What have you been watching? Including The Flatey Enigma and Detective Cain

Cain

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

Sacha Baron Cohen in The Spy
Sacha Baron Cohen in The Spy

This week’s reviews

It’s amazing how much easier it is to write TV reviews when there’s no new TV to review, isn’t it? This odd paradox is presumably the only explanation for the large number of boxsets I dropped on you during TMINE’s inaugural ‘Boxsets Week’ (catchy title, hey?):

However, TV’s coming back, so it’s going to be a more regular schedule for the rest of the month, at least.

In fact, after the jump, we can talk about two new shows that have already popped up on UK TV screens in the past week: Flateyjargátan (The Flatey Enigma) and Caïn (Detective Cain).

Toni Collette and Merritt Wever in Unbelievable
Toni Collette and Merritt Wever in Netflix’s Unbelievable

What’s coming this week

Tomorrow is Orange Thursday, of course, and at least one of the movies I’ll be reviewing is Mary Poppins Returns (2018); the other will be whatever I choose to watch tonight.

TV-wise, expect me to be at least glancing at Netflix’s The I-Land and Unbelievable, and I might get around finally to watching season 3 of GLOW as well.

But that’s about it for the premieres at the moment, I think. However, always expect the unexpected.

Esai Morales as Deathstroke in Titans
Esai Morales as Deathstroke in Titans

The regulars

My regular viewing queue is still a small list, but there are signs it’s coming back to life. We’ll be discussing the continuing adventures of False Flag and Glitch, of course, as well as my continuing efforts to catch up with Pennyworth.

But we also have the not quite triumphant return of Titans to consider, too. All of that, after the jump.

TV shows

TMINE recommends has all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended and TV Reviews A-Z lists every TV show ever reviewed in the past 13 years.

New shows

The Flatey Enigma
The Flatey Enigma

Flateyjargátan (The Flatey Enigma) (Iceland: RÚV; UK: BBC Alba)

Gosh. Of all the places to find an Icelandic-language TV show, a channel dedicated to Scots Gaelic TV shows probably isn’t the most likely, but it showed up there anyway, much to everyone’s surprise, on Friday night.

Thanks to the beauty of iPlayer, you can watch it, too – and be completely unsurprised the subtitles are in English, not Scots Gaelic. Is anything on BBC Alba in Gaelic? It seems not.

Anyway, for those of you interested in such matters as plot, this four-part mini-series based on Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson’s novel of the same name is all about an unsolved riddle in the Book of Flatey, said riddle supposedly revealing to anyone who can solve it the final resting place of the last of ‘Gothi’ – the pre-Christian inhabitants of Iceland.

Set in 1971, it sees a professor of Nordic studies (Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir) come home from Paris to attend her father’s funeral on the island of Flatey – a large, isolated island off the west coast of Iceland. She’s also looking to find work at Reykjavik University, but her feminist views about the systematic silencing of women’s voices in history do not go down well with the university hierarchy.

However, Johanna gets a chance to prove herself by finishing her father’s lifelong work – solving the Flatey riddle – so she stays on Flatey with her son Snorri. But there are other people interested in the riddle, and when a body is found, the police send a representative to investigate the matter. Who’s the detective? Johanna’s ex – Snorri’s father.

Unlike a lot of Scandi Noir, this is actually pretty decent and unexploitative, with the murder not really being the focus of the story. Instead, this is largely a period piece, full of loving 70s detail, about solving a mystery. It’s even quite funny in places. The feminist angle is a bit agitprop and shows no one’s really that familiar with the peer review process, but it does manage to self-satirise, with Johanna over-extending herself and her claims.

The cast are pretty good, the story engrossing – I’ll be back for more this week, I suspect.

Cain
Burno Debrandt in Caïn

Caïn (Detective Cain) (France: France 2; UK: All 4)

Frédéric Caïn (Bruno Debrandt ) is a police captain, who has been in a wheelchair since a motorcycle accident. He is a cynical man with a black sense of humour, who likes to be on the verge of legality in his investigations and who attracts many people with his style. He is assisted by Lieutenant Lucie Delambre (Julie Delarme). Caïn’s private life revolves around his ex-wife Gaëlle (Anne Suarez) and his son Ben (Davy Sanna).

That’s the rubric anyway. Already having run for for six seasons with Debrandt – best known here from Engrenages (Spiral) – as Caïn, with a seventh recasting him with Julien Baumgartner, Detective Cain is a pretty popular show in France, as you might imagine. A typically France 2 combination of Southern France location-filming, policier and comedy, it sees Debrandt smirking his way around not 100% serious police investigations.

Episode 1 introduces us to the show’s set-up, with Debrandt trying to work out who keeps dumping dead bodies in the police mortuary of all places. It’s quite a clever piece of plotting for the most part, but the show’s bypassing of about 70 years of feminist thought and any concerns you might have about police brutality, combined with that general smirky air work against it – as does Debrandt’s inability to deliver more than a couple of lines each episode without arching his eyebrow.

Delarme does little but hint she’d like to shag Debrandt. Big chunks are dedicated to eyeing up/murdering underage girls in bikinis. Roughing up suspects in custody is perfectly fine if it gets results. Everyone drinks litres of whisky then goes for a drive (“Don’t break the speed limit!”).

It’s all leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

But the Marseille filming is nice, Debrandt’s relationship with his son isn’t what you’d expect and the show does at least give us a disabled character as its lead. I’m surprised by just how much of Marseille turns out to be wheelchair-accessible, too, but hell, it’s TV.

Not one I’ll be sticking with, but a bit more fun than the average Walter Presents French and/or crime dramas.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Pennyworth (US: Epix; UK: StarzPlay)

1×3-Martha Kane

In which Bruce Wayne’s mum makes an appearance and we get another genre, as we go for political spy thriller with obvious overtones of Alan Turing, as well as hints at The Ipcress File.

Looking through the Wikipedia, I can reveal that this episode literally does more exciting things with Martha Kane’s character that nearly 80 years of comics and movies have ever done, which is actually very pleasing to behold, too.

Plus some amusing northern sisterly fun between Polly Walker and Paloma Faith.

The recommended list

כפולים (False Flag) (Israel: Channel 2; UK: Fox UK)

2x7

A much better affair than last week’s episode, as we finally get some information shunted our way about what’s going on, why and who’s responsible. Some decently exciting action scenes, too.

Our returning villain is a bit stupid, unfortunately, but you can’t have everything, I suppose.

Episode reviews: Initial

Glitch (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)

3×3

Focus shifts again to a couple of the other returned, so that we can examine gay rights and abortion rights. Gannicus turns out to like dancing, too, which is a surprise. There’s also a couple of nicely creepy moments involving the universe coming to the end.

But not an episode that really advances the plot too much.

Episode reviews: Initial; Season 2

Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)

2×1 – Trigon

As strategic decisions go, for Titans, this was up there with Gallipoli. Originally, this episode was intended to be the finale for the first season. However, the production team got it into their heads to leave the first season ending on a cliffhanger, shunt the finale to season two and then add in a bit of extra material to start off all the season two plot threads.

Oh, what a mistake.

That’s left us sitting around for a year, an entire season’s worth of plot already developed, waiting for a payoff to match that build-up. But rather than continuing everything in spectacular fashion over the course of the second season, that whole mighty build-up not only gets solved in the first episode in a highly unspectacular fashion, there’s 15 minutes left afterwards, during which we get introduced to new villain Deathstroke (retired), meet a badly accented Bruce Wayne (Iain Glen), have most of the team disassemble and move to San Francisco, and then add an extra member (Jason Todd).

Sure, we get Raven becoming bejewelled Raven as per the comics, and proper Trigon showed up in slightly bad CGI. But if you were expecting the end of the world to be impressive, you’d have been sorely disappointed. Which is a shame, since this episode would have actually worked very well as the finale to season 1 and left everyone feeling pretty pleased with the whole thing.

Oh well. The trailer for the rest of season two looks pretty damn good, so I don’t think I’ll be dumping this any time soon.

Episode reviews: Initial

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