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TV Review: April Round-Up – Including 24, Lost, and Heroes

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US TV

24

“Day 6: 9pm-2am”

Jack recovers the suitcase nukes in by far the season's best action sequence as he takes down the terrorist cell single-handed. His brutal hand-to-hand showdown with Fayed reminded me that one of the reasons I watch this show is its ability to deliver some of the best action scenes in a weekly TV show.

Other events, including Audrey’s reappearance and President Palmer’s collapse reminded me of the other thing that keeps me watching – some of the most contrived plot twists ever perpetrated on a TV viewing audience. The screenwriters’ guidelines seem to be to do the unexpected no matter how improbable or implausible it may be.

Frankly I haven’t been able to take the series seriously since Jack’s wife collapsed only to wake up with amnesia in season one and to be perfectly honest, I don’t want to. There are better written, better plotted, and better acted shows on TV but this tops them for sheer self-indulgent fun. I can even see it continuing without Kiefer Sutherland (as others have speculated) with Ricky Schroder’s Mike Doyle sharing many Bauer character traits.

Now if they could just find out that Morris has secretly been working with the terrorists all along and let Jack go to work on him I’d really be happy.

Criminal Minds

“Honor Among Thieves”

This is a pretty average episode with the BAU investigating a kidnapping with Russian Mafia connections at the behest of Agent Prentiss’ mother. Special guest star Kate Jackson plays Ambassador Prentiss who pulls strings to get the team assigned to the case.

The episode was obviously designed to give us an insight into Emily Prentiss' character but she’s still the new kid on the block, having only been introduced part way through this season, not to mention something of a cold fish, so it doesn’t really work. While she’s fine within the confines of the team I just don’t have the same affection for her as I do for Gideon or Reid and consequently her relationship with her mother failed to engage me. Which leaves the kidnapping and, while it’s not the most interesting case we’ve seen, it provided enough entertainment to keep me watching.

The highlight, as so often with this show, is a face-off between Gideon and a suspect, this time Russian mob boss Arseny Lysowsk. Mandy Patinkin shows (again) that he’s one of the best actors currently working in episodic television as he engages in a battle of wits with the hardened criminal. Sadly the conclusion of the episode is a little farfetched but even an average episode of this far from average show is worth a watch.

CSI

“Big Shots”

This episode is most notable for concluding the Greg storyline as the brother of the man he killed in self defence becomes a suspect in a homicide investigation. Eric Szmanda has been given something a little more complex to play thanks to this plot-line, with Greg’s character becoming more than just the comic relief he’s so often used as. Other than that this is business as usual with a plot that fails to overshadow the still unsolved miniature killer case.

“Lab Rats”

It had to happen – a Hodges episode! Shows always used to have cheap episode to compensate for going over budget. These would be either: a) an episode built around flashbacks to previous stories, or b) an episode set exclusively on existing sets i.e. set exclusively on the Enterprise in the case of Star Trek. This is a cross between the two. It’s also extremely entertaining.

David Hodges (Wallace Langham) is the man everyone loves to hate, the smug tech who thinks he’s God’s gift to forensics. Convinced he can help solve the miniature killer case, he gathers some of the other lab workers to go over the evidence in the hope of uncovering an overlooked clue. This is the series' funniest episode ever, with Langham outstanding  as the nerd with delusions of grandeur.

And if that wasn’t enough we have Grissom, Doc Robbins, and a rat in a grossly funny homage to the chestburster scene in Alien.

“Ending Happy”

Another funny episode that features a couple of notable guest stars – Peter Stormare and James Whitmore. The case concerns a murder at a brothel and the multitude of potential suspects, all of whom not only had a reason to kill the victim (an ex-boxer named Happy) but actually attempted to. It’s up to the team to figure out who was ultimately responsible for ending Happy. It’s a cleverly scripted episode that raises many a chuckle with the aging Whitmore stealing the show and getting the biggest laugh, too.

Drive

“No Turning Back”

I’ve already reviewed the first three episodes of this series elsewhere and this contains the same excellent blend of action and drama. Sadly this is where Fox pulled the plug…

Heroes

“.07%”

The story continues to build towards the series finale with Linderman laying his cards on the table. The beauty of this show is that while you have no idea how it will end, the twisting plot stays true to the characters, never requiring them to do something just to further the story. Characters meet each other in unexpected ways and yet it’s all so well thought out that it seems obvious. At this point I’ve no idea how things are going to end up, who the exploding man is, and even whether they’ll stop him, but I have faith that the writers know and I can’t wait to find out.

Lost

“Left Behind”

Kate and Juliet get to know each other after waking up handcuffed in the jungle and another piece of Kate’s past is revealed. It’s the flashback scenes that are the most intriguing this week as Kate’s back-story becomes entwined with that of Sawyer. It’s becoming clear that all the survivors will somehow be linked; it’s just becoming a little difficult to keep track of who’s connected to whom. The revelation that Juliet handcuffed herself to Kate seems a little silly and sours a surprise in a latter episode as by then we already don’t trust her.

“One of Us”

Jack and crew return to the beach where Juliet is unsurprisingly met with distrust. She wins some goodwill by helping Claire but the ending reveals it was all a set up by the Others to get her accepted. Juliet’s past is filled in as we see how she came to the island and what she’s been doing since.

I’d been starting to like Jack again but this episode he behaves in such a pig-headed “I know best” manner that I wanted everyone to gang up on him and tell him where to stick his self-righteous attitude. Luckily you don’t have to like Jack to like the show and with the series really starting to gear up for some big end of season revelation I'm definitely hooked on Lost again. I just wish I had the same faith in the writers of this show as I do Heroes.

“Catch-22”

Is Charlie dying inevitable? It would seem so as he once again cheats death with more than a little help from Desmond. Desmond’s ability to see the future is at the centre of this episode and raises more than a few questions, for example – Desmond foresees the trip through the jungle but he then instigated the trip because of it, so it’s something of a chicken and egg situation. Maybe it’s best not to think about it too much. The revelation that the island’s latest arrival isn’t his lost love Penelope came as a surprise only to Desmond.

“D.O.C.”

Sun finds out that Jin is the father of her baby but also learns that no one who has become pregnant on the island has lived long enough to give birth. Meanwhile Mikhail returns from the dead and is coerced into helping the injured woman the group found in the jungle. This is a great episode that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers, the biggest of which is left till the end when Naomi, the injured woman tells Desmond, Hurley, Charlie and Jin that the plane they crashed in was found and everyone aboard was dead. So are they in hell, limbo or what? Only God and hopefully the writers know.

Painkiller Jane

“Pilot”

Back in October 2005 the Sci Fi Channel broadcast a TV movie based on the Painkiller Jane comic the ending of which set things up perfectly for an ongoing series.  So I was a little surprised that instead of building on the groundwork they’d already laid the decided to start from scratch. Neither of the incarnations sticks very close to the comic although the series has at least something in common, with Jane starting out as a cop.

Kristanna Loken plays Jane Vasko, a Neuro (think mutant) who can recover from any injury and while she certainly won’t be winning any Emmys, she does a fair job although the voiceover is a very bad idea. Her voice is fine in conversation with other characters but isolated like this it just seems lifeless, a monotone that is more likely to send you to sleep than keep you glued to the screen. The rest of the cast while composed of stereotypes (the computer geek, the intense leader…) all do a reasonable job. What lets it down is a rather dull story and a budget that limits the amount of onscreen action.

“Toy Soldiers”

A story that deals with zombie soldiers should have been a winner but instead shows even more the financial constraints the show suffers from. When corpses start commenting crimes it’s down to Jane and the team to investigate finally tracking down the culprit, a teenage boy who has the power to control the dead. He's using them to play war games for his own amusement. Sadly getting to that point is rather dull and when the action does kick in it consists of a couple of military vehicles driving round a field firing at each other. There was an interesting idea here but unfortunately the series didn’t (or couldn’t?) do it justice.

“Piece of Mind”

Starting with a very naff looking train crash this is fighting a loosing battle from the get go. What follows is a silly story about a muta..sorry, Neuro with the ability to transfer information from one person to another and a train robbery to steal a painting. The only decent thing about this episode is that Jane starts to question the morality of tracking down and neutralising the Neuros. Unfortunatly after three episodes the series has failed to really grip me and to use a baseball adage – three strikes and you’re out.

Raines

“Stone Dead”

Being a comic artist seems to be a cool profession on TV these days; we’ve had Henry Fitzroy in Blood Ties and now a young aspiring artist is a murder victim in Raines. This is probably the least interesting episode so far. Jeff Goldblum is still enjoyable as the neurotic detective but the victim and crime are just plain dull. For this series to survive it needs quality guest stars to play opposite Goldblum as the victims; it’s never going to outdo CSI for cleverly plotted murders so it needs to capitalise on its uniqueness. A few more like this and I’ll be giving up on it.

“The Fifth Step”

Now this is more like it. Melinda Page Hamilton plays Connie, the murdered wife of a judge and the object of Raines' investigation. It’s a little darker than most of the stories up till now but doesn’t lose the series' trademark sense of humour; when Raines finds out Connie may have been having a lesbian relationship… well, let's just say his already active imagination goes into overdrive.

“Inner Child”

Raines investigates the rape and murder of Emily, a ten-year-old girl in the series' most emotionally charged episode. Goldblum is amazing here, really giving a sense he’s on the verge of a complete breakdown, but the episode is stolen by Zoe Stone-Molloy as Emily. The newcomer more than holds her own in her scenes with Goldblum and the two have a superb chemistry together. The story manages to deal with the sensitive subject matter yet still keeps its quota of humour thanks to these two wonderful performances. Many of the other episodes had overdone it at the end, piling the emotions on treacle thick but this one, which could so easily have gone the same way, gets it just right. I had tears in my eyes as the credits rolled.

“Closure”

An episode that shows the good and bad in this series. Raines investigates the murder of his ex-wife’s husband, a situation with great potential for both laughs and drama, a potential that for the most part gets realised. The scene in the bar with his ex-wife is Goldblum’s finest moment in the series; he really is on the brink of going totally to pieces. Unfortunately this time we O.D. on saccharine as Raines solves not just one murder but several and we have to bid farewell to each in turn. This episode is not recommended for diabetics.

British TV

Life on Mars

Episodes 7 and 8

The final two episodes bring everything to a more or less satisfactory close. There are no big revelations here although it does attempt a twist that Sam’s 1973 life is the real one but it only puts doubt in Sam’s mind, not the viewers' (surely all it was really intended to do).

John Simm is brilliant in the season finale, both in the 1973 fantasy world and the here and now. He’s a man torn between friends he knows aren’t real and a real world that seems far duller than the fantasy world he’s been living in. The ending may go on a little too long, it would have been better to finish with the rooftop jump, but that’s a minor complaint. This has been an quirky drama series that’s rarely hit a bum note and one that didn’t outstay it’s welcome wisely bringing things to a conclusion after two seasons.

The planned spin off sounds like a bad idea though. 

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About Ian Woolstencroft