It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
For once, I actually managed to watch and review all the TV I promised to watch and review last week. Well done me. True, Boxset Monday ended up as Boxset Tuesday, but that’s largely because Squinters turned out not to be Boxset Monday-worthy material.
Elsewhere, you’ll find reviews of:
- Boxset Tuesday: The New Legends of Monkey (season 1) (Australia: ABC Me; UK: Netflix)
- Third-episode verdict: Squinters (Australia: ABC)
- A.P. Bio (US: NBC)
- Let’s Get Physical (US: Pop)
Later in the week, I’ll be dealing with HBO’s Here and Now, as well as anything else that pops up despite the Winter Olympics. But today, there’s the latest episodes of the current roster of regulars: Baron Noir, Black Lightning, Corporate, Counterpart and The Magicians. Star Trek: Discovery‘s season finale has aired, too, but taking its place in the viewing queue is the returning DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Lastly, it turned out that High Maintenance returned a few weeks ago without my noticing, so I’ve been playing catch-up with that.
See you after the jump.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)
1×5 – And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: The Book of Green Light
The first episode that’s really found the right balance between all its component parts, giving us a lot more Black Lightning and a little less politics. Some properly funny moments involving Black Thunder finding a costume for herself, too, and even the character and cultural work around the villain was pretty thoughtful. Although, frankly, making the target of your hero’s quest an albino surnamed ‘Whale’ is cutting it a little near to the allusional knuckle.
Also the first episode that made me believe our superhero is middle-aged.
Corporate (US: Comedy Central)
1×5 – Corporate Retreat
This looked like a shoo-in for the recommended list last week, but unfortunately, this was more silly than cutting or cynical, reducing the laugh count significantly. The lack of Lance Reddick didn’t help, either. Still, there’s nothing quite like a glowing review from me to really suck all the goodness out of a TV show, so what was I expecting?
Fingers crossed for this week’s episode…
1×4 – Both Sides Now
A decent, thoughtful episode as our hero travels to the other side and gets to meet his counterpart’s supposedly late wife. Beautifully acted by both JK Simmons and Olivia Williams, it’s fascinating to watch them play two people having to deal with someone who’s identical to their spouse physically but different emotionally. Also fun to see were more of the differences between the two worlds.
If next week’s is good, I reckon this will end up on the recommended list.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
3×10 – Daddy Darhkest
Matt Ryan’s John Constantine returns for an episode that’s as much Constantine as it is Legends of Tomorrow. Plenty of references to The Exorcist littered all over the place, as well as to a few other horror movies including The Haunting. Nice for the show to remember not only that the comic book Constantine is bisexual but Sara is, too, making all manner of flirtations and hook-ups possible.
How long do you reckon it’ll be before The CW resurrects Constantine? And how blond will his hair be by then?
Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)
1×15 – Will You Take My Hand?
A pretty good and authentically Star Trek ending to a first season that took quite a while to warm up, but eventually managed to hit its stride, exploit the serial format for all its worth, and give us all manner of twists and turns along the way. The support characters all need a little bit more fleshing out and the show might well suffer without Jason Isaacs, since there’s no one quite strong enough to replace him, but the prospects for season two look good.
How about that ending, hey? Do you reckon there’ll be any follow through on that?
Episode reviews: 1-2
Baron Noir (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon)
While there’s still a tinge of season 1’s more problematic storylines, season 2 of Baron Noir is now shaping up very nicely as an insightful piece of political drama. As well as gaining more than a hint of Le bureau des légendes, the show’s tackling head-on the problems facing a lot of European countries: how to deal with integration rationally, when there’s a populist, united right-wing that deals in fear and xenophobia while the left fights amongst itself and fragments over idealogical purity. Is Baron Noir’s way the right way? Turns out he’s not sure for a change and there are even greater zealots to the left of him. Marvellous stuff and getting Mme President to finally come up with her own political strategies is a move in the right direction.
After the terrible subtitling of episodes three and four alive, things rectified themselves for episodes five and six, you’ll be glad to hear. Hopefully it was a one-off, but my experiences with BBC Four’s airing of Engrenages (Spiral) suggest that subtitlers tend to alternate with one another, getting two episodes at a time to review. That might explain why episodes 1 and 2 were relatively well subtitled, episode 3 and 4 not, episodes 5 and 6 good again, but it does suggest episodes 7 and 8 might be hiding new horrors…
Episode reviews: Season 1
High Maintenance (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×1 – Globo – 2×2 – Fagin
A welcome return for one of 2016’s top shows – a lovely series of comedic and humane character portraits of the eccentrics that might be found in New York City. I say welcome, but the first two episodes haven’t been as great as I’d hoped.
The opener starts with an (unspecified) 9/11-grade terrible disaster that leaves everyone shell-shocked but ready to embrace the small joys in life. This is absolutely not an episode you can watch on a commute since a couple of minutes in the middle are weapons-grade pornography, so keep it at home. All the same, it was really only a couple of minutes on a subway train with a balloon towards the end that really lifted the show back to its former heights.
Fagin is a bit odder, since it’s really two-parts, the first of which involves some old Air BNB-ers as they try to adapt to their daughter’s modern mores (and a snake), the second a feminist meeting where everyone is on their most ‘woke’ behaviour. Quite fun to watch, and some typically accurate and astute observations, but not hugely impactful.
Anyways, fingers crossed for the next two episodes, which I’ve still to catch up on.
The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: Channel 5)
3×5 – A Life in the Day
An oddly lovely episode as two of our heroes (no, no clues) live a lifetime and die together in montage. A reset button looms… and then gets ignored, making it all very moving. What with last week’s Happy!, I’m wondering if there’s a conspiracy to make me cry whenever I watch TV. Or maybe I’m just getting old.