Catch up: This Is Us S2, Inside the American Embassy, The Magicians S3
James R | On 08, Jul 2018
This Is Us: Season 2 (All 4)
The USA’s most sentimental show returns for a second season, and it doesn’t waste time in stepping up the sugar levels. We rejoin the ensemble of heart-on-sleeve Americans as Randall and Beth contemplate the life-changing step of adopting a baby – something that Randall wants to do, after he was adopted himself, but Beth is dead against. Meanwhile, Kate is pushed to chase her dreams as a singer by Toby and Kevin, who argue over who gets to be her “person”. It’s a debate in which both parties are in the wrong, trying to assert their masculine roles in their relationships with her, and it’s typical of the series that it manages to both acknowledge that and sympathise with each. Nobody ever makes casual small talk in This Is Us, and it’s credit to both the writing and the cast that they manage to sell each emotional exchange with a sincerity that balances out the saccharine music and heavy subject matter. Just the sight of Kevin (Justin Hartley) walking around Hollywood lots with a terrible birthday cake is a gently moving and oddly amusing sight. By the time the shocking ending sets up this second season, your heart will already be fully warmed up for another ride.
Inside the American Embassy (All 4)
As the UK prepares for an official visit from Donald Trump, Channel 4 has found the perfect time to give us an insight into what it’s like behind the scenes of the Trump administration. Inside the American Embassy offers exactly that, as a camera crew get unprecedented access to the American embassy in London, just as the embassy prepares to move to its new million-pound site in the UK capital. The result is absolutely gripping TV, as we see the day-to-day consequences of Trump’s policies – the embassy is a US border on UK soil, and we see consular staff having to make the tough decisions on who should and shouldn’t be allowed to get a visa to visit the USA, following Trump’s extreme ban (something that’s outlined with a crudely un-detailed sheet of paper and only sparks stress on both sides of the counter). Equally riveting is watching Woody Johnson at work; the US ambassador (a post traditionally given to someone with limited political experience) has to navigate a hostile environment, smoothing over relations with UK officials following every Trump tweet and trying to gauge the public mood about a potential state visit in May. It was ultimately pushed back to July, which only makes this a more remarkably candid glimpse of bureaucracy in action during a time where nothing is certain and the “special relationship” is still being figured out by the leaders of each partner. (Here’s hoping for a bonus episode charting the embassy’s reaction to the Baby Trump balloon that is currently set to fly over the capital when Donald’s in town.)
The Magicians: Season 3 (My5)
The Magicians is back on our screens for a third run, and if you were impressed by the confident second season, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The show has always excelled because it grounds the fantastical with the real, and never lets anything magical happen without there being serious, real life consequences. That rule hit new heights with the climax of Season 2, which saw Quentin kill Ember, God of Fillory, to save the universe from destruction. The price? The complete eradication of magic, not only from Fillory but from Earth too. The idea of The Magicians without magic should be laughable, dull and pointless, and so it’s to the show’s credit that it still manages to intrigue, surprise and – most of all – entertain.
That’s partly because we have the curious fact of Julia being able to do some form of spell, as they team up to try and get Bacchus to help them. The only problem? He gets bored if he isn’t partying, so they have to down shots and perform a genuinely terrible 10th grade dance to get into his crib. Alice and Penny have their own promising strands to follow. Eliot, meanwhile, is facing war with the Faeries, but not before he’s distracted by The Great Cock in the woods (a peacock, that is) and ends up on a library-related quest that promises to bring a lot of characters’ threads together. And, in the middle of it all, there’s still the time for a standout exchange between Eliot and Margo, who realise the Faery Queen is spying on them and immediately switch into pop culture speak to communicate in code – dropping in references t everything from Battlestar Galactica to Buffy and Gossip Girl. What a delight.