Catch up TV review: The Durrells S3, The Good Karma Hospital S2, Homeland S7, Electric Dreams
James R | On 25, Mar 2018
The Durrells: Season 3 (ITV Hub)
The Durrells returns for a third season of undemanding, sunlit family drama – and that’s precisely why this show works so well. Low-key, low-stakes and high on pretty scenery, it’s the kind of old-fashioned show about British expats living abroad that could be tedious cliche, but is delivered with just enough heart to be charming. This time around, our Corfu-based clan is mostly preoccupied by the discovery that Leslie (Callum Woodhouse) has three girlfriends and can’t choose between them. And so the busy-body Margo (a delightful Daisy Waterstone) and the freshly injured Lawrence (God’s Own Country star Josh O’Connor, displaying a knack for physical comedy) take it upon themselves to interfere and choose for him. But the most meddling of all, of course, is mother Louisa, who naturally thinks she knows best for her boy. Keeley Hawes remains the undoubted star of the show, and her frustrations, presumptions and impatience are all marvellously convincing, pitched just right between amusing and emotionally sincere. Not unlike Lesley Manville in BBC’s Mum, it’s an understated comic turn that is deceptively precise. Spending Sunday nights in with these people is as enjoyably easy as ever.
The Good Karma Hospital: Season 2 (ITV Hub)
It’s been a year since junior doctor Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia) gave up her life in Britain and moved to India for something different. As we catch up with her in Season 2, she’s more than used to the fact that her hospital is not the glossy place advertised in a magazine, but a rundown, struggling joint with not enough staff or resources – ring any bells, NHS users?
Medical dramas done well are always compelling to watch, with life and death stakes able to balance out even the cheesiest of personal dramas. The Good Karma Hospital wins bonus points for getting that balance just about right, with this opening episode (after Season 1’s shenanigans involving Ruby’s boyfriend) focusing on professional challenges – namely, surviving her first night shift alone, and performing her first solo surgery. She’s egged on by Amanda Redman as the brilliantly frosty (but supportive) Dr. Fonseca, and James Floyd’s handsome Dr. Varma. Neil Morrissey as a local barman doesn’t always feel like part of the same series, but Amrita Acharia is too charismatic a screen presence for that to detract from seeing Ruby in action, as she stands up to stubborn parents, navigates a storm and tolerates a heatwave. The more this moves from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to ER, the better it gets.
Electric Dreams: Kill All Others (All 4)
At what point does a high-tech society slip into a totalitarian state? That’s the question Electric Dreams chooses to close out its first season with, and it’s a suitably pertinent one. Kill All Others, as its title suggests, doesn’t pull its punches, launching us straight into a modern nation – Mexuscan – where there’s only one party ruling, and voters only have one candidate to choose. Vera Farmiga is chillingly convincing as the slogan-spouting, logic-arguing politician, who delivers nightly broadcasts in living rooms, buses and bars. Mel Rodrigues, who repeatedly steals scenes in Last Man on Earth, is just as believable as Philbert, a blue collar worker who starts spotting the titular instruction in the party’s political campaign messages.
There’s a brilliantly unsettling manner in which they appear, with nobody referring to them explicitly, even as it’s beamed across the screen in gigantic letters – and Rodriguez is fantastic as the man who unravels through sheer paranoia, as he begins to suspect that he might be going insane. Mudbound director Dee Rees builds the world of this dystopia hugely effectively, with an eye for day-to-day living that brings it all to life. There are some moments that don’t quite carry as much weight as you’d like – Farmiga’s candidate chants “Yes, Us Can” as a slogan, which muddies the waters slightly on the drama’s satirical target – but there’s a genuinely haunting question that Philbert’s extremely rapid descent leaves hanging in the air. What if it’s not that nobody else sees the messages? What if they just don’t care?
Homeland: Season 7, Episode 5 (All 4)
Warning: This contains spoilers.
Homeland’s seventh season continues to become more and more pointed, simply by making things less and less clear. Every time we think we have a character, a plot or someone’s motivations down cold, the ground shifts ever so slightly – it’s a masterclass in uncertainty and confusion.
Amid it all are Saul (Mandy Patinkin), who jumps to the conclusion that the Russians were behind the fake news story about the young boy caught in the crossfire from the O’Keefe standoff. Meeting with a former SVR operative (naturally called Ivan), he’s told he’s wrong, and that the Russians (despite a similar modus operandi) weren’t involved. Carrie (Claire Danes), meanwhile, is just as mistaken, as she launches a clandestine operation with former CIA colleagues to infiltrate Simone ‘s (Sandrine Holt) office and interrogate her. As they follow her to a meeting with Wellington (Linus Roache), the connection between the White House Chief of Staff and the McClendon murder seems sure – but all the duo do is have sex, not talk operations or being detected.
Just as we’re left freshly confused by who’s doing what to whom, up steps President Keane (the imperious Elizabeth Marvel), who sneakily ensures that the wife of an FBI agent killed in Lucasville attends the memorial – only for the young boy’s mother to make a demonstrative show of reconciliation in their grief. A sincere move for empathy and forgiveness in a divided country? Or a cynical power play to move the media conversation along? It’s anybody’s guess…