. Sorry, UK. Sorry, Internet. I have failed you, as well as a whole bunch of other countries whose TV I ostensibly review but I never quite get round to. 

Oops, I did it again. I’ve got behind. It doesn’t matter that elsewhere in the past week, I’ve reviewed Aftermath (Canada: Space; UK: 5*), Timeless (US: NBC), Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic), Falling Water (US: USA), Conviction (US: ABC; UK: Sky Living), Frequency (US: The CW) and No Tomorrow (US: The CW), as well as passed third- and fourth-episode verdicts on Son of Zorn (US: Fox), High Maintenance (US: HBO), The Good Place (US: NBC), Doctor Doctor (Australia: Nine), Designated Survivor (US: ABC; UK: Netflix), Lethal Weapon (US: Fox; UK: ITV), Speechless (US: ABC) and The Exorcist (US: Fox; UK: Syfy). 

I have failed you.

Oh well. I’m used to failure. Readjusted schedule, then. Some time in the next week or so, I should hopefully be getting through the first few episodes of a whole bunch of Australian TV shows – Hyde & Seek, The Wrong Girl, The Secret Daughter, Deep Water and Rosehaven. As for the US, I should be previewing Epix’s Graves and reviewing HBO’s Divorce. Meanwhile, on the Internet, Netflix’s Easy, Crackle’s Start Up and Amazon’s Crisis in Six Scenes might well be on indefinite hold, but maybe I’ll find the time.

I’ve not yet caught the latest episodes of The Fall and High Maintenance, so after the jump, I’ll be looking over Ash vs Evil Dead, The Good Place, Halt and Catch Fire, Impastor, Lucifer, Westworld and You’re The Worst, as well as the return of Arrow and The Flash. Two of those are for the chop – can you guess which ones?

If you look over all that, you’ll see I did watch an awful lot of TV last week, just not enough. I probably could have watched all of it though if I hadn’t been bogged down with one thing…

Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix)
Netflix and Marvel’s latest ‘Defender’ is a stonking 13 episodes of… not much. Continuing where Marvel’s Jessica Jones left off, it sees Luke Cage head over Harlem way to keep his head down, but when an old friend gets killed, the bulletproof black man has to wade in to help protect the neighbourhood. But then his past begins to catch up with him…

The show sticks pretty closely to the original Luke Cage comics – I’ve read precisely none of them, but if you watch this video, you’ll be caught up on them and know pretty much the whole plot of the first season. But what do we care about plot? Atfer all, Marvel’s Luke Cage doesn’t, being interested mainly in discussing black culture, history and what is the true and correct course of action for the modern black man of honour. Cage, who is a walking encapsulation of every single African-American stereotype and archetype (gang member, son of a preacher, ex-military, a blue collar worker, frequent denizen of social barber shop, lover, prisoner, medical experiment, boxer et al), becomes a nexus point for modern US politics, wandering around town in a hoodie but able to withstand police bullets, he’s able to demonstrate and confront all manner of arguments, while being the perfect role model at all times. Sweet Christmas, he doesn’t even swear. 

And when he’s not doing that, we’re getting a musical interlude down the club, to celebrate black music. Method Man makes a cameo and even raps live about Luke Cage and police brutality. 

Unfortunately, despite a cracking soundtrack and numerous homages to blaxploitation movie, that’s really all the show is, despite a grade A, almost exclusively black cast that includes multiple members of The Wire‘s cast (eg Sonja Sohn), Sons of Anarchy‘s Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodward, Banshee‘s Frankie Faison and House of Cards‘ Mahershala Ali. There’s minimal superhero fun, since Cage basically just wanders into rooms, people shoot at him to zero effect and he then punches them unconscious. Even when Cage’s arch-nemesis shows up, their confrontation seems to drag out across about half the season without much really happening.

If you’re expecting crossovers with the other shows or the movies, I’m afraid beyond the now compulsory appearance of Rosario Dawson and numerous references to the other shows and films, you’re going to be disappointed. At most, they offer only a rehabilitation of Justin Hammer.

And the dialogue. Oh gods, the dialogue.

In a sense, Marvel’s Luke Cage is an important show, offering a uniquely black perspective on the superhero genre, just as Marvel’s Jessica Jones was a uniquely female deconstruction of superheroes. But actually watching it, so little of any real interest happens dramatically that all you can do is admire its heart. And how it managed to slip Cage’s original comic book costume in there. That was impressive.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
5×1 – Legacy
When the season four finale aired, I said: “I’ll probably be back next season, simply for the crossovers, at least. But the show will have to do a lot to convince me it’s worth my investment of time after such an insipid season.” Did episode one convince me? Not in the slightest. More of the same old, same old, with Oliver trying to put the team back together, a new big bad on the streets, the same now-unconvincingly elaborate fights and just general daftness everywhere. A small screen Batman Begins, as I described it when it started, this is not. So I’m out. I’ll be back (maybe) for crossovers, but I just don’t care and this just ain’t worth the time any more. Even the flashbacks can’t be bothered.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Ash vs Evil Dead (US: Starz; UK: Virgin On Demand)
2×2 – The Morgue
One more week like this and it’ll be a clear recommended, with the show now definitely finding the correct combination of general wrongness, gore, body unpleasantness and dumb comedy. Not an episode to watch while you’re eating, but stupidly funny, nevertheless.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Good Place (US: NBC)
1×5 – Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis
Another one for the chop, I’m afraid, as we go through the same formula as episodes 2 and 3, with our quasi-bad girl having to learn to be better with the help of her teacher, while Ted Danson tries to fix the problems with The Good Place. The attempts to make Tahani more likable fell a little flat (apparently, The Good Place is full of people who aren’t actually that good – maybe that’ll be the big revelation). On the plus side, though, it’s not every day you have a US sitcom that spends its entire plot discussing the flaws in John Stuart Mills’ philosophy of utilitarianism and there was a nice bit of CGI Cubism. But generally, the show hasn’t got quite enough going for it beyond a High Concept and a big heart.
Reviews: First two episodes; fourth episode

Impastor (US: TV Land)
2×2 – Guardian Angel
A decent attempt to push the narrative in a direction that brings the two camps of characters together without our Impastor being sent to the klink, while still preserving that dark edge it’s always had. They’ve more or less forgotten that people think he’s gay, though, haven’t they?
Review: First episode 

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon) 
2×2 – Liar, Liar, Slutty Dress on Fire
Oh dear. That was a mistake. That’s like Tim Roth in Lie To Me. Because now we have Tricia Helfer next to both Lauren German and Lesley-Ann Brandt, and she’s showing up quite clearly how bad and uninteresting the others in comparison to her, as well as what the show’s biggest problem has been since the show’s beginning – not enough fun apart from Tom Ellis. Ellis and Helfer together are easily 20 times as interesting as everything Brandt and German have done in the show so far combined. Oops. Given how little Brandt and German really had to do all episode, though, it makes one wonder if they’re on the way out… 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×2 – Chestnut
A less intellectually and emotionally interesting episode than the first, one that actually takes us back to the plot of the original movie – but not a lot else. Some fleshing out for Anthony Hopkins’ and Thandie Newton’s characters is welcome, but the downplaying of Evan Rachel Woods’ isn’t. But still generally very watchable.
Reviews: First episode

The recommended list

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3×1 – Flashpoint
“Does the ending mean that we can be expecting Flashpoint next season? Oh god no.” That’s what I said at the end of season two. Now look at the episode title. Oh well. Still, it was all a lot better than I hoped, with yet another parallel universe for Barry to explore then mess up. Thankfully, the mighty red reset button wasn’t pushed at the end, so it looks like somes of thems changes are going to stick, which should prove interesting. Now we just have to wait to see what else has changed. Certainly, one to stick with, unlike Arrow.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC; UK: Amazon)
3×8 – You Are Not Safe
Well, obviously they weren’t going to invent the Internet or ecommerce, but I love that a US show would actually have (spoiler alert) abject failure by everyone concerned as the reason. You can see they might be heading for a gang reunion in the finale, since everyone has one part of a puzzle that would work if they were united (although maybe not for five years). But Halt and Catch Fire isn’t the kind of show to give you necessarily what you were expecting. 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

You’re The Worst (US: FXX; UK: 5*)
3×6 – The Last Sunday Funday
An episode that knew what path it was going to take, even if it didn’t know quite how to end it, with a smart (final?) take on its seasonal ‘Sunday funday’ installment. Halfway through the season and it’s clear that the producers are more interested in the friends of our couple this time round, rather than Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship. While that is allowing them to tell new stories and introduce the ‘nothing much new’ stage of any couple’s settling in together, it does mean it’s slightly less interesting as a show, though.
Review: First 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.