It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
Gosh, it’s been a busy old week, hasn’t it? Elsewhere, I’ve posted third- and fourth-episode verdicts on The Resident (US: Fox; UK: Universal Channel), Corporate (US: Comedy Central) and Burden of Truth (Canada: CBC), and that’s on top of reviewing the first episode of The Alienist (US: TNT; UK: Netflix).
Some time in the next few days I’ll be taking a gander at Let’s Get Physical (US: Pop), and passing a third-episode verdict on Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix). I’m also knuckling down to try to watch all of Netflix’s Altered Carbon in time for a Boxset Monday. Let’s see how that goes.
But today, it’s time to look at the regulars. SEAL Team and Will & Grace are on a break right now, but Engrenages (Spiral), Happy!, The Magicians and Star Trek: Discovery will all be getting my considered opinions, as will The Brave and Great News season finales (which will probably be their series finales, to be honest).
On top of that, Counterpart has now started in earnest, there’s a new episode of The Alienist and Amazon’s started dishing out two episodes of season two of Baron Noir at time (although I’ve not had time to watch today’s two new episodes, just the first two). And although it didn’t quite merit a full Boxset Monday treatment, I did watch all of season two of Babylon Berlin this week.
That’s all after the jump – see you in a mo.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
The Alienist (US: TNT; UK: Netflix)
1×2 – A Fruitful Partnership
Oh dear. I think I’m out on this one. Yuch.
Episode two carries on with our new team’s investigations into the murder of a ‘child prostitute’. This basically involves going to lots of seedy places, all while various forward-thinking and diverse individuals decide the new fangled ‘fingerprints’ and ‘forensic science’ might be worth trying out. Trouble is, it’s basically a big mess of things you’ve seen before – a sepia-tinted Manhunter in which they try to think like a serial killer.
I really wish The Alienist could be about something else, even a regular crime rather than one with a serial killer. It’s got a great cast, great attention to period detail (although the dialogue is sometimes too modern – ‘a daily basis’? I don’t think so) and great locations. The book is apparently meticulous in its attention to periodicity. It’s just I don’t care about the hunt for yet another serial killer, and such a gruesome one as this, in a show that’s trying to be edgy but doesn’t seem to realise it’s all been done before. Or will be.
Episode reviews: 1
The Brave (US: NBC)
1×13 – Close to Home: Part 2
And the show ends with what’s unfortunately probably its worst episode. While certain aspects of it worked quite well, such as James Tupper’s little trick with his phone, everything to do with computers was nonsense. A character I’d assumed the whole previous episode was Australian turned out to be English. The final shootout was a nice demonstration of covert killing, but against a supposed team of former special forces soldiers who had reactions like treacle and didn’t really seem to know much about anything.
All in all, despite a rocky start, The Brave definitely had some smart highs. At its peak, it blended the best of spy shows and the best of army shows, sometimes beating SEAL Team at its own game. But it looks like that’s the lot. If it doesn’t come back, I won’t be gutted, but if it does, I’ll still tune in, hoping that it keeps the best and loses the worst.
Counterpart (US: Starz)
1×2 – Birds of a Feather
Well that was a great big sack of dull, wasn’t it? After all the fun of the first episode, this was essentially a character background piece about the evil assassin from the other side, against a backdrop of a rather turgid 1960s spy thriller. Lots of talking, some in quite bad German, with JK Simmons not really getting to do much. Episode three had better be an improvement.
Episode reviews: 1
Great News (US: NBC)
2×13 – Early Retirement
Community‘s Jim Rath returned, along with Tiny Fey, Nat Faxon and probably some other guest stars I’ve forgotten, for what was probably the show’s last episode. The season finale could also double nicely as a series finale, with true love, the bad guy getting his comeuppance and plenty of gags. It’ll be a shame if it doesn’t get picked up, but I won’t be surprised. Sad!
Episode reviews: 1-2
Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)
1×13 – What’s Past is Prologue
Interesting developments afoot and a properly exciting science-fiction gunfight scene. Is you-know-who dead? Who knows…
Episode reviews: 1-2
Babylon Berlin (Germany: Sky 1; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Not quite worthy of a Boxset Monday, perhaps in part because season 2 is just the UK’s naming for what’s really just the second half of the first German season, season 2 of Babylon Berlin is nevertheless a solid piece of work. While it’s lost a bit of its energy compared to the first season, perhaps because it’s really just a continuation of most of the plots, a lot happens, there are plenty of revelations and there are huge developments.
The first few episodes don’t really do anything too surprising, although it’s great to see Gideon having a bit of fun thanks to the arrival of (spoiler alert)(spoiler alert) his true love and sister-in-law, but we get to see some further lovely homages to Fritz Lang. Oddly, Bryan Ferry turns up to sing at the night club in one episode, too.
However, episodes 7 and 8 are proper exciting and often funny, with homages in turn to 1920s/30s car chase movies, and the mystery of the gold et al finally gets solved, you’ll be glad to hear.
Combined with season 1, it’s genuinely one of the best TV shows Germany has ever produced. Watch it if you can.
Baron Noir (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon)
The return of France’s (if not the world’s) best political drama throws you right in the deep end from the first moment. Not up to speed with French’s PR system? Then grab yourself a calculator because it’s election time!
For a while, it feels a bit like a bad retread of season 1’s worst aspect – the seemingly fatal love of women for Baron Noir himself. Apparently, none of them can get by without him either. Then after about half an hour, everything starts to change and my God, it’s good. Full on, properly calculating, Machiavellian politicking by everyone (even the women – hoorah!) and some fabulous drama, as everyone on the left tries their best to act united while fighting for their best interests, all while the National Front glares back at them remorselessly and tries to advance to power. Brilliant stuff. Dare I say it might even be better than The Bureau now?
“London isn’t in the EU now.”
“Ah! Poutain Brexit!”
Episode reviews: Season 1
Engrenages (Spiral) (France: Canal+; UK: BBC Four)
Gosh. So the black guys really were bad all along. How surprising for Engrenages. Fun stuff for Karlsson to do, the story advances, but generally nothing special and seriously, just how incompetent are Laure’s unit? Literally every other cop we’ve met has had more competence in his little finger, which given they’re up against other police officers doesn’t bode well for them. They’d better just hope the other guys fall over or something.
Happy! (US: Syfy)
1×7 – Destroyer of Worlds
Well that was so wrong. Gosh. Can they get away with any of that on basic cable? Some of that was stronger than Game of Thrones.
A more-Morrisonian episode than previous episodes, we’ve now got devil possession, a new bad guy and our retinas burnt out by some of the things we’ve now seen. But Happy and Nick were great, particularly in the car scene, and I like how they didn’t try elaborately to explain to Nick’s partner the existence of Happy, but allowed that to happen off-screen. Looking forward to tonight’s finale – and the second season when it comes.
The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: Channel 5)
3×3 – The Losses of Magic
The quest continues, the plot continues and nothing much really changes. But it’s full of zingers along the way, so it’s still an entertaining hour’s worth of viewing.