It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
It’s been a relatively quiet week for global TV. July 4th has a lot to do with that in the US, July 1st in Canada, and I’m sure everyone everywhere else is just outside a lot at the moment, anyway. There are more new shows on the way soon, but for now, it’s been quiet.
That gave me enough time to finish off and review Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix) and I’m now about midway through the second season of GLOW (Netflix), upon which I shall report next week. I’ve also had enough time to wade through the first two episodes/three hours of Paramount (US)’s modern-day, Kevin Costner-infused cowboy-fest Yellowstone, which I’ll review after the jump.
We’ll also be talking about the latest episodes of Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, Condor and Shooter, as well as the season finale of Mystery Road and series finale of Bron/Broen (The Bridge). Isn’t that irresistibly exciting? Then come follow me!
Yellowstone (US: Paramount)
Although right-wing nutjobs like to think the reason there’s very little conservative TV on the mainstream networks is liberal bias and conspiracies, the truth is that it’s often just very badly made. It needn’t be that way, though, and although we are occasionally having to suffer the likes of Roseanne on the path to its redemption, conservative TV is making a comeback thanks to some halfway decent bits of programming.
So far, most of that has been related to the military (SEAL Team, Shooter) but now we have Yellowstone, set in the rather famous US National Park in Montana. It sees Kevin Costner playing – in his first ever regular TV role – the owner of the largest ranch in the US, which just so happens to border both Yellowstone and some reservations. The local town wants to expand, but can’t thanks to Costner’s ranch; meanwhile, the native Americans, but principally Gil Birmingham (Banshee, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), are planning on getting back what used to be theirs by both fair means and foul.
All of that leads to a lot of conflict that requires Costner’s kids, both rural and urban, to wade in and help out, with city-slicker lawyer Wes Bentley and vicious executive type Kelly Reilly leading the fight back; meanwhile, ex-soldier turned rancher Luke Grimes would join in, but he’s conflicted as he’s married to one of those native Americans, something her brother doesn’t especially like.
For the most part, Yellowstone has conservatism beating deep in its heart. As well as expansive paeans to the beauty of nature, it’s largely on the side of Costner and the traditional urban American, who just loves hunting, shooting, fishing, eating steak, going to church, riding horses and not shaving. The native Americans come across as dicks, albeit dicks who maybe shouldn’t have had their land stolen from them by the white guys a few hundred years ago. Those who forsake the land for the city are lesser men and women who want to do men’s jobs are doomed to misery and unhappy shags in cars at night.
But it’s finely made stuff and a bit more interesting than merely a Leni Riefenstahl movie set on horseback. Costner may like to be hands-on with calfing and breaking in newly captured mustangs; he even wears a ten-gallon hat when he’s indoors. But he’s also clearly a rich man whose preferred form of transport is a helicopter. He’s also content to have people tortured and even murdered to get his way.
Similarly, the Native Americans don’t just show up on the horizon, do a war chant then ride off. Yellowstone wants to show off their culture, as well as their modern way of life, although it’s not the most positive portray you could imagine.
The show’s big problem, though, is it’s basically Succession again but without any laughs. Grimes is the closest to a character you might want to root for, but he spends all his time either being sad that horses and cows end up being used for profit/food, making him a pretty crap cowboy, or shooting random people he comes across (not usually maliciously). It does at least make the show exciting, but it’s also a bit of a chore.
Nevertheless, a combination of Costner being on top gruff form, Kelly Reilly, a good supporting cast, good cinematography and a unique, flyover state setting means Yellowstone is at least worth a try, even if I can’t really see myself watching much more of it.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Condor (US: Audience)
1×4 – Trapped in History
Despite being partly a flashback episode – normally a guarantee the action is going to come to halt – Condor continued to be decently smart this week. Irons Jr’s character manages to be less of a dick to women and William Hurt is still in it, which is great news, even if the idea of (spoiler alert) him and Mira Sorvino having an affair is a bit icky.
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger (US: Freeform: UK: Amazon)
1×5 – Princeton Offense
While the acting of the teens is generally hampering my fully enjoyment of the show, this week’s episode had lots going for it. Not being a Cloak and Dagger reader, I’m quite liking not having a clue what characters’ superpowers are and how they work, and the show is doing a good job of keeping that unclear and misdirecting the audience. I also like the two’s Champions-esque co-dependence, with one character’s use of powers causing the other to start using them, too, whether it’s convenient or not. All of which makes the show seem quite novel, in combination with its “young adult” themes (sex, drugs, parties, suicide), Southern setting and lack of real enemy to fight.
Given that the show did get a slight head-nod in Marvel’s Luke Cage, I wonder how much of this Harlem talk is leading up to a counter-reference?
Reviews: Initial review
Bron/Broen (The Bridge) (Sweden: SVT1; Denmark: DR1; UK: BBC Two)
And we’re done. Everyone’s arrested. Danish bloke has one kid back. Saga was right about her mum after all. How does it all end? With the same close-out as Forbrydelsen (The Killing), of our heroine giving up on the policing so she can head off to do something else. Is that a reward? Do people in Scandinavia consider policing a vocation that only exists as a curative and that once people have got whatever they needed to out of their systems, they get to quit and paint bark instead?
Overall, it feels like they should have just finished everything at the end of season two, which is when the show really still had some creative juice, as these two past seasons have felt a little bit unnecessary overall, not really adding much beyond first introducing Danish bloke then making him less laughable and then adding some unnecessary back story to Saga. Still, at least Saga got to save one of her partner’s kids this time.
All that said, I’d be happy to see a solo show for Saga that doesn’t require a Danish component. Maybe a sort of Miss Marple, in which she solves crimes in a village. That would be fun.
Reviews: Initial review
Mystery Road (Australia: ABC)
1×6 – The Truth
I did say last week that if the show held up in quality, it would get promoted to the recommended list. And here it is. While the final episode wasn’t quite a slam-dunk and one could grumble about the anti-#IBelieveHer message it imparted, it was well executed, exciting beautiful to watch, stonkingly well acted and provided good resolutions to all the storylines.
Season two is in preparation, and I’d be happy to see this running as long as the Jack Irish series (coming back again soon) – particularly if it gives Aaron Pedersen more work.
Reviews: Initial review
Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix)
3×2 – Red Meat
After my fears that the show was going to go off the conspiracy theory deep end this season, this episode was actually a pretty judicious piece of work. Sure, it’s still all about Deep State nonsense, but it felt like a return to season one, with our hero going around investigating and using his brain, all while being a good upstanding American. The general wingeing by his wife is getting a bit tiring and clichéd, mind.