What have you been watching? Including The Americans

The Americans

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

June’s here, which means the summer TV season is beginning in the US (and the winter season in Australia). It’s quite a long season mind, with new shows starting all the way through to August (those that dare brave TMINE’s holiday wrath, anyway), so brace yourself for lots of new shows over the next few months. Woo hoo!

Elsewhere, as well as mopping up the whole of the first season of Netflix’s Safe in one go, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of Reverie (US: NBC) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia: Showcase; UK: BBC Two). I’ll be covering the first couple of episodes (at least) of movie spin-off Mystery Road (Australia: ABC) this week and I might even manage to watch Dietland (US: AMC; UK: Amazon), too, given the first two episodes are already available in the UK. Anything after that will be a bonus (eg Cobrai Kai, Movie Monday) – in particular, Succession (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) looks dull and worthy, despite the presence of Brian Cox (the other one), but I’ll try to squeeze it in, at least.

However, I definitely won’t be watching Ryan Murphy’s trans-friendly 80s New York drama Pose (US: FX) because of the golden TMINE motto: “Tough on musicals, tough on the cause of musicals.”

However, the remnants of the spring season are still with us, so after the jump, Bron/Broen (The Bridge), Legion and Westworld, as well as the series finale of the already-missed The Americans.

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The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV4)

6×10 – START

And thus we wave goodbye to one of the all-time classics of US TV. It didn’t quite look that way when it started, but over the years (and even by the third episode), it developed into a masterclass of subtle writing and acting, as well as attention to period detail . Refusing to follow the conventions of how plots and characters should develop over time, this tale of a family of Russian sleeper agents working in the US in the 80s has allowed us to look at history from a different perspective, and to give us a profound understanding of the essential sadness and caustic effect on the soul of constantly living a lie.

That said, this season, despite having had a good couple of years’ planning going into it, has felt like a game of two halves – one a standard, slow-paced season of Americans that explores crannies of political and cultural history we might have forgotten and aspects of the Great Game we might want to forget; the other a somewhat rushed chase towards the end, as our ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ come ever closer to finally being found out. The second half squished the first half somewhat, causing plot threads to left dangling, situations unresolved and people to act uncharacteristically. There was even directness, in a show that had always been highly indirect.

Nevertheless, as a season and series finale, it did deliver in many ways, including (spoiler alert) a final traumatic confrontation with Stan, who at last got to show off his sleuthing powers, although maybe not his good gun grip , as well as the ultimate, bleakly Russian ending. Not all those dangling plot threads needed resolution, either, so it was good not to try to fit everything in, even if one wonders, for example, what the point of Paige’s spying storyline was.

Of course, the Wall comes down in a couple of years so maybe everything will be a lot happier for everyone and they can all have a reunion drink with Frank Langella. I’d like to see that one day. Until then, The Americans will sit up there next to The Sandbaggers in the DVD shelf of all-time top spy shows. Hmm, didn’t that show finish during the SALT talks, which led into the START talks – I wonder if that’s a coincidence…

Reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Bron/Broen (The Bridge) (Sweden: SVT1; Denmark: DR1; UK: BBC Two)

4×4 

As with the previous episode, a considerable improvement on the previous week, and the sheer nastiness of the hospital ‘antidote scene’ was breathtaking. The show’s continuing to find its political voice on immigration, and to be honest, the final reveal that there’s a devious mastermind behind it all comes as a slight welcome, despite everything I’ve seen before, because it does suggest the whole thing has a decent structure to it now.

Still, who didn’t see what was going to happen to the Danish guy’s apartment, hey? Twat.

Reviews: Initial review

Legion (US: FX; UK: Fox UK)

2×10 – Chapter 18

I imagine copious amounts of LSD were taken in the making of this episode, with its giant tuning fork, bolo fights, giant pink plug-holes, Minotaur and references to everything from Alice in Wonderland to Zardoz. It’s like watching some game where the physics engine has been swapped out for a lump of silly putty covered in Love Hearts. A bit grizzly to watch, mind, and as confusing in what it actually all means as always, but at least the plot appears to be going somewhere. Could have done with more Navid Negahban, though.

Reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

2×7 – Les Ecorchés

Westworld is starting to remind me of one of the most famous and popular Tweets about why the UK is ‘unwilling to show the EU what cards it has in its hands’ during Brexit talks:

Really? Have they just laid down all their cards on the table, after all that bicameral mind stuff last season, and given us a busted flush? I hope more is going to be revealed before the end of the season to up the intellectual ante, because I’m starting to feel very inclined to stop watching at that point if this is the extent of the producers’ intellectual ambitions. I hope it’s not, because there was obviously a lot going on that was good last season and every episode does still contain at least something good (this week’s being the multiple Bernards). But ‘humans want to live forever in robot bodies’ is pretty tedious as a reveal for the show’s ultimate game plan and I’m a bit tired of the endless violence.

Still, I’m willing to be patient, at least. Let’s see if they can get a pair of Pikachus, at least.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict