What have you been watching? Including Trust and The Handmaid’s Tale

Donald Sutherland in FX's Trust
Donald Sutherland in FX's Trust

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week

Hmm. Not many new shows out this past week. How strange. That means that as well as catching up on all the regulars I missed last week, I’ve mainly been concentrating on movies, such as The Avengers: Infinity War, and passing verdict on Killing Eve (US: BBC America; UK: BBC One/BBC Three).

Cobra Kai (YouTube Red) came out today and Danish YA dystopian drama Rain (Netflix) is out on Friday, so although it’s a Bank Holiday Weekend here in the UK, I’ll be giving them a whirl before next WHYBW if I can – I imagine the torrential rain we’ll no doubt be getting might help no end with that.

After the jump, though, I’ll be having a gander (at last) at Trust (US: FX; UK: Sky Atlantic), as well as the regulars: The Americans, The Good Fight, Harrow, Krypton, Legion, SEAL Team, Silicon ValleyTimeless, and Westworld. Plus Lovely Wife and I made it through the first episode of the returning The Handmaid’s Tale – we can talk about what larks that was, after the jump.

TV shows

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Donald Sutherland in FX's Trust
Donald Sutherland in FX’s Trust

Trust (US: FX; UK: Sky Atlantic)

Anthology shows are currently going through something of a renaissance in the US, with the season-long story seeming to hit the sweet spot between viewer engagement, actor enjoyment and story-telling potential. However, Trust feels like a bit of a stretch, being an anthology show about the Getty family. Really? I know they’re kind of American royalty, but somehow I don’t think The Crown can be emulated quite so easily.

The action in the first season starts in 1973. Donald Sutherland is J Paul Getty, happily ensconced in a drizzly English manor with his harem of wives, among whom (as far as I could work out) are Anna Chancellor and Big Suze from Peep Show. Up pops grandson J Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson), but before you know it, JPG III is getting kidnapped by the Italian Mafia.

However, I didn’t make it that far. Regular readers will know I’ve been trying to make my way through this for weeks now and JPG III wasn’t even out of the UK before the tedious daftness of it all overcame me. Sure, Danny Boyle’s ostentatious direction was a palatable narcotic that made things move a little better, as did a star-rich cast that includes Hilary Swank and Brendan Fraser. But watching yet another rich family having issues and generally treating each other and everyone else like crud – and being expected to feel sympathy for one particular twatty one, just because he’s good enough to say please and thank you to the servants? I don’t think so.

Off with his set!

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Harrow (Australia: ABC)

1×7 – Pia Mater – 1×8 – Peccata Patrisi 

A couple of good episodes that push the ongoing story forwards. My money’s now on evil second husband having abused Harrow’s daughter, her killing him and Harrow covering it all up which if true would be quite a clever bit of plotting that’s emerged reasonably naturally over the course of the season. Harrow’s relationship with the SOCO is also feeling decently plausible and one of the pleasures of the show has been the characters who initially appeared to be idiots or simple comic foils in the first episode have been seen to have hidden depths and skills. Potentially going to get promoted by the end of the season.

Episode reviews: 1-2

Krypton (US: Syfy)

1×6 – Civil Wars

Oh, so much better! We’ve just passed the exact halfway point of the season and finally, we get to see some proper excitement, rather than constantly whining British actors wishing they’d not missed the Game of Thrones casting call. On top of that, as well as a cameo from Doomsday the whole show has just flipped itself on its head, with the idea that actually, our hero as well as his new pal General Zod – yes, that one has to save Krypton from blowing up, potentially stopping Superman from ever making it to Earth. That’s some mind-bending for you. On top of that, there was some fun inter-faith discussion with Brainiac, so I guess I’ll be sticking with this for a while yet.

Episode reviews: 1

SEAL Team (US: CBS; UK: Sky 1)

1×19 – Takedown

Gosh. A new big bad. Who saw that coming? Still, I guess the surprise is that he’s English rather than Afghan or Pakistani , which is a change from the 10 previous episodes or so.

Still, as usual, competently done, with plenty of excitement, which is basically what everyone’s here for, so why complain?

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)

2×7 – Mrs Sherlock Holmes

More tissue-thin excuses for a trip back in time, these ones so even more ‘Sainsbury’s Basics’ than previous tissues that everyone, hero and villain alike, ends up trying to stop it, it’s so stupid. But educational as usual, ‘Mrs Sherlock Holmes’ was intriguing and there was plenty of fun as well. Plus the new four-man crew is really helping with the storylines.

Episode reviews13

Recommended shows

The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV4)

6×5 – The Great Patriotic War

US history books must have been really manky in the 80s if they hadn’t covered the Soviet casualties during World War II, because that was right in there in mine. Maybe I just had a good history teacher (thanks, Mr Davies!) who liked to emphasise thinking about things from other people’s perspectives; or maybe it was just the dreaded GCSE History empathy essay that did that.

That niggle to one side, it was interesting (Ed: note to self – please think of a synonym for this word, you use it too much) to see Philip trying to re-enter the spy game and realising he hadn’t got it in himself any more, as well as seeing how far off the deep end Elizabeth had got herself in Philip’s absence. Also interesting was how the other Russians in town are looking at Oleg – I’d forgotten they might have some ideas of their own, too – and to see Paige get taught a lesson in not getting cocky just because you won a fight once.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

The Good Fight (US: CBS All Access; UK: More4)

2×9 – Day 464

As usual with The Good Fight, I firmly expect everything in this episode to happen in real-life next week. But until then, a nicely comedic episode, with Fisher Stevens a marvellously incompetent lawyer, and a heart-warming ending to the “buddy in prison” storyline that gives the show some much-needed optimism.

Episode reviews1, 4

The Handmaid’s Tale (US: Hulu; UK: Channel 4)

2×1 – June

Set in a US in which bonkers misogynist Christian fundamentalists have taken over in an effort to harness the reproductive potential of the few women still fertile, season 1 of this timely dystopia ended having exhausted Margaret Attwood’s original novel, which itself ended on an ambiguous note. The question was therefore what would happen in season 2.

The answer, so far, is something that’s one-part torture porn, one-part optimism, with the handmaids going through all manners of horror, while ‘Offred’ gets to have a moderately better fate, if not at first. However, the episode was more of a plot continuation and establishing episode, rather than something that planned to fill out the Gilead universe with a proper breakdown of its economic foundations, say, so it wasn’t quite as deep as season 1 at its finest. Or as shocking. Some people even smiled.

But a good way to carry on the series, so it looks like its in safe hands.

Episode reviews: 1-3

Legion (US: FX; UK: Fox UK)

2×4 – Chapter 12 – 2×5 – Chapter 13

This is rapidly becoming a show where it’s just fun to watch the pretty pictures and the mind-bending ideas, rather than try to follow what there is of a plot. Lots of developments in both episodes, but developments of character rather than plot for the most part, and while the building up of Syd’s back story was welcome, the episode’s plot felt more like an excuse for the characterisation, rather than worthwhile in its own right.

Great to watch and some interesting philosophising, but worryingly close to season 2 of Hannibal in tone. I hope Legion doesn’t disappear where the sun don’t shine, as that did.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

5×6 – Artificial Emotional Intelligence

There are no favours in business, apparently. As usual these days, most of the laughs come from Jarrod, but I did like the fact that the two programmers are now having to deal with having other people, including employees, working with them and for them.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

2×2 – Reunion

Well, that was a lot more understandable, as we get a lovely flashback to the setting up of the park and to characters we thought we’d already said goodbye to. Peter Mullen gets to be properly Scottish again, after spending ages in shows like Ozark and Quarry pretending to be southern US. And we finally get to have some answers.

That said, it feels like the show is ploughing a new direction for itself, away from questions of consciousness, self-determination and whether artificial intelligence is genuinely intelligent, in favour of “Watch out! Robots!” There wasn’t a huge amount of intellectual content, if you know what I mean, which is a shame as that was the best thing about season one. Here’s hoping it’s only taken a break for an episode.

Plus, making Delos be named after a man called Delos? Wasn’t the whole point of ‘Delos’ that it comes from the island where the twin gods Apollo and Artemis were born?

Episode reviews: 1, 3