What have you been watching? Including Engrenages (Spiral) and Pennyworth

The Queen in Pennyworth
Epix (US)'s Pennyworth

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

HBO (US)’s Watchmen

This week’s reviews

My iPad is repaired (more or less). Productivity has returned.

This week, I’ve reviewed three new shows: the first episodes of Treadstone (US: USA; UK: Amazon) and Watchmen (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic), as well as the entire first season of Living With Yourself (Netflix). They were all pretty good shows, too, which was a bonus.

The Kominsky Method
Netflix’s The Kominsky Method

What’s coming this week

I’ve not watched any movies this week at all again. Sorry. More sorry – there’s not much new TV coming our way, although there are going to be a few new returning shows, at least.

That means Boxset Monday/Tuesday is going to be one of the usual intended suspects, I suspect: season two of Impulse (YouTube), season one of Modern Love (Amazon), season two of The Hookup Plan (Netflix) or season one of Beau Séjour (Belgium: Éen; UK: Walter Presents). Joining that crew is season two of The Kominsky Method (Netflix), so we’ll see how it goes.

Epix (US)’s Pennyworth

The regulars

It’s the usual usual after the jump: Batwoman, Evil, Magnum PI, Mr InBetween, Mr Robot, Stumptown, Titans and Total Control. With Pennyworth available as of today on StarzPlay in the UK, I thought I’d finish off the final two episodes in one go. I’ve even had time to watch three episodes of Engrenages (Spiral).

Let’s talk about all of them after the jump. Before that, guess which one has been promoted to the regulars list.

TV shows

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Batwoman (US: The CW)

1×3 – Down, Down, Down

Despite the lack of copious Street Hawk references this week, not a bad episode as we see how our heroine takes on her red-haired mantle. We also have a new, one-off villain and our previous villainess gets some ambivalent depths. Kudos to the show for not instantly leaping into the Flash/Arrow formula of having a super support team, with Luke Fox the only candidate and a very reluctant one at that.

The show is nevertheless still catastrophically obsessed with Batman and it’s not the brightest tool in the box – do we honestly think it would take more than three seconds for someone to suggest ‘Batwoman’ as the equivalent superheroine’s name, so why does Rachel Maddow go to ‘Batchick’ and ‘Batlady’? How many people now know Batman’s secret identity, including (as hinted here) all his enemies?

And for someone who’s spent five years training with masters around the world to be a top security consultant and who went to military school, Batwoman doesn’t half suck in a fight.

Episode review: Initial

Stumptown (US: ABC)

1×4 – Family Ties

Effectively the second part of a two-parter that brings back Donal Logue and advances our heroine’s PI training. They make for a more fun partnership than any of the other pairings, though, which means future Logue-less episodes are going to be a lot less fun, so they’d better up the ante soon. I do hope they manage to find someone who can give Cobie Smulders some proper verbal sparring time, because she’s outclassing everyone else in the show by a country mile at the moment.

Episode reviews: Initial

Total Control (Black B****) (Australia: ABC)

1×2

After the politicking of Canberra, we have Aboriginal politicking, which is markedly different. Aaron Pedersen shows up again, although very differently from his Mystery Road persona.

It’s all very smartly done and very educational, too, even if a little heavy handed at times.

Episode reviews: Initial

The recommended list

Engrenages (Spiral) (France: Canal+; UK: BBC Four)

7×1-7×3

France’s finest TV show returns for its finalpenultimate season. Everyone’s in an odd place. Laure is in a psychiatric institute. Gilou is in charge of the cops, but isn’t very good at it. Tin Tin’s gone. Karlsson is in the nick. Roban’s back at work… for all of ten minutes, it turns out. Herville’s back at work for even less time.

But that does allow the show to explore a few new ideas, give a few more insights into less known parts of the ever-changing French justice system and even prove that Laure might actually know what she’s doing for a change. As usual, the racial politics are worrying (not half as worrying as they are in French), but the show is trying hard. The women, of course, get the worst of it.

Yet it’s all so marvellously well written and well acted that it scarcely seems to matter that everyone thought Herville was a dick until 10 seconds before the first episode started. The addition of lots of chase scenes helps, too.

Welcome back, Engrenages. How I’ve missed you and your amusing subtitling.

Evil (US: CBS)

1×4 – Rose390

The first promotion to the recommended list for a Fall 2019 US show, Evil earned it by being a really surprisingly clever and creepy little show. This week’s really very eerie episode delves into virtual reality games and you can already imagine the possibilities if I say “Shining girl in the room next to you”; but there’s also a musing about which will help more, religion or psychology, when dealing with a child who is clearly sociopathic – We Need to Talk About Kevin meets The Exorcist.

As usual, the show notably comes up with some very good secular explanations for the creepiness, yet always manages to leave enough ambiguity to have you terrified. That and a winning and often funny cast make this a keeper.

Episode reviews: Initial

Magnum P.I. (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)

2×4 – Dead Inside

A welcome attempt to flesh out the police supporting characters – and even add a few more – is somewhat undermined by the last refuge of the scoundrel: guest sporting stars playing themselves badly.

But Magnum is starting to lose its mojo for me. It’s becoming a lot more episodic, a lot more repetitive and losing its army vet pointedness. Plus Magnum himself isn’t feeling a bit weak and ineffectual for an ex-Navy SEAL.

That basically leaves Higgins. That’s probably enough. But there should be more.

Episode reviews: Initial, Verdict

Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase)

2×6 – Let Me Stop You There

A slight hint that things are turning a darker corner, as our hero gets to grips with being single again. The ongoing job, as well as this week’s extra job, also add some interest. However, this feels like a storyline being eked out over a couple more episodes than it can comfortably sustain. Roll on the season finale.

Episode reviews: Initial, Verdict

Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)

4×3 – Forbidden Error

Whiterose gets an unnecessary origin story and Elliot gets an unnecessary girlfriend. I’m not sure what this added to the overall plot. Time will tell.

Episode reviews: Initial, Verdict

Pennyworth (US: Epix; UK: StarzPlay)

1×9 – Alma Cogan – 1×10 – Marianne Faithful

The Michael Caine references were strong in the penultimate episode, with first a head nod in the score to The Ipcress File and then a zoom in on a street sign for “Micklewhite Avenue”.

But that was largely a slight course correction away from the missteps of the previous two episodes towards the final, ruleless delights of the last episode, which had a glorious Inglourious Basterds feel to it. I mean (spoiler alert) Alfred shagging the Queen? . Awesome. Plus it finally remembered it was supposed to be a Batman prequel as well.

All in all, probably not the show many would have imagined if asked to consider what Alfred the Butler’s 20s and 30s would have been liked, but a work of occasional genius. A tribute to the 60s in all its glories, as well as an often searing critique of modern English political culture, it lost its way a bit, particularly around the inexplicable devil worship episodes in the middle, as it seemed to forget what it was doing. But still a show that I’d recommend, purely for its gonzo sensibilities.

Episode reviews: Initial

Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)

2×7 – Bruce Wayne

Bruce Wayne turns up (as an hallucination) and is unlike any other Bruce Wayne you’ve seen before, apart from maybe Adam West. Batman doesn’t do jokes, for starters, let alone dance on stage. All of which adds power to an episode that hinges on Dick’s dark secret, which we had already guessed.

Jason’s dark secret might be more interesting, though, but the most fun was to be had with Starfire, Raven and Conner. This definitely feels like an upwards trajectory.

Episode reviews: Initial

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